Rabu, 31 Agustus 2011

Art On Paper Moves to Hard-Disk

Although E FUN may have just released its APEN, Wacom today introduced its very similar - yet different - Inkling digital sketch pen. Like the APEN, Inkling is a ballpoint pen that writes in ink on regular paper, and is combined with a small receiver that users clip to the top of the page. 

That receiver logs the location of the pen on the paper. When that data is transferred to a computer, a digital image of whatever was written or drawn is the result. Inkling is unique, however, in that it also incorporates pressure-sensing technology. 

This means that the relative line weights of the inked content will be transferred to the digital images, which makes it particularly well-suited to artwork.

The pen can detect 1,024 different levels of pressure, so it's quite sensitive. The receiver can reportedly store thousands of sketches at a time, and can also facilitate multiple layers of a single sketch. When users want to render their drawings for emailing, editing or other reasons, the receiver is simply hooked up to a computer with a USB cable.

Inkling exports its files directly to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (CS3 or newer), and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (2011). Wacom's included Sketch Manager software also allows users to edit, delete or add layers to their work, or to save files in a variety of formats, for manipulation using other applications.

It would also be possible, of course, simply to put pen-and-ink drawings through a scanner. That could be quite time-consuming, however, plus the user would need access to a scanner-equipped computer. With Inkling, however, any machine running Sketch Manager would suffice. The pen and receiver are also much smaller than a typical scanner.

Inkling will be available through Amazon and the Wacom store as of the latter half of September, at a price of US$199.

by "environment clean generations"

Early Life Crippled By Natural Nukes

Ancient nuclear reactors buried in lake and shallow ocean sediments may have cooked early microbes, according to a new study. And radiation from the deposits could have delayed the onset of our modern-day, oxygen-rich atmosphere, and even had a hand in shaping the genetics of primordial life.

Natural nuclear reactors dating to 2 billion years ago have been found in Gabon, Africa. Though long since exhausted, scientists know from the unusually low quantity of the Uranium-235 isotope in the rock that they once went critical, and hosted a sustained fission reaction that went on for as long as two hundred thousand years.

A billion years earlier, such deposits could have been common, say Laurence Coogan and Jay Cullen of the University of Victoria. The first oxygen-producing bacteria colonized lakes and shallow seas, and likely created oxygen 'oases' in an otherwise nitrogen-dominated world.

"Oxygen oases would have been hot spots for uranium concentration," Cullen said, because oxygen dissolved in water would draw uranium out of rocks and sediments. "Back then, there was so much more 235U that a softball-sized chunk of uranium would be enough for it to go critical."

If the researchers are right, wherever there were oxygen-producing bacteria, there were also natural nuclear reactors. Radiation could have damaged the bugs' DNA, either directly from the reactors or as leftover atoms of radioactive strontium (Sr) and iodine (I) made their way into the food chain.

 Igneous rocks on Iceland. Ancient nuclear reactors buried in lake and shallow ocean sediments may have cooked early microbes, according to a new study. (image right)

In short, organisms that produced oxygen 3 billion years ago were shooting themselves in the foot by spawning toxic nuclear reactors. That may explain why it wasn't until around 2.3 billion years ago that oxygen finally started building up in the atmosphere. By then, Cullen said, most of the readily available nuclear fuel was used up.

However, it's also possible the reactors had a positive effect on early life.

"Modern cyanobacteria are quite good at dealing with ionizing radiation," Cullen said. "The question you have to     ask is, 'Why?' Well, maybe there was some selective pressure back then that forced them to develop that resistance."

The researchers' work was published in the latest issue of the journal GSA Today.

Radiation is harmful because it causes uncontrolled mutations in organisms' DNA. But mutation is also the engine of evolution. Cullen said it's possible that natural nuclear reactors may have molded the genetic makeup of early life forms

"There is no doubt that sources of radiation from geology, the sun, or cosmic rays will definitely cause mutation, and they were almost certainly all higher back then," Paul Falkowski of Rutgers University said.

One way to test that model might be to test ancient rocks for concentrations of lead (Pb) that would indicate whether or not natural nuclear reactors were common in antiquity.

 by "environment clean generations"

Why The Sky Is Blue? No, Seriously

The answer is a little more complicated than you may think. It may have a lot to do with rocks, phosphorous and ancient algae, according to a new study.

For the first two billion years of Earth's history or so, the sky was probably orange. We're not sure whether that's really true -- no one's been able to hop in a time machine and go back and check -- but based on what we know about the chemistry of that time period, there's a good chance the atmosphere's primary component was methane (CH4), which would've cast a strange pall over our young planet.

These days, the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen and oxygen. Sunlight is made up of all the colors of the rainbow (as well as many wavelengths we can't see); as it jostles through air molecules, blue light is most efficiently reflected, so our eyes end up experiencing a beautiful azure shade.
How did it change from orange to blue? About 2.5 billion years ago, the newest fad in organisms was photosynthesis -- the ability to to turn sunlight, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into sugar. Armed with the latest evolutionary accoutrement, ancient algae had it made -- an everlasting food source and all the world's oceans to expand into. 

Only one problem. Algae need more than sugar for a balanced diet; they need nutrients like phosphorous, too. Dominic Papineau of the Carnegie Institution for Science thinks they got it in a burst of erosion from 2.5 to 2 billion years ago, a period of time when Earth's atmosphere got its first big injection of oxygen.

The way Papineau sees it, the "Great Oxidation Event" lines up nicely with a rise in continental rifting and widespread glacial deposits. So it's possible that enhanced tectonic activity and a change in climate eroded large amounts of phosphorous-rich rocks, which washed into the ocean over a period of several hundred million years.

With plenty of phosphorous to munch, algae were off to the races, churning out oxygen that flooded the atmosphere, Papineau reasons in this press release. It's not unlike humans' prodigious use of fertilizers today, which can cause large algal blooms in rivers, lakes and even the Gulf of Mexico:

"Today, this is happening very fast and is caused by us," he says, "and the glut of organic matter actually consumes oxygen. But during the Proterozoic this occurred over timescales of hundreds of millions of years and progressively led to an oxygenated atmosphere."
The first episode only got us about 10 percent of the way toward present-day oxygen levels, though. It wasn't until about a billion years ago that the atmosphere got another hit of O2, bringing us to the air we breathe today. This period, from 1 billion to 540 million years ago, is known as the "Cambrian explosion" after the riot of diverse life found in the fossil record. 

In some ways, it's one of the most important moments in the history of life on Earth. Organisms went on a rampage of evolutionary innovation, giving rise to complex life forms the likes of which the planet had never seen before, and Papineau thinks phosphorous was behind it:
"This increased oxygen no doubt had major consequences for the evolution of complex life. It can be expected that modern changes will also strongly perturb evolution," (Papineau) adds. "However, new lineages of complex life-forms take millions to tens of millions of years to adapt. In the meantime, we may be facing significant extinctions from the quick changes we are causing."

by "environment clean generations"

Energy From Proteins In Cow Brains

Could build better batteries, solar cells.
When we think of farming energy, we generally think of feedstocks like corn that can be processed into ethanol, or perhaps other plant life we can culture and harvest like algae. But don't underestimate the livestock; we've recently seen methane-trapping schemes that can power farms and giant cattle treadmills that turn idle dairy drones into power-producing machines. Now, a team of Stanford researchers wants to use a protein found in cow brains to make better batteries.

The concept centers on a particular protein called clathrin, which has a unique knack for assembling itself into versatile structures that foster the formation of complex molecules. Clathrin is present in every cell in the human body, but cows possess a vast wealth of it in their bovine brains that make them an ideal source for the stuff. And given the right biochemical directions, researchers think they can coax clathrin into creating better batteries and solar cells.

In cells, clathrin plays a key role in cell transport. Its tripod-like structure allows it to create a honeycomb-like lattice on the outer surface of cell walls. Atoms and molecules then attach themselves to clathrin according to the protein's will; when the right cargo is attached, the lattice collapses inward, pinching off the cell wall and delivering it's molecular payload into the cell's interior.

It's this ability to connect into structures and lure in the right molecules that makes clathrin an ideal candidate for creating battery electrodes and solar cells. Scientists can bend clathrin to their will relatively easily, coaxing it into a variety of very useful skeletal structures that they can then attach molecules to. By adding the right blend of inorganic atoms or molecules, the researchers can create electrodes, catalysts, and other battery cell building blocks.

The group has already mashed up gold and titanium dioxide into a material they call "titania" that has photocatalytic properties that allow it turn sunlight into a catalyst for water splitting. Other materials are in the works, all aimed at turning chemicals or sunlight into sweet, sweet energy. Show us an ear of corn that can do that.
 by "environment clean generations"

Let's Lock That CO2 In A Rock

HELLISHEIDI, Iceland (AP) — Sometime next month, on the steaming fringes of an Icelandic volcano, an international team of scientists will begin pumping "seltzer water" into a deep hole, producing a brew that will lock away carbon dioxide forever.

Chemically disposing of CO2, the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming, is a kind of 21st-century alchemy that researchers and governments have hoped for to slow or halt climate change.

The American and Icelandic designers of the "CarbFix" experiment will be capitalizing on a feature of the basalt rock underpinning 90 percent of Iceland: It is a highly reactive material that will combine its calcium with a carbon dioxide solution to form limestone — permanent, harmless limestone.
The researchers caution that their upcoming 6-to-12-month test could fall short of expectations, and warn against looking for a climate "fix" from CarbFix any year soon.

In fact, one of the objectives of the project, whose main sponsors are Reykjavik's city-owned utility and U.S. and Icelandic universities, is to train young scientists for years of work to come.

A scientific overseer of CarbFix — the man, as it happens, who also is credited with coining the term "global warming" four decades ago — says the world's failure to heed those early warnings, to rein in greenhouse-gas emissions from coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels, is driving scientists to drastic approaches.

"Whether we do it in the next 50 years, or the 50 years after that, we're going to have to store carbon dioxide," Columbia University's Wallace S. Broecker said in an interview in New York.

The world is already storing some carbon dioxide. As a byproduct of Norway's natural gas production, for example, it is being pumped into a sandstone reservoir beneath the North Sea.

But people worry that such stowed-away gas could someday escape, while carbon dioxide transformed into stone would not.
The experimental transformation will take place below the dramatic landscape of this place 29 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. On an undulating, mossy moor and surrounding volcanic hills, where the last eruption occurred 2,000 years ago, Reykjavik Energy operates a huge, 5-year-old geothermal power plant, drawing on 30 wells tapping into the superheated steam below, steam laden with carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.

CarbFix will first separate out those two gases, and the CO2 will be piped 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the injection well, to combine with water pumped from elsewhere.

That carbonated water — seltzer — will be injected down the well, where the pressure of the pumped water, by a depth of 500 meters (1,600 feet), will completely dissolve the CO2 bubbles, forming carbonic acid.

"The acid's very corrosive, so it starts to attack the rocks," explained University of Iceland geologist Sigurdur Reynir Gislason, CarbFix's chief scientist.

The basalt rock — ancient lava flows — is porous, up to 30 percent open space filled with water. The carbonic acid will be pushed out into those pores, and over time will react with the basalt's calcium to form calcium carbonate, or limestone.

CarbFix's designers, in effect, are radically speeding up the natural process called weathering, in which weak carbonic acid in rainwater transforms rock minerals over geologic time scales.

The CarbFix team, beginning work in 2007, had to overcome engineering challenges, particularly in the inventive design and operation of the gas separation plant. They have applied for U.S. and Icelandic patents for that and for the injection well technique.
They plan to inject up to 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide over 6 to 12 months and then follow how far the solution is spreading via tracer elements and monitoring wells. Eventually they plan to drill into the rock to take a core sampling.
"It will take months and years to test how well it has spread," Reykjavik Energy's Bergur Sigfusson, project technical manager, said as he guided two AP journalists through the step-by-step process over the rolling green terrain of the Hengill volcano.
The team's greatest concern is that carbon "mineralization" may happen too quickly.

"If it reacts too fast, then that will clog up the system," Sigfusson explained. Quick formation of calcium carbonate would block too many paths through the basalt for the solution to spread.

If it works on a large scale, scientists say, carbon mineralization has a limitless potential, since huge basalt deposits are common — in Siberia, India, Brazil and elsewhere. One formation lies beneath the U.S. northwest, where the U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory plans an experiment similar to CarbFix.

The long-term challenge then becomes capturing the carbon dioxide, and building the infrastructure to deliver it to the right places.

At a basic level, the CarbFix process might at least allow geothermal plants worldwide to neutralize their carbon emissions. At another level, "you'd line up the coal-fired power plants where the basalt is," said Gislason. Their CO2 then could be locked away permanently as rock, rather than stored in underground cavities as now generally conceived.

But ultimately "my vision for carbon capture and storage is offshore, below the sea. The whole ocean floor is basalt below the sediments," said Swiss geochemist and CarbFix manager Juerg Matter, who works with Broecker at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

That futuristic vision would likely require technology to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere itself — perhaps via millions of chemically treated vanes standing in the wind, a technique being investigated. Such units could be located offshore, with the captured CO2 piped to basalt below, Matter said.

In Gislason's Reykjavik university laboratories, young scientists are already conducting experiments with seawater and basalt, "and they're very promising," the chief scientist said.

"In 10, 20, 30 years' time, if climate change gets very drastic, then we are going to need solutions like this," he said of CarbFix. "We are going to need solutions 'yesterday.'"

Reykjavik Energy has supplied almost half the $10 million spent thus far on CarbFix. Other funding comes from the two universities, France's National Center of Scientific Research, the U.S. Energy Department, the European Union and Scandinavian sources.
by "environment clean generations"

Lasers Could Create Clouds and Rain, on Demand

Weather control freaks may get their next rainmaking tool in the form of an infrared laser. Scientists have successfully created small clouds by firing a laser both inside a lab and under the autumn skies of Berlin, Germany, New Scientist reports.

The concept works because laser pulses strip electrons from atoms in the air and promote formation of hydroxyl radicals. Those in turn make sulfur and nitrogen dioxides into particles which can form the basis for water droplets -- not unlike how current cloud seeding methods use silver iodide crystals as the "seeds" for water droplets.

But rather than seeding the air with crystals delivered by airplanes or artillery rockets, the Swiss, German and French researchers used a laser which could generate 220-millijoule pulses within 60 femtoseconds, where one femtosecond is one millionth of one billionth of a second. That's as much power as what 1,000 power plants could generate, according to Jérôme Kasparian at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.
A lab experiment involved the laser firing inside water-saturated air to create tiny clouds similar to airplane contrails. The outdoor experiment did not produce visible clouds, but clearly boosted the density and size of water droplets according to weather LIDAR measurements.

Cloud seeding has had plenty of critics voice their doubts over its effectiveness. Still, China has used the weather-control tactic for its hosted Olympics, and even delivered snowstorms to weary Beijing residents on multiple occasions. Russia has also prominently used cloud seeding in an attempt to make snow fall on the outskirts of Moscow rather than on the city itself.

Nations intrigued by the idea of more high-tech cloud seeding shouldn't abandon their silver iodide just yet. Researchers need to work on tuning their laser in the hopes of creating large enough water droplets which could fall as rain.

 by "environment clean generations"

Giant Solar-Powered Artificial Waterfall

The structure could help Rio de Janeiro achieve its goal to host the first-ever zero-carbon Olympics. Several past Olympic hosts have promised greener events, but Rio de Janeiro could set a new standard with a solar-powered artificial waterfall building that operates day or night. The eye-catching Solar City Tower represents one of the standout entries in the International Architecture Competition for the Olympic Games 2016.

The tower uses many solar panels and a solar power plant to produce energy for the Olympic village by day. Any excess energy goes toward pumping seawater up into the tower for storage, so that it can be released by night as a spectacular waterfall. The falling water would also help turbines create electricity for the nighttime village.
That neat energy storage scheme proposed by the Swiss firm RAFAA is similar to many that exist for solar power or other renewable energy today, except on a much larger scale.

Anyone not impressed with either the energy solution or aesthetics can still enjoy social gatherings and events held within an indoor amphitheater, along with a cafeteria and shop situated beneath the waterfall. Bolder visitors can catch a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city from the observation decks and urban balcony, or even do a little bungee jumping from 90 stories up.
Rio de Janeiro has already promised the first zero-carbon Olympic Games, and started by planting 3,580 saplings last September to offset all the carbon emitted during the city's bid to host the games.

by "environment clean generations"

10 Geological Wonders You Didn’t Know

The Wave (between Arizona and Utah - USA)

A red-rock stunner on the border of Arizona and Utah, The Wave is made of 190-million-year-old sand dunes that have turned to rock. This little-known formation is accessible only on foot via a three-mile hike and highly regulated.

Antelope Canyon (Arizona - USA)

The most visited and photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest, the Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona. It includes two separate, photogenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as Upper Antelope Canyon --or “The Crack”-- and Lower Antelope Canyon --or “The Corkscrew.”

The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tse' bighanilini, which means "the place where water runs through rocks." Lower Antelope Canyon is Hasdestwazi, or "spiral rock arches." Both are located within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation.

Great Blue Hole (Belize)

Part of the Lighthouse Reef System, The Great Blue Hole lies approximately 60 miles off the mainland out of Belize City. A large, almost perfectly circular hole approximately one quarter of a mile (0.4 km) across, it’s one of the most astounding dive sites to be found anywhere on earth. Inside this hole, the water is 480 feet (145 m) deep and it is the depth of water which gives the deep blue color that causes such structures throughout the world to be known as "blue holes."

Crystal Cave of the Giants (Mexico)

Found deep inside a mine in southern Chihuahua Mexico, these crystals were formed in a natural cave totally enclosed in bedrock. A geode full of spectacular crystals as tall as pine trees, and in some cases greater in circumference, they are a translucent gold and silver in color and come in many incredible forms and shapes. The Crystal Cave of the Giants was discovered within the same limestone body that hosts the silver-zinc-lead ore bodies exploited by the mine and it was probably dissolved by the same hydrothermal fluids that deposited the metals with the gypsum being crystallized during the waning stages of mineralization.

Eye of the Sahara (Mauritania)

This spectacular landform in Mauritania in the southwestern part of the Sahara desert is so huge with a diameter of 30 miles that it is visible from space. Called Richat Structure --or the Eye of the Sahara-- the The formation was originally thought to be caused by a meteorite impact but now geologists believe it is a product of uplift and erosion. The cause of its circular shape is still a mystery.

Blue Lake Cave (Brazil)

Mato Grosso do Sul region in Brazil (and especially the quiet town of Bonito) boasts many marvelous underground lakes: Gruta do Lago Azul, Gruta do Mimoso, Aquário Natural. The world famous "Gruta do Lago Azul” (Blue Lake Cave) is a natural monument whose interior is formed by stalactites, stalagmites and a huge and wonderful blue lake. The beauty of the lake is something impressive. The Blue Lake Cave has a big variety of geological formation but impresses mainly for the deep blue colored water of its inside lake.

Giants Causeway (Ireland)

An area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the Giants Causeway is a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Located on the north-east coast of Northern Ireland, most of its columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 12 meters (36 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 meters thick in places. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom.

Hell Gate (Turkmenistan)

Called by locals The Door to Hell, this place in Turkmenistan is situated near the small town of Darvaz. When geologists were drilling for gas, 35 years ago, they suddenly found an underground cavern that was so big, all the drilling site with all the equipment and camps got deep deep under the ground. None dared to go down there because the cavern was filled with gas, so they ignited it so that no poisonous gas could come out of the hole, and since then, it has been burning. Nobody knows how many tons of excellent gas has been burned for all those years but it just seems to be infinite.

Wave Rock (Australia)

The Wave Rock is a natural rock formation located in western Australia. It derives its name from the fact that it is shaped like a tall breaking ocean wave. The total outcrop covers several hectares; the "wave" part of the rock is about 15 meters high and approximately 110 meters long. One aspect of Wave Rock rarely shown on photographs is the retaining wall about halfway up the rock. This follows the contours and allows rainwater to be collected in a dam. It was constructed in 1951 by the Public Works Department, and such walls are common on many similar rocks in the wheatbelt.

Chocolate Hills (Philippines)

Composed of around 1,268 perfectly cone-shaped hills of about the same size spread over an area of more than 50 square kilometres (20 sq mi), this highly unusual geological formation, called Chocolate Hills, is located in Bohol, Philippines. There are a number of hypotheses regarding the formation of the hills. These include simple limestone weathering, sub-oceanic volcanism, the uplift of the seafloor and a more recent theory which maintains that as an ancient active volcano self-destructed, it spewed huge blocks of stone which were then covered with limestone and later thrust forth from the ocean bed. 

 by "environment clean generations"

50 Weird Facts About Human Body

As long as we make efforts to take care of ourselves and live healthy, there is a good chance that our bodies will serve us well for a long time. Our bodies truly are amazing. You might be surprised at what your body is capable of after reading these 50 weird facts about the human body:

The Brain

Complex and poorly understood, the brain is what makes everything work properly. The body may be kept alive, but without the brain, a person can’t truly live. Here are some interesting and weird facts about the brain.

  1. The brain doesn’t feel pain: Even though the brain processes pain signals, the brain itself does not actually feel pain.

  2. Your brain has huge oxygen needs: Your brain requires 20 percent of the oxygen and calories your body needs — even though your brain only makes up two percent of your total body weight.

  3. 80% of the brain is water: Instead of being relatively solid, your brain 80% water. This means that it is important that you remain properly hydrated for the sake of your mind.

  4. Your brain comes out to play at night: You’d think that your brain is more active during the day, when the rest of your body is. But it’s not. Your brain is more active when you sleep.

  5. Your brain operates on 10 watts of power: It’s true: The amazing computational power of your brain only requires about 10 watts of power to operate.

  6. A higher I.Q. equals more dreams: The smarter you are, the more you dream. A high I.Q. can also fight mental illness. Some people even believe they are smarter in their dreams than when they are awake.

  7. The brain changes shapes during puberty: Your teenage years do more than just change how you feel; the very structure of your brain changes during the teen years, and it even affects impulsive, risky behavior.

  8. Your brain can store everything: Technically, your brain has the capacity to store everything you experience, see, read or hear. However, the real issue is recall — whether you can access that information.

  9. Information in your brain travels at different speeds: The neurons in your brain are built differently, and information travels along them at different speeds. This is why sometimes you can recall information instantly, and sometimes it takes a little longer.

Your Senses

You might be surprised at the amazing things your various senses can accomplish.

  1. Your smell is unique: Your body odor is unique to you — unless you have an identical twin. Even babies recognize the individual scents of their mothers.

  2. Humans use echolocation: Humans can use sound to sense objects in their area using echolocation. It is thought that those who are blind develop this ability to heightened effectiveness.

  3. Adrenaline gives you super strength: Yes, with the proper response in certain situations, you really can lift a car.

  4. Women smell better than men: Women are better than men at identifying smells.

  5. Your nose remembers 50,000 scents: It is possible for your nose to identify and remember more than 50,000 smells.

  6. Your hearing decreases when you overeat: When you eat too much food, it actually reduces your ability to hear. So consider eating healthy — and only until you are full.

  7. Your sense of time is in your head: How you experience time is all about your perception. Some speculate that stress can help you experience time dilation. Apparently, time manipulation isn’t just for superheroes.


How we as a species reproduce offers all sorts of interesting weird facts. Here are some of the weirder things you might not know.

  1. Your teeth are growing before birth: Even though it takes months after you are born to see teeth, they start growing about six months before you are born.

  2. Babies are stronger than oxen: On a pound for pound basis, that is. For their size, babies are quite powerful and strong.

  3. Babies always have blue eyes when they are born: Melanin and exposure to ultraviolet light are needed to bring out the true color of babies’ eyes. Until then they all have blue eyes.

  4. Women might be intrinsically bi: There are sex studies that indicate that women might bisexual intrinsically, no matter how they class themselves, while men are usually either gay or straight.

  5. Most men have regular erections while asleep: Every hour to hour and a half, sleeping men have erections — though they may not be aware of it.

  6. Sex can be a pain reliever: Even though the “headache” excuse is often used to avoid sex, the truth is that intercourse can provide pain relief. Sex can also help you reduce stress.

  7. Chocolate is better than sex: In some studies, women claim they would rather have chocolate than sex. But does it really cause orgasm? Probably not on its own.

Body Functions

The things our bodies do are often strange and sometimes gross. Here are some weird facts about the way your body functions.

  1. Earwax is necessary: If you want healthy ears, you need some earwax in there.

  2. Your feet can produce a pint of sweat a day: There are 500,000 (250,000 for each) sweat glands in your feet, and that can mean a great deal of stinky sweat.

  3. Throughout your life, the amount of saliva you have could fill two swimming pools: Since saliva is a vital part of digestion, it is little surprise that your mouth makes so much of it.

  4. A full bladder is about the size of a soft ball: When your bladder is full, holding up to 800 cc of fluid, it is large enough to be noticeable.

  5. You probably pass gas 14 times a day: On average, you will expel flatulence several times as part of digestion.

  6. A sneeze can exceed 100 mph: When a sneeze leaves your body, it does so at high speeds — so you should avoid suppressing it and causing damage to your body.

  7. Coughs leave at 60 mph: A cough is much less dangerous, leaving the body at 60 mph. That’s still highway speed, though.


Musculoskeletal System

Find out what you didn’t know about your muscles and bones.

  1. Bones can self-destruct: It is possible for your bones to destruct without enough calcium intake.

  2. You are taller in the morning: Throughout the day, the cartilage between your bones is compressed, making you about 1 cm shorter by day’s end.

  3. 1/4 of your bones are in your feet: There are 26 bones in each foot, meaning that the 52 bones in account for 25 percent of your body’s 206 bones.

  4. It takes more muscles to frown than to smile: Scientists can’t agree on the exact number, but more muscles are required to frown than to smile.

  5. When you take a step, you are using up to 200 muscles: Walking uses a great deal of muscle power — especially if you take your 10,000 steps.

  6. Your tongue is the strongest muscle in your body: Compared to its size, the tongue is the strongest muscle. But I doubt you’ll be lifting weights with it.

  7. Bone can be stronger than steel: Once again, this is a pound for pound comparison, since steel is denser and has a higher tensile strength.

Unnecessary Body Parts

We have a number of body parts that are, well, useless. Here are some facts about the body parts we don’t actually need.

  1. Coccyx: This collection of fused vertebrae have no purpose these days, although scientists believe it’s what’s left of the mammal tail humans used to have. It may be useless, but when you break your coccyx, it’s still painful.

  2. Pinkie toe: There is speculation that since we no longer have to run for our dinner, and we wear sneakers, the pinkie toe‘s evolutionary purpose is disappearing — and maybe the pinkie itself will go the way of the dodo.

  3. Wisdom teeth: This third set of molars is largely useless, doing little beyond crowding the mouth and sometimes causing pain.

  4. Vomeronasal organ: There are tiny (and useless) chemoreceptors lining the inside of the nose.

  5. Most body hair: While facial hair serves some purposes, the hair found on the rest of body is practically useless and can be removed with few ill effects.

  6. Female vas deferens: A cluster of dead end tubules near the ovaries are the remains of what could have turned into sperm ducts.

  7. Male Uterus: Yeah, men have one too — sort of. The remains of this undeveloped female reproductive organ hangs on one side of the male prostate gland

  8. Appendix: Yep, your appendix is basically useless. While it does produce some white blood cells, most people are fine with an appendectomy.

Random Weird Body Facts

Here are a few final weird facts about the human body.

  1. Your head creates inner noises: It’s rare, but exploding head syndrome exists.

  2. Memory is affected by body position: Where you are and how you are placed in your environment triggers memory.

  3. You can’t tickle yourself: Go ahead. Try to tickle yourself.

  4. Being right-handed can prolong your life: If you’re right-handed, you could live up to nine years longer than a lefty.

  5. Only humans shed emotional tears: Every other animal that produces tears has a physiological reason for doing so.

by "environment clean generations"

Selasa, 30 Agustus 2011

Onkalo - The Largest Underground Nuclear Waste Repository

Ceremonies will be held around the world on Tuesday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster but, in truth, Chernobyl is one event we're in no danger of forgetting. For one thing, the earthquake in Japan has given the world a second Level Seven incident on the International Nuclear Event Scale, refreshing public fears with almost cosmic timing. For another, the legacy of Chernobyl will be remembered for much, much longer than anyone would wish. According to estimates, this area of northern Ukraine will be uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries.

We like to think of our architectural treasures as milestones of human progress. The Egyptian pyramids, say, or the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps we imagine a Planet of the Apes-like scenario where our ruined monuments will stand as testament to our civilisation long after we're gone. But what will most probably outlive anything else we have ever built will be our nuclear legacy. Whatever its pros and cons as an energy source, one thing that's non-negotiable about nuclear power is the construction it necessitates. Less than a century after we first split the atom, we're now coming to appreciate the vast technological, engineering, financial and political resources nuclear technology demands. In terms of scale, complexity and longevity, much of this stuff makes Dubai's Burj Khalifa look like a sandcastle.

It is too early to know what will be done about Fukushima. A 20km exclusion zone has been imposed and radiation levels will not be brought down to safe levels for at least another six months. Even at Chernobyl, the 1986 accident is by no means dealt with. Immediately afterwards, the Soviets hastily cobbled together the most effective structure they could to contain further radioactive contamination. Unromantically named the Object Shelter, it was a concrete and steel sarcophagus resting on the remains of the ruined reactor. Owing to the high levels of radioactivity, it had been impossible to bolt or weld the Object Shelter together, so within a decade it was on the verge of collapse. 

Given that 95% of reactor four's nuclear materials are still inside, another nuclear disaster remains a possibility. Hence the current longer-term plan, called the New Safe Confinement. This €1.6bn (£1.4bn) project calls for the erection of an arch-shaped hangar, bigger than a football pitch and high enough to fit the Statue of Liberty inside. Because of the radiation levels, it must be built 500 metres away then slid over the top of the reactor and the Object Shelter. At 32,000 tonnes, it is just about the heaviest object ever moved.

"In some ways, this is how the engineers of the pyramids must have felt," says Eric Schmieman, chief technical adviser on the New Safe Confinement. "The steel structure has a design life of 100 years, so there are very rigorous requirements to demonstrate all the materials will last that long. The Eiffel Tower has been around that long but it's been protected from corrosion by painting. You can't repaint this because of the radiation."

The structure of the New Safe Confinement is carbon steel, protected by inner and outer layers of stainless steel cladding. Its purpose is not to shield radioactive emissions but to prevent the release of radioactive dust and other materials, and to keep out rainwater, which could carry contaminants into the water table. 

Work is currently proceeding on the foundations, and the arch will be assembled and slid into place by 2015. Then huge, remote-controlled cranes inside will dismantle the Object Shelter and begin retrieving the hazardous materials inside.

The structure will be visible from space, a hulking shell of steel in the midst of a landscape of industrial devastation. By the time it reaches the end of its 100-year life span, it is hoped that all the radioactive material will have been removed, but then comes the problem of where to put it. At the beginning of the nuclear era, the emphasis was very much on the power stations, including Basil Spence's heroic 1950s design for Trawsfynydd, in Snowdonia. But very little consideration was given to what came after. Those early power stations became obsolete: Trawsfynydd was decommissioned in 1991. What's more, the industry has so far generated nearly 300,000 tonnes of high-level nuclear waste, and counting. To be safe, it must be isolated from all living organisms for at least 100,000 years.

Current opinion is that the best thing to do with nuclear waste is put it underground in what is known as a "deep geological repository". At present, there are no such repositories in operation anywhere. In Britain, all the nuclear waste produced since the 1940s is stored above ground in Sellafield. Preliminary moves have been made towards finding a site in Cumbria but there's a powerful local resistance to such schemes, and no long-term solution is expected before 2040. In the US, a site was earmarked decades ago at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, 100 miles from Las Vegas, but the Obama administration finally abandoned the scheme last year.
Some countries are further ahead, though. Sweden's nuclear operation presents itself as a model for the rest of the world, and shows how much effort a fully joined-up operation requires. 

After cooling on site for a year, spent fuel from Sweden's three coastal nuclear sites is transported in purpose-built casks, on a specially designed ship, to a central interim storage facility. There, robotic arms transfer the fuel into storage cassettes underwater. These cassettes are then sent to another storage pool 25 metres beneath the facility to cool for at least another 30 years. Then the waste is moved to another plant to seal in copper canisters before it arrives at its final resting place in the geological repository.

Sweden has numerous other nuclear facilities, including the Äspö hard rock laboratory, an underground research laboratory open to visitors. Bizarrely, Äspö's surface buildings could be mistaken for a traditional farmstead: a collection of buildings in red and white timber. 

The folksy tweeness only points up how alien the rest of the nuclear landscape is. This is the heaviest of heavy industries, and it is often the least visible: a hidden parallel realm of anonymous industrial facilities, restricted zones, clinical chambers and subterranean vaults
Sweden has identified a site for its deep geological repository, in Forsmark, but the Finns have been building theirs since 2004. Situated on the northwest coast, a few miles from its Olkiluoto nuclear power stations, it consists of a 5km-long tunnel spiralling 400m down to the bedrock, where a honeycomb of storage vaults fans out. Named Onkalo, whose literal translation is "cavity", it was the subject of a documentary last year, Into Eternity. Retitled Nuclear Eternity and broadcast on More4 tomorrow, the film fully appreciates the Kubrickian visual aspects of the nuclear landscape and the staggering challenges the project presents to our notions of permanence, history – even time itself.  

Onkalo will be ready to take waste in 2020, and then will be finally sealed in 2120, after which it will not be opened for 100,000 years. By that time, Finland will probably have been through another ice age. Little trace of our current civilisation will remain. The prospect of designing anything to last even 200 years is unlikely for most architects; the Egyptian pyramids are "only" about 5,000 years old.

Plan like an Egyptian 

This longevity poses Onkalo's custodians, and others in their position, with another unprecedented design issue: what sign should you put on the door? As one expert says in Into Eternity, the message is simple: "This is not an important place; it is a place of danger. Stay away from the site. Do not disturb the site." But how to communicate with people so far in the future? Put up a sign in a language they don't understand and they are sure to open it just to see what's inside. Ancient Egyptians on the pyramid planning committee probably grappled with the same issues.

One of the Finns suggests using an image of Munch's The Scream; another suggests a series of monoliths with pictographs and an underground library explaining the tunnel; another wonders if it is better not to tell anyone Onkalo is there at all. When a team pondered the same issue in the US in the 1990s, they came up with proposals for environments that communicated threat and hostility. They imagined landscapes of giant, spiky, black thorns or menacing, jagged earthworks, or vast concrete blocks creating narrow streets that lead nowhere.

If architecture is about designing spaces for human habitation, this is practically its opposite. These subterranean cities are places no human will ever inhabit or see, places designed to repel life and light. They are a mirror image to our towering achievements above ground and, like the pyramids, they are both monument and tomb. Every nuclear nation is compelled to build them, at great effort and expense, and to continue building them until we find a better way to deal with nuclear waste or a better alternative to nuclear power. Until then, we must live with the thought that in some unimaginable future aeons hence, this could be all that remains to prove our species was ever here.

The Zero-Emissions Dice House

Roll the Dice The building’s designer, Sybarite, hopes to make its design the standard for zero-emissions homes. Courtesy Sybarite House

Amazon River's Twin 4000 meters beneath ground

SAO PAULO -- (AP) A huge underground river appears to be flowing thousands of feet beneath the Amazon River, Brazilian scientists said Thursday.

LHC and Theory Of Everything Don't Match

The latest news from the Large Hadron Collider: scientists still cannot explain why we’re all here. In the most detailed analysis of strange beauty particles — that’s what they’re really called — physicists cannot find supersymmetric particles, which are shadow partners for every known particle in the standard model of modern physics. This could mean that they don’t exist, which would be very interesting news indeed.

Physicists at CERN have been studying a class of particle called B mesons, which are heavy objects made up of two different quarks (one antimatter and one regular matter) that decay into other particles. Their heaviness gives them several decay options, which makes them useful for studying matter-antimatter asymmetry.

This asymmetry explains why everything exists — which, from a mathematical point of view, it should not. Equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created in the Big Bang, and the two types would have annihilated each other, leaving nothing behind. But somehow matter won out, meaning there was an imbalance between matter and antimatter at some point. Supersymmetry is one way to explain this.

Supersymmetric particles, which have names like squarks and selectrons, exist for every particle and have slightly different characteristics than their counterparts.

 Strange Beauty Decays The purple tracks show the decay of a "strange beauty" B meson, composed of a beauty antiquark and a strange quark. The composite particle decays into a pair of muons. The LHCb experiment has been studying B mesons in extreme detail and so far has not found any evidence for supersymmetry, which is one theory that explains why the universe has more matter than antimatter. LHCb/CERN

Last year, physicists at the Tevatron said B mesons seemed to have had an affinity for becoming matter rather than antimatter. This decay preference suggested some other particle or force may be at work — a deviation from the standard model, possibly the work of supersymmetric particles.

But now the LHC data, which physicists say are more precise than Tevatron’s, does not show this matter-decay deviation. This, in turn, could mean there is no supersymmetry; no squarks or selectrons. We are not going to attempt to delve into the physics of this — check out the LHCb experiment and Quantum Diaries posts if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts.

This will be disappointing to some theorists, because supersymmetry provides a handy answer to many troubling physics questions. At high energies, it unifies electromagnetism with the weak and strong nuclear forces, and in some iterations, the theory provides a candidate for dark matter, in the form of a stable heavy particle like a neutralino. Supersymmetry is also an essential characteristic of string theory, which for now is the only widely accepted theory that unifies quantum mechanics and relativity.

In a story about this over at the BBC, Nobel Prize-winning physicist George Smoot called supersymmetry “an extremely beautiful model.”

“It’s got symmetry, it’s super and it's been taught in Europe for decades as the correct model because it is so beautiful,” he said. “But there's no experimental data to say that it is correct.”

So what does this mean? It’s not entirely over, as the BBC points out — there are a few versions of supersymmetry, which are more complex than the basic mass-energy level version that has apparently just been ruled out. So different flavors of supersymmetry could still be true. But it could also mean supersymmetry is just wrong, and if that’s the case, physicists will have to come up with some big new ideas.


by "environment clean generations"