Friday, June 29, 2007
BOIS CHERI, Mauritius (Reuters) - The remains of a dodo found in a cave beneath bamboo and tea plantations in Mauritius offer the best chance yet to learn about the extinct flightless bird, a scientist said on Friday.
The discovery was made earlier this month in the Mauritian highlands but the location was kept secret until the recovery of the skeleton, nicknamed "Fred," was completed on Friday. Four men guarded the site overnight.
Julian Hume, a paleontologist at Britain's Natural History Museum, told Reuters the remains were likely to yield excellent DNA and other vital clues, because they were found intact, in isolation, and in a cave.
"The geneticists who want to get their hands on this will be skipping down the street," he said, after bringing the last of the remains to the surface.
Given the nickname "Fred" after the 65-year-old who found them, the remains should provide the first decent specimens of dodo DNA, he said.
"Then you can work out how it actually got to Mauritius, because it must have originally flown here before evolving into flightlessness and the big, fat bird that we know," he said.
"We know it's a giant pigeon," he added.
It the first discovery of dodo remains away from the coastal regions, suggesting that the bird, extinct since the 17th century, lived all over the Indian Ocean island, he said.
Hume said the dodo was almost certainly finished off by animals introduced by Europeans about 400 years ago. Theories that it was hunted to extinction by the Dutch were "total nonsense," he said, adding that the remains were highly fragile.
"If you try and pick it up, it just falls apart," he said. "You won't see a mounted, beautiful thing from this."
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Thursday, June 28, 2007
CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt on Thursday finally banned all female circumcision, the widely-practised removal of the clitoris which just days ago cost the life of a 12-year-old girl.
Officially the practice, which affects both Muslim and Christian women in Egypt and goes back to the time of the pharoahs, was banned in 1997 but doctors were allowed to operate "in exceptional cases".
On Thursday, Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali decided to ban every doctor and member of the medical profession, in public or private establishments, from carrying out a clitoridectomy, a ministry press official told AFP.
Any circumcision "will be viewed as a violation of the law and all contraventions will be punished," said the official, adding that it was a "permanent ban".
A survey in 2000 said the practice was carried out on 97 percent of the country's women.
In the latest fatality, 12-year-old Bedur Ahmed Shaker was taken by her mother to a private clinic in Minya, a town on the Nile south of Cairo, for the operation. She died before she could be transferred to hospital.
Her mother accused the woman doctor of negligence, charging that her daughter's death was linked to the anaesthetic and not the removal of the clitoris, for which she had paid 50 pounds (nearly nine dollars). Police have arrested both women.
Monday, June 25, 2007
SHANGHAI (AFP) - China's All Star NBA centre Yao Ming will wed his teenage sweetheart from Shanghai in August, after an eight-year courtship, state press reported Monday.
Yao, who has kept his love life closely guarded from the media, will marry Ye Li in a private family ceremony possibly in Shanghai, the eastern metropolis where they were born, met and began dating, the Titan Sports Weekly said.
"This is a match based on pure love," the paper said.
The 2.26 metre (seven-foot-six-inch) centre first met Ye in 1999 when he was playing for the Shanghai Sharks men's team and the 1.9 metre Ye was with the club's women's team.
Ye has since gone on to play for the national side, but has been plagued with injuries in recent years.
The two were seen walking hand-in-hand at the closing ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics, when their courtship first became public.
According to Titan Sports, Ye, 25, has been a regular at Yao's home in Texas where he stars for the Houston Rockets. She has also studied English at the University of Houston.
Yao, 27, is expected to return to China in July to train and will play matches with the national team in September.
The paper played down widespread rumors on the Internet and in the Chinese media that Yao's wedding would be broadcast live on television, with China's Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Liu Xiang acting as the master-of-ceremonies.
"On that day there will be no media, basically it will only be relatives from both sides attending," the paper said.
"Yao Ming and Ye Li are doing what they can to protect themselves. They do not want to see any outside factors interfering."
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LONDON: Eating potatoes could have a beneficial effect on the immune system, says a study conducted by Spanish researchers. The vegetable is considered to be rich in vitamin C, B-complex vitamins and has good doses of minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. It has long been known that potatoes are good for bowel health. It is believed to be good for the immune system, particularly if eaten cold or in a salad, the researchers write in Chemistry & Industry, a magazine of the Society of Chemical Industry. The scientists carried out a study where they fed growing pigs large quantities of raw potato starch (RPS) for over 14 weeks and found that they had healthier bowels. They also found that these pigs had decreased levels of white blood cells - such as leucocytes and lymphocytes in their blood. White blood cells are produced due to inflammation or when a person is ill to fight the disease, reports the science portal EurekAlert. The general decrease in leucocytes observed by the researchers suggests an overall beneficial effect, according to immunology expert Lena Ohman at the Department of Internal Medicine, Göteborg University, Sweden. Said José Francisco Pérez, the lead researcher from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: "The use of raw potato starch in this experiment is designed to simulate the effects of a diet high in resistant starch." Humans do not eat raw potatoes, but they do eat a lot of foods that contain resistant starch, such as cold boiled potatoes, legumes, grains, green bananas, pasta and cereals. About 10 per cent of the starch eaten by humans is resistant starch - starch that is not digested in the small intestine and so is shunted into the large intestine where it ferments. Starch consumption is thought to reduce the risk of large bowel cancer and may also have an effect on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The decrease in white blood cells observed is therefore interesting, and a diet of resistant starch may be worth trying in IBS patients, an expert said.
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WASHINGTON - A judge ruled Monday in favor of a dry cleaner that was sued for $54 million over a missing pair of pants.
The owners of Custom Cleaners did not violate the city's consumer protection law by failing to live up to Roy L. Pearson's expectations of the "Satisfaction Guaranteed" sign once displayed in the store window, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled.
"A reasonable consumer would not interpret 'Satisfaction Guaranteed' to mean that a merchant is required to satisfy a customer's unreasonable demands" or to agree to demands that the merchant would have reasonable grounds for disputing, the judge wrote.
Bartnoff ordered Pearson to pay the court costs of defendants Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung.
Pearson, an administrative law judge, originally sought $67 million from the Chungs, claiming they lost a pair of trousers from a blue and maroon suit, then tried to give him a pair a pair of charcoal gray pants that he said were not his. He arrived at the amount by adding up years of alleged law violations and almost $2 million in common law fraud claims.
Bartnoff wrote, however, that Pearson failed to prove that the pants the dry cleaner tried to return were not the pants he taken in for alterations.
Pearson later dropped demands for damages related to the pants and focused his claims on signs in the shop, which have since been removed.
The court costs amount to just over $1,000 for photocopying, filing and similar expenses, according to the Chungs' attorney. A motion to recover the Chungs' tens of thousands of dollars in attorney fees will be considered later.
Chris Manning, the Chungs' attorney, praised the ruling, which followed a two-day trial earlier this month.
"Judge Bartnoff has spoken loudly in suggesting that, while consumers should be protected, abusive lawsuits like this will not be tolerated," Manning said in a statement. "Judge Bartnoff has chosen common sense and reasonableness over irrationality and unbridled venom."
Pearson did not immediately respond to a call and an e-mail seeking comment.
Friday, June 22, 2007
CAIRO (AFP) - Archaeologists have discovered the 3,000-year-old mummy of a high priest to the god Amun in the southern city of Luxor, antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass told the official MENA news agency on Saturday.
The 18th Dynasty mummy of Sennefer was unearthed in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings -- one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world -- by a team from Britain's Cambridge University.
"The mummy was found in tomb 99 in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of Luxor," Hawass said.
A high priest was considered to be the most important man after the king, performing duties, religious rituals and offerings on his behalf.
Other mummies were found during the excavation, including one with a brain tumour, a foetus, a female mummy wrapped in plaster and others which appeared to have suffered from arthritis, Hawass said.
The Valley of the Kings was used as a burial site for royalty and nobles to the west of present day Luxor, some 700 kilometres (450 miles) south of Cairo.
Millions of foreign tourists come to see Egypt's pharaonic treasures each year, including hundreds of thousands making the long journey south from the capital to the Valley of the Kings.
Hawass said a report on the findings would be presented to Culture Minister Faruq Hosni, in order to allocate resources for continued excavations in the area.
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WASHINGTON: Boys at the top of the pecking order — either by birth or because their older siblings died — score higher on IQ tests than their younger brothers. The question of whether firstborn and only children are really smarter than those who come along later has been hotly debated for more than a century. Norwegian researchers now report that it isn’t a matter of being born first, but growing up the senior child, that seems to result in the higher IQ scores. Petter Kristensen and Tor Bjerkedal report their findings in Friday’s issue of the journal Science. It’s a matter of what they call social rank in the family — the highest scores were racked up by the senior boy — the first born or, if the firstborn had died in infancy, the next oldest. Kristensen, of Norway’s National Institute of Occupational Health, and Bjerkedal, of the Norwegian Armed Forces Medical Services, studied the IQ test results of 241,310 Norwegian men drafted into the armed forces between 1967 and 1976. All were aged 18 or 19 at the time. The average IQ of first-born men was 103.2, they found. Second-born men averaged 101.2, but second-born men whose older sibling died in infancy scored 102.9. And for third-borns, the average was 100.0. But if both older siblings died young, the third-born score rose to 102.6. The findings provide "evidence that the relation between birth order and IQ score is dependent on the social rank in the family and not birth order as such," they concluded. It’s an issue that has perplexed people since at least 1874, when Sir Francis Galton reported that men in prominent positions tend to be firstborns more often than would have been statistically expected. Since then, several studies have reported higher intelligence scores for firstborns, while other analyses have questioned those findings and the methodology of the reports. While the Norwegian analysis focused on men, other studies have included women, some indicating a birth-order effect and some not. Frank J Sulloway of the Institute for Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley, welcomed what he called the Norwegians’ "elegantly designed" analysis. "These two researchers demonstrate that how study participants were raised, not how they were born, is what actually influences their IQs," said Sulloway, who was not part of the research team. The elder child pulls ahead, he said, perhaps as a result of learning gained through the process of tutoring younger brothers and sisters. The older child benefits by having to organise and express its thoughts to tutor youngsters, he said, while the later children may have no one to tutor.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007
Blind people are whizzes at remembering things in the right order, scientists now find.
In the absence of vision, the world is experienced as sequences, explained neurobiologist Ehud Zohary of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For instance, to identify otherwise indistinguishable objects, such as different brands of yogurt that vary only in their labeling, the blind typically place objects in arrangements of their own making and give mental tags for each of them, such as “the second item on the left.”
Zohary and his colleagues reasoned that since the blind constantly use memory strategies to remember things are, that “practice makes perfect,” giving the blind superior memory skills for other tasks.
The scientists tested 19 congenitally blind and 19 sighted people in two memory tasks. In the first, the volunteers heard a list of 20 words and had to recall them. In the second, they had to remember not just the words, but their order in the list as well.
Blind volunteers recalled 20 to 35 percent more words than sighted ones did, indicating a better memory overall. Their greatest advantage, however, was the ability to remember roughly twice as many more words in sequences according to the right order, findings detailed online June 21 in the journal Current Biology.
“Normally 20 to 30 percent of the brain is basically devoted to vision. With the congenitally blind, you have this brain area, the visual cortex, not getting its natural input,” Zohary told LiveScience. “We had shown that congenitally blind people appeared to be using the visual cortex for other needs, and now we may be seeing part of how this area is getting used for other functions, to maybe be more involved in memory and language processes.”
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Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Rare giant manta born at Japan aquarium
By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Writer Sun Jun 17, 7:35 AM ET
TOKYO - What is believed to be the first giant manta ray born in captivity has arrived at a southern Japanese aquarium, the facility said Sunday.
The baby manta, a female, was born late Saturday in a huge fish tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, more than a year after its parents mated, the aquarium said in a statement posted Sunday on its Web site.
In a video capturing the birth, the baby manta, rolled up like a tube, came sliding out of the mother manta, then quickly spread its fins and began swimming around.
The scene, recorded by the aquarium, was broadcast by national broadcaster NHK on Sunday.
The event marks the first birth of a manta in captivity, according to the aquarium, which started raising manta rays in 1988.
Noriyasu Suzuki, an official at the Izu-Mito Sea Paradise commercial aqua zoo in western Japan, said he thought the birth in captivity could be a world first.
"I've never heard of any other case before," he said. "Aquariums that raise manta rays are rare to begin with ... because they get so big."
According to the aquarium, the newborn manta was more than six feet wide.
The mother manta, which was brought to the aquarium in 1998 after hitting a fishnet off the southern island of Okinawa, about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo, mated with its partner on June 8, 2006, and was pregnant with the baby for 374 days, according to the statement.
Aquarium official Minoru Toda said little has been known about the life of manta rays, and the record of pregnancy and the birth would provide valuable scientific data to the studies of the species.
"We unfolded some of the mysteries about the life of manta rays, including the length of their pregnancy," Toda said. "Now we have to make sure the baby grows in good health."
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Monday, June 18, 2007
Yahoo Chairman Terry Semel Steps Down As Chief Executive; Co-Founder Jerry Yang to Take Over
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Yahoo Inc. Chairman Terry Semel stepped down as chief executive in a surprise move Monday, ending his increasingly ineffectual pursuit of online search leader Google Inc. -- a losing battle that had demoralized Yahoo's shareholders and employees.
The Sunnyvale-based company appointed co-founder Jerry Yang as its new CEO and named Susan Decker as its president. Decker, who had been touted as Semel's heir apparent, was recently promoted from Yahoo's chief financial officer to oversee the company's advertising operations.
Semel, 64, will remain chairman in a non-executive role after spending the past six years running the company.
"I saw myself as more of a coach than a player going forward," Semel told analysts and media during a Monday conference call.
Signaling Semel's decision was voluntary, Yahoo said he will not receive a severance package. The former movie studio executive already has made a fortune since joining Yahoo in May 2001, having realized nearly $450 million in gains by exercising some of the stock options that he received during his tenure.
Despite Yahoo's recent struggles, Semel received another big bundle of stock options last year that boosted the value of his 2006 compensation package to $71.7 million. That was more than any other CEO among 386 publicly held companies covered in an Associated Press analysis of executive compensation using new rules dictated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In Monday's conference call, an emotional Yang hailed Semel as "a role model and mentor" and then sought to defuse recent speculation that Yahoo might be sold to Microsoft Corp. or another suitor hoping to exploit the recent turmoil at the company.
"I am totally excited and energized about assuming the leadership of this great company," Yang said. "We have a long and prosperous future if we execute correctly."
Yang, 38, still owns a 4 percent stake in the company. Fellow co-founder David Filo, who is helping to run Yahoo's technology group after the sudden retirement of the department's leader earlier this month, owns a 6 percent stake.
Monday's shake-up unfolded less than a week after Semel faced off with shareholders disillusioned with a nearly 30 percent drop in Yahoo's stock price during the past 18 months as its financial growth fell further behind Google's torrid pace.
Mountain View-based Google now makes more money in a single quarter than Yahoo does in an entire year. The contrast represents a startling comedown for Yahoo, which was the larger of the two companies when Google went public in August 2004.
Since then, Google has steadily expanded upon the Internet's largest advertising network to create nearly $140 billion in shareholder wealth as its stock price increased by more than six-fold. Yahoo's stock, meanwhile, is worth a little bit less than when Google went public.
Google's meteoric rise also has decimated the employee morale at Yahoo, leading to a recent wave of executive departures that raised concerns about whether the company would be able to retain the talent it needs to regain its stride.
Just last week, Semel assured shareholders attending Yahoo's annual meeting that he had the fortitude to lead a comeback. He has been counting on recent improvements to Yahoo's online advertising system and a series of key partnerships to boost profits after the company suffered an 11 percent drop in its first-quarter earnings.
In Monday's conference call, Decker said the advertising upgrade, known as Panama, is delivering results that so far have exceeded management's expectations.
Yahoo shares gained 81 cents finish at $28.12 Monday, then surged $1.14, or 4.1 percent, in the extended session.
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80,000-year-old Beads Shed Light on Early Culture
Heather WhippsSpecial to LiveScienceLiveScience.com 2 hours, 43 minutes ago
Even the very first modern humans may have spruced themselves up with beaded bling.Twelve shell beads discovered in a cave in eastern Morocco have been dated at more than 80,000 years old, making them one of the earliest examples of human culture. The beads are colored with red ochre and show signs of being strung together.Similar beads have been found in other parts of Africa and the Middle East, suggesting the first Homo sapiens literally carried their penchant for baubles with them as they populated the world. "If you draw a triangle covering the three furthest known locations of Homo sapiens between 75,000–120,000 years ago, that triangle stretches from South Africa to Morocco to
Israel' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Israel," said study co-author Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum."Shell beads are now known at all three points of that triangle," Stringer added. "So such behavior had probably spread right across the early human range by this time, and would have been carried by modern humans as they dispersed from Africa in the last 100,000 years."The findings are detailed in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> National Academy of Sciences. Oxford University's Institute of Archaeology and Morocco's National Institute for Archaeological Sciences led the project. The beads found in Morocco aren't the oldest in existence. That title belongs to two tiny shells discovered in Israel in the 1930s and dated at 100,000 years old. The shells are pierced with holes and were probably also hung as pendants or necklaces, archaeologists say. Combined, the finds hint at the extent of the culture and symbolism being practiced by the earliest modern humans. Art and decoration like the beads are considered good indicators of how human behavior evolved from Africa to other parts of the globe. "A major question in evolutionary studies today is 'how early did humans begin to think and behave in ways we would see as fundamentally modern?'," said co-author Nick Barton of Oxford University. "The appearance of ornaments such as these may be linked to a growing sense of self-awareness and identity among humans."Some researchers have suggested that humans didn't become culturally modern until they reached Europe about 35,000 years ago. But Europe, which doesn't show evidence of similar jewelry or customs until much later, actually lagged behind in cultural development, Stringer said. "This research shows that a long lasting and widespread bead-working tradition associated with early modern humans extended through Africa to the Middle East well before comparable evidence appears in Europe," Stringer said in a 2006 prepared statement, commenting on the just-released, very ancient dates for the Israeli beads."Modern human anatomy and behavior have deep roots in Africa and were widespread by 75,000 years ago, even though they may not have appeared in Europe for another 35,000 years," he said.
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Original Story: 80,000-year-old Beads Shed Light on Early Culture
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Monday, June 11, 2007
ROME (Reuters) - Tourists puzzled by the jumble of buildings in classical and modern Rome can now find their bearings by visiting a virtual model of the imperial capital in what is being billed as the world's biggest computer simulation of an ancient city.
"Rome Reborn" was unveiled on Monday in a first release showing the city at its peak in 320 AD, under the Emperor Constantine when it had grown to a million inhabitants.
Brainchild of the University of Virginia's Bernard Frischer, Rome Reborn (www.romereborn.virginia.edu) will eventually show its evolution from Bronze Age hut settlements to the Sack of Rome in the 5th century AD and the devastating Gothic Wars.
Reproduced for tourists on satellite-guided handsets and 3-D orientation movies in a theatre to be opened near the Colosseum, Frischer says his model "will prepare them for their visit to the Colosseum, the Forum, the imperial palaces on the Palatine, so that they can understand the ruins a lot better."
"We can take people under the Colosseum and show them how the elevators worked to bring the animals up from underground chambers for the animal hunts they held," he said, referring to the great Roman amphitheatre inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD.
Frischer's model is sourced from ancient maps and building catalogues detailing "apartment buildings, private houses, inns, storage facilities, bakeries and even brothels," plus digital images of the vast "Plastico di Roma Antica" model built from plaster of Paris in 1936-74, which measures 16 by 17 meters.
The "reverse modeling" by Frischer and the Politecnico di Milano and University of Florence enables scholars to populate ancient monuments with virtual reality figures for experiments on practical details like ventilation, capacity or acoustics.
"For example, in scholarly literature the Colosseum has a great reputation for being a great people mover where people could find their seats very quickly. But estimates of the carrying capacity vary wildly from 35,000 to 78,000," he said.
Engineers have populated his model with virtual spectators to narrow down that estimate to 48,000-50,000 people.
The model can also show how the Romans, who worshipped the sun and moon, aligned their buildings with the summer solstice.
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Saturday, June 09, 2007
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Chad Johnson got a head start without having to jump offside, and beat his coverage to the goal line again.
The Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver was waiting at the finish line when Restore the Roar arrived at the end of his one-eighth-mile gallop. That's right: Johnson raced a horse Saturday and easily won.
Johnson was spotted a 100-meter lead -- roughly about half the distance the horse had to cover in the race for charity. And when it was over, Johnson, as usual, was anything but humble. He sounded ready to take on boxing, basketball and NASCAR.
"Floyd Mayweather, you're next," Johnson said. "I want to fight you. I'd like to take Kobe and LeBron one-on-one. Jeff Gordon, we can take a couple laps. ... Now it's my time to take over the race world."
The 4-year-old colt's jockey, P.J. Cooksey, rode a horse that beat former Bengals receiver Cris Collinsworth in 1993. She sounded more impressed with Johnson's speed.
"He's quick," Cooksey said. "He's a fast man. That was phenomenal. When I looked over at him, all I could see were his legs; they looked like a windmill. He was a blur. I was beat bad."
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Thursday, June 07, 2007
GENEVA (Reuters) - More than 600 million people worldwide work excessively long hours, with Peruvians topping the list and Britons the worst offenders amongst rich nations, the International Labour Organisation reported on Thursday.
In a report on working trends in 50 countries, the
United Nations' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> United Nations agency said progress towards a maximum 48-hour week was still uneven nearly 100 years after the standard was agreed by ILO members.
More than half (50.9 percent) of Peruvians work more than 48 hours a week followed by South Koreans (49.5), Thais (46.7) and Pakistanis (44.4).
In developed countries, where working hours are generally shorter, 25.7 percent of British workers put in more than 48 hours a week followed by Israelis (25.5), Australians (20.4), Swiss (19.2) and U.S. workers (18.1).
"The good news is that progress has been made in regulating normal working hours in developing and transition countries, but overall the findings of this study are definitely worrying," said Jon C. Messenger, co-author of the ILO study.
The ILO says shorter working hours benefit workers' health and family lives, reduce accidents at the workplace and generally make workers more productive.
The growth of service industries, such as tourism and transport, and the expanding informal economy, where workers are not under contract, contributed to longer working hours, the ILO said.
Both elements are signs of increasing globalization, it said.
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The most distant black hole ever found is nearly 13 billion light-years from Earth, astronomers announced today.
The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope spotted the bright burst of light the black hole created as it sucked up nearby gas, heating it and causing it to glow very brightly in what's known as a quasar.
The distance to the quasar, which sits in the constellation Pisces, was determined by measuring the amount of redshift in the lines of the quasar's spectrum, or prism of light. Because light is "redshifted" to longer wavelengths as an object moves away from an observer, the higher the redshift, the further away the object is-and this quasar had quite a large redshift.
"As soon as I saw the spectrum with its booming emission line, I knew this one was a long way away," said team member Chris Willott of the University of Ottawa.
Because the Big Bang is believed to have occurred around 13.7 billion years ago, astronomers are seeing the quasar as it appeared a mere 1 billion years after the Big Bang, which gives them a unique view into universe's past.
Sometime around the universe's one billionth birthday, the first stars and galaxies began to shine and ionized all of the hydrogen atoms in the universe (or removed an electron from each atom). The quasar's bright light illuminates the hydrogen gas in front of it, which lets astronomers see whether the atoms still have their electrons attached or not, which could help pin down the date of this momentous event.
The quasar might also be able to help astronomers learn about the growth of the first black holes; the black hole powering this quasar is estimated to be about 500 million times the mass of the sun, which is thought to be unusual for an early black hole.
"It is puzzling how such enormous black holes are found so early on in the universe ... because we believe that black holes take a long time to grow," said team member John Hutchings of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics.
The finding was announced at the annual conference of the Canadian Astronomical Society.
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Wednesday, June 06, 2007
very dark spot on Mars could be an entrance to a deep hole or cavern, according to scientists studying imagery taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
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The geological oddity measures some 330 feet (100 meters) across and is located on an otherwise bright dusty lava plain to the northeast of Arsia Mons, one of the four giant Tharsis volcanoes on the red planet.
The hole might be the sort of place that could support life or serve as a habitat for future astronauts, researchers speculated.
Must be deep
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) used its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument to draw a bead on the apparent deep hole - a feature that may cause more scientists to ponder about potential subsurface biology on Mars.
Because the spot lacks a raised rim or tossed out material called ejecta, researchers have ruled out the pit being an impact crater. No walls or other details can be seen inside the hole, and so any possible walls might be perfectly vertical and extremely dark or - more likely - overhanging.
HiRISE image specialists said the pit must be very deep to prevent detection of the floor from natural daylight, which is quite bright on Mars.
In April, it was announced that the
NASA' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> NASA Mars Odyssey and its Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) found near the equator seven dark spots that scientists think could be entrances to underground caves.
Meanwhile, MRO is ready to target the dark spots on Mars over the coming months as opportunities arise, explained HiRISE principal investigator, Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona in Tucson.
"We especially want oblique images from the west, to see illuminated walls. These are deep holes with overhanging walls, but perhaps not long caves," McEwen told SPACE.com.
Caves on Mars gives rise to thinking about subsurface life on the planet, notes Peter Smith, principal investigator for NASA's next outbound mission to that distant and dusty world, the Phoenix lander. The deeper and deeper you go down on Mars, the warmer and warmer it gets, Smith said, and at some point the conditions are just right where liquid water is stable.
Moreover, could caves be linked to underground fractures allowing water vapor to be trapped inside, Smith speculates, perhaps the sort of comfy environment ideal for biology.
Smith said caves on Mars are an exciting find. "We can't say what's in the caves. It's just that they exist. It is hard to tell from orbit. Landers can follow up on these discoveries."
Penny Boston, director of cave and karst studies at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, New Mexico, has been working on a Caves of Mars Project, funded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts.
Not only are natural caves of biological interest, Boston says, they could also serve as habitats for future human explorers - nifty underground housing to protect against the high-radiation environment of Mars. Additionally, caves offer easier subsurface access for direct exploration and drilling, she suggests, and may provide extractable minerals, gases, and ices.
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Original Story: Deep Hole Found on Mars
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ROME (Reuters) - Italy's prehistoric iceman "Otzi" died from a shoulder wound inflicted by an arrow, according to research into his perfectly preserved 5,000-year old body.
Otzi, the oldest mummy unearthed, was found in the Italian Alps in 1991 wearing clothing made from leather and grasses and carrying a copper axe, a bow and arrows.
Though Otzi's body underwent several scientific tests to study life in the prehistoric age, it had so far been unclear whether he died from an arrow wound, a bad fall or severe freezing while climbing the high mountains.
Using modern X-ray technology, however, an Italian-Swiss research team said on Wednesday it had proved the cause of death as a lesion on an artery close to the shoulder, caused by an arrowhead that remains in the iceman's back.
A large haematoma -- or a collection of blood due to internal bleeding -- could also be seen in the surrounding tissue, and the iceman probably died shortly after the lesion was caused, researchers concluded.
Researchers had previously suggested he was killed by a rival hunter after putting up a fight, and concluded that his final meals consisted of venison and ibex meat.
The latest results on the research appeared online in the Journal of Archaeological Science and will be published in the
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Vatican police have detained a man who tried to jump into the back of the open-air vehicle carrying Pope Benedict XVI to his weekly address in St. Peter's Square.
The man, aged between 20 and 30, was not armed and the pope's life was never in danger, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told CNN. It is not clear if he will be charged.
Video showed the man, wearing a red t-shirt, dark shorts, a baseball cap and sunglasses, launch himself over a crowd of people waving flags and holding banners on the side of the street as the popemobile passed by.
The man then jumped over the barricade and seemed to touch the back of the vehicle before at least six men in dark suits wrestled him to the ground. (Watch the pope's security guards wrestle the man to the ground )
The pontiff continued waving and did not look behind him where the incident took place.
After being questioned by Vatican police, the man will be handed over to Italian police for further questioning.
Every Wednesday, the pope gives an address, or general audience, to crowds who gather in St. Peter's Square.
Although it was quickly over, the incident recalled the attempt on the life of Benedict's predecessor John Paul II on May 13, 1981, also in St. Peter's Square.
Turkish assailant Ali Agca shot and seriously wounded the Polish pope as he was leaving the square following a general audience.
CNN's Alessio Vinci says people entering the square are screened with metal detectors. "There are thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people in the square, so security screening can be difficult."
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RABAT (Reuters) - Perforated shells discovered in a limestone cave in eastern Morocco are the oldest adornments ever found and show humans used symbols in Africa 40,000 years before Europe, the kingdom's government said.
The small oval Nassarius mollusc shells, some dyed with red ochre, were probably pierced to be strung into necklaces or bracelets 82,000 years ago.
"This classes the adornments in Pigeon's Cave at Taforalt as older than those discovered previously in Algeria, South Africa and Palestine," the Culture Ministry said in a statement.
The find represents "a big step in the understanding of cultural innovations and the role they played in human history."
Morocco has yielded important prehistoric finds including one of the oldest known dinosaur skeletons but little is known of the humans that inhabited the region before Berber farmers settled over 2,000 years ago.
The shells were found and dated by a team of scientists from Morocco, Britain, France and Germany trying to find out how climate and landscape change affected human behavior between 130,000 and 13,000 years ago.
The work is part of a broader study into whether the Strait of Gibraltar dividing Morocco from Spain acted as a corridor or a barrier for early humans trying to move between Africa and Europe.
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Tuesday, June 05, 2007
AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) -- Forest guards in western India are using cell phones with ringtones of cows mooing, goats bleating and roosters crowing to attract leopards that have wandered into human settlements, officials said on Monday.
The wild cats in the state of Gujarat often roam into villages near forests in search of food, say officials, adding that this results in attacks on people.
But rather than use methods such as live bait like goats tied to trees to lure the leopards, which then fall into large pits dug by guards, officials say they have found a safer method to trap the cats.
"The moos of a cow, bleating of a goat from the phone has proved effective to trap leopards," said D. Vasani, a senior forest official in Gujarat. "This trick works."
Vasani said forest guards have downloaded the sounds of over a dozen animals as ringtones on their mobiles which they attach to speakers and fix behind a cage.
They then play the ringtone continuously for up to two hours until the curious leopard appears and moves into the cage looking for its easy meal.
Five leopards have so far been lured from villages since the new ringtone method was introduced a month ago. The cats have all been released back into forest areas.
Wildlife activists welcomed the new initiative saying that previous methods of trapping the cats using pits often resulted in the animals getting injured.
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Monday, June 04, 2007
MUMBAI, India - Mike Tyson wants to try something new — acting in Bollywood movies. Tyson said the energy on the sets of a music video he recently shot for a new comedy got him thinking about trying to do more Bollywood work, The Times of India reported Monday.
The former heavyweight boxing champion said in an interview that Firoz Nadiadwala, producer of "Fool n Final," had approached him with a script.
"Firoz has discussed a movie with me," the newspaper quoted Tyson as saying.
"We seriously intend to work toward it," he said, without disclosing any details.
Tyson, 40, danced to Bollywood music at a two-day shoot in Las Vegas last month for a music video to promote "Fool n Final," about a diamond heist.
"The atmosphere was very congenial, happy and energetic," the newspaper quoted Tyson as saying.
Tyson plays himself in the music video, set for release later this month.
He said Nadiadwala explained the concept of the music video to him earlier this year.
"I was, anyway, in that phase when I didn't mind trying out something different," he said. "The script seemed very interesting, with lots of excitement thrown in."
Tyson said there are similarities between acting and boxing.
"In both the fields, in order to survive and triumph, you need focus and to be highly disciplined and determined," he said.
A judge in Phoenix gave Tyson permission to travel to Las Vegas to shoot the music video. Tyson is facing charges of drug possession and driving under the influence of drugs for an arrest in Scottsdale last year.
Tyson had been expected to travel to India this summer to film the dance sequence, but the scene was shot in Las Vegas due to security reasons, director Ahmed Khan has said.
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LONDON - A love letter from Napoleon, words of comfort from John Donne and a plea for tolerance from Mahatma Gandhi are among the treasure of a private collection up for auction in London next month, Christie's auctioneers said Monday.
The extensive collection, estimated to sell for $4 million at the July 3 sale, was quietly amassed over three decades by the late Albin Schram, who kept them in a filing cabinet in his home in Lausanne, Switzerland, according to Christie's.
The letter from Napoleon to Josephine, given to Schram by a family member in 1973, was the inspiration for his extraordinary collection, Christie's said.
Schram pursued his new passion in auction rooms in London, Paris and Germany, usually bidding in person, said Thomas Venning, director of Christie's books and manuscripts department.
"Schram's guiding principle was his own insatiable intellectual curiosity, pursued through his voluminous reading," Venning said.
The collector's last wish-list in March 2005 included letters of Czech poet Jan Neruda, American poet Walt Whitman, President
Richard Nixon' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Richard Nixon and 14th-century Bohemian patriot Jan Zizka, Venning said.
Napoleon's letter, one of three to his future wife that are known to survive, was given to Schram in 1973 by a family member, Christie's said. Its sale price was estimated at up to $100,000. The letter was written after an argument about her family's wealth, leading to accusations that Napoleon did not love her for herself.
In the letter he declares his passion: "I send you three kisses one on your heart, one on your mouth and one on your eyes."
But the star of the collection is a letter by Donne, the celebrated priest and poet, which Christie's said is "the finest manuscript by his hand in existence" and is estimated to sell for $240,000.
Donne wrote to Lady Kingsmill in 1624, offering consolation for the death of her husband.
"Let us not, who know in God's house there are many mansions, but yet have no model, no design of the form of that building, wonder at his taking in of his materials, why he takes the young, and leaves the old, or why the sickly overlive those, that had better health," Donne wrote.
A letter from Gandhi, estimated to sell for up to $24,000, was written 19 days before his assassination and pleads for tolerance of Muslims.
A letter written in 1831 by Alexandr Pushkin, said to be only the second by his hand to appear at auction for more than 30 years, is estimated to sell for up to $160,000. Pushkin wrote to Baron E. Rosen, editor of the almanac Altsiona, saying that he could not offer any short works for publication because he was busy preparing the third edition of his poems.
A letter from Isaac Newton (1643-1727), in which he compares his views on gravity and the universe to those of Plutarch, Aristotle and Plato, was estimated to fetch up to $100,000.
Schram, who died in 2005, was born in Prague in 1926 to Austrian parents, Christie's said.
He was drafted into the German army in World War II and taken prisoner late in the conflict and confined at Kaliningrad in Russia. He escaped in mid-1945 and made his way back to Austria.
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Saturday, June 02, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
Fastest Tennis Serve by a Woman - The fastest serve by a woman is by Brenda Schultz-McCarthy when she hit a serve at 130 mph during qualifying for the Cincinnati tournament last year, and the WTA said May 30, 2007, it considers that to be the fastest serve in women's tennis history.
The second fastest serve made by a woman was made by Venus Williams (USA) when she hit the fastest recorded serve in a women's tour main-draw match, reaching 128 mph at the French Open on May 30, 2007. Venus also recorded a serve of 127.4 mph during the European Indoor Championships at Zürich, Switzerland, on October 16, 1998.
Fastest Tennis Serve- The fastest tennis service by a man is by Andy Roddick when he blasted a whopping serve of 155mph during the Davis Cup against Belarus in September 2004.He had clocked 153 mph earlier in the year at Queen's Club in London during a Stella Artois Championship match against Paradorn Srichaphan (Thailand).
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TOKYO - Archaeologists digging in western Japan have excavated what they believe to be the oldest remains of a melon ever found, an official said Friday.
Based on a radiocarbon analysis, researchers estimate the half-rounded piece of fruit to be about 2,100 years old, said Shuji Yamazaki, a local official in the city of Moriyama.
The remains are believed to be the oldest of a melon that still has flesh on the rind, Yamazaki said. Previously, the oldest such find was believed to be remains found in China that date back to the fourth century A.D., according to local media reports.
The melon might have been so well-preserved because it was in a vacuum-packed state in a wet layer below the ground, an environment hostile to microorganisms that might otherwise have broken down the remains, Yamazaki said.
Melon seeds have been often found in archaeological digs around the country, but researchers rarely find the remains of melon flesh, Yamazaki said.
Moriyama is about 330 kilometers (205 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
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