Friday, August 24, 2007

'Big Bang' pioneer Ralph Alpher dies - Yahoo! News

'Big Bang' pioneer Ralph Alpher dies - Yahoo! News: "'Big Bang' pioneer Ralph Alpher dies "

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. - Ralph Alpher, a physicist whose pioneering work on the underpinnings of the "Big Bang" theory went unheralded for years while others won a Nobel Prize, has died. He was 86.

Alpher died Aug. 12 in Austin, Texas. He had been honored by President Bush with a National Medal of Science in July, but was unable to attend the ceremony because of his failing health, Union College in Schenectady said in announcing his death. He had been on the Union faculty.
The "Big Bang" theory holds that the universe began billions of years ago in the explosion of a single, super-dense point that contained all matter.
As a doctoral candidate at George Washington University, Alpher and Johns Hopkins University physicist Robert Herman theorized in 1948 that the expansion of the universe leaves behind radiation and traces of the initial explosion that gave it birth could still be found.
That was confirmed in 1964 by the observations of Bell Laboratories astronomers. The Bell scientists had been trying to solve a problem of microwave "noise" at a radio antenna in New Jersey when they discovered the noise was the remnant of Big Bang radiation predicted by Alpher and Herman.
The Bell astronomers, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, shared the 1978 Nobel Prize in physics, along with a Soviet scientist.
"Was I hurt? Yes! How the hell did they think I'd feel?," Alpher said in a 1999 Discover magazine article. "I was miffed at the time that they'd never even invited us down to see the damned radiotelescope. It was silly to be annoyed, but I was."
He and Herman did win the Henry Draper Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1993. Herman died in 1997.
"Ralph really wanted the big prize and a lot of us think he deserved the Nobel, but it was one of those unfortunate situations," 1973 Nobel winner Ivar Giaever, a retired General Electric physicist, told the Times Union of Albany.
Alpher worked at the General Electric Research and Development Center in Schenectady starting in 1955. He became a professor of physics and astronomy at Union College in 1986 and retired in 2004. super value deals

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Old age and sex make good bedfellows, study finds - Los Angeles Times

Old age and sex make good bedfellows, study finds - Los Angeles Times: "Old age and sex make good bedfellows, study finds"
Sex doesn't stop at age 60, 70, 80 or beyond, according to a report released today that found many Americans stayed surprisingly frisky well into old age.The study of 3,005 adults ages 57 to 85 found the majority had an active sex life with a partner or spouse. More than half of sexually active older adults had sex two to three times a month -- the same frequency reported among younger adults in a large 1992 national survey.The report, in the New England Journal of Medicine, found passions cooled as people aged, but said the declining interest in sex couldn't be attributed to age alone. An acute shortage of older men prevented many women in their 70s and 80s from hooking up, researchers said.In addition, older adults with health problems were far less sexually active.Participants in the study were considered sexually active if they had any sort of sexual contact with someone else in the preceding 12 months.The nationwide study provides the most comprehensive look yet at sexual activity among older Americans, an area that has received little scientific attention. Researchers said they hoped the findings would dispel commonly held notions that people lose all interest in sex as they age, and that sex is the province of the young."Older people are just younger people later in life," said lead author Dr. Stacy Tessler Lindau, a gynecologist at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.Still, Lindau cautioned the study wasn't meant to set a standard for normal sexual behavior that older people should feel compelled to achieve despite their personal preferences or circumstances."Certainly many people make a choice not to be sexually active," she said.The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, examined the nature and frequency of sexual activity among older adults, including the prevalence of such performance problems as sexual dysfunction. Researchers also collected information on participants' overall health and intimate relationships.Subjects were divided into three age groups for the purpose of analysis.Nearly three-quarters of adults ages 57 to 64 were sexually active compared to about one-quarter of adults ages 75 to 85, the report found. About half of adults ages 65 to 74 were sexually active.A difference in life spans created a "lack of opportunity" for older women, Lindau said. At age 64, there were eight men for every 10 women in the U.S. By 85, there were four men for every 10 women.American women live five to seven years longer than men.Across all age groups, poor health substantially slowed people down. Those who rated their health as fair to poor were significantly less likely to be sexually active than those who reported their health as very good to excellent.Diabetes was associated with reduced sexual activity, particularly in women. Sexual behavior was unaffected by arthritis and high blood pressure, two other conditions of old age assessed in the study.Half of sexually active adults reported at least one problem that took the edge off sex. Among women, the most common problems were a lack of desire (43%) and vaginal dryness (39%). Thirty-seven percent of men reported erectile difficulties, and 14% used drugs or supplements to improve their performance.Men and women held sharply different opinions about the importance of sex; 35% of women rated sex as "not at all important," compared to 13% of men, the report said.Digging into subjects' sexual preferences, the study found vaginal intercourse was more common than oral sex, and men were much more likely to masturbate than women. Researchers said the information had implications for efforts to control sexually transmitted diseases.Participants in the study were tested for the human papillomavirus, researchers said, but the results were not yet available.Dr. Wayne W. Chen, a geriatrician at USC's Keck School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, said the findings offered a starting point for physicians to discuss sexual activity with their older patients. The study found such conversations occurred infrequently, with 38% of men and 22% of women reporting they had discussed sex with their doctors at least once since turning 50."Many of my colleagues don't think seniors have sexual activity and don't consider it an important clinical issue to deal with compared to stroke and arthritis and all the other things that take precedence," Chen said, adding that some patients might stop taking certain heart medications because they affect sexual performance.Edward O. Laumann, a coauthor of the study and a sociologist at the University of Chicago, said a decline in sexual activity might be an early signal of deterioration in overall health.Researchers said the findings should help reassure older adults that whatever their sexual preferences and problems, they are not alone -- a message infrequently heard in a culture that worships youth."Sexuality does not disappear when you get Social Security," said Dr. Edward Schneider, a professor of gerontology at USC's Andrus Gerontology Center who was not connected with the study. too hot deals ...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Scientists find ancient gum in Finland - Yahoo! News

Scientists find ancient gum in Finland - Yahoo! News: "Scientists find ancient gum in Finland "
Scientists find ancient gum in Finland
2 hours, 27 minutes ago
HELSINKI, Finland - Finns, who introduced a birch-tree sweetener for gum, have found that the habit of chewing sticky lumps dates back thousands of years. Last month, students in western Finland found a piece of Stone Age birch-bark tar, believed to have been used for chewing and to fix broken arrowheads or clay dishes, archaeologists said Monday.

"Most likely the lump was used as an antique kind of chewing gum," said Sami Viljamaa, an archaeologist who led the dig near Oulu, some 380 miles north of the capital, Helsinki. "But its main purpose was to fix things."
Viljamaa said the piece of Neolithic gum was found among artifacts, like dishes and jewelry, in a Stone Age village at the Kierikki Stone Age Center. "It's somewhere between 5,500 and 6,000 years old," he said.
The ancient Finnish habit of chewing gum surged in the 1980s when Finnish scientists discovered that gum containing xylitol, a natural sweetener found in plant tissue including birch trees, prevents tooth decay. Schools began to give xylitol gum free to children after meals, and sales of chewing gum almost doubled during five years as xylitol's popularity grew.
The ancient gum was found by British student Sarah Pickin, who was assisted by four other students at the site, Viljamaa said. "They also found an amber ring and a slate arrowhead, which were great finds," he added. All about savings

Friday, August 03, 2007

AP Exclusive: Aztec leader's tomb found - Yahoo! News

AP Exclusive: Aztec leader's tomb found - Yahoo! News: "AP Exclusive: Aztec leader's tomb found "
MEXICO CITY - Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar have detected underground chambers they believe contain the remains of Emperor Ahuizotl, who ruled the Aztecs when Columbus landed in the New World. It would be the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever found.
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The find could provide an extraordinary window into Aztec civilization at its apogee. Ahuizotl (ah-WEE-zoh-tuhl), an empire-builder who extended the Aztecs' reach as far as Guatemala, was the last emperor to complete his rule before the Spanish Conquest.
Accounts written by Spanish priests suggest the area was used by the Aztecs to cremate and bury their rulers. But no tomb of an Aztec ruler has ever been found, in part because the Spanish conquerors built their own city atop the Aztec's ceremonial center, leaving behind colonial structures too historically valuable to remove for excavations.
One of those colonial buildings was so damaged in a 1985 earthquake that it had to be torn down, eventually giving experts their first chance to examine the site off Mexico City's Zocalo plaza, between the Metropolitan Cathedral and the ruins of the Templo Mayor pyramid.
Archaeologists told The Associated Press that they have located what appears to be a six-foot-by-six-foot entryway into the tomb about 15 feet below ground. The passage is filled with water, rocks and mud, forcing workers to dig delicately while suspended from slings. Pumps work to keep the water level down.
"We are doing it very, very slowly ... because the responsibility is very great and we want to register everything," said Leonardo Lopez Lujan, the lead government archaeologist on the project. "It's a totally new situation for us, and we don't know exactly what it will be like down there."
As early as this fall, they hope to enter the inner chambers — a damp, low-ceilinged space — and discover the ashes of Ahuizotl, who was likely cremated on a funeral pyre in 1502.
By that time, Columbus had already landed in the New World. But the Aztecs' first contact with Europeans came 17 years later, in 1519, when Hernan Cortes and his band of conquistadors marched into the Mexico Valley and took hostage Ahuizotl's successor, his nephew Montezuma.
Ahuizotl's son Cuauhtemoc (kwow-TAY-mock) took over from Montezuma and led the last resistance to the Spaniards in the battle for Mexico City in 1521. He was later taken prisoner and killed. Like Montezuma, his burial place is unknown.
Because no Aztec royal tomb has ever been found, the archaeologists are literally digging into the unknown. Radar indicates the tomb has up to four chambers, and scientists think they will find a constellation of elaborate offerings to the gods on the floor.
"He must have been buried with solemn ceremony and rich offerings, like vases, ornaments ... and certainly some objects he personally used," said Luis Alberto Martos, director of archaeological studies at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.
The tomb's curse — water — may also be its blessing. Lopez Lujan said the constant temperature of the pH-neutral water in the flooded chambers, together with the lack of oxygen, discourages decomposition of materials like wood and bone that have been found at other digs around the pyramid, which was all but destroyed in the Conquest.
"This would be quite an important find for Aztec archaeology," said Michael Smith, an archaeologist at Arizona State University who is not connected to the dig. "It would be tremendously important because it would be direct information about kingship, burial and the empire that is difficult to come by otherwise."
All signs found so far point to Ahuizotl. The site lies directly below a huge, recently discovered stone monolith carved with a representation of Tlaltecuhtli (tlahl-tay-KOO-tlee), the Aztec god of the earth.
Depicted as a woman with huge claws and a stream of blood flowing into her mouth as she squats to give birth, Tlaltecuhtli was believed to devour the dead and then give them new life. The god was so fearsome that Aztecs normally buried her depictions face down in the earth. However, this one is face-up.
In the claw of her right foot, the god holds a rabbit and 10 dots, indicating the date "10 Rabbit" — 1502, the year of Ahuizotl's death.
"Our hypothesis is precisely that this is probably the tomb of Ahuizotl," Lopez Lujan said.
Any artifacts linked to Ahuizotl would bring tremendous pride to Mexico. The country has sought unsuccessfully to recover Aztec artifacts like the feather-adorned "shield of Ahuizotl" and the "Montezuma headdress" from the Ethnology Museum in Vienna, Austria.
"Imagine it — this wasn't just any high-ranking man. The Aztecs were the most powerful society of their time before the arrival of the Spaniards," Martos said. "That's why Ahuizotl's tomb down there is so important."
(This version CORRECTS Corrects spelling of Tlaltecuhtli, ADDS photo links. ) super deals