Thursday, August 20, 2009

Zoo sued for teaching dolphins to splash.

Free Willy... from personal liability suits! From
A woman is suing a Chicago-area zoo for a 2008 fall near a dolphin exhibit, accusing zookeepers of encouraging the mammals to splash water and then failing to protect spectators from wet surfaces.

In her suit filed earlier this week, Allecyn Edwards said she was injured while walking near an exhibit at Brookfield Zoo, where a group of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins were performing, media said.

Officials "recklessly and willfully trained and encouraged the dolphins to throw water at the spectators in the stands, making the floor wet and slippery", but failed to post warning signs or lay down protective mats or strips, the suit said, according to the reports.

Ms Edwards is demanding more than $50,000 for lost wages, medical expenses and emotional trauma from the Chicago Zoological Society and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which operate the zoo in Chicago's southwest suburbs.

PS3 finally realistically priced.

From Yahoo! Tech:
After months of rumors and anticipation, Sony Corp. is slashing the price of the PlayStation 3 by $100 in hopes of boosting sales of the console ahead of the important holiday season.

Sony Corp. said Tuesday it will cut the price of the currently available 80 gigabyte PlayStation 3 effective immediately, to $299. It is also launching a slimmer, lighter model with a 120 GB hard drive in early September; that version will also cost $299.

Sony also cut the price of its existing 160 GB PlayStation 3 by $100, to $399. All price cuts apply worldwide.

Sales of the PlayStation 3, which launched in 2006 and cost as much as $600 at the time, have fallen behind rival consoles. Last week, market researcher NPD Group said U.S. retail stores sold about 122,000 units of the console in July, compared with nearly 203,000 for Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 and more than 252,000 for the Nintendo Co.'s Wii.

Video game software makers hope Sony's price cut will boost game sales ahead of the holidays. So far this year, the industry has suffered from weak sales because of the recession and lackluster game release schedules, which have kept consumers waiting to spend money on new titles.

Medical super glue being developed from sea worms.

Want your bones fixed with worm gunk? From the Press Association:
A team of US scientists have created a glue derived from an industrious marine worm that could help surgeons repair shattered bones.

Scientists hope the new bonding material will one day replace the metal wires, pins and screws used to hold bone fragments in place.

To create it, researchers copied a natural glue secreted by the sandcastle worm, which cements together sand grains and sea shell fragments to build a protective home.

The biodegradable adhesive is both super-strong and unaffected by water. Like the worm's glue on which it is based, it sets in response to changes in acidity.

Currently nails, wires, pins and metal screws are used to support broken bones until they can bear weight.

Glue would have the advantage of avoiding metal hardware in the body and make it easier to fasten small bone fragments.

The inch-long sandcastle worm, Phragmatopoma californica, overcame several engineering challenges to evolve its underwater adhesive.

Dr Russell Stewart, from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, who led the research, said: "We recognised that the mechanism used by the sandcastle worm is really a perfect vehicle for producing an underwater adhesive. This glue, just like the worm's glue, is a fluid material that, although it doesn't mix with water, is water soluble."

Seeds of life found on comet for first time.

From the NY Times:
For the first time, a building block of proteins — and hence of life as we know it — has been found in a comet.

That adds to the prevailing notion that many of the ingredients for the origin of life showered down on the early Earth when asteroids (interplanetary rocks orbiting the inner solar system) and comets (dirty ice balls that generally congregate in the outer solar system beyond Neptune) made impact with the planet.

In the new research, scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., detected the amino acid glycine in comet bits brought back in 2006 by the NASA space probe Stardust.

“It tells us more about the inventory of organics in the early solar system,” said Jamie Elsila, an astrochemist at Goddard who led the research.

Amino acids are small molecules that, when strung together into chains, form a diversity of proteins. For four decades, scientists have found a multitude of amino acids in some meteorites, the bits of asteroids that land on Earth. More recently, astronomers reported that amino acids might float throughout the cosmos, a belief resulting from their detection of the color signatures of glycine, the simplest of the amino acids, in distant interstellar gas clouds.

Some doubts remain about that claim, but if it is true, it would then not be surprising that when the clouds condense into stars and planets, the building blocks of life might be readily available there.

Popcorn may be good for you.

Yeah, but is it worth the kernel skins getting stuck in your gums? (I hate that.)
Popcorn could help prevent cancer, research suggests.

Scientists discovered the snack food contains 'surprisingly large' levels of health-boosting antioxidants called polyphenols.

Polyphenols in fruit and vegetables are thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

The U.S. study was led by the chemist Dr Vinson from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. It is the first to establish that snack foods and some wholegrain breakfast cereals are a good source of polyphenols.

He said: 'We really were surprised by the levels of polyphenols we found in popcorn. I guess its because it's not processed. You get all the wonderful ingredients of the corn undiluted and protected by the skin. In my opinion it's a good health food.'
More here.

Average video gamer is 35, fat, and depressed.

I've been depressed ever since Aeris died. From Daily Mail:
Playing video games is often regarded as a pastime for children and teenagers.

But the average age of players is now 35 - and it seems they have similar problems to their younger counterparts, according to researchers.

Adults who spend hours in front of a games console every day are more likely to be fat and depressed than those who don't, a U.S. study found.

They also rely more on the internet - rather than flesh and blood friends and colleagues - for social support.

[...] Women players reported greater levels of depression and lower health status than the female non-players.

Male video game players reported greater levels of obesity and spent more time on the internet than male non-players.

And both sexes of video game players said they were more reliant on the internet for social support than non-players.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Virgin Mary shows up on a Guanabana tree.

Image is a Guanabana. If I were the holy virgin, I wouldn't want to sit on one of those things! From Colombia Reports:
The holy virgin has appeared again. Inhabitants of Ocaña, Norte de Santander department, on Wednesday discovered the image of Our Lady of Grace of Torcoroma, a village near Ocaña, on a Guanabana tree.

Within a couple of hours, the house of the Torrado family where the virgin appeared, had turned into a pilgrimage site. Hundreds of faithful, who believe the appearance announces good times, have visited the tree since the early morning hours of Wednesday.

"I believe the virgin appeared and she appeared for a reason," visitor Esperanza Quintero told Canal RCN.

The Catholic Church has not yet confirmed the validity of the virgin.

Man arrested for drive-by feces attack.

Here's the poop:
A 39-year-old construction worker has been arrested for throwing his own faeces at women passers-by from a motorcycle in two separate attacks in western Japan, police said today.

The man turned himself in yesterday after making the second drive-by attack in Settsu, a satellite city near Osaka, and was detained on suspicion of assault, a municipal police spokesman said.

The worker, identified as Tatsuya Moriguchi, committed a similar assault in the same city on August 3, the police official said.

"The suspect has told investigators he did it because he felt frustrated when his work didn't go well,'' the official said.

"I have no idea what kind of penalty he may face. I have not heard about such a case before.''

NYC sues Exxon $300m for polluting Queens.

Kill one person and you're a murderer. Kill tens of thousands of people and you're a successful corporation.
The city has taken one of the world’s largest oil companies to court and is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for contaminating the drinking water under southeast Queens.

Opening arguments began last week in Manhattan federal court for the city’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil, accusing the oil giant of negligence and nuisance for using the chemical methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, in its fuel products during the 1980s and ’90s. The chemical served as an unleaded gasoline additive to boost the octane number and, if found in water supplies, has been found to cause cancer and other diseases when it comes in contact with human skin, according to the lawsuit.

Large traces of the additive were found in the groundwater that was located under Jamaica and prevented the city from using it to provide water to New Yorkers, according to the suit.

“From at least the early 1980s, defendants and other gasoline refiners collectively knew ... about the dangers and risks that the products posed to groundwater and soil, but did not at any time warn the public, local gasoline stations or any government entity,” the city said in the suit.

The city is seeking more than $300 million in damages from ExxonMobil in the jury trial. Peter John Sacripanti, the attorney representing the oil company, could not be reached for comment.
More here.

Metal coating created that repairs itself.

From Technology Review:
Airplanes, cars, and ships that don't corrode are the promise of self-healing paint coatings and polymer materials. Now researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation and the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany have come up with a metal coating that may be able to repair itself after sustaining damage.

The self-healing metal can be electroplated, which opens up applications in construction, car manufacturing, and other industries that use or manufacture steel machines. (Nuts, bolts, and screws made of steel, which is susceptible to corrosion, are already electroplated with rustproof metals such as zinc and chromium.)

The new coating is around 15 micrometers thick and contains polymer capsules a few hundred nanometers in diameter. When the plating is scratched, the capsules should burst and release their contents - which could be a polymer capable of sealing the crack, or corrosion-inhibiting liquids.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy.

Let's just hope they battle each other and don't team up against us humans. Thanks Larissa!

New Afghan law allows husbands to starve wives to death for refusing sex.

Form Daily Mail:

An Afghan bill permitting a husband to starve his wife if she refuses to have sex has become law.

The original bill caused international outrage earlier this year, forcing Afghan President Hamid Karzai to withdraw it.

But critics say the amended version of the law, brought into effect on July 27, remains highly repressive.

They accuse Mr Karzai of selling out Afghan women for the sake of conservative Shia support ahead of this week's presidential election.

The law governs family life for Afghanistan's Shia minority, which makes up about 15 per cent of the population of about 30million.

It allows a husband to withhold food from his wife if she refuses his sexual demands.

In the original version, Shia women were ordered to have sex with their husbands every four days at a minimum.

It also removed the need for consent to sex within marriage, effectively condoning rape.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Brown fat makes you thin.

From New Scientist:
In the war on our waistlines, fat is the enemy. It is fat, or adipose tissue, that gives us our beer bellies and our love handles, our man boobs and our muffin tops. And when plastic surgeons sculpt people into slenderness, it is fat tissue they suck up and throw out with the clinical waste.

It seems odd, then, that a type of fat tissue could also be the key to weight control. Not ordinary white adipose tissue, but a special kind called brown fat.

In some mammals, brown fat turns the energy obtained from food into heat, burning up calories without the animal expending any effort. It used to be thought that adult humans had no brown fat, but a raft of new evidence indicates that this is wrong, and it is in fact present and functional in at least some individuals. Differences in the amount of brown fat each person has may help to explain why some of us are slim while others are overweight, and why many of us pile on the pounds as we age.

Researchers are experimenting with various ways to increase the amount or activity of our brown fat, either pharmaceutically or even surgically, by extracting ordinary white fat through liposuction, transforming it into brown fat and re-implanting it. A mere 50 grams of brown fat - well within the range of what some of us already have - could dissipate around 500 calories a day. "I exercise on an elliptical trainer and it's pretty hard for me to burn up 500 calories," says Ronald Kahn, head of obesity research at Harvard Medical School's Joslin Diabetes Center. "If I could do it without working and do it every day, it would be pretty great."

Brown fat's role in heat generation, also known as thermogenesis, has been extensively studied by animal physiologists. It turns out that brown fat cells have unusual mitochondria, the tiny structures found in almost all cells that release energy from food. In the vast majority of cells this energy is either stored or used to power cellular processes. The mitochondria in brown fat, however, contain a protein called thermogenin (or uncoupling protein 1), which causes energy to dissipate as heat. "This is a tissue whose sole purpose is burning energy," says Francesco Celi, a researcher at the US National Institutes of Health.

Mathematical model describes survival rate for zombie attack.

Damn, even math is on the side of the zombies. From Wired:
It is possible to successfully fend off a zombie attack, according to Canadian mathematicians. The key is to “hit hard and hit often.”

Oh yes, somebody actually did a study on mathematics of a hypothetical zombie attack, and published it in a book on infectious disease. So, while we still don’t know what to do if a deadly asteroid takes aim at Earth, an unlikely but technically possible situation, we now know what to do in case of a zombie attack.

“An outbreak of zombies is likely to be disastrous, unless extremely aggressive tactics are employed against the undead,” the authors wrote. “It is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.”

[...] The model focuses on modern zombies, which are “very different from the voodoo and the folklore zombies.” It takes into account the possibility of quarantine (could lead to eradication, but unlikely to happen) and treatment (some humans survive, but they still must coexist with zombies), but shows that there is only one strategy likely to succeed: “impulsive eradication.”

“Only sufficiently frequent attacks, with increasing force, will result in eradication, assuming the available resources can be mustered in time,” they concluded.

And if we don’t act fast enough?

“If the timescale of the outbreak increases, then the result is the doomsday scenario: an outbreak of zombies will result in the collapse of civilization, with every human infected, or dead,” they wrote. “This is because human births and deaths will provide the undead with a limitless supply of new bodies to infect, resurrect and convert.”

Girl selling lemonade ticketed $50.

Is it just me, or does the Post seem to have something against the NYC Parks Dept? Item!
Three sourpuss Parks Department agents put the squeeze on a 10-year-old girl in Riverside Park yesterday, slapping the tyke with a $50 ticket for hawking lemonade without a permit.

Clementine Lee, who lives just blocks from the Upper West Side park, had dreamed of opening a lemonade stand since last year and took advantage of yesterday's beautiful weather to set up shop.

"It was such a hot day I figured people would want a cold drink," the aspiring juvenile juice mogul told The Post.
It has a happy ending...
[...] But yesterday, after The Post contacted the department, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe announced that the ticket would be nixed.

"The agent used extremely poor judgment" and didn't properly enforce the rule, Benepe said.

The bumbling Parks enforcement patrol officer will be re-trained on rules and regulations and will be reassigned, he added.

"We're going to make lemonade out of lemons . . . I look forward to buying lemonade from her if I pass by," said the commissioner.

Milwaukee mayor beaten with metal pipe.

From CNN:
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was in stable condition Sunday at a local hospital after he was attacked by a man with a metal pipe at the Wisconsin State Fair on Saturday night, police said.

The attack occurred at 10:45 p.m. at the state fair in West Allis, Wisconsin, as Barrett was leaving the event with his family.

According to Milwaukee Police, Barrett heard a woman crying for help.

When he began calling 911, the man who had been attacking the woman charged at the mayor and began battering him with a metal pipe, according to a statement released by the Milwaukee Police Department.

The suspect then fled the scene.