Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Neptune and Uranus may have oceans of liquid diamond.

From PopSci:
Future humans won't have to wait to travel to Pandora for the chance to mine unobtanium, because Neptune and Uranus may have diamond icebergs floating atop liquid diamond seas closer to home. The surprise finding comes from the first detailed measurements of the melting point of diamond, Discovery News reports.

Scientists zapped diamond with a laser at pressures 40 million times greater than the Earth's atmosphere at sea level, and then slowly reduced both temperature and pressure. They eventually found that diamond behaves like water during freezing and melting, and that chunks of diamond will float in the liquid diamond.

Diamond oceans could explain why the magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune appear tilted so far off their north-south axes, given that they could deflect or tilt the magnetic fields. Both planets may consist of up to 10 percent carbon, the elemental building block of diamond.

Scientists won't know for sure until they can launch missions to the planets, or try to simulate planetary conditions on Earth. But we'd wager it's worth a shot for NASA, if there's any chance that U.S. space missions could begin to pay for themselves in the distant future.

Experts find bones of English princess.

From SFGate:

Experts say they may have found the body of England's Princess Eadgyth, more than 1,000 years after she was carted off to Germany to marry an ambitious Saxon duke.

Bristol University in western England said Wednesday that if scientific tests on the bones prove conclusive, it would make Eadgyth (pronounced 'Edith') the oldest member of the English royal family whose remains have survived. The bones were found in Magdeburg, Germany.

Eadgyth was born at the dawn of the 10th century, when England was still divided into a patchwork of Anglo-Saxon and Viking fiefdoms. Her brother King Athelstan kicked the Vikings out of York and routed the Scots and Irish in a massive battle around 937.

Historians consider him the first king to effectively rule of all of England.

NY Times to charge again for online content.

RIP: New York Times (1851 - 2011).

Article below from SFGate, and the Times' own story here.
The New York Times says it will charge readers for full access to its Web site starting in 2011, a risky move aimed at drawing more revenue online without driving away advertisers that want the biggest possible audience.

The potential pitfalls have made most other major newspapers hesitant to take a similar step. But after months of deliberation, the Times said Wednesday it will use a metered system, allowing free access to a certain number of articles and then charging users for additional content.

The Times did not disclose how many articles will be available for free and what it will charge to read more. Subscribers to the printed version of the Times would still have free access to the Web site.

It would not be the first time the newspaper has tried to charge for its online articles.

It charged for its Web site in 1996 but attracted only about 4,000 subscribers. Another experiment called Times Select, which required a $50 annual subscription to read Times columnists, drew 221,000 customers but was scrapped in 2007 because it dented ad sales. Advertisers generally pay more for higher Web traffic.

The new approach resembles the one used at The Financial Times. The idea is to draw casual readers with free articles while getting fees from people who want to go deeper on the site.

Stem cells become functioning neurons in mice.

From Yahoo! News:
Transplanted neurons grown from embryonic stem cells were able to form proper brain connections in newborn mice, U.S. scientists report.

Researchers from Stanford Medical School say their study was the first to show that stem cells can be directed to become specific brain cells and to link correctly in the brain. The findings, they say, could help in efforts to develop new treatments for spinal cord injuries and nervous system diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease.

The researchers focused on brain cells that transmit information from the brain's cortex. Some of the cortical neurons are responsible for muscle control and are the ones lost or damaged in people with spinal cord injuries and ALS.

"These stem cell-derived neurons can grow nerve fibers between the brain's cerebral cortex and the spinal cord, so this study confirms the use of stem cells for therapeutic goals," the research team's leader, James Weimann, said in a news release from the Society for Neuroscience.

FBI illegally collected phone records.

From ABC News:
The FBI violated the law in collecting about 2,000 U.S. telephone records during the Bush administration, though the violations weren't intentional, officials said Tuesday.

Citing internal memos and interviews, the Washington Post said the FBI invoked nonexistent terrorism emergencies or persuaded phone companies to provide information as it illegally gathered records between 2002 and 2006.

The bureau said in 2007 that it had improperly obtained some phone records, and the Justice Department inspector general is expected to release a report later this month detailing the extent of the problem.

FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said Tuesday the pending report "is not expected to find — nor were there — any intentional attempts to obtain records that counterterrorism personnel knew they were not legally entitled to obtain."

The problem centered around requests to phone companies for records of incoming and outgoing calls to a particular number — not the actual content of the conversations.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dead: Taco Bell founder.

I wonder if his coffin will be crunchy or soft. From Yahoo! News:
Glen W. Bell Jr., an entrepreneur best known as the founder of the Taco Bell chain, has died. He was 86.

Bell died Sunday at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, according to a statement posted Monday on the Taco Bell Web site.

The Irvine-based company did not release a cause of death.

"Glen Bell was a visionary and innovator in the restaurant industry, as well as a dedicated family man," Greg Creed, president of Taco Bell, said in the statement.

Bell launched his first restaurant, called Bell's Drive-In, in 1948 in San Bernardino after seeing the success of McDonald's Bar-B-Que, the predecessor of McDonald's, which was founded in the same city in 1940. Like McDonald's, Bell's restaurant sought to take advantage of Southern California's car culture by serving hamburgers and hot dogs through drive-in windows.

The World War II veteran next helped establish Taco Tias in Los Angeles, El Tacos in the Long Beach area, and Der Wienerschnitzel, a national hot dog chain.

Bell launched Taco Bell in 1962 in Downey after cutting ties with his business partners and quickly expanding around Los Angeles.

He sold the first Taco Bell franchise in 1964. In 1978, Bell sold his 868 Taco Bell restaurants to PepsiCo for $125 million in stock.

Taco Bell is now owned by Yum! Brands and is the largest Mexican fast-food chain in the nation, serving more than 36.8 million consumers each week in more than 5,600 U.S. locations.

Mayor caught on camera stealing women's underwear.

Thanks to our resident underwear expert, Larissa! From The Telegraph:

Stafford, 59, was seen walking into the woman’s bedroom, rifling through her drawers, and selecting a pair of knickers he wanted to wear.

The bachelor, who had twice been elected mayor of Preesall and Knott End, near Fleetwood, Lancs, then performed a sex act before leaving the building.

Police later found a collection of underwear, identical to the items reported stolen, at his home.

The woman who made the recording was one of three Stafford targeted between January 1 and June 26 last year.

She decided to install a hidden camera after noticing that some of her underwear was disappearing.

Two other victims also contacted police over the disappearance of items of their own underwear.