Selasa, 06 Desember 2011

Vatican envoy to meet Suu Kyi in Myanmar this week

The Vatican is sending an envoy to Myanmar this week for a religious celebration where he will meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, religious news agency I.Media reported on Monday.
Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino will attend the 100th anniversary of Yangon cathedral, where Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, a Buddhist, will be in attendance.
Representatives of all religions in Myanmar, where Catholics represent only around one percent of the population, are being invited to Thursday's event, when Martino will read a message from Pope Benedict XVI.
The envoy will then have lunch with local clergy and "special guests".
The pope called on Martino to transmit "a message of goodwill" to political and religious authorities in Myanmar, where the military dictatorship has made a number of gestures of greater openness in recent months.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Suu Kyi last Friday.

Sabtu, 03 Desember 2011

Study rejects "faster than light" particle finding

GENEVA (Reuters) - An international team of scientists in Italy studying the same neutrino particles colleagues say appear to have travelled faster than light rejected the startling finding this weekend, saying their tests had shown it must be wrong.
The September announcement of the finding, backed up last week after new studies, caused a furore in the scientific world as it seemed to suggest Albert Einstein's ideas on relativity, and much of modern physics, were based on a mistaken premise.
The first team, members of the OPERA experiment at the Gran Sasso laboratory south of Rome, said they recorded neutrinos beamed to them from the CERN research centre in Switzerland as arriving 60 nanoseconds before light would have done.
But ICARUS, another experiment at Gran Sasso -- which is deep under mountains and run by Italy's National Institute of National Physics -- now argues that their measurements of the neutrinos energy on arrival contradict that reading.
In a paper posted on Saturday on the same website as the OPERAresults,, the ICARUS team says their findings "refute a superluminal (faster than light) interpretation of the OPERA result."
They argue, on the basis of recently published studies by two top U.S. physicists, that the neutrinos pumped down from CERN, near Geneva, should have lost most of their energy if they had travelled at even a tiny fraction faster than light.
But in fact, the ICARUS scientists say, the neutrino beam as tested in their equipment registered an energy spectrum fully corresponding with what it should be for particles travelling at the speed of light and no more.
Physicist Tomasso Dorigo, who works at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, and the U.S. Fermilab near Chicago, said in a post on the website Scientific Blogging that the ICARUS paper was "very simple and definitive."
It says, he wrote, "that the difference between the speed of neutrinos and the speed of light cannot be as large as that seen by OPERA, and is certainly smaller than that by three orders of magnitude, and compatible with zero."
Under Einstein's 1905 theory of special relativity, nothing can travel faster than light. That idea lies at the heart of all current science of the cosmos and of how the vast variety of particles that make it up behave.
There was widespread scepticism when the OPERA findings were first revealed, and even the leaders of the experiment insisted that they were not announcing a discovery but simply recording measurements they had made and carefully checked.
However, last Friday they said a new experiment with shorter neutrino beams from CERN and much larger gaps between them had produced the same result. Independent scientists said however this was not conclusive.
Other experiments are being prepared -- at Fermilab and at the KEK laboratory in Japan -- to try to replicate OPERA's findings. Only confirmation from one of these would open the way for a full scientific discovery to be declared.

Sabtu, 26 November 2011

Climate change: South Africa has much to lose

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Imagine the savannas of South Africa's flagship Kruger Park so choked with brush, viewing what game is left is nearly impossible. The Cape of Good Hope without penguins. The Karoo desert's seasonal symphony of wildflowers silenced.

Climate change could mean unthinkable loss for South Africa, which hosts talks on global warming that will bring government negotiators, scientists and lobbyists from around the world to the coastal city of Durban next week.

Guy Midgley, the top climate change researcher at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, said evidence gleaned from decades of recording weather data, observing flora and fauna and conducting experiments makes it possible for scientists to "weave a tapestry of change."
Change is, of course, part of the natural world. But the implications of so much change happening at once pose enormous questions, said Midgley, who has contributed to the authoritative reports of the United Nations' Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
File: In this photo taken Saturday September 14 1996 one of the world's great spectacles, the surrounding Namaqualand countryside blooms in teeming colours best described as a psychedlic fantasy. Climate change could mean an unthinkable loss of the flowers in South Africa, which hosts talks on global warming that will bring government negotiators, scientists and lobbyists from around the world to the coastal city of Durban next week (AP Photo/Sasa Kralj-File)

In the Karoo, for example, where plants found nowhere else in the world have adapted to long, dry summers and winter rainfall, the weather pattern is changing.
Scientists have noted large die-offs linked to the stress of drought among one iconic Karoo denizen, the flowering quiver tree, a giant aloe that often is the only large plant visible across large stretches of desert. Quiver trees attract tourists, and insects, birds and mammals eat their flowers.
File: in this photo taken Wednesday, June 2, 2010 two African penguins bask in the sun at the South African Foundation for the conservation of Coastal Birds care center in Cape Town, South Africa. Because of climate change one could not imageine the Cape of Good Hope without penguins. Climate change could mean unthinkable loss for South Africa, which hosts talks on global warming that will bring government negotiators, scientists and lobbyists from around the world to the coastal city of Durban next week. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam-File)
"Any change in climate is going to affect the flowers," said Wendy Foden, a southern African plant specialist with the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Barend Erasmus, an ecologist at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, worked on some of the first efforts to model how Africa might be affected by climate change. He led a 2001 study that raised the possibility that up to two-thirds of the species studied might disappear from Kruger National Park.
File: In this photo taken Tuesday, July 19, 2011, baboons alongside a road in the Kruger National Park. Climate change could mean an unthinkable loss of wild life in South Africa, which hosts talks on global warming that will bring government negotiators, scientists and lobbyists from around the world to the coastal city of Durban next week (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
Research done since has made Erasmus less fearful for Kruger's animal population. But he predicts profound effects should a changing climate encourage the growth of thick shrubs, squeezing out zebra, antelope and cheetah.
Already, he said, zebra and wildebeest numbers are declining in Kruger as their grazing areas disappear. The question is how much of the cause is due to high concentrations of carbon dioxide, and how much depends on other factors, including man's encroachment.
In this photo taken on Sunday, Nov 20, 2011, a child looks over a day's catch of sardines at the Hout Bay Harbour near Cape Town South Africa. Numbers of penguins in the Cape of Good Hope are dropping as the bird depends on species like sardines to survive and to feed their chicks. Climate change could mean unthinkable loss for South Africa, which hosts talks on global warming that will bring government negotiators, scientists and lobbyists from around the world to the coastal city of Durban next week (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
Offshore, penguin expert Rob Crawford has looked at changes in the breeding grounds of African penguins and other seabirds, noting South Africa's northernmost penguin colony went extinct in 2006. Crawford and his colleagues wrote in a 2008 paper that the movements "suggest the influence of environmental change, perhaps forced by climate."
The African penguin, also known as the jackass penguin because of its braying call, is found only in southern Africa. A colony near Cape Town has long been a tourist draw.
File: In this photo taken Saturday September 14 1996 a donkey cart carries passengers throughone of the world's great spectacles, the surrounding Namaqualand countryside which blooms in teeming colours best described as a psychedlic fantasy. Climate change could mean an unthinkable loss of the flowers in South Africa, which hosts talks on global warming that will bring government negotiators, scientists and lobbyists from around the world to the coastal city of Durban next week (AP Photo/Sasa Kralj-File)
One penguin parent stays behind to nest and care for offspring, while the other seeks food for the family. If the hunting partner is away too long, the nesting parent has to abandon the chick — or starve. Species like sardines, on which the penguins depend, have been displaced.
"If they don't have sardines, they can't feed their chicks," Erasmus said. "And eventually the colonies just disappear."
The numbers of African penguins have plummeted from up to 4 million in the early 1900s to 60,000 in 2010, according to the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. Researchers blame humans, who collected penguin eggs for food until the 1960s. More recently, a new threat came with oil spills and commercial fishing's competition for anchovies and sardines.
Erasmus said more research needs to be done, including studies on how plants and animals react to extreme conditions.
A colleague at his university, Duncan Mitchell, has taken up the challenge by tracking and studying antelope living in one of the hottest and driest corners of South Africa.
"We're hoping to find that they have a capacity to deal with water shortage that they're not having to use at the moment," Mitchell said.
"Climate change is going to happen," Mitchell said, adding it's already too late to influence temperatures and water levels over the next four decades. "What needs to be researched is coping with unmitigated climate change."
Coping might involve moving vulnerable animals to cooler habitats — or ensuring they're not so hemmed in by human settlements that they cannot migrate on their own. Park rangers may have to work harder to remove trees to protect savannas. The South African government has called for expanding gene banks to conserve vulnerable species.
Sarshen Marais, a policy expert for Conservation International, says the work her organization is doing to eradicate foreign plants and help farmers better manage their land and water has gained importance.
Climate change experts fear water could become even scarcer in the future, but farmers can take steps that will help cash crops as well as wildlife. Conservation International has encouraged local communities to cut down thirsty foreign plants and sell the debris for fuel, allowing impoverished South Africans to earn while they save native species that are losing in the competition for water.
Researcher Erasmus acknowledges that in a developing country like South Africa, it can be hard to prioritize the plight of plants and animals. But he said an economic argument can be made, including the impact on people living in savannas who supplement their diets with small birds, other animals and wild greens, and who make money selling native fruits.
Tourism also is a consideration.
"Kruger is a cash cow for the whole of SANParks," he said, referring to the national parks department.
Foden, the plant specialist, said that when she thinks of her native South Africa, she thinks of wide spaces filled with a stunning diversity of plants and animals.
"If we were to lose that," she said, "we would lose so much of our identity."

NASA launches super-size rover to Mars: 'Go, Go!'

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and Curiosity rover lifts off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. The rocket will deliver a science laboratory to Mars to study potential habitable environments on the planet. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)Backdropped by the Atlantic Ocean, the 197-foot-tall United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolls toward the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Friday Nov. 25, 2011. Atop the rocket is NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover nicknamed Curiosity enclosed in its payload fairing. Liftoff is planned during a launch window which extends from 10:02 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. EST on Saturday Nov. 26. Curiosity, has 10 science instruments designed to search for signs of life, including methane, and will help determine if the gas is from a biological or geological source. (AP Photo/NASAFILE - In this 2011 artist's rendering provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover examines a rock on Mars with a set of tools at the end of its arm, which extends about 2 meters (7 feet). The mobile robot is designed to investigate Mars' past or present ability to sustain microbial life. NASA is all set to launch the world's biggest extraterrestrial explorer. The six-wheeled, one-armed Mars rover is due to blast off Saturday morning Nov. 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A rover of "monster truck" proportions zoomed toward Mars on an 8½-month, 354 million-mile journey Saturday, the biggest, best equipped robot ever sent to explore another planet.

NASA's six-wheeled, one-armed wonder, Curiosity, will reach Mars next summer and use its jackhammer drill, rock-zapping laser machine and other devices to search for evidence that Earth's next-door neighbor might once have been home to the teeniest forms of life.
More than 13,000 invited guests jammed the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday morning to witness NASA's first launch to Mars in four years, and the first flight of a Martian rover in eight years.
Mars fever gripped the crowd.
NASA astrobiologist Pan Conrad, whose carbon compound-seeking instrument is on the rover, wore a bright blue, short-sleeve blouse emblazoned with rockets, planets and the words, "Next stop Mars!" She jumped, cheered and snapped pictures as the Atlas V rocket blasted off. So did Los Alamos National Laboratory's Roger Wiens, a planetary scientist in charge of Curiosity's laser blaster, called ChemCam.
Surrounded by 50 U.S. and French members of his team, Wiens shouted "Go, Go, Go!" as the rocket soared into a cloudy sky. "It was beautiful," he later observed, just as NASA declared the launch a full success.
A few miles away at the space center's visitor complex, Lego teamed up with NASA for a toy spacecraft-building event for children this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The irresistible lure: 800,000 Lego bricks.
The 1-ton Curiosity — 10 feet long, 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall at its mast — is a mobile, nuclear-powered laboratory holding 10 science instruments that will sample Martian soil and rocks, and with unprecedented skill, analyze them right on the spot.
It's as big as a car. But NASA's Mars exploration program director calls it "the monster truck of Mars."
"It's an enormous mission. It's equivalent of three missions, frankly, and quite an undertaking," said the ecstatic program director, Doug McCuistion. "Science fiction is now science fact. We're flying to Mars. We'll get it on the ground and see what we find."
The primary goal of the $2.5 billion mission is to see whether cold, dry, barren Mars might have been hospitable for microbial life once upon a time — or might even still be conducive to life now. No actual life detectors are on board; rather, the instruments will hunt for organic compounds.
Curiosity's 7-foot arm has a jackhammer on the end to drill into the Martian red rock, and the 7-foot mast on the rover is topped with high-definition and laser cameras.
With Mars the ultimate goal for astronauts, NASA will use Curiosity to measure radiation at the red planet. The rover also has a weather station on board that will provide temperature, wind and humidity readings; a computer software app with daily weather updates is planned.
No previous Martian rover has been so sophisticated.
The world has launched more than three dozen missions to the ever-alluring Mars, which is more like Earth than the other solar-system planets. Yet fewer than half those quests have succeeded.
Just two weeks ago, a Russian spacecraft ended up stuck in orbit around Earth, rather than en route to the Martian moon Phobos.
"Mars really is the Bermuda Triangle of the solar system," said NASA's Colleen Hartman, assistant associate administrator for science. "It's the death planet, and the United States of America is the only nation in the world that has ever landed and driven robotic explorers on the surface of Mars, and now we're set to do it again."
Curiosity's arrival next August will be particularly hair-raising.
In a spacecraft first, the rover will be lowered onto the Martian surface via a jet pack and tether system similar to the sky cranes used to lower heavy equipment into remote areas on Earth.
Curiosity is too heavy to use air bags like its much smaller predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, did in 2004. Besides, this new way should provide for a more accurate landing.
Astronauts will need to make similarly precise landings on Mars one day.
Curiosity will spend a minimum of two years roaming around Gale Crater, chosen from among more than 50 potential landing sites because it's so rich in minerals. Scientists said if there is any place on Mars that might have been ripe for life, it may well be there.
The rover should go farther and work harder than any previous Mars explorer because of its power source: 10.6 pounds of radioactive plutonium. The nuclear generator was encased in several protective layers in case of a launch accident.
NASA expects to put at least 12 miles on the odometer, once the rover sets down on the Martian surface.
McCuistion anticipates being blown away by the never-before-seen vistas. "Those first images are going to just be stunning, I believe. It will be like sitting in the bottom of the Grand Canyon," he said at a post-launch news conference.
This is the third astronomical mission to be launched from Cape Canaveral by NASA since the retirement of the venerable space shuttle fleet this summer. The Juno probe is en route to Jupiter, and twin spacecraft named Grail will arrive at Earth's moon on New Year's Eve and Day.
Unlike Juno and Grail, Curiosity suffered development programs and came in two years late and nearly $1 billion over budget. Scientists involved in the project noted Saturday that the money is being spent on Earth, not Mars, and the mission is costing every American about the price of a movie.
"I'll leave you to judge for yourself whether or not that's a movie you'd like to see," said California Institute of Technology's John Grotzinger, the project scientist. "I know that's one I would."

Online Black Friday spending is up nearly 25 percent over last year

According to an IBM Benchmark study released today, online shopping during both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday saw a sizable increase in spending over 2010. Specifically, online salesincreased by 24.3 percent on Black Friday and rose by 39.3 percent on Thanksgiving Day. The large increase in Thanksgiving Day salesis likely attributed to stores like Best Buy and Amazon offering discounts on merchandise before Black Friday even started. In addition, traffic on mobile devices rose from 5.6 percent in 2010 to just over 14 percent this year. This can be attributed to many price comparison apps, like RedLaser, that allow users to scan the bar code of an item and compare prices both on the Internet and local stores.
Sales on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones shot up from about 3 percent in 2010 to nearly 10 percent this year. The most popular mobile device to use when making purchases was the iPad as it had double the conversion rate over the average on other mobile devices. While the iPad and the iPhone were the two most popular devices for browsing online sales, Android devices came in at third place for online mobile shopping. Social networks that referred users to shopping sites comprised less than one percent of all online sales on Black Friday, but Facebook was the clear leader in social referral traffic with 75 percent of all visits coming from the social network.
However, discussion volume on social networks rose by 110 percent over the previous year. The most common topics discussed included wait times, parking issues and concern about products being out-of-stock when the customer got to the front of the time. There was also positive discussion around the announced Cyber Monday sales that go into effect on November 28. Thanksgiving Day online sales peaked between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. this year while Black Friday online sales peaked between 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.
This article was originally posted on Digital Trends
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