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Journal: Profs draw in Texas Creation Showdown

Journal by whitehatlurker
Several biology professors have signed a letter [PDF] supporting Chris Comer. Comer recently resigned as Texas' director of science education, purportedly under duress resulting from her advertisement of a talk on evolution. The letter says in part that the state has a "duty to keep intelligent design out of public school science classes."

The faculty members come from across the state, including secular and religious institutions. The action by these profs follows support for Comer from Babara Forrest, the presenter of that talk.

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Journal: Transistors made of a Single Molecule

Journal by whitehatlurker
Science Daily reports that a group of physicists from Arizona have developed a method of building a transistor using a single molecule (on the scale of one nanometer).

Unfortunately, these won't be available off the shelf for a while:

Even if it were possible to build an ultra-advanced laptop computer with molecule-sized transistors using current transistor technology, it would take a city's worth of electricity to run the laptop, and the thing would get so hot it would probably vaporize.

On the other hand these guys are a bit over the top:

"We're not futurists at all and can't predict it, but imagine that you could make an artificial intelligence, that you could have this little submarine that goes inside somebody's arteries and capillaries to repair them," Stafford said.

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Journal: Browser Updates: Opera and FIrefox

Journal by whitehatlurker
Strange, but Opera and Firefox issued updates within minutes of each other today. (Or at least I received notice from each within minutes of each other.)

Opera's changelog offers little surprise - mostly annoyance fixes and NTLM support improvements. Firefox' changelog is rather cryptic: "Fixed an issue with playing Windows Media content".

What's next? Will MS ship IE 7.0 today, too?

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Journal: PowerPoint ZeroDay Vulnerability Exploited

Journal by whitehatlurker
Another MicroSoft Office unpatched ("zero day") vulnerability is being exploited in a Chinese-language PowerPoint presentation. (The topic of this presentation is sex.)

Several articles are available online about this, some pointing out that MicroSoft has been patching Office heavily in the past short while. The Washington Post remarks that "And if all of this Office craziness has you spooked, you might consider switching over to OpenOffice."

Note that OpenOffice was recently patched to fix security holes. (So it is secure for a while.)

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Journal: MicroSoft bypasses HOSTS file lookups

Journal by whitehatlurker
Dave Korn announced on the Full Disclosure and Bugtraq security lists that Microsoft is bypassing local lookups for some hosts, meaning that you can't locally block some sites through your HOSTS file. All of these sites are MicroSoft controlled sites.

The general feeling in the rest of the thread is that this was to obfuscate these hosts and prevent them from being blocked by malware. However, there are no non-MicroSoft hosts listed, giving a competitive advantage for MicroSoft's anti-malware tools over other brands.

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Journal: Viewing the Farside of the Sun

Journal by whitehatlurker
The SOHO/MDI Stanford team have recently announced success in improving the acoustical imaging of the farside of the Sun. (Yes, in space no one can hear you ...) The process uses helioseismicity to determine what active spots are doing on the other side of the Sun. They even provide a viewer to see what is going on.

The idea behind this is to alert Earth bound observers of sunspot activity which may form on the farside during the 13 day period it is masked. Theoretically, we won't be surprised when the spots swing around to our side. This may give us time to prepare for severe solar weather.

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Journal: Opera 9.0 to support BitTorrent

Journal by whitehatlurker
Opera has announce the inclusion of BitTorrent support in the next release of the Opera browser, 9.0. The next technical preview of 9.0 (TP2) will provide a way for users to try this out before the final release.

While a previous technical preview of version 8.x had this feature, BitTorrent had not been incorporated in the main releases.

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Journal: 3D Microscopy of Fossils Embedded in Solid Rock

Journal by whitehatlurker
UCLA announces that a process involving Raman spectroscopy and confocal laser scanning microscopy has enabled researchers to take three dimensional pictures of fossils that have been embedded in solid stone for over 650 million years. It also permits characterisation of the chemical structures of the fossil.

As the process is non-destructive and can image microscopic fossils (such as bacteria) with (formerly) soft tissues, there is speculation that this could be used on a mission to Mars to examine sediments there for evidence of life.

This work will appear in the next issue of Astrobiology. Previous work has appeared in Geobiology.

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Journal: Virus takes down Russian stock exchange

Journal by whitehatlurker
As reported in The Reg, the Russian stock exchange (RTS) was forced to stop trading between 13:15 and 14:20 GMT on Feb 2nd. The problem was that an infected computer on their network was generating too much traffic, overloading their routers. (There are reports that this may have been an intentional attack.)

The fix was to turn off the infected machine.

I'm sure there is a pun in there about post-Soviet Russia, viruses and stocks.

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Journal: Human skull changes: 14th, 16th and 20th centuries

Journal by whitehatlurker
The BBC reports on a study of skulls presented in the British Dental Journal.

There were three sets of skulls compared: a group which died of bubonic plague in London (circa 1348); another group which died during the sinking of the "Mary Rose" in 1545; and a third group of modern folk (from dental radiographs).

The main points of the study were that human skulls were changing, particularly with respect to the area near the mandible (previously studied), but also with respect to the "cranial vault" which is representative of the volume of the frontal lobe of the brain, which in turn is thought to influence intelligence.

Seeing that the groups were all British, will this discovery change the number of Britons who believe in intelligent design?

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Journal: Ancient Mesopotamian city discovered razed

Journal by whitehatlurker
University of Chicago archeologists report discovering a city on the Syrian/Iraqi border. The city was destroyed about 55 centuries ago by a war. Quotes from the story:

"The team found extensive destruction with collapsed walls, which had undergone heavy bombardment by sling bullets and eventually collapsed in an ensuing fire."

And of course, "This was 'Shock and Awe' in the Fourth Millennium B.C."

Pictures are available for the curious. Check out the sling bullets.

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