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Government

Most Americans Support an Internet Kill Switch 398

Orome1 writes "Sixty-one percent of Americans said the President should have the ability to shut down portions of the Internet in the event of a coordinated malicious cyber attack, according to research by Unisys. The survey found that while Americans are taking proactive steps to protect themselves against cybercrime and identity theft, only slightly more than a third of Internet users in the US regularly use and update passwords on their mobile devices – creating a potentially huge security hole for organizations as more consumer devices invade the workplace. The findings illustrate that recent events such as the Stuxnet computer worm attack and the attempted Times Square car bombing may have heightened the American public's awareness of and concern over global and domestic cybersecurity threats."
Education

Hard-to-Read Fonts Improve Learning 175

arkenian writes "Difficult-to-read fonts make for better learning, according to scientists. The finding is about to be published in the international journal Cognition. Researchers at Princeton University employed volunteers to learn made-up information about different types of aliens — and found that those reading harder fonts recalled more when tested 15 minutes later. The article goes on to note a second test in a real school environment: 'Keen to see if their findings actually worked in practice, the Princeton University team then tested their results on 222 students aged between 15 and 18 at a secondary school in Chesterfield, Ohio.'... 'Students given the harder-to-read materials scored higher in their classroom assessments than those in the control group. This was the case across a range of subjects — from English, to Physics to History.'"
Canada

First Human-Powered Ornithopter 250

spasm writes "A University of Toronto engineering graduate student has made and successfully flown a human-powered flapping-wing aircraft. From the article: 'Todd Reichert, a PhD candidate at the university's Institute of Aerospace Studies, piloted the wing-flapping aircraft, sustaining both altitude and airspeed for 19.3 seconds and covering a distance of 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 kilometres per hour.'"
Science

Zombie Ants and Killer Fungus 125

nibbles2004 writes "An article in the Guardian newspaper shows how parasitic fungi evolved the ability to control ants they infect, ultimately leading the ant to its death. The fungus controls the ant's movements to a suitable leaf and causes the ant to grip onto the leaf's central stem, allowing the fungus to spore, which will allow more ants to become infected."
Google

37 States Join Investigation of Google Street View 269

bonch writes "Attorneys General from 37 states have joined the probe into Google's Street View data collection. The investigation seeks more information behind Google's software testing and data archiving practices after it was discovered that their Street View vans scanned private WLANs and recorded users' MAC addresses. Attorney general Richard Blumenthal said, 'Google's responses continue to generate more questions than they answer. Now the question is how it may have used — and secured — all this private information.'"
Earth

NASA Creates First Global Forest Map Using Lasers 55

MikeCapone writes "Scientists, using three NASA satellites, have created a first-of-its-kind map that details the height of the world's forests. The data was collected from NASA's ICESat, Terra and Aqua satellites. The latter two satellites are responsible for most of NASA's Gulf spill imagery. The data collected will help scientists understand how the world's forests both store and process carbon. While there are many local and regional canopy maps, this is the very first global map using a uniform method for measure."
Space

Scientists Discover Biggest Star 202

Hugh Pickens writes "Scientists at the University of Sheffield have discovered the most massive stellar giant, R136a1 measured at 265 solar masses, using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and data from the Hubble Space Telescope. It's in the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small 'satellite' galaxy which orbits the Milky Way. Previously, the heaviest known stars were around 150 times the mass of the Sun, known as the 'Eddington Limit,' and this was believed to be close to the cosmic size limit because as stars get larger, the amount of energy created in their cores grows faster than the force of gravity which holds them together. 'Because of their proximity to the Eddington Limit they lose mass at a pretty high rate,' says Professor Paul Crowther, the chief researcher in the Sheffield team. Hyper-stars like R136a1 are believed to be formed from several young stars merging together, and are only found in the very heart of stellar clusters. R136a1 is believed to have a surface temperature of more than 40,000 degrees Celsius, and is 10 million times brighter than the Sun. Crowther adds that R136a1 is about as big as stars can get. 'Owing to the rarity of these monsters, I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon.'"
Image

Pacific Trash Vortex To Become Habitable Island? Screenshot-sm 323

thefickler writes "The Pacific Ocean trash dump is twice the size of Texas, or the size of Spain combined with France. The Pacific Vortex, as it is sometimes called, is made up of four million tons of plastic. Now, there's a proposal to turn this dump into 'Recycled Island.' The Netherlands Architecture Fund has provided the grant money for the project, and the WHIM architecture firm is conducting the research and design of Recycled Island. One of the three major aims of the project is to clean up the floating trash by recycling it on site. Two, the project would create new land for sustainable habitation complete with its own food sources and energy sources. Lastly, Recycled Island is to be a seaworthy island. While at the moment the project is still more or less a pipe dream, it's great that someone is trying to work out what to do with one of humanity's most bizarre environmental slip-ups."
NASA

NASA's Plutonium Supply Dwindling; ESA To Help 173

astroengine writes "NASA's stockpile of the plutonium isotope Pu-238 is at a critical level, causing concern that there won't be enough fuel for future deep space missions. Pellets of Pu-238 are used inside radioisotope thermoelectric generators (or RTGs) to generate electricity for space probes traveling beyond the orbit of Mars — solar energy is too weak for solar arrays at these distances. Blocked by a contract dispute with Russia to supply Pu-238 and the US Department of Energy that has not been granted funds to produce more of the isotope, NASA lacks enough of the radioisotope to fuel the future joint NASA-ESA mission to Europa. However, the head of the European Space Agency has announced that they have plans to commence a new nuclear energy program to alleviate the situation."
Space

Black Hole Emits a 1,000-Light-Year-Wide Gas Bubble 145

PhrostyMcByte writes "12 million light-years away, in the outer spiral of galaxy NGC 7793, a bubble of hot gas approximately 1,000 light-years in diameter can be found shooting out of a black hole — one of the most powerful jets of energy ever seen. (Abstract available at Nature.) The bubble has been growing for approximately 200,000 years, and is expanding at around 1,000,000 kilometers per hour."
Idle

Growing A House From Meat 133

baosol writes "From the boundary-pushing team of archi-visionaries who brought us the fabulous Fab Tree Hab comes a new (and somewhat disgusting) way to grow a structure — using animal flesh! The In Vitro Meat Habitat is a futuristic concept home composed of meat cells grown in a lab. The creator of the concept, Mitchell Joachim, is a futurist with a twist– he says he is actually developing the concept in a lab."
Medicine

'Forest Bathing' Considered Healthful 252

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that although allergies and the promise of air-conditioning tend to drive people indoors at this time of year, when people spend time in more natural surroundings — forests, parks, and other places with plenty of trees — they experience increased immune function. A study of 280 healthy people in Japan, where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular practice called 'Shinrin-yoku,' or 'forest bathing,' found that being among plants produced 'lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,' among other things. Another study in 2007 showed that men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50-percent spike in levels of natural killer cells, and a third study found an increase in white blood cells that lasted for a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air."
Earth

Study Hints Ambient Radio Waves May Affect Plant Growth 298

dwguenther writes "A Lyons (Colorado) area woman with no academic pedigree has published a scientific paper in the International Journal of Forestry Research about the adverse effects of radio waves on aspen seedlings. Katie Haggerty, who lives north of Steamboat Mountain, found in a preliminary experiment done near her house that aspens shielded from electromagnetic radiation were healthier than those that were not. 'I found that the shielded seedlings produced more growth, longer shoots, bigger leaves, and more total leaf area. The shielded group produced 60 percent more leaf area and 74 percent more shoot length than a mock-shielded group,' she said." This was not a definitive study, as its author readily admits — it's hard to see how a double-blind study could even be designed in this area — but it was refereed.
Medicine

Parasite Correlated With World Cup Success 366

mahiskali writes "A parasite commonly found in cats, Toxoplasma gondii, has an unnerving relation to World Cup victories by country. (This parasite was discussed here twice in 2006.) Toxo can be found in almost every type of mammal, from rats to humans. The overall goal of the parasite is to end up in a feline stomach, which is the only place it can reproduce. In other mammals, humans for example, the parasite heads for the brain. It is estimated that nearly 1/3 of the human population has a latent Toxo infection, with individual countries having infection rates varying from 6% (Korea) to 92% (Ghana). Countries with greater incidence of this parasitic infection in their populations tend to win more World Cups than those without. The article, written by a Stanford University neuroscientist, goes on to try out various rationales for such a correlation, ranging from increased testosterone to increased dissent of authority — all symptoms of a Toxo infection. Now we just need to find a parasite that causes an inability to referee properly, and we'll have this whole World Cup business all sorted out."
Portables

Working Toward a Universal Power Brick For Laptops 365

An anonymous reader links to PC Authority with some hopeful news about untangling a persistent annoyance for laptop users — namely, the myriad power supplies called for by laptop makers: "'On a PC, an ATX power supply for example will screw into certain mounting holes, have a maximum size and shape, and will take a standard 3-pin "kettle cord" for incoming power. If it complies with these standards, the PSU will be able to bolt into any manufacturer's ATX case.' Laptop design, on the other hand, involves cramming a PC into a tiny chassis, which usually has its own thermal design and power distribution requirements. This has led to the somewhat bizarre situation where every manufacturer has its own laptop power supply design. It now appears that some of the major players in laptops are getting together to work on a standardized laptop power supply design. Not only are big players involved, but the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has created a team to work on the power supply standard."

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