Smivs writes: The BBC report that planetary scientist Professor Colin Pillinger, best known for his involvement in Britain's Beagle 2 Mars mission, has died aged 70. Prof Pillinger was the driving force behind the ultimately doomed Mars lander, and was awarded a CBE in 2003. His spokesman said he suffered a brain haemorrhage at his home in Cambridge and later died in hospital.
Smivs writes: Of the nearly 11,000 silent films made between 1912 and 1930, only 14% still exist in their original format, Library of Congress research has found.
And 11% of those that survive only exist as foreign versions or on lower-quality formats, meaning an original 20th century art form has all but disappeared.
Silent films were at their peak between in the early part of the century when — before network radio or television — going to the cinema was the most popular form of entertainment.
Famous films now considered lost include Cleopatra from 1917, The Great Gatsby from 1926, Lon Chaney's London After Midnight from 1927, and The Patriot from 1928.
Librarian of Congress James Billington says "The loss of American silent-era feature films constitutes an alarming and irretrievable loss to our nation's cultural record."
Smivs writes: A year after veteran presenter Sir Patrick Moore died, the BBC are discussing pulling this iconic programme. This has unleashed a torrent of criticism from fans of the monthly science-based astronomy show. There is an on-line petition for those who want to have their say.
Smivs writes: "The BBC are carrying a report on how people confused and frustrated by computers can now turn to a laptop called Alex built just for them.
Based on Linux, the laptop comes with simplified e-mail, web browsing, image editing and office software.
Those who sign up for Alex pay £39.95 a month for telephone support, software updates and broadband access.
The Broadband Computer Company, who developed Alex and which is based in Newcastle, has been working on this project for three years, and didn't immediately adopt a Linux solution — in fact, the first big trial was based on Windows.
But the company's Chief Technology Officer Barney Morrison-Lyons says that was never going to be the right route:
"The biggest problem with Microsoft is badly-written software — the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux."
Mr Hudson, one of the company's founders, said the company also intends to launch an application store for Alex for customers who want to add more features and functions to their computer.
"People who love Linux will be keen to develop for this," he said."
Smivs writes: "The BBC are reporting on a spider that dines almost exclusively on plants .
It is the first-known predominantly vegetarian spider; all of the other known 40,000 spider species are thought to be mainly carnivorous.
Bagheera kiplingi, which is found in Central America and Mexico, bucks the meat-eating trend by feasting on acacia plants.
The jumping arachnid, which is 5-6mm long, has developed a taste for the tips of the acacia plants — known as Beltian bodies — which are packed full of protein.
To reach this leafy fare, the spider has to evade the attention of ants, which live in the hollow spines of the tree, but the crafty Bagheera kiplingi has found a way to evade the ants and safely reach it's food."
Smivs writes: "A 3,700-year-old wall has been discovered in east Jerusalem, Israeli archaeologists say.
The structure was built to protect the city's water supply as part of what dig director Ronny Reich described as the region's earliest fortifications.
The 26-ft (8-m) high wall showed the Canaanite people who built it were a sophisticated civilisation, he said. "The wall is enormous, and that it survived 3,700 years — this is, even for us, a long time," said Mr Reich, an archaeology professor at the University of Haifa."
Smivs writes: "Scientists studying Andromeda have discovered that galaxies grow by eating each other. An international team of scientists mapping Andromeda discovered stars that they said were "remnants of dwarf galaxies".
The astronomers report their findings in the journal Nature.
This consumption of stars has been suggested previously, but the team's ultra-deep survey has provided detailed images to show that it took place.
This shows the "hierarchical model" of galaxy formation in action.
The model predicts that large galaxies should be surrounded by relics of smaller galaxies they have consumed."
Smivs writes: "Britain's oldest original computer, the Harwell, is being sent to the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley where it is to be restored to working order.
The computer, which was designed in 1949 was built and used by staff at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, Oxfordshire. It first ran in 1951 and was designed to perform mathematical calculations. It lasted until 1973.
When first built the 2.4m x 5m computer was state-of-the-art, although it was superseded by transistor-based systems.
The restoration project is expected to take a year. Although not the first computer built in the UK, the Harwell had one of the longest service lives.
Built by a team of three people, the device was capable of doing the work of six to ten people and ran for seven years until the establishment obtained their first commercial computer.
"We didn't think we were doing anything pioneering at the time," said Dick Barnes, who helped build the original Harwell computer."
Smivs writes: "The BBC are reporting that the detailed chemical structure of a single molecule has been imaged for the first time.
The physical shape of single carbon nanotubes has been outlined before, using similar techniques — but the new method even shows up chemical bonds.
Understanding molecular structure on this scale could help in the design of many things on the molecular scale, particularly electronics or even drugs.
The team from IBM Research Zurich used what is known as an atomic force microscope or AFM.
Their version of the device acts like a tiny tuning fork, with one of the prongs of the fork passing incredibly close to the sample and the other farther away.
When the fork is set vibrating, the prong nearest the sample will experience a minuscule shift in the frequency of its vibration, simply because it is getting close to the molecule.
Comparing the frequencies of the two prongs gives a measure of just how close the nearer prong is, effectively mapping out the molecule's structure.
The measurement requires extremes of precision. In order to avoid the effects of stray gas molecules bounding around, or the general atomic-scale jiggling that room-temperature objects experience, the whole setup has to be kept under high vacuum and at blisteringly cold temperatures."
Smivs writes: "BBC News is reporting that Astronomers have discovered the first planet that orbits in the opposite direction to the spin of its star.
Planets form out of the same swirling gas cloud that creates a star, so they are expected to orbit in the same direction that the star rotates.
The new planet is thought to have been flung into its "retrograde" orbit by a close encounter with either another planet or with a passing star.
The work has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal for publication.
Co-author Coel Hellier, from Keele University in Staffordshire, UK, said planets with retrograde orbits were thought to be rare.
"With everything [in the star system] swirling around the same way and the star spinning the same way, you have to do quite a lot to it to make it go in the opposite direction."
Professor Hellier said a near-collision was probably responsible for this planet's unusual orbit.
"If you have a near-collision, then you'll have a large gravitational slingshot from that interaction," he explained.
"This is the likeliest explanation. But it might be possible you can do it by gradually perturbing the orbit through the influence of a second planet. So far, we haven't found any evidence of a second planet there.""
Smivs writes: "The Guardian newspaper has a short piece about the science of Cymatics, the effect sound waves can have on liquids and semi-solids, accompanied by an amazing video of dancing 'Goo' . Well worth a look!"
Smivs writes: "Gary McKinnon has lost his latest High Court bid to avoid extradition to America where he faces trial for hacking into US military networks.The US authorities said Mr McKinnon was responsible for the "biggest military hack of all time" that had been highly damaging and involved 97 government computers belonging to organisations including the US Navy and Nasa.
But lawyers for Mr McKinnon, who was not in court and was told the decision yesterday, described him as a "UFO eccentric" who had been searching for evidence of extra-terrestrial life.
They described the idea that he was a danger to US national security as "a complete fantasy".
Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Wilkie, sitting in London, dismissed his claim for judicial review.If sent to the US, Mr McKinnon was likely to receive a substantial prison sentence of up to 12 years, possibly served in a Supermax prison used for high risk inmates, and was unlikely to be repatriated to serve his sentence."
Smivs writes: "Music streaming service Spotify is planning to launch its first mobile application within weeks.
The company (which has over 8 million users across Europe, and expects to launch in the States later this year) submitted the application to Apple's iTunes App Store for its approval.
If given clearance, Spotify's service and its comprehensive free library of millions of songs will then be available for users to download onto iPhones."