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Friday the 13th Strikes Again -- Two Months in a Row

For those with something against Friday the 13th, this year we get three of them (February, March, and November). The next double F13 comes in 2012.
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The Day the Sun Brought Darkness (w/Video)

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the Quebec Blackout. And a thought for the back of your mind: solar cycles are 11 years long.
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Follow the link for the PDF version of the book.


Copies of the pages from the original Hans Talhoffer book on combat from 1459.

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Ancient Egyptian Faience

A ceramic-like material made of finely-ground quartz crystals, mixed with things like copper oxide, powdered limestone, and alkali salts, pressed into a mold and allowed to dry. This allows some of the chemicals to move to the surface (self-glaze) which then turn blue-green (like turquoise) when fired. You can see examples of this at the Egyptian exhibit, now currently at the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.

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BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | 'English Galileo' maps on display

Englishman Thomas Harriot, according to recently-discovered records, was the first person to view the moon through a telescope, beating Galileo to the punch by several months. Shown here is one of his drawings of the moon which, according to experts, marked the birth of modern cartography.

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The History of the Internet

An 8-minute animated short that summarizes how the internet as we know it today was formed.

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Science News / Florence Nightingale: The Passionate Statistician

An interesting article on how Florence Nightingale used the relatively new field of medical statistics to analyze the problems with British hospitals in Turkey. She even developed new statistical graphing methods to help get her point across.

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A variety of strange vehicles including the German Ball Tank (Yes, a tank shaped like a ball) and the proposed walking tank (think scout walker), both shown above.
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Warner Brothers has released the script for The Dark Knight online (pdf), free for downloading.

This year's Remembrance day (Veteran's Day in the US), marked the 90th anniversary of the World War I armistice.

A new long-range climate model says that we are heading for another ice age between 10,000 and 100,000 years from now. That is, unless we can't get our carbon dioxide emission levels under control. The authors are quick to stress that this is not an argument against global warming.

A Swedish team has shown that strands of DNA can be used to create optical fibres. The process they developed combines DNA with chromophores, molecules that absorb and transmit light, to create optical wires up to 20 nanometers long a a few nanometers in diameter that can transmit as much as 30% of the light they receive. Not only that, but the wires are self-assembling and self-repairing.

MIT researchers have developed an omniphobic material, capable of repelling both oil and water. The secret is a surface made up of 300-nanometer-tall silicon-dioxide-capped "toadstools", making the surface universally repellent to liquids.

Following closely on the recent demise of the Phoenix Lander, the Mars rover Spirit may also on its last legs. The rover has entered "silent mode" because its solar panels are not able to gather enough energy to perform any tasks or even respond. NASA is keep an ear open in case the rover gathers enough energy to re-open communication.

A team of astronomers lead by a Canadian researcher has captured an image of four planets around a start 130 light years from Earth using the Hubble Space telescope in combination with two ground-based telescopes.

A German doctor appears to have cured a patient of AIDS by replacing their bone marrow with that of a donor who has a natural immunity to most known strains of HIV. They have been unable to detect the virus in his blood for the past 600 days despite having ceased anti-AIDS treatment.

For your reading pleasure, The Journal of Cartoon Over-analyzations.
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German early 19th century neurosurgical tools.

Found on "Retrospectacle", courtesy of ScienceBlogs
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The transistor was invented on 16 December 1947.

Found on MAKE Magazine
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Canned nuclear waste cooks its container - Ian Farnan of Cambridge University, UK, and his co-workers have found that the radiation emitted from such waste could transform one candidate storage material into less durable glass after just 1,400 years — much more quickly than thought

Science Blog
Nasal surgery makes for good-looking transexuals - Nasal surgery appears to effectively create feminine facial profiles in patients undergoing male-to-female gender reassignment, according to a report in the September/October issue of Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Reuters: Science
British scientists develop non-stick chewing gum - British scientists have developed a non-stick chewing gum that can be easily removed from pavements, shoes and clothes. In two street trials, leading commercial gums remained stuck to the pavement three out or four times, while Clean Gum came away naturally within 24 hours in all cases.

IEEE Spectrum Online
The Zero-Zero Hero - It may be a first: an office building with a net electricity use of zero or less, that burns no fossil fuels for heating and produces no greenhouse gas, and that makes the people working there at least as comfortable as those in conventionally heated and cooled buildings. The building, in San Jose, Calif., opens in October, and if all goes according to plan, it will raise the bar for designers of energy-efficient buildings worldwide. Though other so-called z-squared buildings exist, they are highway rest stops, nature centers, and event locations, not office structures with computers and printers and cubicles full employees.

Physics Org
Digital 'Smiley Face' Turns 25 - Carnegie Mellon professor Scott E. Fahlman is shown in his home office on Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, in Pittsburgh. Twenty-five years ago, three keystrokes -- a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis -- were first used as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message by Fahlman, the university said. Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982.

Technology Review Feed - Tech Review Top Stories
Environmentally Friendly Fridges - Researchers at the Risoe National Laboratory, in Roskilde, Denmark, are now one step closer to building a magnetic-cooling system that promises energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and completely silent fridges.

New Scientist Tech - Technology
Ear-sensor could help athletes go for gold - Conventional equipment used to monitor an athlete's performance includes multiple sensors that attach to different parts of the body. The new device is much less obtrusive and is also completely wireless, meaning measurements can be made during normal activity on the sports field. Designed by Guang-Zhong Yang and a team at Imperial College, London, UK, the device is inspired by the workings of the inner ear, which helps the brain track a person's motion by measuring shockwaves transmitted through their skeleton.
BBC News | Technology | World Edition
Imaging tools to aid surveillance - Currently, both people and computers are poor at recognising a person's face, especially if it is unfamiliar. But a University of Glasgow researcher says merging multiple images of an individual to create their "average" face makes the task much easier.
Online worlds to be AI incubators - Online worlds such as Second Life will soon become training grounds for artificial intelligences. Researchers at US firm Novamente have created software that learns by controlling avatars in virtual worlds. Initially the AIs will be embodied in pets that will get smarter by interacting with the avatars controlled by their human owners. Novamente said it eventually aimed to create more sophisticated avatars such as talking parrots and even babies.
National Geographic News
Cosmic Dust Could Form Inorganic Life, Study Suggests - According to a team of Russian scientists, lifelike behavior could occur in certain configurations of plasma—a state of matter composed of electrically charged atoms. Using computer simulations, a team led by Vadim Tsytovich, of Russia's General Physics Institute in Moscow, found that under certain conditions dust and plasma can organize into stable, helix-shaped structures resembling DNA.
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Offshore platform tests bird-friendly lighting - Dutch Petrol company NAM is testing new lighting by electronics giant Philips to improve safety for migratory birds who can get disoriented by brightly-lit offshore platforms. Almost all the floodlights, some 380 lamps, have been replaced with the green coloured lights during the trial period. According to Philips birds are particularly attracted by red tones in the light and much less by blue or green tones.
Crushed Glass to Be Spread on Beaches - Faced with the constant challenge of keeping sand on Florida's beaches, Broward County officials are exploring an innovative option to use pulverized glass to control erosion.
Potato chip flavoring protects concrete - Awni Al-Otoom of the Jordan University of Science and Technology found sodium acetate -- the ingredient that helps give salt and vinegar-flavored potato chips a tangy snap -- is the key to a new waterproof coating for concrete.
Indians predated Newton 'discovery' by 250 years - Dr George Gheverghese Joseph from The University of Manchester says the 'Kerala School' identified the 'infinite series'- one of the basic components of calculus - in about 1350.The discovery is currently - and wrongly - attributed in books to Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz at the end of the seventeenth centuries.
First genome transplant changes one species into another - For the first time, scientists have completely transformed a species of bacteria into another species by transplanting its complete set of DNA. The achievement marks a significant step toward the construction of synthetic life, with applications including the production of clean fuel in as little as a decade.
Girls prefer pink, or at least a redder shade of blue - A study in the August 21st issue of Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press, reports some of the first conclusive evidence in support of the long-held notion that men and women differ when it comes to their favorite colors. Indeed, the researchers found that women really do prefer pink - or at least a redder shade of blue -than men do.
Battling bitter coffee -- chemists vs. main source of coffee bitterness - Bitter taste can ruin a cup of coffee. Now, chemists in Germany and the United States say they have identified the chemicals that appear to be largely responsible for java's bitterness, a finding that could one day lead to a better tasting brew. Using advanced chromatography techniques and a human sensory panel trained to detect coffee bitterness, Hofmann and his associates found that coffee bitterness is due to two main classes of compounds: chlorogenic acid lactones and phenylindanes, both of which are antioxidants found in roasted coffee beans.
Are civil unions a 600-year-old tradition? - A compelling new study from the September issue of the Journal of Modern History reviews historical evidence, including documents and gravesites, suggesting that homosexual civil unions may have existed six centuries ago in France.
One Species' Genome Discovered Inside Another's - Scientists at the University of Rochester and the J. Craig Venter Institute have discovered a copy of the genome of a bacterial parasite residing inside the genome of its host species. The research, reported in today's Science, also shows that lateral gene transfer - the movement of genes between unrelated species - may happen much more frequently between bacteria and multicellular organisms than scientists previously believed, posing dramatic implications for evolution.
Battle of the Sexes: Study Reveals Married Men Lag Behind in Household Chores - Based on data from more than 17,000 respondents in 28 countries, researchers found that live-in boyfriends perform more housework than married men because cohabiting couples tend to split housework more evenly than married couples. After marriage, however, women take on a larger portion of household chores. Most studies of housework suggest that on average married women do about twice as much housework as their husbands even after controlling for employment status and other factors.
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Source: Slashdot

GraWil writes "On Christmas eve 1906, a Canadian physicist named Reginald Fessenden presented the world's first wireless radio broadcast from his transmitter at Brant Rock, MA. The transmission included Christmas music and was heard by radio operators on board US Navy and United Fruit Company ships equipped with Fessenden's wireless receivers at various distances over the South and North Atlantic, and in the West Indies. Fessenden was a key rival of Marconi in the early 1900s who, using morse-code, succeeded in passing signals across the Atlantic in 1901. Fessenden's work was the first real departure from Marconi's damped-wave-coherer system for telegraphy and represent the first pioneering steps toward radio communications and radio broadcasting. He later became embroiled in a long-running legal dispute over the control of his radio-related patents, which were eventually acquired by RCA."

January 2010

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