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What Happened to the Hominids Who Were Smarter Than Us? | Human Evolution | DISCOVER Magazine

The most recent Brain special issue of discover discusses the 1913 discovery of a hominid species that co-existed with humans more than 10,000 years ago before mysteriously going extinct. These humans had a cranial capacity 30% larger than humans with a prefrontal cortex theorized to be more than 50% larger than our own, and small, child-like faces. In short, they resembled our modern image of an alien and may have had an intelligence well in excess of their human contemporaries.
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Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke | Magazine

The most recent Wired magazine discusses the use of thorium, rather than uranium, as a nuclear fuel. Thorium could either be combined with uranium to form pellets or combined with liquid fluoride, and the waste products are cannot be processed into weapon's grade material. Canada's CANDU reactors are considered capable of using thorium-uranium pellets and, in July, signed an agreement with China to develop and demonstrate thorium-based fuel use in CANDU reactors. In fact, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has been interested in developing thorium-based fuels for use in CANDU reactors since the late 1970s. Australia and the United States produce most of the world's available thorium, but research on thorium-based reactors has languished because of the availability and proven technology of uranium-based reactors.
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CBC News - Ottawa - Canada's airlines fear violating privacy under new U.S. rules

Canadian airline companies are in a bind regarding passengers in flights that pass through US airspace, even if the plane never lands on US soil. The US Secure Flight program requires that they provide the name, gender, and birth date of all passengers so that they can be vetted against a security watch lists; however, doing so violates Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The US has agreed to drop the requirement to disclose passenger information if an equivalent system were created in Canada. The airline companies favour this approach but don't want to have to pay for it.
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North Magnetic Pole Moving East Due to Core Flux

Recent studies have discovered that the North Pole, currently near Ellesmere Island, is picking up speed in it's race to emigrate to Russia. In 1904 it was determined that the pole was moving in that direction at 15 kilometres per year, but picked up speed some time before 1989 when it was determined that it was now moving at 60 kilometres per year. The most recent study puts it's speed at closer to 64 kilometres per year. It is believed that the magnetic field is a result of the Earth having an iron core surrounded by a rapidly-moving molten metal layer.
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CBC News - Technology & Science - Better airport scanners delayed by privacy fears

It is believed by some that millimetre wave and backscatter X-ray machines might have foiled the Christmas Day bombing attempt, but implementation of these machines is hampered primarily by concerns about privacy arising from the fact that these machines are able to show body contours under clothing with a high degree of clarity. Where they have been implemented, passengers have been given the option of using the machines or submitting to a pat-down. The US House voted to prohibit the use of these devices for primary screening, and the European Union has requested more study regarding privacy issues before making a final decision.
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Scientists create world's first molecular transistor

Scientists at Liverpool University have demonstrated the first transistor constructed from a single molecule, in this case a benzene molecule between gold contacts. They were able to control the current passing through the molecule by using voltage applied across the molecule to change its energy state. The researchers stress that this simply proves that it can be done and is not viable for constructing a "molecular computer".
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CBC News - Ottawa - Carry-on baggage subject to strict new rules

In order to alleviate delays at security checkpoints, Canadian airline passengers are not permitted to bring carry-on baggage on board US-bound flights with the exception of medication, medical devices, small purses, cameras, coats, items for infant care, laptop computers, musical instruments, and diplomatic bags.
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CBC News - Ottawa - Candu reactor division to be sold

The Federal government announced on 17 December that it will be selling its CANDU reactor division, although it will retain ownership of the Chalk River Laboratories facility that generates medical isotopes.
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N.B. Power, Hydro-Quebec ink multi-million energy deal

This is old news (October 29), but I appear to have missed it at the time. Hydro Quebec has negotiated a $4.7 billion deal to take over the distribution, transmission and generation assets, with the exception of the coal-fired plants, from cash-strapped NB Power. The deal includes 7 hydroelectric stations and a nuclear facility. In return, residents and businesses willbe able to obtain electricity at a lower rate than they currently pay. The agreement will be signed in March 2010.
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Alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers in development - Telegraph

The Imperial College of London is developing a synthetic alcohol chemically related to Valium that acts like alcohol on the nervous system but can be counteracted in minutes after ingesting a counter-agent in pill form.
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CBC News - World - Flight delays expected after foiled attack

A 23-year-old British engineering student was arrested for attempting to detonate an explosive on an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight.
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Faster, cheaper DNA sequencing method developed

In another story from Boston University, researchers have developed a nanoscale sensor that detects DNA molecules as they pass through a 4 nanometer-wide silicon nanopore. The mouth of the nanopore is charged to attract the negatively charged DNA strands. Interestingly, the system works best with long DNA strands which could lead to much faster DNA processing. The system has also decreased by a factor of 10,000 the number of DNA molecules that must be captured so that DNA amplification may not be required, a step that can slow the detection process and introduce transcription errors.
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Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

Researchers at Boston University have demonstrated a prototype system that wirelessly transmits neural signals from an implanted electrode to a speech synthesizer with a latency of only 50 milliseconds. The electrodes were implanted into a locked-in patient 5 years ago and after 5 months the neurites had grown onto the electrode so that signal patterns could be detected. The volunteer was only able to produce three vowel sounds because only a single three-wire electrode was used, but he was able to reproduce those vowel sounds with up to 89% accuracy. Future implants would access 10 times as many neurons from multiple sites in the ventral premotor cortex  where intended speech patterns are believed to originate.
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Best Man Rigs Newlyweds' Bed To Tweet During Sex. Not Kidding. - washingtonpost.com

With friends like these, they can become enemies pretty quickly. A man asked to be the best man at a friend's wedding technically kept to his word of not pulling any pranks before the ceremony by installing a pressure sensor under the couple's bed. When the activity level indicated that things of a more sexual nature were going on, the system sent a Twitter message of the following type:

They?re on the job! #2 ¿ Action commenced at 15.50GMT. Weight: 151KG.

When the action settled down, a second message like the following was sent:

They?re off the job! #2 ? Action concluded at 16.12GMT. Duration: 22 m.05 s. Frenzy Index: 4 (easy listening). Judge?s Comment: "Good work!"

Fortunately the messages are anonymous. Eventually the best man plans to tell his mate.

January 2010

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