Sunday, August 17, 2008



Friday, August 15, 2008

Vampire Bats Kill 38 in Venezuela

Indigenous people in remote Venezuelan villages have been dying from a mystery illness that researchers believe is being transferred from vampire bats, reports CNN. Victims suffer from “fever, body pains, tingling in the feet followed by progressive paralysis, and an extreme fear of water,” which leads to convulsions and eventually death.

Thirty eight have died since June. Experts suspect the disease is rabies, but lab tests have not yet confirmed that.

Vampire bats may be increasingly feeding on humans due to “environmental degradation” (mining, logging and dams) that affects their natural habitat and prey.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Algae-based biofuel ‘beginning to look like a bargain’?

CNN has a write up on one of Pound360’s favorite biofuel alternatives: algae. This particular feature looks at harvesting oily species of algae, extracting the oil and then refining it for a pump near you.

One of the big benefits to algae-based biofuel, it doesn’t take up farmland. In other words, no one has to starve so somebody else can put gas in their car. Also, algae feed on CO2, so it could offset some tailpipe emissions. The stuff grows quick, too. An algae colony doubles in size every 24 hours.

The big problem with algae-based fuel is the cost. A 15-year study by the Energy Department concluded in 1996 found the cost was simply too prohibitive to pursue algae-based fuel. But at the time, oil was $20 a barrel. It’s five-times that now.

A 2004 study found it would cost about $308 billion to build enough algae farms to satisfy U.S. transportation fuel demands, and $46 billion to maintain them. “In the wake of the current energy crisis,” said CNN, “those numbers are beginning to look like a bargain.”

Friday, August 01, 2008

Study unravels mystery of the Northern Lights

Science is one step closer to unraveling one of the most majestic of Earth's phenomena, the Northern Lights. Pound360 is a little sad about that. We'd like nature to keep some of her secrets, but alas…

According to a widely reported story (we couldn't understand
what they were trying to say at the NY Times, so most of this post is based on Wired's coverage), solar energy stretches the Earth's magnetic field, like a giant balloon, until it suddenly snaps back into place. When that snap occurs, the resulting energy causes the Aurora Borealis. According to the NY Times piece, this phenomena results in about one million amps of energy per hour, or the equivalent of energy released during a magnitude five earthquake.

Did Fossett fake his death?

The US Air Force lieutenant colonel that led the investigation to find millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett and an insurance assessor for Lloyd’s of London (which stands to payout $15 million to Fossett’s estate) have gone public with doubts that Fossett is really dead. This according to a report at the Daily Mail (UK).

“All you have in this case is a missing man and a missing plane, no more and no less,” said Lloyd’s assessor Robert Davis. “There are a lot of raised eyebrows,” said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Cynthia Ryan, “Fossett should have been found.”

Suspicious items:
  • Fossett chose an unusual plane, one “used mainly for acrobatics” that was also “easy to dismantal”
  • When he took off he didn’t take a parachute
  • He also had somebody “prepare the plane for flying,” something Fossett usually does himself
  • Fossett had experience crashing “all over the world in planes and balloons”
  • The “largest U.S. search-and-rescue mission ever” launched to find Fossett found six other downed planes, but not Fossett’s
  • Why would he fake his death? According to the Daily Mail,
  • Fosset “had at least two mistresses”
  • “Invested heavily in troubled financial companies” and left his own finances “notoriously opaque”

  • Pound360 raises an eyebrow of our own, but we thinks he’s dead. Or that he found a portal to the 4th dimension.

    ‘Epic’ story of our species near-extinction unfolds

    Climate change nearly wiped out the human race 70,000 years ago according to a Stanford University “genetic study,” reports CNN (via The Future of Things).

    Between 135,000 and 90,000 years ago, Africa was stricken by “a series of severe droughts.” The environmental emergency seems to have split the human species into small populations (perhaps in search of food, CNN doesn’t say). Separated, the species dwindled to a population of 2,000 by about 70,000 years ago (if it were around, Pound360 wonders if the Bush Administration would have listed us as endangered at that point).

    Eventually, the human populations reunited at the dawn of the Stone Age “and began to increase in numbers and spread to other areas.” One researcher described the story as a “truly an epic drama.”

    Don’t ask Pound360 to explain how a “genetic study” (of mitochondrial DNA) can tell us all this, but that’s why we didn’t go to Stanford. Contributing to the findings, it seems, are climate studies.

    About Me

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    I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.