Monday, September 28, 2009

V remake scheduled to (partially?) air Nov on ABC

So they're remaking the greatest miniseries from 80s, V. Cool idea. But I have every confidence network TV in the 00s will screw this up.

When is it set to run? November, kind of. Four episodes will run, they’ll take a break, then wrap-up sometime after the Winter Olympics.
More here.

Take a break? Right. Because today’s audience attention spans are so long a forgiving. Hm. Oh, here’s the preview, which shows some good potential:


Lack of sleep linked to Alzheimer’s

Sleep deprivation “markedly accelerated” processes in the brains of mice that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. (Reuters) What processes? “Amyloid-beta plaque formation”, of course.

The more Pound360 reads about sleep (for example, people that sleep less
have higher mortality rates, are more likely to be overweight), the more we’re convinced a good night’s sleep is just as important as regular exercise, eating vegetables and not smoking to maintain good health. But don’t listen to us. We’re not doctors.

Fanged frog that eats birds is discovered in Vietnam

A fanged frog (just what we need, something that can jump like a, um, frog and bite like a vampire) that actually preys on birds, was discovered among 163 new species in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. (CNN)

The Mekong has been a hotbed for new species discovery, 1,200 since 1997. But of course, “the rapid pace of development” and
this whole global warming thing (which is, of course, a hoax) is threatening the vitality of the region.

Global warming may ruin the quality of steaks, pork chops

This is awesome. We already knew eating meat is hard on the environment, accelerates global warming (a vegetarian diet saves 1.5 tons of CO2 per year). Now it turns out that a warming globe could make pork chops soggier, steaks darker and smellier. (New Scientist)

Huh? “Meat quality depends in part on whether animals experience heat stress during transport to the slaughterhouse.”

Will this curb meat consumption in what the New Republic’s “Vine” blog refers to as a “self-correcting carnivore trend”? Pound360 doubts it. People love meat. We’d bet people would rather complain about eating crappy meat than stop eating it all together. But we’ll see.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

'The best idea america ever had'

Awesome preview for a "stunningly beautiful" new documentary on the National Parks. Yawn. National Parks, who cares? For one, "if there were no National Parks, the Grand Canyon would be lined with mansions of the rich"...

‘Moon water not like groundwater’

Hey, at least it’s there, improving prospects for long-term moon colonies. (Reuters) What’s different about water on the moon? Yes, it’s all frozen, smart ass. But it’s also “bound up with minerals such that it is stable in the airless and low-gravity environment of the moon.”

How do future Moon people get at the stuff? It’s a challenge. You’d need to harvest a patch of lunar soil the size of a baseball field to yield one glass of water. (New Scientist) One idea is heating the soil, then collecting water vapor, but wow, that seems like a lot of work.

“Slimy-skinned” hulls to improve boat MPG

The US Department of Defense is funding research on a new generation of slime-skinned, self-cleaning hulls that could improve the fuel efficiency of boats by 20 percent. (New Scientist)

How? Not by making the boats faster or reducing drag (which is what Pound360 thought). Instead, the skin will prevent barnacles and other marine life from latching on to ship hulls by constantly sloughing off and re-generating. Pound360 hopes it’s bio-degradable, non-toxic stuff. Ideally, the stuff would have some benefit for natural habitats.

New alien abduction movie, ‘The Fourth Kind’, on the way

Good potential here. “This film is a dramatization of events that occurred October 2007. Every scene is supported by archival footage. Some of what you’re about to see is extremely disturbing.”

Watching this, it reminded us a lot of the
Mothman Prophecies, which was cool, but was missing something, felt a little off. It’s like they’re trying to make these fringe paranormal pictures for the mainstream. Don’t do that. Make them for hardcore conspiracy nuts. Trust us, Hollywood, mainstream audiences will follow. Anyway, here’s a trailer for “The Fourth Kind”…

Mars ice ‘a relic of a more humid climate’

Scientists believe ice on mars is left over from a “more humid climate” that may have existed as soon as a few thousand years ago. (Reuters) No, the Reuters column didn’t go into what that climate would have looked like (there probably weren’t jungles, but there may have been lakes, rivers).

However, Pound360 thought it was cool that, instead of wondering whether or not there’s water on mars -- “there is no dispute that water exists on the surface” -- our imaginations are all focused on where it came from and what a wet Mars might have looked like.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Not sure why, but NASA launches cloud-making rocket

NASA is launching a rocket this week that will “create artificial clouds at the outermost layers of Earth's atmosphere.” (LiveScience) How? By creating an artificial dust cloud (upon which moisture would presumably condense).

The article doesn’t say why they’re doing it. But Pound360 has some ideas. One, if this is a cheap, easy thing to pull off, we could get a steady cloud layer going to cool the Earth if global warming gets out of hand.

Maybe the scientists are doing this for the same reason that people climb mountains. Because they can. "Nothing like this has been done before and that's why everybody's really excited about it."

Hm. In today’s economic climate, when
thousands are marching on Washington to protest “out-of-control spending,” Pound360 hopes there’s a better answer.

20 pct of shower heads harbor 'significant levels' of bad bacteria

Showers are supposed to be clean places. Well, not really. But shower heads? Yeah, those are supposed to be clean. However, a University of Colorado study finds 20 percent of shower heads harbor “significant levels” of a bacteria (mycobacterium avium) linked to pulmonary disease. (LiveScience)

Great. So what should you do? Well, if you don’t have a “compromised immune system,” don’t worry about it. If you do, buy a metal shower head for starters, and clean it often.

20 pct of male US bass have 'feminized' by pollution

A study by the US Geological Survey finds 20 percent of male bass in US waterways have egg cells growing in their gonads. (Newsvine) Why? Researchers believe it’s residual from birth control pills and other women’s hormone treatments that make their way into the watershed from sewage systems. Who cares? First, while the fish are still able to reproduce, “they don’t reproduce as well.” Second, “intersex fish are also seen as a general warning about what some experts see as a wider problem of endocrine disruptors in the environment.” In other words, the canary is starting to pass out. We better do something about it.

Jupiter occasionally flirts with extra moon, could earth?

In 1949, Jupiter pulled a comet into its orbit, making it a moon, until it escaped in 1961, becoming a comet again. (National Geographic) More recently (1994), Jupiter pulled comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into its system, until it was actually sucked into the planet and disintegrated.

Could the Earth pull in an extra moon? Nah. “It's doubtful that our own planet would have the gravitational pulling power to add a temporary satellite,” reads the National Geographic report.

‘Revolutionary’ research suggests world will never run out of oil

To the best of our knowledge, crude oil comes from dead plants and animals compressed in the Earth’s crust for millions of years. “Fossil fuel,” right? That means that when we run out, we’re pretty much out. But a new Swedish study suggests “fossilized plants and animals are not needed to create hydrocarbons.” (Digital Journal) Instead, non-biological stuff in the Earth’s crust can end up as petroleum.

The theory still needs to be proven, but if they’re right, then A) it’s going to be easier to find new petrol reserves and B) the price of fossil fuels is going to go down. And as it turns out, both A and B are pretty bad news for the environment.

What do you think, is it better to have an empty gas tank in heaven? Or a full tank in hell?

NFL players pledge brains, spinal cord tissue for concussion study

Three NFL players (Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatup and Arizona Cardinals receiver Sean Morey) promised to donate their brain and spinal cord tissue to studies on sports-related injuries. (Digital Journal) The trio are the first active athletes to donate their brains to date.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Velociraptor may have been tree dwellers

Research by a University of Manchester team suggests the velociraptor is very different than the creature you have in mind. (New Scientist) First, those claws that seem ideal for gutting prey, probably weren’t sharp enough to break skin. Instead, they were probably used for clinging to prey (like modern cats) and, um, climbing trees. Really.

In addition to the claws, the velociraptor’s “leg and tail musculature show that these animals are adapted for climbing rather than running.”

A volociraptor climbing trees? Hm. How serious is the research team about this? They actually suggest “velociraptor used its climbing ability to perch in trees and pounce on prey from above.”

It does sound like a stretch, but remember,
fossils suggest velociraptor was feathered, and that would help it swoop from the trees to attack prey.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sea level mysteriously rises two feet along east coast

Sea levels are constantly fluctuating, but this summer’s rise of two feet along the east coast “surprised scientists who forecast such periodic fluctuations.” (National Geographic) Experts believe a weakened Gulf Stream is to blame. What’s the Gulf Stream? It’s “the superhighway of ocean water off the U.S. East Coast… that pulls water into its ‘orbit’ and away from the East Coast.

National Geographic says global warming isn’t to blame for the sea level rise. But are we sure that the Gulf Stream isn’t being weakened by a domino effect that starts with greenhouse gas crowding the atmosphere?

Critically endangered, ‘lost’ seabird found in natural habitat

An expedition in the South Pacific has found the critically endangered Fiji petrel in its natural habitat for the first time. In 1855, the Fiji petrel was discovered on Fiji’s Gau Island. Then it disappeared until 1984. Since then, a few immature or injured birds have turned up on village rooftops, but until now, the Fiji petrel had never been seen in its natural habitat. (BBC)

Who cares? Pound360 doesn’t know. It’s just a cool story. It’s always good to hear when we’re discovering things in a world where disappearing things (like species, ice caps) are the norm. Also, “to see such a little-known bird at such close range was magical,” said one expedition member.

Extinct eagle may have preyed on humans

Ancient New Zealand folk tales tell of a “huge bird that could swoop down on people in the mountains and was capable of killing a small child.” The island was once home to the Haast’s eagle, which was big (weighing in at 40 pounds), but eagles are just scavengers, right? Well, new research by New Zealand and Australian scientists shows “the bird was a fearsome predator that ate the flightless moa birds and even humans.” (AP)

The research was done using CAT scans on Haast’s eagle bones to “reconstruct the size of the bird’s brain, eyes, ears and spinal cord.” How does that tell you if the creature ate people? It’s a stretch, but you compare it to modern birds and figure out where there’s a closer match. To scavengers or predators? According to this research, predators.

Scientist levitate mice using “no-gravity simulator”

An antigravity machine? Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion lab in Flintridge (CA) are using one to test the effects of zero-gravity on bone density in mice. (LA Times) Not only have the scientists succeeded in levitating the mice, they plan on leaving mice in the “no-gravity simulator” for weeks. How do the mice feel about that? The first mouse freaked out after “he started to spin and got disoriented." Tests on sedated mice went more smoothly. But later, even the mice that weren’t drugged “began acting normally inside the cage, eating and drinking while floating.”

Body Worlds seriously pushes envelope, plans show of ‘copulating cadavers’

Have you seen this traveling exhibition? Body Worlds, where they take corpses preserved with a process called “plastination”, dice them up, and put them on display in “lifelike and often theatrical positions.” It’s a trip. Ghastly at first. Eventually beautiful.

In the latest show, “Cycle of Life,” which Pound360 has not seen, there are two copulating corpses. “Revolting” and “unacceptable,” said German politicians when the show was set up in Berlin.

Now, Body Worlds is “planning a new show dedicated solely to dead bodies having sex.” (
Reuters)

Wow. Here at Pound360 we like to think of ourselves as more curious than your average person. We were anxious to see the fist Body Worlds exhibit in LA. But a show filled with “copulating cadavers”? We’d rather stay home and watch Star Trek.

See the "world's most amazing rainforests" before they're gone

Rainforests. So what, who cares. For one, they're beautiful. You yawn. Okay, two, they're rich in biodiversity. So what? Well, wiping out species represents a dark, mysterious debt. Basically, we have no idea what we're losing (for example, cures for diseases) when we kill off another species. Oh, you think we've already discovered all the practical stuff nature has to offer? Wrong. Just last month, scientists found a new species of sea sponge that may hold the cure for pancreatic cancer (a brutal killer).

Still don't care? How about this. Rainforests, which cover just six percent of the earth's surface, "generate nearly a third of the planet's oxygen turnover." (
MSNBC)

The bad news is, rainforests used to cover 14 percent of the earth's land surface. So before they're gone, check out this list of the "world's most amazing rainforests" at MSNBC. And no, we're not just talking South America here. They mention a rainforest in Japan on Yakushima Island.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scientists “giddy with the quality of data” from refurbished Hubble

Since astronauts gave the orbiting Hubble telescope “an extreme makeover” in May (they repaired some instruments that had died and installed a spectrograph and a new camera), scientists have been blown away by the images, data being beamed to the surface.

“We are giddy with the quality of data,” said one scientist.

Most recently, Hubble spotted a “butterfly-shaped galaxy and wisps of stardust containing the elements of live,” as well as a galaxy being sucked into a supermassive black hole, new nebulae and nascent planetary systems.

Work is under way to tap trees for electricity

Remember the potato-battery experiment from high school? Good. So we all know that plants have a slight electrical charge. Slight. A tree, for example, carries (maybe) a several hundred millivolts, less than a AA battery. But a University of Washington team has managed to squeeze 1.1 volts out of a tree using a “voltage boost converter.” (New Scientist)

That still ain’t much. What can you really do with 1.1 volts? Well, imagine if you had a whole forest wired. It’s still not enough to power a city, but you could power devices in the woods to monitor the ecology’s health, look out for forest fires and study wildlife.

More progress in race to develop memory-erasing pill

Swiss researchers have managed to erase bad memories from lab animals with pill that “dissolves a sheath around the amygdale, an almond-shaped organ in the brain where mammals store memories of fear.” (London Times)

Last year, you may recall, a team of US and Chinese scientists
deleted memories from the minds mice by disabling “memory molecules” in the brain.

Pound360 is equally excited and terrified by the prospect of an easy procedure to wipe out bad memories. On the one hand, it would be good for treating post traumatic stress and severe phobias. But what if it’s really cheap, and really easy to tamper with your memories? “If we forget memories of bad experiences, how will we learn to progress?” asked one commentator at London Times.

Global warming is ruining good beer

The quality of Czech-grown Saaz hops (a key ingredient in pilsner lagers) has been decreasing in recent years as the air temperature increases. (New Scientist) So what, you hate pilsners, prefer German beers anyway? Well, "the famous hop-growing regions of eastern Germany and central Slovakia are facing the same situation."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

'Great tits have been discovered killing bats by pecking their heads open'

So there's this predatory songbird called a "great tit" that has been observed debilitating bats by "pecking their brain cases open" and then eating the poor bastards alive, in Hungarian caves, of course. (New Scientist) Think we're making any of that up? Click the link!

Rare spider dubbed 'Heteropoda davidbowie'

Spider named after Bowie!? Is it from outer space? Was it found in David Bowie's hometown? Does it look like him? No, no and no. So why was a rare yellow spider from Malaysia named after the rock icon? "To raise awareness about the number of arachnid species threatened with extinction." (Telegraph UK) Lame. The other answer is that Bowie was selected because he wrote an album called "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars." That's still a stretch. Pound360 feels exploited. Because here we are talking about it. And you're reading about it.

Newt forces bone through skin as defense mechanism

This is really weird. When attacked, the Spanish ribbed newt secretes a poisonous milky substance from its pores, and shifts its ribs forward (forcing them through the skin) "exposing a row of bones that act like poisonous barbs." (BBC) Oddly enough, neither the forcing of the bone through skin or the poison has "any ill effects" on the creature.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Is this the end? NASA manned moon mission ruled "unsustainable"

An Obama-requested, blue-ribbon panel found NASA's Constellation program (with the goal of putting man back on the moon, and eventually, Mars) is on an "unsustainable trajectory." The program has $100 billion in funding for the next decade, but needs $130 billion to make it says the panel.

Will the program get canned? You decide. Obama's popularity is sinking and foreign wars, a depressing federal deficit and "bruising battles over health care" puts Constellation in serious jeopardy.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dogs originally domesticated as a food source?

A new study from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm suggests dogs were originally domesticated in southern China (11,000 to 14,000 years ago) as a food source. (NY Times)

Actually, the "dogs" would have been wolves at the time, that "domesticated themselves when they began scavenging around the garbage dumps at the first human settlements." Next thing the species knows, it's being muzzled, caged and bred for meat.

Night vision eye drops on the way?

Chlorophyll eye drops have been shown to double the night vision of mice and rabbits in lab tests. (Discover Magazine) The chemical has the ability to absorb red hues (which are normally invisible when it's dark). Where did this idea come from? Scientists figured this out by studying dragonfish, which use chlorophyll to see deep in the ocean, far from the sun's light.

'We've never seen anything like them before'

We're living in an unprecedented "age of megafires," reports 60 minutes. Fires these days are bigger, and there are more of them.

Bigger: "10 years ago, if you had a 100,000 acre fire, you were talking about a huge fire. And if we had one or two of those per year, that was probably unusual. Now we talk about 200,000 acre fires like it's just another day at the office."

More: "Seven of the 10 busiest fire seasons have been since 1999."

Why? People. One, an increase of one degree in average temperature (thank you global warming) has triggered four-times the number of fires.


Two, the US Forest Service is partly to blame. Their policy of stopping all wild fires for the last 100 years has left a lot of fuel in the nation's wilderness.

What next? Half the nation's forests could be wiped out during the next century.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Hm. Earth's size 'just right for life'

Pound360 is a big fan of New Scientist, but a recent headline has us scratching our heads. The headline: "Earth-sized planets are just right for life." The idea: Earth is the perfect size for plate tectonics (which helps regulate atmospheric carbon) and supporting a magnetic field (which shields the surface from life-threatening cosmic radiation).

So what's the problem?

First of all, have we studied enough rocky planets or planets with life to make a call like this? Second, what about Venus? Venus is the size of Earth, but there's no life. And third, Mercury. Mercury is about a third the size of Earth, but it
has a magnetic field.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Oh no, BP makes 'giant' oil discovery

Oil company BP just stumbled upon a pocket of oil in the Gulf of Mexico that may contain up to four billion barrels, about 868 million of that could be extracted. This would represent five percent of BP's 18 billion barrels in proven reserves. (Yahoo Finance)

Oh. Great.

Pound360 isn't against finding new resources and making money. We like those things. But we do get a little bummed when we read news like this. Why? Because this makes people think it's okay to put off finding (spending a ton of money) on clean, renewable forms of energy to run our lives. But it's not.

Not funny: The biggest threat to ozone layer is laughing gas

N2O, or "laughing gas" in the common tongue, has built up to be the greatest threat to the Earth's ozone layer. (Time) No, it's not the most potent stuff (CFCs are 60-times as damaging), but there's enough N2O (we pump the CO2 equivalent of a billion metric tons into the atmosphere annually) it's the biggest threat.

Where's it coming from? There is some naturally occurring N2O (bacteria and the oceans create it when breaking down nitrogen) but what's tipping the scale are man-made sources like fertilizer, farms (from livestock manure), sewage treatment and cars.

Wife of Japan's next president claims alien abduction

Hm. Guess who said this: "While my body was asleep, I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus… it was a very beautiful place and it was really green."

B) A kid in third grade
A) A crazy person in an insane asylum
C) A recent guest on Coast-to-Coast
D) Japan's next first lady

If you guessed D, the wife of premier-in-waiting Yukio Hatoyama, you're right. (
MSNBC)

Wireless electronics within a year?

The bold, optimistic CEO of WiTricity (a company specializing in wireless power transmission) predicts "electronics such as phones and laptops may start shedding their power cords within a year." (CNN)

Really?

"Five years from now, this will seem completely normal."

[More emphasis] Really?

CNN reminds us the promise of wireless electricity has been around for more than one hundred years. "Nikola Tesla started toying with the ability to send electricity through the air in the 1890s."

Pound360 Archive

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.