Sci/tech

Experts find jawbone of pre-human great ape in Kenya
November 13, 2007 08:27 AM - Reuters

Researchers have discovered a 10-million-year-old jaw bone in Kenya they believe belonged to a new species of great ape that could be the last common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees and humans.

The Kenyan and Japanese team found the fragment in 2005 along with 11 teeth in volcanic mud flow deposits in Kenya's northern Nakali region.

Chocolate began as beer-like brew 3,100 years ago
November 13, 2007 08:26 AM - Will Dunham -Reuters

The chocolate enjoyed around the world today had its origins at least 3,100 years ago in Central America not as the sweet treat people now crave but as a celebratory beer-like beverage and status symbol, scientists said on Monday.

Researchers identified residue of a chemical compound that comes exclusively from the cacao plant -- the source of chocolate -- in pottery vessels dating from about 1100 BC in Puerto Escondido, Honduras.

Nanosolar: Power to the people
November 13, 2007 08:19 AM - , Triple Pundit

Nanosolar coatings are as thin as a layer of paint and can tranfer sunlight into power quite efficiently. Imagine the possibilities, from solar coated shingles to solar lined windows to solar powered cell phones and ipods. Solar powered buildings and homes might just become standard in the future thanks to this innovative technology by Nanosolar Inc. The almighty dollar will launch these thin-film solar cells into worldwide applications thanks to the fact that it's actually cheaper than burning coal.

Microbes Churn Out Hydrogen at Record Rate
November 13, 2007 08:16 AM - National Science Federation

In new table-top reactor, bacteria from wastewater produce abundant, clean hydrogen from cellulose, or even vinegar, and a little electricity

By adding a few modifications to their successful wastewater fuel cell, researchers have coaxed common bacteria to produce hydrogen in a new, efficient way. Bruce Logan and colleagues at Penn State University had already shown success at using microbes to produce electricity. Now, using starter material that could theoretically be sourced from a salad bar, the researchers have coaxed those same microbes to generate hydrogen.

Tool-wielding chimps provide a glimpse of early human behavior
November 12, 2007 07:32 PM - Terry Devitt, UW-Madison

Madison, Wis. - Chimpanzees inhabiting a harsh savanna environment and using bark and stick tools to exploit an underground food resource are giving scientists new insights to the behaviors of the earliest hominids who, millions of years ago, left the African forests to range the same kinds of environments and possibly utilize the same foods.

Writing today (Nov. 12) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team of researchers including University of Wisconsin-Madison anthropologist Travis R. Pickering reports evidence of tool use among rare savanna chimps to harvest edible tubers, roots and bulbs.

Computer scientist fights threat of ‘botnets’
November 12, 2007 07:29 PM - Brian Mattmiller , UW-Madison

Madison, Wisconsin - Computer scientist Paul Barford has watched malicious traffic on the Internet evolve from childish pranks to a billion-dollar “shadow industry” in the last decade, and his profession has largely been one step behind the bad guys. Viruses, phishing scams, worms and spyware are only the beginning, he says.

“Some of the most worrisome threats today are things called ‘botnets’ — computers that are taken over by an outside party and are beyond the user’s control,” says Barford of UW–Madison. “They can do all sorts of nasty things: steal passwords, credit card numbers and personal information, and use the infected machine to forward spam and attack other machines.

“Botnets represent a convergence of all of the other threats that have existed for some time,” he adds.

Congressional Hearing on Asteroid Threat
November 12, 2007 01:06 PM -

Davis, California - UC Davis physics professor J. Anthony Tyson will testify before Congress on Thursday, Nov. 8, on near-Earth asteroids. Tyson will talk about the potential role of the proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in surveying the sky for objects that might eventually strike our planet. The hearing of the House Committee on Science and Technology will begin at 10 a.m. in room 2318 of the Rayburn Office Building.

Energy From Hot Rocks
November 12, 2007 01:02 PM - UC Davis

Two UC Davis geologists are taking part in the Iceland Deep Drilling Project, an international effort to learn more about the potential of geothermal energy, or extracting heat from rocks.

Professors Peter Schiffman and Robert Zierenberg are working with Wilfred Elders, professor emeritus at UC Riverside, Dennis Bird at Stanford University and Mark Reed at the University of Oregon to study the chemistry that occurs at high pressures and temperatures two miles below Iceland.

"We hope to understand the process of heat transfer when water reacts with hot volcanic rocks and how that changes the chemistry of fluids circulating at depth," Zierenberg said. "We know very little about materials under these conditions."

Drug injecting triggers most Mauritius HIV cases
November 12, 2007 12:35 PM -

ROCHE BOIS, Mauritius (Reuters) - Drug abuse accounts for 92 percent of new HIV infections in Mauritius, up from just 14 percent in 2002, the government said on Monday.

The Indian Ocean island nation has an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 1.8 percent, which is low for the region. On the African mainland, HIV infection rates stand at 16.1 percent in Mozambique and 18.8 percent in South Africa, for example.

But officials say risky practices like sharing needles used for injecting drugs are causing many more infections. Mauritius suffers the second highest rate of heroin and opiate use in the world, according to U.N. figures.

Make Way for the Real Nanopod
November 12, 2007 09:08 AM - Berkely Lab

BERKELEY, CA — Make way for the real nanopod and make room in the Guinness World Records. A team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California at Berkeley have created the first fully functional radio from a single carbon nanotube, which makes it by several orders of magnitude the smallest radio ever made.

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