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SPACE & SCIENCE NEWS: April 2004
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M82
Runaway stars may solve black hole riddle
(Apr 15, 2004)


Runaway stars that bulk up by crashing into and merging with one star after another could become the middleweight black holes that have so tantalised astronomers, according to new computer simulations. This snowballing effect would occur in the centres of young, dense star clusters, producing a black hole when the accumulated stars explode and die. Medium-sized black holes have yet to be unambiguously identified by astronomers. But they are thought to be the crucial missing link between black holes about 10 times the mass of the Sun and those millions or billions of times more massive, both of which have been documented. Image: the galaxy M82, inside which a candidate medium-sized black holes has been identified.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

brain scan
Memory bottleneck limits intelligence
(Apr 15, 2004)


The number of things you can hold in your mind at once has been traced to one penny-sized part of the brain. The finding surprises researchers who assumed this aspect of our intelligence would be distributed over many parts of the brain. Instead, the area appears to form a bottleneck that might limit our cognitive abilities, researchers say. "This is a striking discovery," says John Duncan, an intelligence researcher at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK.

Read more. Source: Nature

DR21
Invisible giants exposed in new Spitzer image
(Apr 14, 2004)


Hidden behind a curtain of dusty darkness lurks one of the most violent pockets of star birth in our galaxy. Called DR21, this stellar nursery is so draped in cosmic dust that it appears invisible to the human eye. By seeing in the infrared, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has pulled this veil aside, revealing a fireworks-like display of massive stars. The biggest of these stars is estimated to be 100,000 times as bright as our own Sun. "We've never seen anything like this before," said Dr. William Reach, an investigator for the latest observations and an astronomer at the Spitzer Science Center, located at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "The massive stars are ripping the cloud of gas and dust around them to shreds."

Read more. Source: Caltech/JPL

artists's view from Sedna
Sedna has no moon say puzzled astronomers
(Apr 14, 2004)


Sedna, the Solar System's farthest known object, does not have a moon, puzzled astronomers have revealed. Its slow spin was thought to be due to the gravity of a small, companion body. Researchers have now discounted this but say the unexpected finding may offer clues to the origin and evolution of objects on the Solar System's edge. Sedna's discovery announced on 15 March led to huge excitement and an argument among scientists over whether the small world could be classified as a planet. Co-discoverer Mike Brown, of the California Institute of Technology (CalTech), US, was so convinced at first that Sedna had a satellite that the artist's concept of the object commissioned to accompany the announcement included a hypothetical moon.


Read more
. Source: BBC

trilobites
Trilobite was ancient snack food
(Apr 14, 2004)


Direct evidence has now been found to show that trilobites - among the most diverse of fossil animal groups – were eaten by other ancient sea creatures. Scientists discovered cracked trilobite body parts in the gut of a 510-million-year-old fossil marine animal. It was long suspected that the ubiquitous trilobites, which survived for about 300 million years, were a major food source for larger creatures. New research in Biology Letters offers the first firm evidence for this.

Read more. Source: BBC

Star Trek brain-computer links
With tiny brain implants, just thinking may make it so
(Apr 13, 2004)


A machine read a person's mind? A medical device company is about to find out. The company, Cyberkinetics Inc., plans to implant a tiny chip in the brains of five paralyzed people in an effort to enable them to operate a computer by thought alone. The Food and Drug Administration has given approval for a clinical trial of the implants, according to the company. The implants, part of what Cyberkinetics calls its BrainGate system, could eventually help people with spinal cord injuries, strokes, Lou Gehrig's disease or other ailments to communicate better or even to operate lights and other devices through a kind of neural remote control. "You can substitute brain control for hand control, basically," said Dr. John P. Donoghue, chairman of the neuroscience department at Brown University and a founder of Cyberkinetics, which hopes to begin the trial as early as next month.

Read more. Source: New York Times (requires registration)

Shroud of Turin
Turin Shroud 'shows second face'
(Apr 13, 2004)


New research into the Turin Shroud has added to the mystery surrounding the controversial artefact. A second ghostly image of a man's face has been discovered on the back of the linen, according to a report published by London's Institute of Physics. The delicate 14ft-long linen sheet is believed by some to be the cloth in which Jesus was wrapped after being taken down from the cross. It has been dismissed by others as an elaborate hoax. The back of the shroud has rarely been seen as it was hidden beneath a piece of cloth sewn on by nuns in 1534, after it was damaged by fire. But the back surface was exposed during a restoration project in 2002.

Read more. Source: BBC

origin of animal life
Barren Siberia may be original home of animal life
(Apr 13, 2004)


Trilobites, the primitive shelled creatures considered by many to be among the first animals to appear in the fossil record, may have originated in a place known today largely for its barren lifelessness: Siberia.The finding is one of the conclusions of a two year study by geologists at the University of Florida and University of Kansas. By comparing separate, seemingly unrelated findings on trilobite evolution and geological history, UF's Joe Meert and KU's Bruce Lieberman concluded that precursors to modern continents began splitting off from a giant supercontinent at the South Pole about 580 million years ago, migrating north toward the equator for about 80 million years. The scientists' analysis suggests that a prominent theory holding that the continents moved far more rapidly is wrong.

Read more. Source: Science Daily / University of Florida

future probes on Mars
Mars life-detection experiment being developed
(Apr 13, 2004)


The same cutting-edge technology that speeded sequencing of the human genome could, by the end of the decade, tell us once and for all whether life ever existed on Mars, according to a University of California, Berkeley, chemist. Richard Mathies, UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and developer of the first capillary electrophoresis arrays and new energy transfer fluorescent dye labels – both used in today's DNA sequencers – is at work on an instrument that would use these technologies to probe Mars dust for evidence of life-based amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.

Read more. Source: U. California at Berkeley

Louros Valles
Stunning new views from Mars Express
(Apr 12, 2004)


The latest images from the European Space Agency Mars Express orbiter show a system of sapping channels, called Louros Valles (named in 1982 after river in Greece), south of the Ius Chasma canyon which runs east to west. These images were taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express during orbit 97 from an altitude of 269 kilometres. The images have a resolution of about 13 metres per pixel and are centred at 278.8 East and 8.3 South. The colour image has been created from the nadir and three colour channels. North is at the right. The Ius Chasma belongs to the giant Valles Marineris canyon system on Mars. The Geryon Montes, visible at the right of this image, is a mountain range which divides the Ius Chasma into two parallel trenches. The dark deposits at the bottom of the Ius Chasma are possibly related to water and wind erosion.

Read more. Source: ESA

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