Archive for March, 2015

Catalog of Earth Microbes Could Help Find Alien Life


Post 4419

Catalog of Earth Microbes Could Help Find Alien Life

Custody Battle Over Massive Emerald Worth $370 Million Rages On


Post 4418

Cheryl Eddy

Custody Battle Over Massive Emerald Worth $370 Million Rages On

Custody Battle Over Massive Emerald Worth $370 Million Rages On

t’s 180,000 carats and weighs 840 pounds. Its value is estimatedsomewhere in the $370 million range, but really, the Bahia Emerald is so rare it’s virtually priceless. No wonder the raw gem, which was found in 2001, is such a hot property — and has been at the center of a legal saga that’s lasted years.

According to a decision handed down today in Los Angeles, the legal battle over the massive emerald with a strange history (it even survived Hurricane Katrina) will continue between the Americans fighting over it, despite recently-expressed interest from Brazil, the stone’s country of origin.

Reports CBS News:

The emerald was first discovered in Brazil’s Bahia mines in 2001. It was reportedly shipped from São Paulo to northern California, then bought, sold and allegedly stolen several times in several locations. Then in 2008, a man named Larry Biegler reported it stolen from his California warehouse. Police found the emerald in Las Vegas in the possession of Kit Morrison, who said he bought it from Biegler.

Morrison said he paid seven figures for the emerald and has proof.

“We have a purchase and sale agreement we have a lot of documentation,” he said.

But the stone’s story isn’t that crystal clear.

“It belongs to Brazil and we are going to fight for it,” Brazilian government representative Marconi Melo said.

The government claims in court documents that the emerald was “illegally mined, illegally transported, illegally exported to the United States.”

When asked if they would even care if the emerald weren’t worth so much money, Melo said, “We care that no gem or stone or mineral of Brazil could be taken out of the country without the correct authorization.”

The Bahia Emerald’s ownership has been under debate since at least 2008, thanks to a tussle between the then-owner, the third-party company he’d hired to sell it, and the potential buyer. At the time, CNN reported that “someone used falsified papers to remove the stone from the secured vault in California” where it was stored, and spirited it to Las Vegas, where it was eventually discovered.

The company hired by the owner to sell it said in court papers it had received a $19 million offer, which the company wanted to accept.

It alleged the gemstone’s owner then tried to go around the broker to sell the emerald to the same buyer for $75 million.

(Best part of this chapter in the drama: “At one point, the emerald was listed for sale on eBay for a ‘buy it now’ price of $75 million.” Unsurprisingly, nobody jumped on that.)

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the Brazilian government — which believes, Indiana Jones-style, that the emerald belongs in a museum — entered the debate last fall, though the judge in the case determined the ongoing case would proceed apace; another ownership claimwas dismissed in January.

The Brazilian government last year asked a judge to dismiss the case outright or put it on hold while Brazilian officials continue negotiations with the US government to secure the stone’s return … Judge Michael Johnson made clear Monday that he was not ruling on the merits of Brazil’s claim to ownership, but instead solely on the motion to dismiss or pause current court proceedings in Los Angeles.

Brazil’s motion lacked sufficient evidence to warrant halting the case, Johnson said. There was no official declaration from Brazilian officials, nor was there any indication that diplomatic efforts would prove fruitful or timely.

AP Photo/Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, File


Is A Kilobit 1,000 Or 1,024 Bits?: A Mathematical Debate Explained

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags , , on March 31, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4417

Ria Misra

Is A Kilobit 1,000 Or 1,024 Bits?: A Mathematical Debate Explained

Is A Kilobit 1,000 Or 1,024 Bits?: A Mathematical Debate Explained

What is a kilobit equal to? The answer is 1,000 bits, but some people say it should really be 1,024.

The debate over how many bits are in a kilobit has popped up many places (including in our comments section today), with some people championing 1,000 and others 1,024. So what’s the answer? Well, today, the answer is that a kilobit is 1,000 bits. But that wasn’t always the case. It used to be 1,024. Why the change?

The initial number of 1,024 bits was arrived at by early computer scientists who routinely used binary measurements in their work. Specifying 2^10 was a little unwieldy, but adding a kilo prefix to bit was, if not exactly correct, close enough. And, at the time, the computer community was small enough that it was common knowledge that the kilo prefix came with a bit of a wink (to the tune of 24 extra bits) appended to it.

So what changed? All the rest of us showed up to the party — and then things got a little confusing. The National Institute of Standards and Technology explains:

That worked well enough for a decade or two because everybody who talked kilobytes knew that the term implied 1024 bytes. But, almost overnight a much more numerous “everybody” bought computers, and the trade computer professionals needed to talk to physicists and engineers and even to ordinary people, most of whom know that a kilometer is 1000 meters and a kilogram is 1000 grams.

But, just to make it even messier, different industries began to adopt different meanings for numerical prefixes depending on their own individual needs. And the problem wasn’t just with the kilobit, the bigger data storage got, the bigger the problem became.

Consider the confusing case of the megabyte:

When discussing computer memory, most manufacturers use megabyte to mean 220 = 1 048 576 bytes, but the manufacturers of computer storage devices usually use the term to mean 1 000 000 bytes. Some designers of local area networks have used megabit per second to mean 1 048 576 bit/s, but all telecommunications engineers use it to mean 106bit/s. And if two definitions of the megabyte are not enough, a third megabyte of 1 024 000 bytes is the megabyte used to format the familiar 90 mm (3 1/2 inch), “1.44 MB” diskette. The confusion is real, as is the potential for incompatibility in standards and in implemented systems

Faced with the problem, the NIST finally threw its hands up and decreed that they were setting up a standard meaning that would apply across the board: From here on, the kilobit would be 1,000 bits.

Fortunately for those who do their best work in base 2, however, there was a also a consolation prize at the end of all this: the kibibit, which would retain the original 1,024 bits designation.

Image: bittbox

Behind-The-Scenes Videos Show How Iconic Movie Special Effects Were Made


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Behind-The-Scenes Videos Show How Iconic Movie Special Effects Were Made

Behind-The-Scenes Videos Show How Iconic Movie Special Effects Were Made

When you’re watching a movie, it’s easy to get lost in the magic and not think too hard about how King Kong climbed the Empire State Building, how Jurassic Park‘s T-Rex roared to life, or how Charlton Heston encountered the Statue of Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes — but these videos reveal all those movie secrets.

Stop-Motion in King Kong (1933)

Creation of the Statue of Liberty in Planet of the Apes (1968)

From AT-ATs to Tauntauns in Star Wars

Flights of the Baron in Dune (1984)

The Creation of Slimer, Stay Puft and Library Ghost forGhostbusters (1984)

T-1000 special effects for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Building the T-Rex for Jurassic Park (1993)

Special effects for Titanic (1997)

The Subway Fight and the Rooftop Scene fromThe Matrix (1999)


Watch This CD Rip Apart – At 170,000 FPS

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags , on March 31, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4415

Robbie Gonzalez

Watch This CD Rip Apart –  At 170,000 FPS

Watch This CD Rip Apart –  At 170,000 FPS

The Slow Mo Guys filmed a CD spinning up to 23,000 rpm at a genuinely incredible 170,000 frames per second. It’s the highest frame rate they’ve ever employed on the channel, and it’s pretty spectacular to watch. (For reference, the footage up top was shot at “only” 28,500 FPS.)

What most impressed me about this video – apart, of course, from the footage itself – is just how much data the camera puts down in the few seconds that it’s recording. Shooting at a 170k fps, it captures 96 GB in the span of just four seconds, which is just bonkers if you think about it. Hosts Gav and Dan record at a few different speeds in this video, but if it’s the 170k footage you’re after, you can skip to the 5:30 mark for the business:

[The Slow Mo Guys]


Tiny ‘Nanoneedles’ Could Help Your Damaged Organs Repair Themselves


Post 4414

George Dvorsky

Tiny ‘Nanoneedles’ Could Help Your Damaged Organs Repair Themselves

Tiny 'Nanoneedles' Could Help Your Damaged Organs Repair Themselves

In a trial involving mice, an international team of researchers used microscopic “nanoneedles” to coax the body into generating new blood vessels. Applied to humans, the technology could eventually be used to get organs and nerves to repair themselves.

Top image: Colorized cells on nanoneedles (credit: Imperial College London)

Researchers from Imperial College London and the Houston Methodist Research Institute used the nanoneedles to deliver nucleic acids — the building blocks of all living organisms and transmitters of genetic information —to a specified area. Once delivered to a cell or tissue, the nucleic acids do their work by regenerating lost function. The researchers, a team led by Ciro Chiappini and Molly Stevens from the Imperial College London, describe their findings in the latest issue of Nature Materials.

In the case of the current study, DNA and siRNA nucleic acids were successfully delivered to human cells in the lab. Also, the researchers were able to facilitate a six-fold increase in the formation of new blood vessels in the back muscles of mice. The technique, conducted over a two-week period, didn’t cause any inflammation or other harmful side effects.

Tiny 'Nanoneedles' Could Help Your Damaged Organs Repair Themselves

Cells on nanoneedles (credit: Imperial College London)

Acting like sponges, the porous nanoneedles — which are 1,000 times smaller than a human hair — can pack considerably more nucleic acids than solid structures. They work by bypassing the outer membrane of a cell, piercing it to deliver the nucleic acids. Notably, it does so without harming or killing the cell. By accessing a cell’s cytoplasm directly, the researchers were able to efficiently reprogram it.

And because the nanoneedles are made from biodegradable silicon, they can be left in the body and not leave a toxic residue; they dissolve in about two days, leaving a negligible trace of harmless orthosilicic acid.

The nanoneedles have not been tested on humans, but the work on mice looks promising. Eventually, they could be used to restore lost function in tissues and organs, or used during organ transplants for an added boost as the organs settle into their new environment.

Conceivably, they could also be incorporated into a flexible bandage. For example, when applied to severely burnt skin they could reprogram the cells to heal the injury with functional tissue instead of forming a scar.

Read the entire study at Nature Materials: “Biodegradable silicon nanoneedles delivering nucleic acids intracellularly induce localized in vivo neovascularization“.

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10 Of The Most Absurd Units Of Measurement On Earth


Post 4413

Katharine Trendacosta

10 Of The Most Absurd Units Of Measurement On Earth

10 Of The Most Absurd Units Of Measurement On Earth

Humans have a need to quantify things. And sometimes the usual measurements — feet, meters, grams — are not good enough. Or funny enough. Sometimes you need to express things in bananas, Helens, or cows.

Image credit: Standard Measures by Neil Cummings/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

There are almost as many different ways to measure things as there are people — even once you eliminate ones that had the same name but were extremely variable. Beyond the garn and the beard-second, here are ten units meant to make things easier that don’t really seem to actually help.

10 Of The Most Absurd Units Of Measurement On Earth

Bananas by Ian Ransley/flickr/ CC BY 2.0

1. The Banana Equivalent Dose

How do you express, to an everage person, radiation exposure? Bananas. The Banana Equivalent Dose (BED) is .1 microsievert, roughly the equivalent of the dose you’d get from the naturally occurring radioactive isotopes in a single banana. Another way to think about it as that one banana equals 1% of your average radiation exposure. You could double how much radiation you’re exposed to in a day by eating 100 bananas (100 BED). Do not do that.

2. The Helen

If Helen of Troy was the “face to launch a thousand ships,” then the Helen is the amount of beauty required to do so. A millihelen is both a beauty and style blog, and the exact amount of beauty required to launch just one ancient Greek ship. If you’re wondering about the relative power of the other Helen derivatives, David Goines has got you covered.

10 Of The Most Absurd Units Of Measurement On Earth23

Cows by Global Panarama/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

3. A Cow’s Grass/Mother Cow Index

For farmers, the literal size of a field was much less important than its utility in sustaining cattle. Ireland once used “a cow’s grass” as a unit of measurement — that is, the amount of land needed for one cow. In America, the “mother cow index” determined how many pregnant cows an acre of land could support. As opposed to size, it was a quality measurement.

4. The Barleycorn

Like the foot or the carat, the barleycorn was named for — and initially meant to equal — the size of an actual thing. In this case, a corn of barley. It was standardized to 1/3 of an inch and is still in use as the basis for shoe sizes in Great Britain and Ireland. One barleycorn is the difference between each size. One quarter of a barleycorn is a poppyseed.

10 Of The Most Absurd Units Of Measurement On Earth

Sydney Harbor Bridge by Nigel Howe/flickr/CC BY 2.0

5. The Sydharb

As Belgium, Wales, France, and Texas are all used as units of land size, the Sydharb (or Sydarb) is a unit of water. Obviously, this is in use in Australia as the name is a portmanteau of Sydney Harbor.

6. The Mickey

The sensitivity of computer mice is measured in mickeys per inch — Mickey Mouse, get it? It’s the length of the smallest detectable movement of a mouse — usually between 1/200 and 1/300 of an inch.

7. The Friedman Unit

This unit was named for New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and describes “the next six months.” As in “the next sixth months are critical” or “the next sixth months will be the last.” The use of a Friedman Unit is almost always followed by another Friedman Unit. The moniker came about after an article by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting showed that Friedman used the “the next six months” as determining the outcome of the Iraq War at least fourteen times in a two and half year period. As a tribute, blogger Atrios coined the “Friedman Unit” for “sixth months.”

8. The Morgen

The Morgen — Dutch and German for morning — is the area that can be tilled by a single person behind a single oxen “in the morning hours.” Hence the name. And, as the name implies, it was used in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and Dutch colonies. Depending on your location, the Morgen was equal to anywhere between 2,000 to 12,000 square meters. Presumably, the latter areas had more productive men and oxen. The Morgen was still in use in South Africa until the 1970s and is still in use in Taiwan, where it’s called the “kah.”

9. The Dirac

Physicist Paul Dirac wasn’t the most talkative man in the world. As a result, his colleagues created the Dirac unit — which equaled one word per hour. Because that’s the kind of joke scientists love. It’s also called “the Dirac unit of shyness.”

10 Of The Most Absurd Units Of Measurement On Earth

07.01.2012 – His Hand by Jlhopgood/flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

10. The Hand

If we have the foot, why not the hand? Using a clenched fist or the breadth of a hand as a unit of measurement goes back to Ancient Egypt. Using the part of the body we most often hold up to things to determine their size makes a ton of sense. King Henry VIII in 1541 tried to standardize the hand to four inches, but the use of fists, handsbreadths, and hands confused the issue. These days, the four-inch hand is still used to measure the height of horses, which is very confusing for laypeople trying to understand how tall a horse is. Especially since horse heights aren’t from the hooves to the ears but to the withers — the highest part of a horse’s back.

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