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The first thing iRobot Corporation wants you to know, because they have been asked so many times, is that the Packbot is no Terminator - and never will be.

Robots in the military are not the stuff of science fiction but their mission parameters are very specific - and they are all teleoperated, meaning that there is someone operating the robot from a remote location, perhaps with a joystick and a computer screen.

While this may seem like a caveat in plans to add robots to the military, it is actually very important to keep humans involved in the robotic operations.


A revised outlook for the Arctic 2008 summer sea ice minimum shows ice extent will be below the 2005 level but not likely to beat the 2007 record, say researchers with DAMOCLES (Developing Arctic Modeling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies), an integrated ice-atmosphere-ocean monitoring and forecasting system designed for observing, understanding and quantifying climate changes in the Arctic.

DAMOCLES will dispatch eleven research missions into the Arctic this autumn to better understand the future of the sea ice.

Chances that the 2008 ice extent will fall below last year's record minimum is about 8 percent, researchers forecast after having run a number of different models predicting the fate of the Arctic sea ice this summer. But there is still reason for concern; the scientists are almost certain the ice extent will fall below the minimum of 2005, which was the second lowest year on record. With a probability of 80% the minimum ice extent in 2008 will be in the range between 4.16 and 4.70 million km2.

You no longer need a snooty wine expert to identify a ’74 Pinot Noir from Burgundy – a handheld “electronic tongue” devised by European scientists will tell you the grape variety and vintage at the press of a button.

Designed for quality control in the field, the device is made up of six sensors which detect substances characteristic of a certain wine variety. Components such as acid, sugar and alcohol can be measured by this detection, and from these parameters it can determine the age and variety of the wine.

The tongue was invented by Cecilia Jiménez-Jorquera and colleagues from the Barcelona Institute of Microelectronics, Spain, and is reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal The Analyst.

Tiny fossilized teeth excavated from an Indian open-pit coal mine could be the oldest Asian remains ever found of anthropoids, the primate lineage of today's monkeys, apes and humans, say researchers from Duke University and the Indian Institute of Technology.

Just 9-thousandths of a square inch in size, the teeth are about 54.5 million years old and suggest these early primates were no larger than modern dwarf lemurs weighing about 2 to 3 ounces. Studies of the shape of the teeth suggest these small animals could live on a fruit and insect diet, according to the researchers.

"It's certainly the oldest anthropoid from Asia and India," said Richard Kay, a Duke professor of evolutionary anthropology who is corresponding author of a report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Researchers at the University of Birmingham say they have uncovered new information about the way that we perceive fast moving, incoming objects – such as tennis or cricket balls.

The new research, published today in PNAS, studies why the human brain has difficulty perceiving fast moving objects coming from straight ahead; something that should be a key survival skill. The research has implications for understanding how top-class sportspeople make decisions about playing a shot but could also be important for improving road safety and for the development of robotic vision systems.

High-dose injections of vitamin C, also known as ascorbate or ascorbic acid, reduced tumor weight and growth rate by about 50 percent in mouse models of brain, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report in the August 5, 2008, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers traced ascorbate's anti-cancer effect to the formation of hydrogen peroxide in the extracellular fluid surrounding the tumors. Normal cells were unaffected.

Natural physiologic controls precisely regulate the amount of ascorbate absorbed by the body when it is taken orally. "When you eat foods containing more than 200 milligrams of vitamin C a day--for example, 2 oranges and a serving of broccoli--your body prevents blood levels of ascorbate from exceeding a narrow range," says Mark Levine, M.D., the study's lead author and chief of the Molecular and Clinical Nutrition Section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the NIH.