Friday, March 6, 2015

Bright Spots on Ceres Intrigue Scientists

Well hello there! Glad you were in the neighbourhood and had a few minutes to drop by. Always a treat to see you. Load up your coffee mug and snag a virtual doughnut or muffin, why don't'cha? Say, got an interesting mystery in outer space to tell you about...

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is arriving at its second and final objective, asteroid 1 Ceres, on March 6th.That could be pretty close to today! Robert Mase, who manages the mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, says Dawn will be captured into orbit at 4:20 a.m. (12:20 Universal Time). That's the first critical step in what promises to be an intensive, 16-month-long investigation.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft recorded this view of asteroid 1 Ceres on February 19th while still 29,000 miles (46,000 km) from its destination. Scientists were surprised to see the pair of bright spots inside a medium-size crater.

But images recently captured by the spacecraft's German-built camera already have mission scientists scratching their collective heads. Tucked inside a 57-mile-wide crater are two tiny spots far brighter than their surroundings. Images show a few other bright spots on Ceres. It's not yet clear what they are — the spots were smaller than the camera's resolution when the camera took its snapshots — but there's already plenty of speculation about them.

With an average diameter of 590 miles (950 kilometres), Ceres is the largest denizen of the asteroid belt. In fact, by the International Astronomical Union's definition, it qualifies as a dwarf planet. Unlike most asteroids, however, Ceres is thought to contain 25% water by mass — likely existing as a deep ice mantle overlying a rock-and-metal core. The surface we see might be little more than a veneer of rock and dust.

These bright spots "appear at low latitudes and stand out against the dark surface," notes Carol Raymond, Dawn's deputy project scientist. The pair in the crater are "extremely surprising to the team." 

She says the most likely cause is either fresh exposures of ice from recent impacts or small eruptions of slushy ice (cryovolcanism) from the interior. However, she notes, there's no indication that the spots are high-standing piles of erupted material.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that ESA's Herschel space spacecraft detected water vapor around Ceres when it scrutinized the big body in 2011, 2012, and 2013. But the detection was intermittent — and it now seems that water vapor was present when the two spots were in view. This bright pairing is "unique in the solar system," Raymond says, an enigmatic feature that "really has us on the edge of our seats."

Could this be an alien encounter? We'll have to wait for the next set of pictures and data arriving from the Dawn spacecraft. 

Maybe it's a Tim Horton's franchise already set up! Dang...someone may have beaten me to it! Get your methane icecap, here!

See ya, eh!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Anti-Paparazzi Clothing

Hi ya! How's it going so far today? I'm glad you dropped by for a mug of coffee and a virtual treat. It gets lonely sitting in my virtual cafe looking out at millions of people zipping around cyberspace. But it's still better than going out and walking down a street with hoards of paparazzi following your every move, isn't it? Doesn't it get tiresome with them taking pictures of you unaware...or in your unaware? I know. Me,too We wish, eh! Well now there's help...

Thanks to DJ Chris Holmes, celebrities can now ward off those pesky paparazzi and their intrusive photography with ease. They just need to wear pieces from Holmes’ new ‘Anti Paparazzi Collection’ – a line of clothing made from a reflective material that completely ruins flash photographs.

The collection currently consists of a hooded jacket, an infinity scarf, suit pants, a blazer, and a hat. While they look like regular clothes, the fabric is actually coated with glass nanospheres. This coating makes the clothes act like mirrors when hit with bright light, so the resulting images are horribly underexposed and the wearer is practically invisible.

Thank goodness for that. I'm going to rush right down to Giant Tiger and see if they have the new clothing in stock yet! If not, maybe Walmart will have it, right?

See ya, eh!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Friends, Romans, Water Buffalo...lend me an ear!

Well, hey there! How's it going? Me? Fair to middling, I suppose. The usual aches and pains plus a few more. But anyway, mosey on over to the coffeepot and pour yourself a bull-sized mugful of arabica bean juice. Snag a VT while you're over there. Grab one for me, too if you would. Good thing they are calorie-free, eh! know I like to keep an eye on what's happening in Thailand. Well here's an interesting science-related one, I noticed in the online edition of the Bangkok Post...

A cloned male Swamp Buffalo, aged three years and four months, weighing in at 400 kilogrammes, is at the Royal Chitralada Projects compound in Bangkok. Looks like a frisky kind of guy, doesn't he?

Given the name Clone Thong, the young bull is the world's first cloned Swamp Buffalo, grown from a skin cell taken from an adult male's ear. Apparently, there are two types of water buffalo - river buffalo and swamp buffalo. 

FYI - The skin of river buffaloes is black, but some
specimens may have dark slate-coloured skin. Swamp buffaloes have a grey skin at birth but become slate blue later.  
There are even some albino water buffalo like the one below in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Water buffaloes are especially suitable for tilling rice fields, and their milk is richer in fat and protein than that of the dairy cow. The large feral population of northern Australia became established in the late 19th century, and there are smaller feral herds in New Guinea, Tunisia and northeastern Argentina. There are at least 130 million domestic water buffalo, and more human beings depend on them than on any other domestic animal.

Water buffalo are generally slow-moving creatures but in Chonburi, Thailand (Nong's home province) they have Water Buffalo Races each fall! Bulls average around 2000 lbs. Cows average around 1000 to 1400 lbs. Once they get moving, they're not easy to stop. 

See ya, eh!



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

These Kindhearted Chinese Women Feed 1,300 Dogs Every Single Day

Well, hi there! Wonderful to see you. Thanks for clicking by. Got time for a mug of coffee and a virtual muffin or two? Of course you do. Say...I have a story today about five good-hearted pet lovers. Read on...

Five elderly women in China have dedicated their lives to the care of nearly 1,300 stray dogs. The enterprising women run their very own custom dog asylum, where they feed the lucky canines 400 kg of tasty dog-food every single day.

The shelter, located in China’s central Shaanxi Province, was established in 2009 by 60-year-old Wang Yanfang. She said that she felt sympathetic towards strays that were taken away by regulators, so she decided to apply for permission to open the asylum, solely supported by donations.

Since then she has gained the support of four other women, and together they wake up at 4am each morning just to prepare food for the dogs. They are so dedicated to the cause that they even chose to forgo the extravagant display of fireworks on New Year’s Eve, and instead spent the day with the abandoned dogs.

I'm sure if they had a website or address and put the word out on Weibo (China's answer to Facebook) (or did I read somewhere that the Chinese Government shut it down?) they'd amass quite a few donations to their cause and a worthy one it is, too.

Don't suppose the ladies gave the mutts names. What'd'ya think? Maybe numbers? Actually dogs don't have names. They don't need them. But us humans have to classify everything, don't we?

See ya, eh!


Monday, March 2, 2015

Nutmeg: A Spice With a History That Isn’t So Nice

Hi-dee-hi-dee-ho! Wonderful to see you. You have spiced up my day and as soon as you fill your mug and grab a virtual nutmeg muffin or two, maybe I can spice up yours a little...

Nutmeg is a spice whose aroma evokes warm memories of the holidays for many — baked into pumpkin pies, kneaded into sausages and sprinkled atop mugs of eggnog. It has a pungent, earthy and slightly sweet taste, making it versatile for use in a variety of foods and beverages. You can find it just about anywhere these days and especially this time of year. But that wasn’t always the case.

Until the 18th and 19th centuries, nutmeg was a lot harder to come by. Indigenous to the Banda islands, part of the Moluccas (the Spice Islands) of Indonesia, this was also once the only place in the world that nutmeg grew. And once European spice traders learned of its existence, they began to battle for exclusive rights to the spice.

In the early 17th century, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) seized the islands from the Portuguese and moved to monopolize the trade with what Oliver Thring, writing for the Guardian, described as “paranoid brutality, banning the export of the trees, drenching every nutmeg in lime before shipping to render it infertile, and imposing the death penalty on anyone suspected of stealing, growing or selling nutmegs elsewhere.” The Dutch, in fact, perpetrated a massacre.

When some native islanders dared protest, the head of the VOC “ordered the systematic quartering and beheading of every Bandanese male over the age of 15. The population of the Banda islands was around 15,000 when the VOC arrived. 15 years later, it was 600.” An entire population decimated, and for what? A bit of flavouring for food?

Nutmeg wasn’t just a spice, though. It was also used as an incense as well as a medicine that was supposed to cure stomach ailments, headaches and fever. It was even thought to ward off plague. At one point in the 1300s, a pound of nutmeg cost seven fattened oxen.

At any rate, the Dutch clearly wanted the monopoly on nutmeg, which it just about had but for one nutmeg-producing island held by the British, called Run. After decades of skirmishes, the two companies agreed to a swap in the mid-17th century. In handing over Run to the Dutch, the British got a trading post out west that we now know as Manhattan.

In 1769, a French horticulturist named Pierre Poivre managed to smuggle some nutmeg from the Banda islands to Mauritius, ending the Dutch monopoly at last. The British East India Company brought cuttings to Penang, Singapore, India, the West Indies and Grenada, which is now the second largest producer of nutmeg.
What people do for food — or, I should say, what people do to make money on food. To a degree, the Dutch East India Company is not unlike today’s food corporations, whose pursuit of profits comes at considerable cost to people and planet. But the story of nutmeg has come a long way. As sordid as it once was, today there’s a nostalgia for nutmeg as a spice for the holidays, and we might as well enjoy it.

So there you go!

See ya, eh!


Source with the odd adaptation:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

German Pastafarian Seeks Recognition for Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

Hallelullah! What a great day, eh! March 1st - the end of February for another year! Hey... how the heck are you? Keeping well, I trust. Not ailing from anything a nice refreshing mug of coffee and a virtual treat can't fix, eh! Dig in! Say... a while ago, I posted something about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, also known as Pastafarianism (a cross between pasta and Rastafarian). Well read on...

In case you don't recall, older brains being what they are, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religion, and is generally viewed by the media as a satirical take on organized religion. But 63-year-old German retiree RĂ¼diger Weida takes his Pastafarianism quite seriously – he established his own church chapter in the town of Templin, in September of last year, and is now trying his best to get it legally recognized by the state! 

Weekly noodle worship at Weida’s church begins at 10 a.m. every Friday. The basic mass format is somewhat similar to mainstream Christian churches – there’s an altar, a time for prayers, scripture readings, hymns and a Holy Communion. 

But the similarities end there. The wine and bread are replaced by beer and of course, cooked strands of spaghetti, and parishioners  say “Ramen” instead of “Amen” and chant “Beer-alleluia” at the end of the service. 

As the leader of this unusual church, Weida, who goes by the alias“Bruder Spaghettus”, acts as the “Noodler”, which means he presides over the service wearing a long yellow robe and a pink stole.

To each his or her own, eh...and mind you don't get any sacramental spaghetti on your shirt!

See ya, eh!


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Personality Traits That Predict How Long You Will Live

Hey! Hey! How's it going? Having a 'caffo' day, are you? Maybe I can add a little to that...right after you pour yourself a nectar-like shot of coffee and indulge in a virtual doughnut or muffin. So now, listen to this... your friends are better than you are at predicting how long you’ll live based on your personality traits.

Men with conscientious personality traits and those who are open to experience live longer, a new study finds.

For women, those who are more agreeable and emotionally stable enjoy a longer life.

The kicker is that it’s your friends — not you — who are better at judging these personality traits from the outside.

The results, published in the journal Psychological Science, come from one of the longest studies in history, spanning 75 years (Jackson et al., 2015).

Dr Joshua Jackson, the study’s first author, said:

    “You expect your friends to be inclined to see you in a positive manner, but they also are keen observers of the personality traits that could send you to an early grave.”

The researchers used data from research that began in the 1930s, following a group of couples then in their mid-20s.

Almost all were about to be married and tests of their personality traits were conducted on the engaged couples and their friends also reported on the couple’s personalities.

So like, if I read this right...never mind smoking, drinking, secondhand smoke, pollution, Alzheimer's and all the rest...keep smiling, remain calm and take a plane somewhere, okay?

See ya, eh!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Tent Sneakers for Campers on the Go

G'day mate! How ya goin'? A treat to see you today, y'know. Dig in to the virtual doughnuts and muffins and pour yourself a mugful of coffee. Say... being the outdoorsy type that you are and with spring right around the corner, here's a new invention that should be right up your alley (if you'll excuse the expression).

Recently unveiled by Australian design firm Sibling, the Walking Shelter is a one-person tent stored within a pair of sneakers. The human shelter is neatly packed in a netted compartment covering the footwear and can be used pretty much anywhere.

They may not be the most fashionable sneakers out there, but you have to admit these tent shoes are pretty ingenious. Designed as a concept for shoe company Gorman, they are meant to provide instant shelter wherever and whenever it’s needed. “The Walking-Shelter is a human shelter stored within a pair of sneakers. 

Stored compactly in integrated net pockets within the shoe, the shelter expands out and around the body to form an enclosure that relies on the human frame as a supporting structure,” the shoes’ designers say. “The shelter accommodates for the body in a variety of ways and can be customized by the user to adapt to a variety of contexts and environments. This project was developed as a one-off prototype and auctioned off, with all proceeds going towards Little Seeds Big Trees.”

The Walking Shelter sneakers may not look great, but they beat carrying a backpack around in case of emergency. Still, it’s just a concept, and not a perfect one at that. With no poles to hold it up, the person using the tent has to use their own head, legs and arms to hold it up. 

Plus, it doesn’t seem to have a waterproof base, so you’re likely to get wet in case of rain. But despite its faults, the Walking Shelter idea shows great promise, and with a bit of work it might actually become usable.

And... if you wear them while you are swimming, you may come ashore later having netted yourself a seafood lunch...and good on you, mate!

See ya, eh!


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Japan's Robear: Strength of a robot, face of a bear

Well howdy! Glad you could fine a few minutes to drop in...out of cyberspace. What're you up to today? Got any big plans. Me? Nah...same old same old. Little of this, little of that and still working on my first million. Meanwhile, fill your mug and moosh a virtual megamuffin onto your plate while I tell you about the latest Japanese robot...

TOKYO - Forget the frightening androids of dystopian sci-fi, the future of robots is cute polar bears that can lift elderly people into and out of bed.

The "Robear" has a cub-like face with big doey eyes, but packs enough power to transfer frail patients from a wheelchair to a bed or a bath, Japan's Riken institute said Tuesday.

"The polar cub-like look is aimed at radiating an atmosphere of strength, geniality and cleanliness at the same time," research leader Toshiharu Mukai told AFP.

"We voted for this design among options presented by our designer. We hope to commercialise the robot in the not-too distant future," he added.

A historically low birth rate and ever-increasing life expectancy means Japan's population of elderly people is growing, while the pool of youngsters to look after them is shrinking.

A reluctance to accept large-scale immigration means an increasing reliance on robots, especially to perform physically difficult work.

This frequently combines with the country's love of all things cute, to produce machines with disarming faces and child-like voices.

"As Japan is aging with fewer children, the problem of a shortage in caregivers for the elderly is getting serious," Riken said in a statement.

"Expectations are high that robotics will help resolve this problem," it said.

 A very uplifting idea, if you ask me!

See ya, eh!


PS: If you like robots, here's one that could put some moola in your pocket. 


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Prevent – Even Reverse – Alzheimer's Disease

Well hi there! Thanks for stopping by today. You're looking good, I must say! Taking your vitamins are you? Eating lots of greens, too? Well wash it all down with a nice mug of coffee. Pick up a virtual treat as well, why don't'cha? Speaking of eating your greens, I got another email from my pal, Dr. Al and he says it is possible to prevent, maybe even reverse, Alzheimer's Disease. Wouldn't that be something, eh! Read on...
Dear Bob,

The specter of Alzheimer's disease is terrifying. Memory lapses are just the beginning. You gradually lose your ability to make judgments or learn new things. Eventually you can't take care of yourself or even recognize your spouse or children.

Alzheimer's steals your identity.

Most mainstream doctors will tell you that Alzheimer's is totally unpredictable and can strike anyone as they get older. But I don't agree. 

It is possible to prevent Alzheimer's. I see mounting evidence of it every day.

I'm not talking about using Big Pharma's drugs. They're designed only to slow down the progress of the disease. And they're not even very effective at that.   

I'm talking about real steps you can take today to minimize your risk. And there is very strong scientific data to back me up on this.

Here's what you can do…

1. Keep a trim figure. A recent British study found a strong link between obesity and dementia. In fact, people who were overweight in middle age had a 35% greater risk of dementia. Obese people had a staggering 74% increased risk.1

2. Eat more greens. A South Korea study found a direct link between a deficiency of folate (vitamin B9) and Alzheimer's. People who developed Alzheimer's had an "exaggerated" decline in their B9 levels. Overall, people with low folate had three times the risk of developing Alzheimer's or dementia.2 

Folate is abundant in leafy greens like kale, spinach, and turnip greens, as well as beans, peas, and certain fruits. You can also take a folic acid supplement. I recommend getting at least 800 mcg per day.

3.  Boost your brain antioxidants. A landmark study found that people who take antioxidants have only one-third the risk of Alzheimer's disease compared with those who don't.3

One very powerful brain antioxidant is acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC). Researchers tested it on people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer's. Just 1.5 to 3 grams of ALC per day significantly improved their brain function across the board after just three months.4

There is also one special brain food I recommend to my patients. It helped one man reverse his Alzheimer's in just 37 days. My colleague Dr. Frank Shallenberger explains everything you need to know about this powerful food in his report How to Reverse Alzheimer's Disease.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD

I'm already taking too many dang pills but maybe I'll add some L-Carnitine to the assortment. The ol' brain could use some additional stimulation...know what I mean?

See ya, eh!


1. Whitmer R, et al. "Obesity in middle age and future risk of dementia." BMJ, 2005: 330(7504):1360. 2. Kim JM et al, "Changes in folate, vitamin B12 and homocysteine associated with incident dementia." J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2008;79(8):864-8.
3. Flint Beal, M. "Oxidative Mechanisms, Inflammation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis." 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease. June 2005.
4. Montgomery et al. "Meta-analysis of double blind randomized controlled clinical trials of acetyl-L-carnitine versus placebo in the treatment of mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s disease." International Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2003. 18(2):61-71.