Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Flag Burning Amendment Fails to Pass
US Senate spent the day on this matter. Meantime
- The American Journal of Public Health reports more than 1,700 African Americans die each week because they don't have the same access to health care as other Americans.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 110 workers die each week in workplace fatalities - many of which could be prevented by better enforcement of basic workplace laws by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (which is being gutted by budget cuts).
- The Pentagon reports roughly 15 American soldiers die each week in Iraq.
- The Institute of Medicine reports 346 Americans die each week because they lack health insurance.
- The Environmental Working Group reports that 192 Americans die each week because of exposure to asbestos.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
We first became farmers 11,000 yrs ago
From the BBC, Ancient fig clue to first farming
Ancient figs found in an archaeological site in the Jordan Valley may represent one of the earliest forms of agriculture, scientists report.
The carbonised fruits date between 11,200 and 11,400 years old.
The US and Israeli researchers say the figs are a variety that could have only been grown with human intervention.
The team, writing in the journal Science, says the find marks the point when humans turned from hunting and gathering to food cultivation.
Neighboring galaxy has trillions of stars
From New Scientist, Andromeda galaxy hosts a trillion stars
Using about 3000 separate exposures, Pauline Barmby of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, US, and her team found that the spiral galaxy has about a trillion stars.
This measurement is the first census of Andromeda's stars in the infrared part of the spectrum and agrees with previous estimates of the stars' combined mass.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Possible life out there? Carbon 63 light-years from us
From , physorg.com
Astronomers detected unusually high quantities of carbon, the basis of all terrestrial life, in an infant solar system around nearby star Beta Pictoris, 63 light-years away.
The new research was made possible by FUSE--NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer--and data from the Hubble Space Telescope's imaging spectrograph. Beta Pictoris is almost twice the mass of our Sun and between 8 and 20 million years old. Previous studies indicated that the gas around the star had a composition of elements very similar to that in our own solar system. The new measurements mark the "most complete inventory of gas in any debris disk," and may radically change the picture.
The surprisingly carbon-rich gas points in two possible directions. The asteroids and comets orbiting Beta Pictoris might contain large amounts of carbon-rich material like graphite and methane. Planets that formed out of such bodies would be very different from those in the solar system, and might have methane-rich atmospheres, like Titan, a moon of Saturn. Or the Beta Pictoris asteroids and comets might be just like the ones in our solar system when they were young. At that time, they might have contained much more organic material than asteroids and comets appear to today. If so, more of the building blocks of life were delivered to the early Earth than was previously thought.
Where life on earth began
From the AP, Fossils point to oldest life on Earth
The best evidence yet for the oldest life on Earth is found in odd-shaped, rock-like mounds in Australia that are actually fossils created by microbes 3.4 billion years ago, researchers report.
"It's an ancestor of life. If you think that all life arose on this one planet, perhaps this is where it started," said Abigail Allwood, a researcher at the Australian Centre for Astrobiology and lead author of the new study. It appears Thursday in the journal Nature.
The strange geologic structures - which range from smaller than a fingernail to taller than a man - are exactly the type of early life astrobiologists are looking for on Mars and elsewhere.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Slow Bob in the Lower Dimensions
Life as a White House reporter
From the NYTimes, The White House Without a Filter
MY first day on the White House beat was Sept. 10, 2001. By Sept. 14, I was on Air Force One with fighter jet escorts, heading to New York, where we descended into the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center and the beginning of one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.
Nearly five years later, I am leaving an assignment that assured I was rarely the envy of anyone, including my own bosses. Not long ago, one senior editor at the paper cheerily told me that he could not stand to cover the beat for a single day.