Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Most Habitable Zone' on Mars Revealed

Descending onto Mars on May 25, 2008, Phoenix was designed to study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil. It did not pack instruments designed to find life. To date, there is no firm evidence that Mars ever hosted biology.
But researchers say the landing site has or had the ingredients necessary to support life as we know it.
Recently, scientists revealed controversial evidence of liquid water at the landing site. Water is a key to life.
Now four papers are under review for scientific publication on four major discoveries from the mission, said Peter Smith, the Phoenix mission's principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Smith and other Phoenix scientists provided a review of what the spacecraft uncovered on the red planet at last week's 40th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held here.
Microbial metabolism

Carol Stoker of NASA's Ames Research Center — and a Phoenix science team co-investigator — noted that one goal of the Phoenix sampling at its Northern Plains landing site was to determine whether this environment may have been habitable for life at some time in its history.
Stoker said given our current understanding of life, the potential for habitability in a specific time and space takes in three factors: the presence of liquid water; the presence of a biologically available energy source; and the presence of the chemical building blocks of life in a biologically available form. In addition to these factors, temperature and water activity must be high enough to support growth.
A major Phoenix find in its digging into and gulping quantities of Martian soil was identifying perchlorate salt at its landing locale. Perchlorate and chlorate are compounds used for microbial metabolism — energy sources relied on by numerous species of microbes here on Earth, Stoker said.
Stoker rolled out at the meeting a "habitability index" — an approach akin to the Drake equation to evaluate the probability of life in the universe.
As a general conclusion, Stoker valued the Phoenix landing site as having a higher potential for life detection than any site previously visited on Mars. Moreover, the icy material that was sampled might periodically be capable of sustaining modern biological activity.
Delving into the Phoenix data, while admittedly still a work in progress, Stoker said it provides key information about the potential habitability of a red planet environment ...and the data suggest that habitable conditions have occurred in modern times. That belief, she said, cries out for rovers and the ability to drill down into Mars.
"What you see is that Phoenix comes down as a clear winner — a much, much higher habitability index than any of the other sites," Stoker told conference attendees. "The Phoenix landing site is the most habitable zone of any location we have ever visited on Mars."

Crucial factors

Phoenix results have shown that no chemicals detrimental to all microbe life were found at its landing spot, said Tufts University researcher Suzanne Young, one on a team scientist working with the output from Phoenix's wet chemistry laboratory — part of the suite of tools called the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA for short.
Several, but not all, of the crucial factors for bio-habitability were found by the Mars lander's wet chemistry laboratory. Some factors could not be measured by the Phoenix, Young explained. The data of the full Phoenix mission points to no true negative, she said, so further missions would be necessary to complete the picture of habitability, and possibly life, on Mars.
"We have lots of microbes out there that can do things...eat rock and release from it stuff that they need" — a process, Young added, that creates a viable energy system for other microbes.
The environment at the Phoenix site was pretty gentle, Young said. "We didn't find anything excessively toxic that's going to do bad things."
In terms of a habitability checklist, "we've got bunches of checkmarks in really good places," Young explained. "I think Phoenix really did expand the possibility for serious consideration of looking for past and maybe even present life on mars ...but it's still a work in progress," she said.

Need to go back

As the craft's available solar power declined with the approaching Martian winter, the mission was declared finished — maybe, anyway — Nov. 2 when Earth controllers were unable to re-contact the robot.
"We will try to get it back in October but the chances are poor," Smith said. "However, it is known as the Phoenix mission and we do have a chance. We may be back," he added.
Young agreed that a repeat landing by a spacecraft near the northern polar region is warranted.
"There are things we couldn't do. There are things we didn't do," she said. "There are things that serendipity could have delivered to us and didn't. But we have not found any impossibilities...we've not found anything that's a no. And we have added a lot to the possibility — and so more missions are needed. We need to go deeper...we need to go back."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Funny Pics

Elephant Calf

Car Accident

Unbelievable People Medical Conditions

The Woman Who is Allergic to Modern Technology
For most people talking on a mobile phone, cooking dinner in the microwave or driving in a car is simply part of modern living in 21st century Britain. But completing any such tasks is impossible for Debbie Bird - because she is allergic to Cell Phones and Microwaves.The 39-year-old is so sensitive to the electromagnetic field (emf) or 'smog' created by computers, mobile phones, microwave ovens and even some cars, that she develops a painful skin rash and her eyelids swell to three times their size if she goes near them. As a consequence, Mrs Bird, a health spa manager, has transformed her home into an EMF-free zone to try and stay healthy. 'I can no longer do things that I used to take for granted,' Mrs Bird said. "My day-to-day life has been seriously affected by EMF"..

The Musician Who Can't Stop Hiccupping
Chris Sands, 24, from Lincoln, hiccups as often as every two seconds - and sometimes even when he is asleep. He has tried a variety of cures, including hypnosis and yoga, but nothing has worked. Mr Sands thinks his problem stems from an acid reflux condition caused by a damaged valve in his stomach. "If the acid levels are severe enough they are going to do keyhole surgery and grab part of my stomach and wrap it around the valve to tighten it," he said.Mr Sands, who is a backing singer in the group Ebullient, said the condition has hampered his career as he has only been able to perform four times. In the next couple of weeks --as of the day of the report--, doctors at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre will put a tube into his stomach to monitor acid levels and decide if keyhole surgery is possible.

The Girl Who Eats Only Tic Tacs
Natalie Cooper, a 17-year-old teenager who has a mystery illness that makes her sick every time she eats anything. Well, almost anything. She can eat one thing that doesn't make her sick: Tic tac mint!For reasons that doctors are unable to explain, Tic tacs are the only thing she can stomach, meaning she has to get the rest of her sustenance from a specially formulated feed through a tube.

The Woman Who Can't Forget
That's the story of AJ, an extraordinary 40-year-old married woman who remembers everything.McGaugh and fellow UCI researchers Larry Cahill and Elizabeth Parker have been studying the extraordinary case of a person who has "nonstop, uncontrollable and automatic" memory of her personal history and countless public events. If you randomly pick a date from the past 25 years and ask her about it, she'll usually provide elaborate, verifiable details about what happened to her that day and if there were any significant news events on topics that interested her. She usually also recalls what day of the week it was and what the weather was like.The 40-year-old woman, who was given the code name AJ to protect her privacy, is so unusual that UCI coined a name for her condition in a recent issue of the journal Neurocase: hyperthymestic syndrome.

The Girl Who is Allergic to Water

Teenager Ashleigh Morris can't go swimming, soak in a hot bath or enjoy a shower after a stressful day's work - she's allergic to water. Even sweating brings the 19-year-old out in a painful rash.Ashleigh, from Melbourne, Australia, is allergic to water of any temperature, a condition she's lived with since she was 14. She suffers from an extremely rare skin disorder called Aquagenic Urticaria - so unusual that only a handful of cases are documented worldwide.
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep: stayed awake 24 hours a day for years
Rhett Lamb is often cranky like any other 3-year-old toddler, but there's one thing that makes him completely different: he has a rare medical condition in which he can't sleep a wink.Rhett is awake nearly 24 hours a day, and his condition has baffled his parents and doctors for years. They took clock shifts watching his every sleep-deprived mood to determine what ailed the young boy.After a number of conflicting opinions, Shannon and David Lamb finally learned what was wrong with their child: Doctors diagnosed Rhett with an extremely rare condition called chiari malformation."The brain literally is squeezed into the spinal column. What happens is you get compression, squeezing, strangulating of the brain stem, which has all the vital functions that control sleep, speech, our cranial nerves, our circulatory system, even our breathing system," Savard said.

The Man Who Doesn't Feel Cold
Dutchman Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman, is the man that swam under ice, and stood in bins filled with ice. He climbed the Mt. Blanc in shorts in the icy cold, harvested world records and always stands for new challenges.Scientists can't really explain it, but the 48-year-old Dutchman is able to withstand, and even thrive, in temperatures that could be fatal to the average person.

The Man Who Can't Get Fat
Mr Perry, 59, can eat whatever he likes - including unlimited pies, burgers and desserts - and never get fat. He cannot put on weight because of a condition called lipodystrophy that makes his body rapidly burn fat.He used to be a chubby child, but at age 12 the fat dropped off "almost over night". He initially tried to eat more to gain weight, but it had no effect. Mr Perry, of Ilford in Essex, endured a decade of tests before the illness was diagnosed. It finally emerged that his body produces six times the normal level of insulin. Doctors have admitted that the condition would be a "slimmer's dream".

The Girl That Collapses Every Time She Laughs
Kay Underwood, 20, has cataplexy, which means that almost any sort of strong emotion triggers a dramatic weakening of her muscles. Exhilaration, anger, fear, surprise, awe and even embarrassment can also cause sufferers to suddenly collapse on the spot.Kay, of Barrow-upon-Soar, Leicestershire (UK), who was diagnosed with the condition five years ago, once collapsed more than 40 times in a single day. She said: "People find it very odd when it happens, and it isn't always easy to cope with strangers' reactions. "Like most cataplexy sufferers, Ms Underwood is also battling narcolepsy - a condition that makes her drop off to sleep without warning. Narcolepsy affects around 30,000 people in the UK and about 70 per cent of them also have cataplexy.

USA Best Places for Business and Careers

Raleigh, N.C., and its fellow Tar Heel metros shine in our annual look at America's largest cities.

The economy shed 651,000 jobs in February and 4.4 million since the recession began in December 2007. Only a handful of metro areas have escaped falling employment over the past three months. Yet there are still some places out there that remain attractive to businesses.
Our 11th annual ranking of the Best Places for Business and Careers features clear winners in North Carolina and Colorado, home to a combined 10 of the 20 top metro areas.
Leading the way is Raleigh, N.C., which grabbed the top spot for a third straight year on the strength of strong job growth (both past and projected), low business costs and a highly educated workforce.

Employment is expected to fall during 2009 in Raleigh after jobs were added at a 4% annual clip the past five years. But the job picture is expected to brighten in 2010 and 2011, and the three-year projected annual employment gain is 1.4%. according to Moody's Economy.com, 15th best in the country.
Helping fuel Raleigh's strong economy is the Research Triangle Park, one of the oldest and largest science parks in North America. It is located between Raleigh and Durham and is home to 170 companies employing 42,000 people. Big employers include Biogen Idec, Cisco Systems and IBM.
"Raleigh is holding up better than any other place in North Carolina," says Matthew Martin, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va. He cites the significant higher education presence and low manufacturing base in the area for Raleigh's steady economy.
Keeping Raleigh company at the top are fellow Tar Heel State metros Durham (ranked third), Asheville (sixth), Wilmington (13th), Winston-Salem (18th) and Charlotte (19th).
Our rankings looked at the 200 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., which range from the New York metro and its 11.7 million people to Olympia, Wash., with a population of 241,000. We examined each on 11 different criteria. Economic research firm Moody's Economy.com supplied data on job growth over the past five years and projections through 2011. Economy.com also provided business and living cost data as well as income growth and migration trends.
We also turned to Bert T. Sperling, city researcher and co-author of Cities Ranked & Rated for some labor supply and quality of life information. Sperling furnished data on college attainment, crime rates, local colleges and cultural and recreational opportunities in the area.
In a nod to the current economic climate, we added two new categories this year: projected job growth and subprime mortgages as a percentage of total originations over a three-year period. This change helped boost several metros in the rankings, most notably Austin, Texas, which ranked eighth this year, up from 47th last year. Austin's projected annual job growth rate of 2.3% is fifth fastest in the country, and its subprime mortgage exposure clocked in at 13th.
The city has a fan in the Charles Schwab Corporation. "The city of Austin is extremely business-friendly. They have bent over backwards to accommodate us," says Glenn Cooper, head of real estate at Schwab, which expanded its Austin presence in 2007 when it purchased the 401(k) Co. Cooper highlights the political environment, culture and cost of living as draws for Schwab to Austin.
Bringing up the rear of our rankings are the troubled spots in California. The Golden State had its worst showing ever in our tally. It is home to six of the seven lowest-rated spots, and Riverside was the only one of its 21 metro areas (among the country's 200 biggest) that cracked the top 100. Most California metros are burdened with sky-high living and business costs, and the job outlook is week. The unemployment rate in 199th-ranked Merced, Calif., is expected to hit 21% in 2010.
The current recession is too deep and widespread for even our best-rated cities to escape damage. Yet when things do turn around, expect many places ranked at the top to be at the head of the pack, notes Marisa Di Natale, an economist at Economy.com.
"Austin, Boulder [Colo.], Fort Collins [Colo.] and to a lesser extent Raleigh all have a lot of high-tech investment," she says. "We think that is one of the first things that comes back once the economy does recover."

Top 5 Best Places

1. Raleigh,

NCMetro Area Population: 1,086,000

2. Fort Collins,

COMetro Area Population: 292,000

3. Durham,

NCMetro Area Population: 487,000

4. Fayetteville,

ARMetro Area Population: 442,000

5. Lincoln,

NEMetro Area Population: 296,000