Supersonic Test Plane uses ‘Wing Warping’

Nearly 100 years after the Wright brothers’ first heavier-than-air powered flight, the US Air Force is testing an experimental plane that uses “wing warping”, the steering and control technique that kept Orville Wright aloft in 1903. But this time round, it will be at supersonic speeds.

Unlike conventional aircraft wings, which use movable surfaces like flaps and ailerons for control, wing warping bends the entire wing. The USAF calls it “active aeroelastic wing” technology, and is investing $41 million in the project in the hope that it will lead to lighter, more manoeuvrable supersonic planes.

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US Tightens Leash on ICANN

Saying its progress over the four years since its inception has been “disappointing”, the US Department of Commerce nevertheless has renewed the powers of the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers, which coordinates the internet’s addressing systems, Kevin Murphy writes.

But the one-year renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding that gives ICANN its powers and responsibilities reins in the California non-profit. The DoC is to oversee ICANN more closely, and has made it clear in one case that if a task is not completed on time, ICANN’s future will be in jeopardy. More here.

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Female Circumcision Does Not Reduce Sexual Desire

Female circumcision does not reduce sexual desire, Nigerian scientists said on Tuesday in a study that may debunk one reason often used to justify the practice decried by Western doctors as painful and dangerous.

Female circumcision, also called female genital mutilation (FGM), is mostly performed in African and Middle Eastern countries to ensure chastity or enhance beauty.

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92 Year Old Woman Gets 30-Year Mortgage

A 92-year-old Australian woman has become the nation’s oldest first-time home buyer after securing a housing loan she does not have to pay off for another 30 years.

Her local financial institution is banking on the mother-of-five living to 122 under the terms of the loan.

Margaret Cole, who grew up in a poor coal-mining town in Wales, Britain, decided concerns among the nation’s traditionally risk averse banks about her age would not stop her embracing the “great Australian dream” of home ownership.

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Report: Broadband Too Expensive For Many

This AP article, citing a study from the U.S. Commerce Department, reports that “Almost all U.S. families live in areas where a high-speed Internet connection is available, but many see no compelling reason to pay extra for it.”

The article mentions a survey that found that “more than 70 percent of dial-up users cited cost as the main reason they aren’t upgrading to faster access.” It’s much like digital cable – the cable networks ratch up the price for…music channels? But broadband is a chicken – egg problem. You won’t get people signing up until they see a reason, and you won’t get compelling reasons until more people have signed up.
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Hieroglyphs Reveal Maya Show-Down

Newly discovered hieroglyphs in Guatemala tell of a showdown between two Maya superpowers that may have led to the civilization’s collapse, US archeologists have said.

A hurricane that swept through northern Guatemala in mid-2001 uncovered hieroglyphs written into 18 steps at the foot of a pyramid — the longest Maya text ever found, said researchers who made the discovery public Thursday.

The hieroglyphs at Dos Pilas, in rainforest in northeast Guatemala where the battle was fought, “fill in a vital 60-year gap of unknown Maya history,” according to Federico Fahsen, a researcher from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

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New Alexandria Library to Open

Shrugging off fears that tension with Iraq could cause another delay, officials are forging ahead with plans for the October opening of the new Alexandria Library, a Phoenix rising from the ashes of the ancient one.

“Preparations continue, and we have just negotiated television broadcast rights for the inauguration” with a European network, according to Frenchman Jean-Marie Compte, advisor for the library’s director Ismail Serageddin.

He did not name the network.

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Zoo Shark Credited with ‘Virgin Births’

A shark held with no male counterpart at Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium for the past six years has produced three babies in what zoo officials are calling “virgin births.”

The first two offspring hatched in July and the third was born earlier this week, Doug Sweet, curator of fishes at the aquarium, said in an interview on Friday.

The female trio and their two-feet-long mother, a white spotted bamboo shark common to waters in the South Pacific, are all doing well and a fourth offspring is expected in another couple of weeks

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Married Couples Share Same Diseases

Married couples share more than their homes, cars and finances — they are also likely to have some of the same diseases, experts say.

If a spouse suffers from asthma, depression, peptic ulcers, high blood pressure or raised cholesterol levels, the chances are their partner will be afflicted with the same illness.

Research indicates partners of people with specific diseases are at increased risk of the disease themselves — at least 70 percent increased risk for asthma, depression and peptic ulcer disease.
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Powerful New Cryptographic Key Impossible to Duplicate

Current cryptographic systems use mathematics to generate the numerical “keys” that lock up the protected data. These are produced using “one-way functions”, formulas that take simple secret data and generate long keys. The trick is that it is extremely hard to reverse the process and work back to the secret data when given only the key.

Now researchers at MIT Media Lab’s Center for Bits and Atoms have shown it is possible to use a physical object instead of a mathematical function to generate keys. The trick here is that the object is currently impossible to duplicate.

The team created tokens containing hundreds of glass beads, each a few hundred micrometres in diameter, set in a block of epoxy one centimetre square and 2.5 mm thick. These are “read” by shining a laser beam of a particular wavelength through the token.

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Earth’s Magnetic Field ‘Boosts Gravity’

Newton’s constant, which describes the strength of the gravitational pull that bodies exert on each other, is the most poorly determined of the constants of nature. The two most accurate measurements have experimental errors of 1 part in 10,000, yet their values differ by 10 times that amount. So physicists are left with no idea of its absolute value.

Now Jean-Paul Mbelek and Marc Lachieze-Ray of the French Atomic Energy Commission near Paris say they can resolve the contradiction by taking into account the location of the labs where the experiments were carried out.

The pair suggest that electromagnetism and gravity influence one another enough for gravity’s pull to be noticeably affected by the Earth’s magnetic field.

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