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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African Deserts Retreating

The southern Saharan desert is in retreat, making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa.

A separate analysis of satellite images completed this summer reveals that dunes are retreating right across the Sahel region on the southern edge of the Sahara desert. Vegetation is ousting sand across a swathe of land stretching from Mauritania on the shores of the Atlantic to Eritrea 6000 kilometres away on the Red Sea coast.

Nor is it just a short-term trend. Analysts say the gradual greening has been happening since the mid-1980s, though has gone largely unnoticed. Only now is the evidence being pieced together.

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Mouse Astronauts Set to Alter Gravity

The Mars Gravity Biosatellite is an unmatched international effort that pools top-notch technical talent from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, the University of Washington in Seattle, and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

The plan is to build a spacecraft capable of housing a small crew of mice. Hurled into low Earth orbit, this troop of “right stuff” rodents will live aboard the spinning satellite – a specially designed craft that creates artificial gravity identical to the true gravity field found on Mars.

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Weather Forecasts in Outer Space

Predicting magnetic storms or an aurora borealis may become as common as weekend weather forecasts, a group of US scientists announced on Tuesday.

The National Science Foundation named Boston University the home of the new Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling to study the effects of solar flares, magnetic storms and other invisible influences on Earth’s
atmosphere with a budget of 20 million dollars over the next five years.

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Doctors Create Out-of-Body Experience

Doctors say they have triggered out-of-body experiences in a female patient by stimulating her brain.

They believe their work may help to explain mysterious incidents when people report experiences of ‘leaving’ their body and watching it from above.

The doctors did not set out to achieve the effect – they were actually treating the women for epilepsy.
Neurologist Professor Olaf Blanke and colleagues at Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland were using electrodes to stimulate the brain.

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Dropping Cars from the Sky

Autoweek has this article about a group of guys in Arizona who will drop your car out of a cargo jet for $15k. Parachutes for the car are optional. Their ultimate goal is to drop a Greyhound with forty people inside.

They do this in the name of gaining experience in “skydriving.” Already these guys have plunged eight Honda Civics to 60-second final drives. “There’s no real science to it—it’s hit or miss,” says skydiver/skydriver Greg Gasson, who has been on U.S. and world championship skydiving teams. More photos here.
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Vacation Home that Stores in Your Garage

Most people pack up the summer house come fall, but designer Michael Jantzen foresees a time when they’ll pack it away instead. Jantzen’s concept Hide Away House, made predominantly of fabric, folds up for storage. Yet it features all the comforts of home, including hot water, electricity, a bathroom, and heat. During the off-season, hard shells store the water-gathering devices, solar panels, sewage treatment tanks, and other off-the-grid necessities, as well as the fabric walls and ceilings. Everything fits into the back of a pickup truck.

Jantzen is working with Advanced Structures of Marina del Rey, California, to make his Hide Away house a reality. There are no firm plans for production.

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Flexible Sub Propels Itself Like a Fish

Texas A&M’s prototype unmanned underwater vehicle, being developed for the U.S. Navy, propels itself by wiggling like a fish. Metal muscles made of alloys that remember shapes are connected to evenly spaced vertebrae and shrink and expand as much as 8 percent as they’re alternately heated and cooled, causing the 3-foot sub’s sectioned hull to bend and flex. The result: No ripple evidence on the surface of the sub’s presence, making it much quieter than today’s vessels. A production version of the sub, at least three years off, could be as long as 13 feet and would be used for underwater reconnaissance (such as explosives detection) or exploration (ocean mapping). Popular Science article here.

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Smart Space Robots in Development at NASA

“During the next decade,” says NASA Ames roboticist Liam Pedersen, “there’s not likely to be a human presence much beyond Earth orbit.”

That comes as no shock, given NASA’s recent focus on smaller, better and cheaper space missions. But the extent to which NASA has invested in intelligent robots might surprise a public more familiar with remote-controlled robots such as Sojourner and Canadarm2.

“Transmitting detailed instructions to essentially dumb robots is grossly inefficient and expensive— especially when there’s lots to do,” says Pedersen.

Instead, NASA is looking to robots with at least the intelligence of small animals — robots that distinguish objects in their environment based on sensory input, recognize threats, know how things behave, achieve goals independently and understand their physical limitations.
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Bon Jovi Tries Novel Approach To Fight Piracy

80s-era rock band Bon Jovi is taking a novel approach to fighting piracy of their upcoming album, Bounce. Retail CDs will be distributed with a unique serial number with which the purchaser can register in order to receive such exclusives as prioritized concert ticket purchases and unreleased music.

Finally, somebody in the entertainment industry is attempting to adapt to the changing market rather than rushing to protect an outdated business model. It is nice to see a fresh approach.
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