Monthly Archives: January 2012

Is Global Warming To Blame?

Pine Island Glacier

In mid-October 2011, NASA scientists working in Antarctica discovered a massive crack across the Pine Island Glacier, a major ice stream that drains the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Extending for 19 miles (30 kilometers), the crack was 260 feet (80 meters) wide and 195 feet (60 meters) deep. Eventually, the crack will extend all the way across the glacier, and calve a giant iceberg that will cover about 350 square miles (900 square kilometers). This image from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NAS’s Terra spacecraft was acquired Nov. 13, 2011, and covers an area of 27 by 32 miles (44 by 52 kilometers), and is located near 74.9 degrees south latitude, 101.1 degrees west longitude.

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team


Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Earth Changes, Global Warming, NASA, Photo, Science


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Darkness No More

How strange I felt looking upon this nighttime photo and seeing just how bright our city lights are. It is no wonder that we cannot see the beauty of the night anymore. It is something I love about living in the country, to just look up and see an infinite amount of stars and just wonder what it would be like to visit those distant places and make friends with those other life-forms. Gotta be optimistic here as I wouldn’t want to visit a distant worlds and become a mid-day snack.But I was also struck at the rare glimpse of earth with a darkened horizon, most photos always show us as a blue orb and we rarely see how beautifully twisted we look at night.

Western Europe at Night

With hardware from the Earth-orbiting International Space Station appearing in the near foreground, a night time European panorama reveals city lights from Belgium and the Netherlands at bottom center. the British Isles partially obscured by solar array panels at left, the North Sea at left center, and Scandinavia at right center beneath the end effector of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2. This image was taken by the station crew on Jan. 22, 2012.

Image Credit: NASA


Posted by on January 30, 2012 in NASA, Photo, Science, Space


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The Eagle Nebula

Combining almost opposite ends of the electromagnetic spectrum, this composite of the Herschel in far-infrared and XMM-Newton’s X-ray images shows how the hot young stars detected by the X-ray observations are sculpting and interacting with the surrounding ultra-cool gas and dust, which, at only a few degrees above absolute zero, is the critical material for star formation itself. Both wavelengths would be blocked by Earth’s atmosphere, so are critical to our understanding of the lifecycle of stars

Image Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/SPIRE/Hill, Motte, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium


Posted by on January 18, 2012 in NASA, Photo, Science, Space


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Eyes of a Dog

Sit a dog in front of a television screen, and it may not always look intently at what it sees. But show a person on that screen who looks directly at the dog and says “hello,” and the canine will pay attention. In fact, a new study shows that a dog will go so far as to follow the gaze of the human on screen when he or she looks to one side or the other—something not even chimps can do.

Researchers already knew that dogs were attuned to human communication signals. In addition to their obvious facility at learning commands, dogs, like young children, can signal where a human puts an object if the human feigns ignorance, even if it’s been moved, and they follow the direction of our finger when we point at things, a task chimps fail at. But are dogs capable of following more subtle cues, such as our shifting gaze?

To find out, cognitive scientist Ernő Téglás of the Central European University in Budapest adapted a technique that had previously been used only on children. In one example of the test, a child watches a woman on a video screen who has toys on either side of her. The woman then either looks straight toward the camera and says “hello” in a high-pitched voice known to engage children or looks downward and says “hello” in a more dull, low-pitched voice. Then the person looks to the toy on one side or the other for 5 seconds. Whether a child also looks at the toy on the same side is recorded. To modify this experiment for dogs, Téglás substituted empty plastic pots for the children’s toys and had a stranger on the screen say “hi, dog!” in one of the two intonations while looking at the camera or downward. As each dog watches the video, a specially programmed camera below the television screen follows, and records, the dog’s eye movements.

Téglás and his colleagues used 22 dogs of different breeds for the study. They found that the canines always looked at the person on the video for the same amount of time. But when the person initially directed his or her attention at the dog and spoke in a high-pitched voice, the dog looked at the same pot as the person 69% of the time. When the person avoided eye contact and spoke in a low voice, the dog didn’t look at one pot more often than the other.

The results, published today in Current Biology, were almost identical to those seen in 6-month-old human infants. “We were surprised by the high similarity of the performances,” Téglás says. “Dogs are receptive to these cues in a way that is very similar to infants.”

The precision of the eye-tracking device will allow scientists to develop a new generation of tests on how dogs interact with humans, says Juliane Kaminski, a developmental psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who was involved in earlier studies on how dogs interpret finger pointing. “It opens many new opportunities.”

Now that the scientists have shown that the test works on dogs, they plan to separate the two factors—eye contact and tone of voice—to test each one’s effect on the dog’s attention, Téglás says. They also can compare different dog breeds with each other. This may help answer the question of how dogs’ skills at interpreting human communication have evolved.

“Dog skills with human communication seem to be a special adaptation to live with humans and the result of certain selection pressures during domestication,” Kaminski says. If this is true, researchers would expect dog breeds that have been domesticated the longest to perform best at tests such as gaze following. But don’t plan on being able to compare your dog with all the other neighborhood canines—dogs likely interpret the cues from their owner differently than those from a stranger.

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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in News Article, Science


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