NASA says we might all be aliens

By Mike Wehner, Tecca | Today in Tech – Wed, Aug 10, 2011

The building blocks of life may have been delivered to Earth well after its creation

Whether or not you believe in life outside of our solar system, the fact that we are all here means that the stuff we’re made of must have come from somewhere. After studying meteorites and discovering ready-made components of DNA present, NASA has concluded that the building blocks of life as we know it may have crashed down on Earth from above.

Researchers at the Goddard Space Flight Center discovered portions of DNA on chunks of crashed space rock in both Antarctica and Australia. The extraterrestrial visitors contained various types of nucleobases, which are thought to be essential in the creation of DNA, and life in general. The scientists were able to isolate the compounds and prove that they weren’t created here on Earth. This was particularly important, as critics often cite contamination as the reason for these compounds appearing on meteorites that have been studied in the past.

The team also concluded that certain space rocks — depending on their makeup and speed — work like manufacturing facilities for these biological precursors. The implications of the discovery are far-reaching, and suggest that humanity may owe its existence to a well-placed meteorite in the early days of the Earth, and that without it the planet might be a rocky, watery wasteland

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Dolphin and dog – True Friendship

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Firefox 8 Arrives with Twitter Search Integration

PC World

By Gregg Keizer, Computerworld    Nov 9, 2011 7:46 pm

Mozilla on Tuesday released Firefox 8, adding Twitter search to the browser and patching eight vulnerabilities.

Since Mozilla kicked off its every-six-week upgrade cycle last summer, each new Firefox has had relatively few visible changes. That held true yesterday.

Firefox 8’s most notable addition was Twitter as a choice in Firefox’s search bar, letting users look up topics, hashtags and usernames on the micro-blogging service. Twitter search is currently available only in the English, Japanese, Portuguese and Slovenian editions of Firefox.

Mozilla also made good on a promise last August to automatically disable add-ons installed without user approval. Behind-the-back add-ons have cropped up at times, most recently in January when one bundled with Skype caused so many browser crashes that Mozilla blacklisted it. When users start Firefox 8, all add-ons that have been surreptitiously installed are turned off by default.

Other changes and enhancements to Firefox 8 included on-demand tab loading at startup for faster restored sessions, and developer support for additional features of the hardware-accelerated 3D graphics standard, WebGL.

As part of Tuesday’s upgrade, Mozilla also fixed eight vulnerabilities, five of them rated “critical,” the most-serious ranking in Mozilla’s threat scoring system. The remaining three bugs were labeled “high,” the next-most-serious rating.

One of the patches was for a data theft bug originally fixed in August when Mozilla launched Firefox 6, but which was reintroduced in Firefox 7 after developers launched a new Windows graphics acceleration framework, dubbed “Azure,” in the September upgrade.

Mozilla blamed a Mac-only vulnerability on Apple and Intel, saying that the flaw could let attackers sniff out secrets by monitoring a Mac’s graphics processor.

“This problem is due to a bug in the driver for Intel integrated GPUs [graphics processing units] on recent Mac OS X hardware,” said Mozilla in the accompanying advisory .

Mozilla yesterday also released Firefox 3.6.24, a security update that patched three vulnerabilities. The aging edition — Mozilla shipped Firefox 3.6 in January 2010 — is still supported, in large part because enterprise users have resisted the company’s rapid release tempo.

But the end is in sight for Firefox 3.6, as Mozilla has now rescheduled an upgrade offer originally slated for last month that was canceled at the last minute. The pitch, which will urge users to upgrade to Firefox 8, will now appear Nov. 17.

According to plans previously outlined by Mozilla, the company intends to stop patching Firefox 3.6 three months after it offers users the upgrade opportunity.

As of last month, Firefox 3.6 was still the preferred browser of approximately one-fourth of all Mozilla users.

Windows, Mac and Linux editions of Firefox 8 can be downloaded manually from Mozilla’s site, while people running Firefox 4 or later will be offered the upgrade through the browser’s own update mechanism.

The next version of Firefox is currently scheduled for release Dec. 20.

New Tech Can Reduce Battery Charging Time to Mere Seconds

PC World

A nanotube structure, Credit: Geoff Hutchison (Flickr)

Waiting for batteries to recharge sucks, but thanks to a recent breakthrough in nanotechnology, someday youy may not have to wait for more than a few minutes.

Developed by a team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, the new technology could allow batteries to be charged to half of their full capacity in less than 30 seconds, as compared to the hours it takes for many devices to recharge. And through the use of titanium dioxide nanotubes, the battery’s operational capacity gradually increases over time.

But how does this work? As it turns out, the group, led by nanoscientist Tijana Rajh and battery expert Christopher Johnson, discovered that these titanium dioxide nanotubes can “switch their phase as the battery is cycled“. What this means is that the structures orient themselves to improve the way that energy flows through them. In the video below, you can see the structure “evolve” or become less random to improve efficiency.

In the past, the US Department of Energy and other groups have done related research with nanotubes and graphene due to their unique physical and electrochemical properties. In 2010, The U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory made a unique discovery involving graphene that could allow batteries to charge in a matter of minues.

However, unlike the graphene research where the graphene remains stationary, Argonne’s nanotubes are actually capable of self-orienting.

Argonne notes that there is some level of plasticity to the system that allows the structures to move about and therefore improve their own performance. In other words, this new technology is a significant breakthrough because it’s a self-improving structure.

According to an Argonne chemist, Jeff Chamberlain, this is a highly unusual behavior for a material. As Chamberlain says in the press release, “We’re seeing some nanoscale phase transitions that are very interesting from a scientific standpoint, and it is the deeper understanding of these materials’ behaviors that will unlock mysteries of materials that are used in electrical energy storage systems.”

So far, Argonne has done a number of tests with the titanium dioxide nanotubes and lithium-ion battery technology that show that the nanotubes not only improve the speed at which the batteries charge, but they also improves the reliability and safety of the batteries.

The new technology might also be used for sodium-ion batteries in the time to come; one researcher, Sanja Tepavcevic, has already adopted the technology to make a sodium-ion nanobattery. Someday this technology may reach your laptops, smartphones, and other electronic device,s giving you more time to do what you want without forcing you to stand next to an outlet.

[Argonne National Laboratory via Engadget / Image: Geoff Hutchison on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)]

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