Study Uncovers Cause of Flu Epidemics

Vaccine

Penn State University has published some high level findings out of their Biology department related to infectious disease dynamics.

According to biologists, the exchange of genetic material between two closely related strains of the influenza A virus may have caused the 1947 and 1951 human flu epidemics. This understanding could help explain why some strains cause major pandemics and others lead to seasonal epidemics.

Until now, it was believed that while human influenza viruses swap genes with influenza viruses that infect birds and causes severe pandemics, such as the ‘Spanish’ flu of 1918, the ‘Asian’ flu of 1957, and the ‘Hong Kong’ flu of 1968, viral mutation leads to regular influenza epidemics. But it has been a mystery why there are sometimes very severe epidemics – like the ones in 1947 and 1951 – that look and act like pandemics, even though no human-bird viral cross-species event occurred.

From reading this paper I’m not coming away with any better level of confidence that we’ll have a solid vaccine any time soon because they still warn that there’s lots more work ahead to stay abreast of multiple strains co-circulating and exchanging genetic material.

It’s almost as if the answer is to blast all known viruses simultaneously then start hunting down the few strains remaining, trying to keep up with them as they mutate and render yesterday’s vaccine useless.

New Zealand Teen Masterminded Huge Botnet

The world has been reminded that the era of the teen hacker is far from dead, with the arrest of an 18 year-old for allegedly masterminding a large botnetting operation that is responsible for up to $20 million in losses.

Stats:

  • 1.3 million infected PCs
  • Stock trades manipulated
  • Passwords stolen
  • Jackass Teen facing 10 years in prison

Techworld has the complete story

140 Year Old Math Problem Solved

The Perfessor

Look, i’m going to be honest here. It’s late, i just ran across this press release, I’m too tired to interpret it for you other than to say it’s regarding complex analysis to transform a plane to a polygon and it’s apparently kicked everyone’s arse since the 19th century.

I’ll try harder next time.  Scout’s honor :)

Press Release [Found via EurekAlert]:

Academic makes key additions to the Schwarz-Christoffel formula

A problem which has defeated mathematicians for almost 140 years has been solved by a researcher at Imperial College London.

Professor Darren Crowdy, Chair in Applied Mathematics, has made the breakthrough in an area of mathematics known as conformal mapping, a key theoretical tool used by mathematicians, engineers and scientists to translate information from a complicated shape to a simpler circular shape so that it is easier to analyse.

This theoretical tool has a long history and has uses in a large number of fields including modeling airflow patterns over intricate wing shapes in aeronautics. It is also currently being used in neuroscience to visualise the complicated structure of the grey matter in the human brain.

A formula, now known as the Schwarz-Christoffel formula, was developed by two mathematicians in the mid-19th century to enable them to carry out this kind of mapping. However, for 140 years there has been a deficiency in this formula: it only worked for shapes that did not contain any holes or irregularities.

Now Professor Crowdy has made additions to the famous Schwarz-Christoffel formula which mean it can be used for these more complicated shapes. He explains the significance of his work, saying:

“This formula is an essential piece of mathematical kit which is used the world over. Now, with my additions to it, it can be used in far more complex scenarios than before. In industry, for example, this mapping tool was previously inadequate if a piece of metal or other material was not uniform all over – for instance, if it contained parts of a different material, or had holes.”

Professor Crowdy’s work has overcome these obstacles and he says he hopes it will open up many new opportunities for this kind of conformal mapping to be used in diverse applications.

“With my extensions to this formula, you can take account of these differences and map them onto a simple disk shape for analysis in the same way as you can with less complex shapes without any of the holes,” he added.

Professor Crowdy’s improvements to the Schwarz-Christoffel formula were published in the March-June 2007 issue of Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society.

###

For more information please contact:

Danielle Reeves, Imperial College London Press Office,
Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2198
Mob: +44 (0)7803 886248
Email: press.office@imperial.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

1. ‘Schwarz-Christoffel mappings to unbounded multiply connected polygonal regions,’ Math. Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. (2007), 142, 319.

2. About Imperial College London:

Imperial College London – rated the world’s fifth best university in the 2007 Times Higher Education Supplement University Rankings – is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 12,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Website:
www.imperial.ac.uk

Avalanches on Mars

Avalanche

A NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars has taken the first ever image of active avalanches near the Red Planet’s north pole. Apparently the planetary scientists at NASA are shocked that this is an active and dynamic environment. :)

Clicky to jump right to the ultra high res photos with the moonrock filter.

Read the press release of the event.

What Is That?

Hey folks!   Sorry I’m a few days late, the flu going around here was kicking my butt for a few days, but I think I’m better now :)  Big pat on the back to Shawn Keslar for correctly guessing the last WIT!

Here’s this weeks image…it’s nothing to clown around about!

WIT702

If a guess strikes you, toss it in the comments…

Guess The Flickr Tag

This mosaic of photos from Flickr was found by doing a search for a common tag that the photogs assigned to their pics. What word did I use to produce this collection?

Level of difficulty: Easy

mosaic

Windows Mobile Virus In The Wild, Sends Device Data Home

Alert

McAfee’s Avert Labs group is alerting us to one of the first viruses to attack Windows Mobile. Named WinCE/Infojack, this little bugger allows silent installation of malware, and sends information about the infected device back to the Trojan’s author.

It’s been found packaged in with Google Maps and a Mobile Game. The same advice applies to your mobile as it does with your PC, don’t download applications from locations you don’t explicitly trust.

Read more at the Avert blog.

The Women Of Sci-Fi And Their Provocative Poses: Amanda Tapping

Amanda and Thor

Like a total fan boy, I attended a Stargate Convention in Vancouver, BC a few years ago and had my picture taken with my favorite Sci-Fi actress: Amanda Tapping. Yeah! We had our arms around the back and everything! :)

Colonel Carter

To top it off, the next day she sat next to me at my table during a brunch ‘eat and greet’ with the stars.

Yes, I’m a total dork, but it was worth it. This Summer, Patrick and I are heading to the Star Trek con. I wonder if I’ll get to meet Nichelle Nichols, how cool would that be?

Anyway, this version of Sci-Fi actresses and their provocative poses focuses on Amanda Tapping, aka ‘Colonel Samantha Carter’ of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Her character wields both a PHd in Physics and a machine gun. Her hairstyle changes every season. Her pal is Thor the alien. And her love interests either die or retire from the Stargate program never to be seen or heard of again. The good news is that there’s a plethora of provocative, dare I say, evocative photos to post.

Ever since I had first seen some of these long ago, I’ve always wondered why Ms. Carter would go to such lengths. Could it be to break the mold she’s finding herself in after 10+ years of the same character? Could it be an evil twin? Honestly, I would rather not know, for the truth could probably crush me. :)

OK, enough gushing and all kidding aside, without further ado, I give you the many talented faces and revealing of skin by Amanda Tapping:

Amanda Tapping Amanda Tapping 1

Amanda Tapping 2 Amanda Tapping 4

Amanda Tapping 6 Amanda Tapping 7

Amanda Tapping 8 Amanda Tapping 9 amanda-tapping-5

Really Cool Hard Drive Crash

I’ve torn apart many a hard drive in my day, even converted one into a very nice ashtray. But i’ve never had the privilege of tearing one down after the head crashed into the platters before.

One lucky guy got to do just that and has some great photos of the aftermath on neowin.

See that silver jagged ring near the center of the platter where the head ends? Yeah Baby! It cut through and you can see debris all over the inside of the case.

neowin.net

[via digg]

Greenest Vehicles of 2008

greenercars.org has a list of the 12 greenest vehicles for this year. With gas prices on their way to $4 this Spring, I was just talking to the wife last night about doing a test drive later this week on the car that is #10 on the list: Toyota Camry Hybrid.

It’s a gas electric version with the same ‘hybrid synergy drive’ system that the sardine can Prius uses. The main difference is this one actually has room in it and the default package is supposed to contain all the gadgets your geeky little heart desires so it’s naturally a little more costly than the  Prius.

Camry Hybrid

Canadian Robot ‘Handyman’ Getting Set to Head to the Front Line in Space

Dextre

Canada knows a thing or two about robots and space. Did you non-Canadians know that the robotic arm in the Space Shuttles was designed, built and delivered by the Canadians to NASA? It’s True.

Now they’re doing their part again to help build out the rest of the International Space Station in the form of Dextre, a $200Mil robot that will perform exterior construction and maintenance. The value here is that it means the astronauts will have to make fewer trips outside the capsules, enabling the ‘bot to do more of the grunt work, riding along the Canadian-built ‘mobile servicing system’ on the exterior.

Here’s some of the specs:

– Can be remotely controlled from the ground or the ISS

– Size is about 3.7 meters

– Lifespan is about 15 years

– Dexterous enough to manipulate objects the size of a phone book to a phone booth

redOrbit has much more information.

News Links: 2/25/08


Aliens Might Be Moving Stars to Communicate With Us
Universe Today
Move stars around into patterns? That’s pretty crazy stuff. Sure, but there isn’t any physical reason why it isn’t possible; it happens all the time when galaxies collide. Of course, a spray of stars hurled into intergalactic space at random is different from a great big peace sign.

‘Gravity Lamp’ lasts 200 years, never needs to be plugged in
Dvice
A Virginia Tech student has won the Greener Gadget Award for a clever LED lamp that gets all of its power from gravity, which is a seriously renewable resource. Working kind of like a grandfather clock that needs to be wound in order to work, the lamp has a weight that’s raised up every day. As the day goes on, it slowly lowers, with that movement powering the LEDs.

Astronaut to Wear Boxer Shorts For Science, 2 Weeks Consecutive w/o Bathing
MSNBC
A Japanese astronaut will put on special boxer shorts and gym wear during his upcoming mission to see if the newly developed high-tech clothing can boost comfort levels on the International Space Station, Japan’s space agency said Friday.

Goolag Tool Lets Google Aid Hackers
Washington Post
The hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow has released a tool that should make Google hacking a little easier for novices. CalledGoolag, the open-source software lets hackers use the Google search engine to scan Web sites for vulnerabilities.

Tracing human diversity through the ages
San Jose Mercury News
A coalition of Stanford scientists has released the most detailed road map yet of human diversity, offering insight into the emergence and restless migration of the world’s populations.

14 “OTHER” Ways to Use RSS Feeds

RSS Applications

MakeUseOf has a great article that taught me a lot about how to make better use of RSS feeds by reviewing 14 interesting RSS Feed applications that consume your feeds in a unique manner, as opposed to consuming them in your same old feed reader.

I have probably close to 200 feeds I monitor and some of these applications just might make me a little more productive. Take for instance something like SendMeRSS which forwards my favorite feeds to my inbox.

Then there’s Pingie which sends them to my mobile via SMS, or SpokenText which converts my feeds to speech files and you can subscribe to them as podcasts!

Check out the full list of 14 other ways to use RSS Feeds.

Motivational: Embrace Diversity

The other day I posted the Cosplay Mosaic set of pics I assembled using an online tool from Big Huge Labs.

Below is a resulting ‘motivational poster’ I put together from another of their tools. Sure, maybe ’embrace diversity’ isn’t very motivational but it’s all I could come up with on the spur of the moment when I decided it would involve ‘Marta’.

Marta was the green Orion consort of Lord Garth in the episode ‘Whom Gods Destroy‘ from the Star Trek the original series.

Motivational - Embrace Diversity