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May 03, 2009

The highest-resolution images of the Moon's surface ever made were nearly tossed in a landfill

lunarorbiter1.jpgPhoto: The first-ever image of Earthrise over the lunar surface. Taken by Lunar Orbiter 1, 1967. Salvaged from data NASA nearly scrapped. An amazing tale of our culture's frightening waste and the heroes who struggle against all odds to preserve precious knowledge. In short: NASA used unmanned orbiters to film the entire surface of the moon. The film was processed in the orbiter and scanned, then the scans transmitted back to Earth, there recorded on 2-inch tape. Twenty years later, a NASA archivist saved 2,500 reels of tape from the landfill and started collecting the few remaining tape machines which could read them. Only one living person knows how to align the tape heads. And then, it gets weird: NASA's early lunar images, in a new light - Los Angeles Times
Author, designer and dreamer, Wingo is well-known in the private space world, the community of activists trying to show that private enterprise can explore space more effectively and cheaply than the government. "I have been working in lunar exploration for 20 years," Wingo said. "I knew the value of the tape drives and the tapes." Wingo went for a second opinion from his friend Keith Cowing, who worked for NASA for several years and now operates the NASA Watch website, which frequently aims slings and arrows at space agency administrators. Cowing agreed that they had stumbled on a treasure trove of space history. One evening in April 2007, he and Wingo pulled up to Evans' home with two rented trucks and loaded up the dirty, dusty and broken FR-900s. Three hundred miles later, they pulled up to the gate at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, probably the only NASA institution that would even consider admitting them and their pile of junk. Ames Director Pete Worden offered space in an abandoned McDonald's that in the heyday of the lunar program had been called "McMoon's."

May 01, 2009

Hundreds of starving birds wash up on beaches in Northern California

Hundreds of dead birds on Bay Area beaches

Hundreds of emaciated sea birds have washed up dead on beaches from Marin County to Monterey Bay, and wildlife officials said today they suspect that a dip in the birds' food supply may be killing them.

The black, iridescent Brandt's cormorants began dying in mid-April, puzzling scientists who have seen the species thrive in recent years on the Farallon, Alcatraz and Año Nuevo islands.

. . .

Sea bird experts believe that a lack of food is hurting the birds, perhaps a crash in anchovy numbers in 2008. The birds, which reached their highest numbers in years on the central California coast, don't appear to be suffering from viruses and bacteria, they say. Results of tests are expected today.

Scientists find that lithium in municipal water supplies reduces suicide

BBC NEWS | Health | Lithium in water 'curbs suicide'

Drinking water which contains the element lithium may reduce the risk of suicide, a Japanese study suggests.

Researchers examined levels of lithium in drinking water and suicide rates in the prefecture of Oita, which has a population of more than one million.

The suicide rate was significantly lower in those areas with the highest levels of the element, they wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Science: Church-goers way more likely to be pro-torture

Survey: Support for terror suspect torture differs among the faithful - CNN.com

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

April 29, 2009

The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup

The decline and fall of high-fructose corn syrup. - By Daniel Engber - Slate Magazine

The case against HFCS comprises the three cardinal claims of food politics: Like other villainous ingredients—trans fat and artificial food dye come to mind—high-fructose corn syrup is accused of being at once unhealthy, unnatural, and unappetizing. (These might be described as the Hippocratic, Platonic, and Epicurean tines of the foodie movement.) While none of these claims is completely wrong when it comes to corn sweetener, none is quite right, either.

Our fear of high-fructose corn syrup seems to have arisen from some very real concerns over the health effects of fructose, one of its principal components. The ingestion of glucose, another basic sugar, is known to stimulate the release of body chemicals that regulate food intake. Fructose, on the other hand, does little to suppress your appetite, and it seems to be preferentially associated with the formation of new fat cells. A growing body of research has led some scientists to wonder whether the increased consumption of fructose over the past few decades might be responsible for rising rates of obesity.