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Scientists count whales from space

Scientists count whales from space

Scientists have demonstrated a new method for counting whales from space.
It uses very high-resolution satellite pictures and image-processing software to automatically detect the great mammals at or near the ocean surface.
A test count, reported in the journal Plos One, was conducted on southern right whales in the Golfo Nuevo on the coast of Argentina.
The automated system found about 90% of creatures pinpointed in a manual search of the imagery.
This is a huge improvement on previous attempts at space-borne assessment, and could now revolutionise the way whale populations are estimated.
Currently, such work is done through counts conducted from a shore position, from the deck of a ship or from a plane. An automated satellite search could cover a much larger area of ocean and at a fraction of the cost.
From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26075274


Nazis 'researched use of mosquitoes for war' at Dachau

German scientists at Dachau concentration camp researched the possible use of malaria-infected mosquitoes as weapons during World War Two, a researcher has claimed.
Dr Klaus Reinhardt of Tuebingen University examined the archives of the Entomological Institute at Dachau.
He found that biologists had looked at which mosquitoes might best be able to survive outside their natural habitat.
Dr Reinhardt has found evidence that the researchers investigated a particular type of mosquito which could live without food and water for four days.
That means it could be infected with malaria and then dropped from the air - and survive long enough to infect large numbers of people, he says.
He speculates that the scientists were investigating the possible use of malaria - transmitted via mosquitoes - as a biological weapon.
From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26193808


Mathematics: Why the brain sees maths as beauty

Brain scans show a complex string of numbers and letters in mathematical formulae can evoke the same sense of beauty as artistic masterpieces and music from the greatest composers.
Mathematicians were shown "ugly" and "beautiful" equations while in a brain scanner at University College London.
The same emotional brain centres used to appreciate art were being activated by "beautiful" maths.
The researchers suggest there may be a neurobiological basis to beauty.
From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26151062


Belgium's parliament votes through child euthanasia

Parliament in Belgium has passed a bill allowing euthanasia for terminally ill children without any age limit, by 86 votes to 44, with 12 abstentions.
When, as expected, the bill is signed by the king, Belgium will become the first country in the world to remove any age limit on the practice.
It may be requested by terminally ill children who are in great pain and also have parental consent.
Opponents argue children cannot make such a difficult decision.
It is 12 years since Belgium legalised euthanasia for adults.
In the Netherlands, Belgium's northern neighbour, euthanasia is legal for children over the age of 12, if there is parental consent.
From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26181615


Women to rule Rwanda parliament

Women to rule Rwanda parliament

Rwanda will be the first country where women will outnumber men in parliament, preliminary election results show.
Women have taken 44 out of 80 seats so far and the number could rise if three seats reserved for the disabled and youth representatives go to females.
Rwanda, whose post-genocide constitution ensures a 30% quota for female MPs, already held the record for the most women in parliament.
From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7620816.stm


Guinness record bid: Bulgarian man in bag swims Lake Ohrid

A Bulgarian man has swum more than 2km (1.25 miles) tied up in a bag hoping to set a Guinness World record, the organisers of the event have said.

It took Jane Petkov some two and three-quarter hours to cross the distance in Lake Ohrid in Macedonia, reports say.

With his arms and legs tied to his body, the 59-year-old swam on his back "like a dolphin", organiser Saso Tockov told the AFP news agency.

The "amphibian man's" average speed was 0.7km/h, Macedonian media said.

"I was very cold for the first kilometre but after that it was all fine - no problem whatsoever," Mr Petkov was quoted as saying after completing the swim on Tuesday.

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24047591


It isn't because the Vietnamese are not passionate. Rather, there is no word for "I" or "you" in colloquial Vietnamese.

People address each other according to their relative ages: "anh" for older brother, "chi" for older sister, "em" for younger sibling and so on. This is why Vietnamese quickly ask strangers how old they are so that they can use the appropriate pronoun and treat them with the correct amount of respect.

So a typical declaration of love might be: "Older brother loves younger sister." If, however the woman was older, it would be: "Older sister loves younger brother." But it has to be said that women often prefer to be called "em", regardless of their age.

There are more than 40 different pronouns describing the relationships between individuals and groups of different ages and positions.

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23501757


Can science explain why I'm a pessimist?

Many of us categorise ourselves as either optimist or pessimist, but what can science tell us about how we got that way and can we change, asks Michael Mosley.

Debbie and Trudi are identical twins.

They have much in common, except that Trudi is cheerful and optimistic while Debbie is prone to bouts of profound depression.

By studying a group of identical twins like Debbie and Trudi, Prof Tim Spector, based at St Thomas' hospital in London, has been trying to answer fundamental questions about how our personality is formed. Why are some people more positive about life than others?

Twin studies suggest that, when it comes to personality, about half the differences between us are because of genetic factors. But Spector points out that throughout our lives, in response to environmental factors, our genes are constantly being dialled up and down as with a dimmer switch, a process known as epigenetics.

With twins like Trudi and Debbie they have found changes in just five genes in the brain's hippocampus which they believe have triggered depression in Debbie.

"We used to say," Spector told me, "that we can't change our genes. We now know there are these mini mechanisms that can switch them on and off. We're regaining control, if you like, of our genes."

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23229014


Earth life 'may have come from Mars'

New research supports an idea that the Red Planet was a better place to kick-start biology billions of years ago than the early Earth was.

The evidence is based on how the first molecules necessary for life were assembled.

Scientists have long wondered how atoms first came together to make up the three crucial molecular components of living organisms: RNA, DNA and proteins.

This could suggest that life started on the Red Planet before being transported to Earth on meteorites, argues Prof Benner, of the Westheimer Institute of Science and Technology in Gainesville, US.

The idea that life originated on Mars and was then transported to our planet has been mooted before. But Prof Benner's ideas add another twist to the theory of a Martian origin for the terrestrial biosphere.

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23872765