Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Solar system like ours found

WASHINGTON — For the first time, astronomers think that they've found evidence of an alien solar system around a star close enough to Earth to be visible to the naked eye.

They say that at least one and probably three or more planets are orbiting the star Epsilon Eridani, 10.5 light-years — about 63 trillion miles — from Earth. Only eight stars are closer.

The host star, slightly smaller and cooler than our sun, is in the constellation Eridanus — the name of a mythological river — near Orion in the northern sky.

Epsilon Eridani is much younger than the sun, about 850 million years old compared with 4.5 billion years for our system.

"This really is a system like our solar system was when it was five times younger than it is now," said one of the discoverers, Massimo Marengo , an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "It's like a time machine for our solar system."

"This system probably looks a lot like ours did when life first took root on Earth," said Dana Backman , of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. , the lead author of a report to be published Jan. 10 in The Astrophysical Journal .

SETI chose Epsilon Eridani as one of the first targets in its long — but so far vain — search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence in 1960. The suspected planets are too far away to be detected directly, so their presence has to be inferred by indirect measurements. Their star is so near, however, that some astronomers think that they may be able to see its planets with better telescopes within the next decade.

One of the planets, a gas giant 1 { times heavier than Jupiter, was discovered in 2000 by Barbara McArthur , an astronomer at the University of Texas in Austin . She measured the slight wobble in the star's position as the planet swung around it. Further observations by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2006 confirmed its existence, McArthur said at the time.

Now Backman's team has deduced the presence of at least two more planets, after space- and ground-based telescopes separately revealed two belts of rocky asteroids and an outer icy ring circling Epsilon Eridani.

The inner asteroid belt is about 280 million miles from its host star, the same distance as our own ring of asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. The second belt is about the same distance as Uranus is in our system.

Finally, a wide, third ring of icy objects extends billions of miles beyond Epsilon Eridani, resembling the so-called Kuiper Belt of mini-planets outside Pluto.

In 2002, Alice Quillen , an astronomer at the University of Rochester in New York state , reported that unusual clumps of material in the outer ring probably indicated the presence of a Saturn -size planet in a Pluto-like orbit. Her finding hasn't been confirmed, but "I still think there is a planet out there of this size," Quillen said in an e-mail.

According to Marengo, the gaps between these belts were created when clouds of dust and rocks consolidated into planets, as happened in the early days of our solar system. He likened the process to the formation of Saturn's famous rings, which are separated by spaces cleared out by little moons.

"The easiest way to explain the gaps is to say there are planets there," Marengo said. "It's the same way as the rings of Saturn are kept stable by the moons of Saturn ."

"I think these rings are probably telling us about how systems clear out after planets have formed," Quillen said. "It's pretty exciting to catch such a nearby system in this critical stage."

Marengo raised the possibility that more Earthlike planets might exist in the space between Epsilon Eridani and the inner dust ring.

"The inside belt is cleared, like in our solar system," he said. "There could be terrestrial planets inside, but we can't detect them yet."


Friday, October 24, 2008

Arrested for virtual murder

TOKYO: A 43-year-old Japanese woman whose sudden divorce in a virtual game world made her so angry that she killed her online husband's digital persona has been arrested on suspicion of hacking, police said Thursday.

The woman, who is jailed on suspicion of illegally accessing a computer and manipulating electronic data, used his identification and password to log onto popular interactive game "Maple Story" to carry out the virtual murder in mid-May, a police official in northern Sapporo said on condition of anonymity, citing department policy. "I was suddenly divorced, without a word of warning. That made me so angry," the official quoted her as telling investigators and admitting the allegations. The woman had not plotted any revenge in the real world, the official said. She has not yet been formally charged, but if convicted could face a prison term of up to five years or a fine up to $5,000.

Players in "Maple Story" raise and manipulate digital images called "avatars" that represent themselves, while engaging in relationships, social activities and fighting against monsters and other obstacles.

The woman used login information she got from the 33-year-old office worker when their characters were happily married, and killed the character. The man complained to police when he discovered that his beloved online avatar was dead.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

X-rays detected from Scotch tape

NEW YORK – Just two weeks after a Nobel Prize highlighted theoretical work on subatomic particles, physicists are announcing a startling discovery about a much more familiar form of matter: Scotch tape. It turns out that if you peel the popular adhesive tape off its roll in a vacuum chamber, it emits X-rays. The researchers even made an X-ray image of one of their fingers.

Who knew? Actually, more than 50 years ago, some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off glass. But the new work demonstrates that you can get a lot of X-rays, a study co-author says.

"We were very surprised," said Juan Escobar. "The power you could get from just peeling tape was enormous."

Escobar, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports the work with UCLA colleagues in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

He suggests that with some refinements, the process might be harnessed for making inexpensive X-ray machines for paramedics or for places where electricity is expensive or hard to get. After all, you could peel tape or do something similar in such machines with just human power, like cranking.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Very Short yet powerful Movie

This 3-minute animation is short but conveys a powerful message! It's about a dream of a flightless bird (Kiwi) to fly and his determination to achieve his dream---no matter what happens.

The 3-minute movie:

Some dreams are worth DYING for... :(


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ten Reasons Why you're not Rich

Many people assume they aren't rich because they don't earn enough money. If I only earned a little more, I could save and invest better, they say.

The problem with that theory is they were probably making exactly the same argument before their last several raises. Becoming a millionaire has less to do with how much you make, it's how you treat money in your daily life.

The list of reasons you may not be rich doesn't end at 10. Caring what your neighbors think, not being patient, having bad habits, not having goals, not being prepared, trying to make a quick buck, relying on others to handle your money, investing in things you don't understand, being financially afraid and ignoring your finances.

Here are 10 more possible reasons you aren't rich:

You care what your car looks like: A car is a means of transportation to get from one place to another, but many people don't view it that way. Instead, they consider it a reflection of themselves and spend money every two years or so to impress others instead of driving the car for its entire useful life and investing the money saved.

You feel entitlement: If you believe you deserve to live a certain lifestyle, have certain things and spend a certain amount before you have earned to live that way, you will have to borrow money. That large chunk of debt will keep you from building wealth.

You lack diversification: There is a reason one of the oldest pieces of financial advice is to not keep all your eggs in a single basket. Having a diversified investment portfolio makes it much less likely that wealth will suddenly disappear.

You started too late: The magic of compound interest works best over long periods of time. If you find you're always saying there will be time to save and invest in a couple more years, you'll wake up one day to find retirement is just around the corner and there is still nothing in your retirement account.

You don't do what you enjoy: While your job doesn't necessarily need to be your dream job, you need to enjoy it. If you choose a job you don't like just for the money, you'll likely spend all that extra cash trying to relieve the stress of doing work you hate.

You don't like to learn: You may have assumed that once you graduated from college, there was no need to study or learn. That attitude might be enough to get you your first job or keep you employed, but it will never make you rich. A willingness to learn to improve your career and finances are essential if you want to eventually become wealthy.

You buy things you don't use: Take a look around your house, in the closets, basement, attic and garage and see if there are a lot of things you haven't used in the past year. If there are, chances are that all those things you purchased were wasted money that could have been used to increase your net worth.

You don't understand value: You buy things for any number of reasons besides the value that the purchase brings to you. This is not limited to those who feel the need to buy the most expensive items, but can also apply to those who always purchase the cheapest goods. Rarely are either the best value, and it's only when you learn to purchase good value that you have money left over to invest for your future.

Your house is too big: When you buy a house that is bigger than you can afford or need, you end up spending extra money on longer debt payments, increased taxes, higher upkeep and more things to fill it. Some people will try to argue that the increased value of the house makes it a good investment, but the truth is that unless you are willing to downgrade your living standards, which most people are not, it will never be a liquid asset or money that you can ever use and enjoy.

You fail to take advantage of opportunities: There has probably been more than one occasion where you heard about someone who has made it big and thought to yourself, "I could have thought of that." There are plenty of opportunities if you have the will and determination to keep your eyes open.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Cambodian couple saw home in half to avoid messy divorce

To some of you this will be madness; to others, blissful sanity:

An estranged Cambodian couple married for nearly 40 years have split their home 50-50 — sawing it in half to avoid the country's complicated, expensive divorce laws, the BBC tells us. Moeun and Nhanhy Rim also divided their land into four parcels — one for each of them and their two children.

Moeun Rim has carted away his fixer-upper and relocated elsewhere in Prey Veng province, about 60 miles outside the capital, Phnom Penh.

The last straw? Rim accused his wife of neglecting him when he was sick.

Although they have split up, they're still legally married, a local lawyer says.


Philippine Oil Well starts its production

After numerous delays, the Galoc oil field off northwest Palawan has finally produced oil, boosting the country’s hope to become 60-percent energy self-sufficient by 2010.

First discovered in 1981 and appraised in 1988, the Galoc field was left undeveloped due to the risks associated with its development and the then low price of oil.

Delays in the delivery of the first oil mean that its operators have missed this year’s oil price rally. Global crude oil prices are now around $89 a barrel, well off highs near $150 a barrel in mid-July.

In a joint statement, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and Jeff Davison, chief operating officer of service contract operator Galoc Production Co. (GPC), said the first well opened at 10:45 a.m., with first oil on board the vessel by 11:20 a.m.

GPC had repeatedly missed its first oil targets this year due mainly to bad weather.

Based on the consortium’s timetable, flow testing would be conducted over the coming weeks to stabilize production. Upon stabilization, production is expected to reach 20,000 barrels a day from the two wells.

6 percent of oil demand

For the remainder of 2008, production should average around 17,000 barrels a day.

“We are expecting to get 20,000 barrels a day in the first 90 days of commercial production. That will provide for 6 percent of the daily oil demand of the country,” Reyes said.

Independent appraiser Gaffney, Cline and Associates had estimated the production rate at the Galoc field to reach 23,000 barrels a day, on average, for the first year of production.

The Galoc field, 65 km northwest of Palawan, holds oil reserves estimated at 10 million barrels.

The new crude will raise the Philippines’ domestic oil output by some 70 percent to 42,500 bpd, a welcome addition to the country, which imports nearly all of its requirements.

But Galoc’s crude, also called Palawan Light, could find it hard attracting customers as it has a higher sulphur content than most Asia-Pacific grades, at 1.64 percent.

It is also coming on stream at a time of weakening oil demand in Asia, even as Vietnam has started selling first cargoes of its new light sweet Song Doc crude.

Reduction in imported oil

In June, Reyes said Galoc’s output would be aimed at local refineries.

MalacaƱang officials hailed the extraction of oil from the Galoc field saying this would reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil and save the country millions of dollars.

“The President is optimistic that this new development will positively impact on the administration’s efforts to reduce the country’s annual oil importation of $6 billion, and in turn will also contain the increasing cost of food and other commodities,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said, reading from a statement.

This, he added, would translate into $1.4 billion foreign exchange savings for the Galoc oil well’s lifetime of three to five years.

The country imported some $8.8 billion worth of oil last year, up from $8 billion the previous year. The total imports reached 120.1 million barrels in 2007.

GPC owns 58.29 percent of the Galoc contract area covered by Service Contract 14C, while Australian firms Nido Petroleum Ltd. and Otto Energy Ltd. hold 22.28 percent and 18.28 percent, respectively.

Other shareholders include local companies The Philodrill Corp. (7.03 percent), Oriental Petroleum and Minerals (4.96 percent), Linapacan Oil, Gas and Power (2.61 percent), Forum Energy (2.27 percent), Alcorn Gold Resources (1.53 percent), and PetroEnergy Resources (1.03 percent).

Vitol and European trader Trafigura will be the two main marketers of Palawan Light.

The Philippines also wants to drill oil from its Malampaya gas field off the Palawan coast and expects to start producing oil from its largest hydrocarbon discovery in less than two years.