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From Space Newsgroups: NASA Reveals Exoplanets True Colors
July 7th, 2013

For some of us, the most fascinating part of space discovery isn’t when we learn something exists, but when we learn what that thing looks like and can actually see it. Landing a rover on Mars is incredible, but actually seeing what Mars looks like is where the real thrill lies. We’ve known about the existence of a plethora of exoplanets for some time now, but never quite knew what they looked like.
However, using Hubble, astronomers have determined what an exoplanet looks like for the first time ever.

Recent posts on USENET newsgroups reveal that the exoplanet, known as the easily memorable HD 189733b, is a deep azure similar to the color of Earth’s oceans when viewed from space.

From one USENET post, the HD 189733b is 63 light-years away from Earth, and one of the closest exoplanets that we can actually see when it crosses in front of its star. Unlike Earth, though, it’s a gas giant, with an atmosphere that sits at a comfortable 1,000 degrees Celsius — 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit. If that doesn’t sound appealing, the exoplanet also experiences 4,350 mph winds, and rains glass for good measure.

Further contributed posts on space newsgroups reveal that the exoplanet is close to its star, and its light is faint, so it wasn’t entirely easy to determine its color. Using the Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, the team essentially sussed out the color through subtraction. As the exoplanet passed over and behind its star, its reflected light became blocked, and thus the amount of light the system gave off decreased. The light that decreased was in the blue area of the color spectrum, while every other color’s intensity stayed the same.

HD 189733b: blue because of silicate particles floating in the atmosphere, almost 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, will slice you to ribbons when it rains, and now the first exoplanet with a confirmed color.

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New Software Allows Large Data Analysis on Personal Computers
July 19th, 2012

Need to analyze big data (i.e. large computations analyzing data from a large sample)? Your own computer may now be able to help thanks to new software developed by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.

What was once the domain of large computer clusters or supercomputers may now be possible with your own laptop or desktop computer. The new software performs graph computations, which are used by many companies to analyze customer data, such as on social media or search engines. But the computer scientists who developed the software hope it helps to spring innovation across several fields.

“A researcher in computational biology could do large-scale computations on their PC; a developer working on a data-center algorithm can test it on their laptop before pushing it to the cloud,” says Carlos Guestrin, according to MIT’s Technology Review. Guestrin is the codirector of Carnegie Mellon Select Lab where the new software, called GraphChi, was created. “Big data is everywhere now, but some big data isn’t as big as it once was, relatively speaking. Tools like GraphChi will let many companies and startups solve all their graph-computing needs on a single machine. It’s cost effective, and it drives innovation, too.”

Instead of relying on a computer’s RAM, GraphChi relies on the computer’s hard drive that can hold a good deal of information as the graph computation is performed. To overcome slower speeds associated with using the hard drive, Aapo Kyrola, a PhD student in the Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Department and a student of Guestrin’s, developed a method to speed up the process. Guestrin notes, according to Technology Review, that a Mac Mini utilizing GraphChi may analyze Twitter’s 2010 social graph in just under an hour compared to roughly 400 minutes using a large computer cluster consisting of about 1,000 computers.

The new software is sure to create discussion among the technology community who frequent related Usenet newsgroups. Tech savvy users often discuss new advancements in the field, and many of them are active participants in the industry. Some users may even find that the new software helps them in their personal or professional pursuits. And, as mentioned, GraphChi has applications across several fields, so don’t be too surprised to see the topic pop up elsewhere, too.

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Police Field-Testing New Software Stopping Crimes Before They Happen
October 18th, 2011

The new software doesn’t predict who is going to commit the crime, as was the case in the movie Minority Report, but it attempts to predict where the crime will be committed. USENET newsgroup subscribers are currently discussing George Mohler, a mathematician at Santa Clara University,  who developed a  program that uses the locations of crimes previously committed to determine potential crime areas.

Newsgroup subscribers state that the idea is that if a burglary occurs at one residence, it could occur over the next few days at a nearby residence, too. Equations that are used to predict aftershocks for earthquakes were used as a basis for the program. Dates and times of crimes are now used to predict future crimes.

The new program flags about 10 potential crime areas for three types of crime: residential burglary, auto burglary and auto theft. New data is inputted every night to calculate the likelihood of crimes the next day.

Later this year the software will be tested with the Los Angeles police department in a controlled experiment. The software will be used as it’s being used in Santa Cruz, but only half of the locations flagged will be patrolled.

You can follow this story and many more on the over 107,000 active newsgroups that ThunderNews currently supports. Join now or join the discussion on a variety technology newsgroups.

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Human Magnets on USENET
June 21st, 2011

Humans may have a sixth sense after all, suggests a new USENET newsgroup post on biology newsgroups that include a study finding that a protein in the human retina, when placed into fruit flies, has the ability to detect magnetic fields.


The researchers caution that the results suggest this human protein has the capability to work as a magnetic sensor; however, whether or not humans use it in that way is not known.


University of Massachusetts in Worcester researcher and colleagues study cryptochromes – light-sensitive proteins that regulate the circadian clocks of many creatures. Steve Reppert, head researcher, knew that cryptochromes also help fruit flies and birds sense the Earth’s magnetic fields, and he wanted to see whether human cryptochromes could do the same thing. To find out Reppert replaced those found in fruit flies with a human version, hCRY2, which is found in the retina.


The mutant flies were trained to associate a sugar reward with a magnetic field. When given the option to fly down either a magnetized or non-magnetized arm of a maze they opted for the magnetized one. Flies genetically engineered to lack cryptochrome altogether were indifferent to the magnetic field in one arm and were evenly distributed down both arms of the maze. Apparently, fruit flies have no problem using human cryptochrome to sense magnetic fields, which implies humans have the hardware to do the same, but for some reason do not activate the ability, says Reppert.


The experiments show that CRY2, a human eye protein, can act as a magnetic sensor. But only out of its native environment. In its native environment, CRY2 undoubtedly acts differently, due partially to the fact that it is only one component needed for an internal navigation system. To successfully detect magnetic fields an organism requires an apparatus that processes changes in the cryptochrome, and communicate those changes to the brain. Drosophila obviously has such an apparatus, but whether humans do is doubtful.



These findings demonstrate that hCRY2 has the molecular capability to function in a magnetic sensing system and may pave the way for further investigation into human magneto reception. “Additional research on magneto sensitivity in humans at the behavioral level, with particular emphasis on the influence of magnetic field on visual function, rather than non-visual navigation, would be informative,” wrote Reppert and his colleagues in the study.

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Men: Reproduction Probability Better With Desktops Than Laptops
November 9th, 2010

If there was ever a reason for men to switch or stay with desktop computers, it’s this: Your laptop could be cooking your testicles. A new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility and being discussed on USENET newsgroups says that within fifteen minutes of laptop use, scrotal temperatures are already out of the safe zone.

In a study in which thermometers were jammed into the scrotums of 29 males with laptops on lap, it was found that the scrotum overheated within a matter of 10 to 15 minutes. What’s overheating, you say? Research has said that overheating the scrotum by a mere 1 degree Celsius (1.8 F) is enough to harm sperm. And while you may feel safe by using some laptop cooler, or by placing a pillow below the laptop, your scrotum will still suffer.

Dr. Yefim Sheynkin, a urologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who led the new study, said:

“Millions and millions of men are using laptops now, especially those in the reproductive age range. Within 10 or 15 minutes their scrotal temperature is already above what we consider safe.”

But according to Dr. Sheynkin, men don’t feel the rise in temperature. Also, Sheynkin says that there is little that man can do to lower the temperatures, besides placing the laptop on a desk instead of their laps.

Dr. Sheynkin said:

“I wouldn’t say that if someone starts to use laptops they will become infertile,” but it could cause reproductive problems because “the scrotum doesn’t have time to cool down. It doesn’t matter what pad you use. You can put a pillow beneath your computer and it still won’t protect you.”

Still, heating up the scrotum is likely to be bad for sperm production, he said. He often asks patients that he sees for infertility if they use a laptop and, if so, suggests they spread their legs periodically or place the laptop on a desk to keep their testicles from overheating.

Although the scientists said that this type of laptop use will not cause infertility in all men, it does present a risk that could lead to problems in the future.

You’d think using a laptop would be a pretty innocuous activity, and certainly not one that could lead to infertility. But it appears not. Whether you take heed of this research is up to you, but if you’ve been trying to conceive and haven’t been successful it may be worth to sit on it a bit.

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Space Newsgroups Migrate To New Planet
September 30th, 2010

Reported on space and astronomy Usenet newsgroups, the planet an astronomer who picked up a mysterious pulse of light coming from the direction of the newly discovered Earth-like planet almost two years ago has emerged.

Dr Ragbir Bhathal, a scientist at the University of Western Sydney, picked up the odd signal in December 2008, long before it was announced that the star Gliese 581 has habitable planets in orbit around it.

Researchers from the University of California Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institution of Washington said Wednesday the planet has three times the mass of Earth and orbits its star at a distance that places it smack in the middle of the star’s “habitable zone” — the vital zone where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface.

“Our findings offer a very compelling case for a potentially habitable planet,” said Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz who, with Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution, led the Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey. “The fact that we were able to detect this planet so quickly and so nearby tells us that planets like this must be really common.”

Dr Bhathal’s discovery had come just months before astronomers announced that they had found a similar, slightly less habitable planet around the same star 20 light years away. This planet was called Gliese 581e.

Gliese 581 is a red dwarf star with only 1/3 the mass of the sun and a much cooler surface temperature — 5300 degrees F vs. 11,000. Red dwarfs are ideal candidates for searching for extrasolar planets because with cooler temperatures, their habitable zones lie closer to the star. A planet orbiting close to a small sun exerts a stronger, more easily detectable tug than one orbiting within the more distant habitable zone of a massive, hotter star.

The planet’s gravitational pull causes the star to wobble a bit back and forth, and that’s what astronomers detect with sophisticated equipment. Gliese 581 g orbits just 14 million miles from Gliese 581, more than six times closer than Earth to the sun. Its close proximity has slowed the planet’s rotation so only one side faces the sun, while the other is in shadow. The team estimates that temperatures range from 160 above on the sunny side to 25 below on the back. In the twilight zone, along day-night border, it would be comfortable enough to stroll about without a coat.

Dr Steven Vogt who led the study at the University of California, Santa Cruz, today said that he was ‘100 per cent sure ‘ that there was life on the planet.

The discovery was a result of eleven years of observations of the red dwarf star Gliese 581 using the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, one of the world’s largest optical telescopes. The planet is located in an area where liquid water could exist on its surface.

This could be one of the greatest discoveries yet. If this could sustain life then we will be open to new horizons, a new place to conquer that we may soon call home, Battlestar Galactica style. There are still more investigations to be done before the final answer could be raised.

Keep in touch with this New Planet Found in Goldilocks Zone that May Support Life on space and astronomy related newsgroups for more info.

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Experts Claim Usenet Newsgroups Make You Smarter
February 22nd, 2010

Most experts agree that the Internet and USENET won’t make us stupid. Now there is proof. USENET newsgroups report that a good 76% of technology stakeholders and critics interviewed by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University believe that the Internet and the online worlds such as USENET will enhance human intelligence by 2020.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Internet Center at Elon University teamed up to survey 895 experts about the future of the Internet and its effect on human intelligence. The survey required them to assess 10 different “tension pairs” – each pair offering two different 2020 scenarios with the same overall theme and opposite outcomes – and to select the one most likely choice of two statements.

Although a wide range of opinion from experts, organizations, and interested institutions was sought, this survey, fielded from Dec. 2, 2009 to Jan. 11, 2010, should not be taken as a representative canvassing of internet experts. By design, the survey was an “opt in,” self-selecting effort.

Out of the online experts surveyed, 81% agreed with the statement “as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information, they become smarter and make better choices.” In contrast, 21 percent of the respondents believe the Internet and USENET will be responsible for lowering the IQs of those who use it frequently. The survey also revealed that 42 percent of experts think that anonymous online activity will be cracked down on by 2020, due to tighter security and ID systems used online. Another tally reported on newsgroups showed that 55 percent believe it will still be fairly easy to surf the ‘Net and Newsgroups anonymously by then while a contrast of 16 percent said that dependency on them was making people dumber. Four percent choose to keep their opinions to their selves.

Some of the respondents worked or were affiliated with tech companies such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft, while others came from universities and federal organizations or were identified by Pew as “Internet veterans,” many of whom have been online for more than a decade.

The survey was conducted with the Imagining the Internet Center at North Carolina’s Elon University. It responded in part to last summer’s Atlantic  article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, in which author Nicholas Carr had argued that the ease of online searching and the distractions that come up when you browse online were possibly limiting people’s ability to concentrate.

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CERN Hadron Collider Back Online Causes Newsgroup Spike
November 24th, 2009

Science, Physics, Chemistry, Astrological and even more themed newsgroups are all about the Hadron Collider again. The world’s most powerful particle accelerator, designed to recreate the Big Bang of the universe, has been restarted after more than a year of repairs, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said on Friday.

Excitingly, these USENET newsgroups report that after being stalled by a catastrophic leak, a speck of bread and alleged time travelers, CERN has brought the Large Hadron

Collider successfully back online with the full orbit of a proton beam. The first collision occurred at injection energy of 450 billion electron volts. Now the energy of Proton beams has been increased from 450 to 540 billion electron volts.

As beams of protons travel in opposite direction, they will gain energy with every lap. The first real test for LHC will come early next year, when proton beams will collide with enormous energy to give insight into dark matter and recreate forces and conditions that existed when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old.

Technical problems forced CERN to shut down the $10 billion collider just nine days after it was started for the first time in September 2008. The problem was a faulty splice in the super-conducting cable connecting two cooling magnets in the underground ring, which smashes particles at a temperature of just above absolute zero to re-create conditions believed to exist at the start of the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

Scientists will analyze the particles created as the result of collision and will start giving clues about the origin of the Universe.

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Study: USENET Newsgroups Does Not Cause Anti-Social Behavior
November 5th, 2009

Officially, you can’t complain that spending your day on USENET is the reason why your anti-social. Researchers at Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of its recent study that was aimed at determining whether if online could lead to a reduction in the size and diversity of core discussion networks and social networks more broadly.

Result: Using technology has not made us less social.

The national study is the first to explore how people use the USENET and World Wide Web to interact with close family and friends. The project found that both the size and diversity of people’s discussion networks are actually higher on average for those who participate on online social networks, like USENET newsgroups, challenging a 2006 report that blamed technology for an increase in social isolation.

“We find that the extent of social isolation has hardly changed since 1985, contrary to concerns that the prevalence of severe isolation has tripled since then,” Pew researchers report.

Online use does not pull people away from places such as parks, cafes and restaurants, Pew researchers conclude: “Online access has become a common component of people’s experiences within many public spaces.” Also, in opposition to the conclusion that online usage primarily bridges gaps between people who are geographically far from each other, the survey found that there is little difference between local social usage of technology and distant communication.

The findings clearly stand in contrast to the notion that technology “might cause people to retreat from life,” says Lee Rainie, who directs the Pew Internet project. Spending time with online social networks – such as USENET newsgroups, he says, gives people “new powers to extend themselves and extend their interests.”

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Medical Newsgroups: Virus May Cause Prostate Cancer
September 8th, 2009

Medical newsgroups are reporting a finding with potentially major implications for identifying a viral cause of prostate cancer. The report states that researchers at the University of Utah and Columbia University medical schools have discovered a type of virus known to cause leukemia and sarcomas in animals and has been found for the first time in malignant human prostate cancer cells.

A team of researchers, led by senior study author Dr. Ila R. Singh, an associate professor of pathology at the University of Utah, studied 200 samples of prostate cancer cells and then compared them with 100 samples of healthy prostate cells.

Singh and his team discovered that the XMRV virus (Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus) was present in 44% of tumors that received measure of a 9-10 point Gleason severity scale. The scale measures aggressiveness of prostate cancers, with lower ratings associated with having a normal prostate.

Discussions on newsgroups reveal that XMRV has been under investigation for its potential role in causing cancer for some time. The new study strengthens the link and also dispels the previous belief that certain people with genetic mutations are more susceptible than others the XMRV infection.

XMRV is a retrovirus like HIV and it works by making a replica of its own DNA into chromosomes of a cell they infect. Proteins from the virus were found nearly entirely in the malignant cells, which indicate an association between being infected with the virus and developing tumors. The virus XMRV was previously known to cause leukemia in animals, but has now been connected to human prostate cancer, indicating that the disease could have a viral origin.

Posts on these medicine related newsgroups relay that this is the first time researchers have given strong evidence that a virus known to cause cancer in animals is linked to prostate cancer in humans.

Approximately 1 in 4 prostate cancers tested contained the XMRV virus, compared to only 6 per cent of cancer-free tissues. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the U.S. behind skin cancer. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 190 thousand men have received a diagnosis of prostate cancer this year in the United States. If further research shows that XMRV causes prostate cancer in males, it could assist in making diagnostic tests, vaccines and therapies for treating the cancer.

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