Science journalist blogs about humans and other wildlife.
Fri, Nov 05, 2010 at 6:08 AM
GOP WARMING DENIAL:
Cap-and-trade was one of the first items axed from the congressional agenda after the GOP took back control of the House of Representatives, and now it's becoming clear why. Of the over 100 freshmen GOPers who will take seats in the 112th Congress, at least 50% of them deny the existence of man-made global warming -- and that's only the half of it. As many as 86% of incoming Republican legislators go so far as to say that they would oppose any climate change legislation that increases government revenue. Aside from collectively agreeing on climate concerns, the report also notes a trend among the new GOPers regarding severe immigration reform. As many as 39% take a hard stance against the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship. (Source: ThinkProgress.org
HIGH SPEED DERAIL:
The elections on Tuesday are also likely to block plans from the Obama Administration to invest $10 billion in stimulus funds for high speed rail projects across the country. Representative John Mica of Florida, the senior Republican in line to take the reins of the House Transportation Committee in January, is leading the charge to slow down high speed. He told the Associated Press that if any new rail projects are to be carried out, they should be limited to the Northeast corridor. "The administration squandered the money, giving it to dozens and dozens of projects that were marginal at best to spend on slow-speed trains to nowhere." Newly elected Republican governors may help Mica get his wish. Scott Walker, the incoming governor of Wisconsin, has already vowed to kill one proposed plan to link Milwaukee and Madison by high speed rail. Meanwhile, John Kasich, the newly elected Republican governor of Ohio, made a campaign pledge to kill a $400 million stimulus-funded rail project in his state. Kasich has gone so far as to call high speed rail the "dumbest idea" he ever heard. Both of the new governors thought that the money designated for high speed rail would be better spent on roads instead. (Source: The New York Times
COMET CLOSE UP:
Mission controllers at NASA burst into applause yesterday as new images uploaded from one of the closest flybys ever recorded between a comet and a space probe. NASA's Deep Impact probe passed by Comet Hartley 2 by only about 435 miles, a close shave by space standards. The event offered scientists a rare glimpse of a comet's core up close; it was only the fifth time a comet's core has been viewed from such a near distance. "The scientific work is just beginning now," principal investigator Michael A'Hearn, of the University of Maryland, said at a post-mission news conference. "The engineers did a fantastic job of getting us data. Now we have to make sense of it." At only about a mile and a half in length, the peanut-shaped Hartley 2 is also the smallest comet ever examined up close.
"There'll be enough data downloaded to keep researchers busy for the next five, 10, 15 years probably. It's proving to be very interesting," said Malcolm Hartley, the man who discovered the comet in 1986. (Sources: Associated Press
Math tutors beware: scientists have discovered a bizarre way of improving a person's math skills. Researchers at Britain's Oxford University applied an electrical current to the brains of 15 brave volunteers, and found that they immediately performed better on math assessments. Even more impressive, the improved math prowess of the volunteers persisted for up to 6 months after being stimulated. "We're not advising people to go around giving themselves electric shocks, but we are extremely excited by the potential of our findings and are now looking into the underlying brain changes," said Oxford's Cohen Kadosh, who led the study. Remarkably, the improvements in mathematical ability did not come at the cost of cognitive dysfunction in any other aspect. The 15 student volunteers aged 20 and 21 were given a one milliamp electrical stimulus across the parietal lobe, a brain region associated with math ability. They were then taught symbols that represented different numerical values, and then timed to see how quickly and accurately they could complete a series of maths puzzles based on those symbols. The students who were given the electrical stimulation from right to left parietal lobes performed best. It certainly gives a whole new meaning to electroshock therapy. "The ability to tweak activity in parts of the brain, turning it slightly 'up' or 'down' at will, opens the door to treating a range of psychiatric and neurological problems, like compulsive gambling or visual impairments following stroke." (Sources: Reuters, EscienceNews)
— Today's Daily Briefing was reported by Bryan Nelson. Russell McLendon is out on assignment.
Photo (comet Hartley 2): NASA
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