NASA Telescopes Find Rare Distant Galaxy

Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble telescopes have discovered a galaxy burning brightly in the distant reaches of our universe. The galaxy, labeled  GN-108036, appears to be giving birth to stars at an alarming rate. Using data from the Spitzer and Hubble telescopes, it is estimated the galaxy is churning out the  equivalent of 100 of our suns per year. That is 30 times what the Milky Way galaxy produces.  Seeing the galaxy is like looking back in time. It is believed to have appeared about 750 million years after the theoretical “Bing Bang”.

GN-108036 As Viewed From Spitzer/Hubble Telescopes
Courtesy of NASA.gov

The international team of astronomers, led by Masami Ouchi of the University of Tokyo, Japan were the first to recognize the galaxy. They used the  Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii and later confirmed the distance using the  W.M. Keck Observatory, which is located in Mauna Kea as well. Infrared readings from Spitzer and Hubble telescopes were crucial in determining star formations in the galaxy. The galaxy appears to be about 12.9 billion light-years away.

Astronomers use a measurement called “redshift” to measure the distance of stars. As light travels over great distances the wavelengths are stretched and become “redder” due the expansion of the universe. Objects with a larger “redshift” are more distant and further back in time.  GN-108036 has a redshift of 7.2. To put this in perspective, very few galaxies have been discovered with a redshift of 7. Only two have been confirmed to be higher than GN-108036. It’s like looking at a cosmic time capsule.

What makes this such an amazing discovery is that the galaxy is so small yet it is producing a lot of stars. Galaxies that formed this early in time did not gather the mass that galaxies like our own have. GN-108036 was likely a player in a time called the “dark ages” of our universe. This was a time when shortly after the “Big Bang” a thick fog of hydrogen permeated the universe. As galaxies like GN-108036 formed, they essentially burned through the fog causing the barrier to become transparent.  “This was therefore a likely ancestor of massive and evolved galaxies seen today,” said Bahram Mobasher, a team member from the University of California, Riverside.

For more information about the Spitzer program  you can visit  http://spitzer.caltech.edu/  and  http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

Vatican Preserves Ancient Texts Using NASA Technology

You might say they make strange bedfellows. The Vatican isn’t exactly known for the way it embraces science and technology, just ask  Galileo. Oddly enough though, the Vatican finds itself in a bit of a  quandary. How can one of the oldest known libraries preserve ancient texts for future generations? The answer to that question comes from a NASA developed technology used to preserve images from satellites like the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Vatican Library

Archivists at the library have already begun the task of scanning the delicate Tomes that it houses into a file format called FITS. FITS stands for Flexible Image Transport System and was developed by NASA in the late 1970’s. The format is open source and designed to always be backwards compatible. According to Wikipedia, there is a saying “once FITS, always FITS” to describe how all future implementations of this format must be backwards compatible. The format stores more than just an image. It contains a text header that contains instructions for processing the data it contains. An overview of FITS can be found on NASA’s website here.

The problem for the Vatican Library staff is that every time the ancients texts are handled, it presents the possibility to damage them.  Luciano Ammenti, director of the Vatican’s Information Technology Center, chose FITS because of its open-source approach, its longevity over several decades, and the fact that it’s not owned by any one company.  Having a format like FITS that will be compatible with computer systems long into the future will cut down on the necessity of having to handle these Tomes again just to convert them to the next big fad in imaging technology.

I think this all goes to show that science and religion don’t always have to be mortal enemies. Through the advances of science, people of faith will be able to delve deep into their origins for years to come, and scientists, such as anthropologists, will be able to see a timeline of human behavior and development over the course of  many years. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Chinese Hackers Hack U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The Wall Street Journal reports today, that a group of hackers from China have compromised the U.S. Chamber of Commerce computer systems. According to the report, the hackers had complete access to their systems including all information stored on the  three million members of the organization. The U.S. Chamber is a lobbying organization whose stated purpose it to  “fight for free enterprise before Congress, the White House, regulatory agencies, the courts, the court of public opinion, and governments around the world”.

Phishing for Information

The FBI tipped the Chamber back in May of 2010 and the issue was dealt with quietly according to the WSJ source. It is thought that the compromise was made possible through a tactic called “spearphishing”. Basically, the hacker targets an individual and tries to get them to open up a link or document which contains spyware. Once the spyware gets a foothold in the computer network, it is designed to sniff out user accounts and passwords and send them to the hackers so that they can gain further access into the computer networks.

The extent of what was stolen isn’t fully known. It appears that the breach could have lasted more than a year before being discovered. WSJ sources say that hackers focused mainly on four employees who worked on Asia policy. It is also thought that one of the hackers might have ties to the Chinese government.  Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Chinese embassy, said the accusation “lacks proof and evidence and is irresponsible”.

Are there lessons to be learned from this breach? Without fully knowing the facts of the situation it is hard for me to say, but I believe it is important for businesses to realize that there is a very real and hidden danger lurking out there on the web. Our world is interconnected and companies, as well as governments, all over the world are looking for intelligence. It may be for political reasons or simply could be to gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. Whatever the reason, businesses, even small ones, need to place priority on computer security. This is especially true if you electronically store information on your customers such as credit cards and the like.

For more information about this hack, you can view the Wall Street Journal article here. You can also reach the U.S. Chamber here.

Guinness World Records Confirms World’s Shortest Woman

It’s not often that your 18th birthday is accompanied by a world record, but that is exactly what happened to Jyoti Amge of Nagpur, India today. Representatives from Guinness World Records traveled from London to Nagpur today to do final measurements and confirm that Jyoti is indeed the  shortest  living woman. She had already been confirmed as the shortest living teenager back in 2009, but she had to turn 18 to be officially pronounced World’s Shortest Woman. According to Guinness’ standards, she had to be measured 3 times within a 24 hour period by doctors to win the confirmation. Today, it’s official; she is  62.8 cm tall (2 ft 06 in). You can see her pictured below with her new title.

Jyoti Amge
Courtesy of Guinness World Records

Jyoti’s size is due to a type of dwarfism known as  achondroplasia. This means that she will likely grow no further than her current stature. Her small frame doesn’t prevent her from flashing a radiant smile and having big dreams. She actually hopes to someday be a Bollywood film star. Her family does everything they can to ensure that she reaches her dreams. She has been in school since she was 4 and, other than her size, is like any other student. She seems to take her size in stride. For instance, the Guinness World Records’ site quotes her as saying:

“I feel grateful to be this size, after all if I weren’t small and had not achieved these world records I might never have been able to visit Japan and Europe, and many other wonderful countries.”

Guinness World Records Adjudicator, Rob Molloy, said, “Jyoti encourages us all to look beyond mere size and to just celebrate our differences.” Below is a YouTube video that features Jyoti and her superstar smile.

 

If you are interested in learning more about Jyoti, visit Guinness’ website and look at the article “Ten Things You Need to Know about Jyoti Amge“.

Amateur Treasure Hunter Discovers Unknown Viking King

While most people are probably satisfied to get a good deal on a burger during their lunch break, a northern England man scored the find of a lifetime: a buried Viking treasure! According to a Daily Mail article, Darren Webster, an amateur metal detector enthusiast, was enjoying his favorite hobby on his lunch break when he made the startling find.

“When I lifted the lead pot out of the ground, there was a hole underneath and silver started to fall out. That is when I realized I had found something important.”

“Important” might be the understatement of the century. Buried about 18 inches below the surface, in a field on the outskirts of Silverdale, a village near the coast in north Lancashire, Webster recovered what is possibly the most significant Viking hoard to be found this century. The lead box contained over 200 pieces of silver. Of most significance was an unknown type of coin bearing the name of what is believed to be an unknown Viking king. You can see the relics pictured below.

Viking Hoard
Image Courtesy of Daily Mail

The Viking king’s name is Airdeconut, which is thought to represent the  Scandinavian  name  Harthacnut.  The Viking hoard was probably buried somewhere around AD900, which was a tumultuous time of war between the Viking kings of Northern England. The fact that it remained buried indicates that the warrior probably didn’t survive his conquest.

Another significant revelation came from the coin bearing the inscription “DNS REX” on one side, which means “the Lord and King”. It was written in the shape of the cross indicating that this king was a Christian. This find serves to dispel the myth that the vikings attacked  monasteries  out of hatred for the Christian church.

The treasure will go through an inquest next week to determine its value. It is estimated to be worth more than £500,000. Webster and the land owner will split the money. Currently the Museum of Lancashire is working to get the funds to buy the treasure.

For more information you can read the Daily Mail’s article here.

Don’t Blink: Physicists Break Data Network Speed Record at 186Gbps

High-energy physicists have pushed the limits of network data transfer to mind boggling speeds. Researchers attending the Super Computing 2011 conference, held in Seattle Convention Center, transferred data in opposite directions to eventually reach a combined rate of 186Gbps over a Wide Area Network. For those of you not quite familiar with the terminology, a Wide Area Network is typically defined as a network that is separated by long geographic distances such as, between a main office and a branch office in another state. The typical Wide Area Network usually ranges from 1.54Mbps T1 or DSL connections to 10Mbps fiber or cable. As you can see, 186Gbps speeds blows the standard network speeds away.

The small team of researchers consisted of members from Caltech and University of Victoria. In  the first demonstration the team transferred data from hard disks located at University of Victoria down to the show room floor at more than 60Gbps. This is thought to be a record all its own, but then they transferred data from memory to memory at 98Gbps. They were able to sustain this transfer reaching bidirectional speeds of 186Gbps.  University of Victoria Professor and LHC physicist Randall Sobie said:

The 100Gb/s demo at SC11 is pushing the limits of network technology by  showing that it is possible to transfer peta-scale particle physics data sample in a  matter of hours to anywhere around the world.

Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network (CANARIE) and BCNET, a non-profit, shared IT services organization constructed the production grade network to transmit the data. The data transfer was done using an open source application developed by Caltech called FDT. One of the amazing accomplishments in this was that all of the data transmitted was received on only 4 pieces of equipment on the show room floor. This type of data transfer would have required dozens of servers just a few years ago. The video below describes the type of technology used to make this landmark data transfer happen.

One of the factors driving the need for this kind of speed is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The amount of data being collected at the LHC is growing rapidly so it is becoming increasingly important to find avenues of transporting this data worldwide at faster speeds. “Enabling scientists anywhere in the world to work on the LHC data is a key objective, bringing the best minds together to work on the mysteries of the universe,” says David Foster, the deputy IT department head at CERN.  Hopefully this new technology will lead to innovations to make data sharing in the scientific community a little easier.

According to the Caltech press release, “the key to discovery, the researchers say, is in picking out the rare signals that may indicate new physics discoveries from a sea of potentially overwhelming background noise caused by already understood particle interactions. To do this, individual physicists and small groups located around the world must repeatedly access—and sometimes extract and transport—multiterabyte data sets on demand from petabyte data stores.” In case you’re wondering, that amount of data is  equivalent to hundreds of Blu-ray movies.

More information can be found at http://supercomputing.caltech.edu. You may also want to read more about CERN’s research at the following:

NASA Wants You to “Rock It” to Third Rock Radio

When you think NASA, you think rocket, right? Now, you can “rock it” to the space age sounds of NASA’s newest endeavor, Third Rock Radio. NASA has launched an out-of-this-world project which will be a “custom-produced Internet music radio station that is crafted specifically to speak the language of tech-savvy young adults.” The  New Rock/Indie/Alternative format station goes live today.

Main Page

Third Rock is produced by RFCMedia out of Houston, Texas. It is supported by private advertisers and all of this is supposed to be done at no expense to the government. The station’s intent is the discovery of “New Rock” as well as, reaching a young audience and building interest in the space program.

“NASA constantly is looking for new and innovative ways to engage the public and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said David Weaver, associate administrator for the Office of Communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We have led the way in innovative uses of new media and this is another example of how the agency is taking advantage of these important communication tools.”

This is an interesting partnership between public and private entities that will hopefully serve as a model for future endeavors. NASA has suffered a lot of budget cutbacks and scrutiny over the last few years. It is  imperative for its survival that NASA continues to build the interest of young people and remain relevant to a new generation. One really neat thing Third Rock Radio will be doing is allow partner companies to fill high-tech job openings in the engineering, science and IT fields via the website.  NASA hopes to make the station available to Apple iTunes and the Android market soon, but for now it is available online at NASA.GOV or  http://thirdrockradio.rfcmedia.com/.

North America’s Largest Dinosaur Discovered

Montana State University’s  Museum of the Rockies  and the State Museum of Pennsylvania have made BIG news. The largest dinosaur to ever be discovered in North America has been found in New Mexico according to a publication of  Acta Palaeontologica Polonica where  MSU researcher, Denver Fowler along with Robert Sullivan, of Harrisburg PA, made the revelation of their massive find. Pictured below, you can see the  badlands’  conditions of the Naashoibito beds in San Juan, New Mexico, where the discovery was made.

Sullivan and Fowler
Sullivan and Fowler Working in the Naashoibito Beds - Courtesy Montana.edu

The bones were of a saurapod called the Alamosaurus. It was a long-necked dinosaur that lived in the Southwestern part of the U.S. about 69 million years ago. The Alamosaurus isn’t new to researchers however, the sheer size of this particular specimen is what sets it apart from the pack.

“We used to think that a fully grown  Alamosaurus  measured around 60 feet long and weighed about 30 tons; but a 2009 study by another MSU researcher, Dr. Holly Woodward, found that a femur thought to belong to an adult was still growing,” Fowler said. “This told us thatAlamosaurus  got even bigger, but we didn’t imagine that it could get quite this big.”

Now that they have compared the fragmentary remains to that of its South American cousin, the Argentinosaurus, it is estimated that this heavy hitter could have been as much as 70 tons! The team collected two vertebrae and a femur. Just to give you an idea of how enormous this find was, it took most of a day for the team to carry the collection 1.2 miles back to camp. In the image below, you can see a reconstructed vertebrae and how large in scale this creature was in comparison to humans.

Vertebrae
Nate Carroll stands beside the reconstructed vertebrae he sculpted along with Liz Freedman, a doctoral student in Jack Horner's paleontology lab. - Courtesy of MSU website.

One thing this discovery reveals is the importance of continued research. It is apparent now that many of the assumptions about the Alamosaurus were based on immature remains. Fowler and his team hope that they can get back to New Mexico in hopes of finding a more complete specimen. Unfortunately, to date there have only been  fragmentary  discoveries of the Alamosaurus.  Fowler said. “Our findings show that  Alamosaurus  was originally described based on immature material, and this is a problem as characteristics that define a species are typically only fully gained at adult size. This means that we might be misinterpreting the relationships of  Alamosaurus  and possibly other sauropod dinosaurs too.” Though Fowler’s teams have made significant discoveries, a big challenge they have is to try to make super size discoveries with a small team of two or three people.

If you would like to follow the research from the Horner Paleo Lab at the Museum of the Rockies, go to their  Facebook  page or  http://www.museumoftherockies.org.

Senseg Brings Texture to Touchscreens

This, quite possibly, could be one of the coolest new technologies we’ll see in the near future. A technology company called “Senseg” is developing a touchscreen technology which allows touchscreens to come to life with textures, contours, and edges that users can feel. They claim that they can turn touchscreens into “feel screens” and they are working with Smartphone and tablet developers to make this a reality.

Feel Screen

You may be familiar with the term “haptics”. Haptics is the technology that allows you to feel that little vibration at the tip of your finger when you press on your Smartphone touchscreen. Senseg has brought haptics to a whole new level. Their patented technology introduces the “Tixel”. To quote their website, “by passing an ultra-low electrical current into the insulated electrode, Senseg’s Tixelâ„¢, the proprietary charge driver, can create a small attractive force to finger skin.” This attractive force basically creates the sensation of sharp edges and rough surfaces.

Tixel

Senseg’s solution is comprised of three core elements:

  • Senseg’s unique Tixel technology that activates the touch screen for electrostatic vibration
  • Senseg’s electronics module
  • Senseg software that manages effects in applications
The “Tixel” is essentially a special coating that can be applied to a touchscreen surface to give the sense of texture. Keep in mind that there are no moving parts. The sensations are electrical and immediate. The electronics module manages the electrical signals that are sent to the “Tixel”. Lastly, the software can be configured by developers to enhance the consumer experience with a wide range of haptic capabilities.
Imagine being able to look at a painting on your Smartphone and be able to feel the artist’s brush strokes. I could see this being great for teachers when they teach small children about different textures. Imagine the uses for the blind. How cool would it be to have braille on a touchscreen? The really cool thing about this technology is that it can be applied to just about any kind of surface, including curved, flat, and soft.
It appears that this technology is in the development stages but will appear in consumer electronics within the next 12 months. In the meantime, if you would like to keep up with Senseg, visit their website at www.senseg.com.

Easily Create a Table of Contents in Word

One of the most frustrating things that I have seen people deal with in Word documents is when they try to work with a Table of Contents. Word has a really nice way to take a document that you have created and automatically generate a Table of Contents. A little planning ahead will make this process a lot simpler. In this tutorial, I will show you how to generate a Table of Contents automatically.

The first thing that you need to know about creating an easy Table of Contents in Word is the use of Style. Word has a Style Gallery on the ribbon where you can apply styles to your text. Take a look at the picture below to see an example of the Style Gallery.

Style Gallery

To make the Table of Contents easy to automate, we need to use Heading styles. You’ll notice in the picture above that I have my chapter Title and I am picking Heading 1 from the Style Gallery. This will guarantee its inclusion in the automatic Table of Contents that I will create later. If I wanted to add a subheading, I would pick Heading 2, instead. Now if you’re following along with this tutorial, you may have noticed that Word 2010 can hide the other heading styles. Here is how you can get them into your Style Gallery. In the bottom right corner of the Styles group on the ribbon, there is a tiny arrow. Click that arrow and you will see the menu pictured below.

Manage Styles

To add the other heading style we need to click the Manage Styles button at the bottom of this menu. You will see the menu pictured below.

Add Headings

Click the heading styles you wish to add. By default they will have “hide until used” selected. To eliminate this, click the “Show” button at the bottom of the window and click OK. You will now have the additional heading options in your Style Gallery. Now you can add the Heading 2 style to your subheadings if you have them.

Once you have all of your headings typed, it is time to insert the Table of Contents. To do this, we have to click the References tab on the ribbon. I recommend making sure that you are in the exact spot where you want this added your document when you start this. Pictured below, you will see that you click the Table of Contents button and then choose from the available Table of Contents options. I chose Automatic Table 2.

Insert Table

You will now see the Table of Contents at the cursor in your document with the fields automatically populated, as pictured below.

Table of ContentsNotice that the words labeled with Heading 1 are aligned left and the Heading 2 words are indented. Word automatically picks up on these headings based on those styles that we picked earlier. One big mistake that I have seen people make when making a Table of Contents is thinking that merely making a word bold will make it show up. This simply isn’t the case. Use the heading styles. It will make life much easier.

There are other ways that you can insert a Table of Contents. One reason you might want to do it differently is if you don’t want the subheadings to show up. This is pretty easy to do. First, let’s remove the Table of Contents. If you click in the table, you will get a little menu at the top of the table. On the left side of the menu, there is a white sheet of paper with an arrow beside it. Click the arrow and then click Remove Table of Contents to remove it. Now, let’s click the Table of Contents button on the ribbon and look way down at the bottom. Pictured below, click the option that says Insert Table of Contents.

Insert Table

You will get the dialog box pictured below.

Options

One thing I would like to point out to you is at the bottom of the dialog box. The “show levels” setting is currently set to 3. If you only want to see the top-level headings in your Table of Contents then set this option to 1. Pictured below, you can see that my table now only shows the Heading 1 text.

TOC

So what if you add more headings later? It is very simple to add those pages to the table. Simply right-click inside the table and choose the “Update Field” option from the menu. A dialog box will ask you whether you want to update the page numbers or the entire table. Choose the option to “Update entire table”, as pictured below.

Update Table

I hope this tutorial will save you some pain down the road. There are other ways to get a Table of Contents into your document, but I have found that this is the simplest way by far. Now you can go write that great novel you’ve been putting off and put your new skills to work. Good luck and thank you for reading Techie Buzz!