How will the world end? We dodged the 2012 doomsday predicted by the Mayan calendar, but scientists have provided several possible scenarios for the world’s demise. Hollywood has its own set of ideas, from zombies to giant earthquakes to alien invasions. According to Ron Miller, former art director for the Albert Einstein Planetarium at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C., it’s not just earth’s destruction we have to worry about. He told The Huffington Post in an email: “From the end of civilization we go to the end of human life on Earth, then to the end of life of any kind, then to the destruction of the planet itself. But it can get even worse than that. After the Earth is gone, the solar system itself will eventually be destroyed, the sun will become a dark, cold cinder and, after many billions of years, will come the heat death of the entire universe.” More
The local discovery of a species of fly not native to the Midwest could have significant implications on forensic investigations involving decomposing remains, according to a forensic biology researcher at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Christine Picard, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in the School of Science at IUPUI, discovered the fly,Chrysomya megacephala Fabricius (C. megacephala), during a routine collection of fly samples in late September 2012. Until now, entomologists had never documented the fly farther north than New Mexico. “Although I only found a single fly of this species, this is an important event in the area of forensics,” said Picard, also a faculty member in the Forensic and Investigative Sciences program at IUPUI. “Because this fly is not typically found here, we don’t know how it develops here, how to use that data or how it could affect the precision and accuracy of forensic investigations.” The growth and development of flies play an important role for scientists looking to learn how long a human or other animal has been dead. When a new species is introduced, scientists or investigators may be at a disadvantage because of the little data that exists locally on that species. More
Last year, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Grasp (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception) Lab gathered a dozen or so quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), programmed them to work in concert, and set them loose on a roomful of improvised instruments. The hovering swarm dutifully reproduced the James Bond theme song. In biology, a swarm is a collection of individuals that manifest complex behavior without a leader calling the shots. Imagine birds spontaneously gathering on a single tree, only to lift off en masse moments later. Scientists have applied swarm intelligence to driving robots, but they now have the processing power and sensing capability to apply it to flying ones too. To achieve a swarm, scientists program each unit with a set of simple rules. For example: Maintain constant separation, steer in the same direction, and always move toward the center of the swarm. The result is a mass of individuals that can move as a group. Scientists at Grasp recently used a UAV swarm to pick up and haul heavy objects. More
Implementation of the employer health-care mandate, one of the most vaunted provisions in President Obama’s health care law, will be put off for a full year, the administration said today. In passing the Affordable Care Act, Democrats included — and promoted — the requirement that companies with 50 or more employees will have to provide health coverage to their employees, or face fines. That was supposed to begin in 2014, but the U.S. Treasury announced today that the requirement won’t be implemented until 2015. Assistant Treasury Secretary for Tax Policy Mark Mazur wrote today on the Treasury’s website: ”The Administration is announcing that it will provide an additional year before the ACA mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements begin. This is designed to meet two goals. First, it will allow us to consider ways to simplify the new reporting requirements consistent with the law. Second, it will provide time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while employers are moving toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees. Within the next week, we will publish formal guidance describing this transition. Just like the Administration’s effort to turn the initial 21-page application for health insurance into a three-page application, we are working hard to adapt and to be flexible about reporting requirements as we implement the law.” More
On Monday afternoon, pro-life supporters confronted pro-abortion activists at the Texas statehouse as the legislature met. A special session had been called by Gov. Rick Perry (R) to pass a ban on abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy and to ensure that abortion clinics meet the standards of care of other ambulatory surgical clinics.
There were an estimated 40,000 people gathered in Victoria’s Inner Harbour for Canada Day when, it appears, two figures slipped into the crowd and planted a series of packages they likely hoped would shower nails, bolts and washers onto as many revellers as possible. “My suspicion is that they wanted to cause as much damage as they possibly could,” said B.C. Premier Christy Clark at a press conference midday Tuesday in front of the B.C. Parliament Buildings; mere steps from where the devices are alleged to have been discovered. Just as surreptitiously as they were placed, however, the devices were carted away as evidence by a team of investigators that had been on the tail of the would-be bombers since February. Crowds packed onto the lush green lawns of B.C.’s seat of power were apparently none the wiser that they had set out lawn chairs on the staging ground for one of the most potentially deadly terrorism plots in recent Canadian history. More
PROPHECY WATCH: CAIRO (AP) — His fate hanging in the balance, embattled President Mohammed Morsi vowed not to resign Tuesday, hours before a deadline to yield to the demands of millions of protesters or see the military suspend the constitution, disband parliament and install a new leadership. The Islamist leader demanded that the powerful armed forces withdraw their ultimatum, saying he rejected all “dictates” — from home or abroad. Outside on the streets, the sense that both sides are ready to fight to the end sharpened, with clashes between his supporters and opponents that left at least 23 dead, most of them in a single incident of fighting outside Cairo University. More
Israel nervously watches Egyptian turmoil – JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli officials are warily watching the mass protests in neighboring Egypt, fearing a collapse of the Islamist government could threaten the historic peace treaty between the two nations. While Israeli leaders have been careful not to take sides in Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s struggle with protesters, many fear extremist Islamic groups could take advantage of chaos to launch attacks from either Egypt or the Gaza Strip. It is an ironic turn of events. The election of Morsi, a member of the anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood, last year raised fears among Israeli leaders that Egypt would move to cancel the 1979 peace accord. Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, carefully honored the peace deal and maintained close coordination with the Israeli military. More