Two worms, same brains – but one eats the other

IF TWO animals have identical brain cells, how different can they really be? Extremely. Two worm species have exactly the same set of neurons, but extensive rewiring allows them to lead completely different lives.

Ralf Sommer of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, Germany, and colleagues compared Caenorhabditis elegans, which eats bacteria, with Pristionchus pacificus, which hunts other worms. Both have a cluster of 20 neurons to control their foregut.

Sommer found that the clusters were identical. "These species are separated by 200 to 300 million years, but have the same cells," he says. P. pacificus, however, has denser connections than C. elegans, with neural signals passing through many more cells before reaching the muscles (Cell, This suggests that P. pacificus is performing more complex motor functions, says Detlev Arendt of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

Arendt thinks predators were the first animals to evolve complex brains, to find and catch moving prey. He suggests their brains had flexible wiring, enabling them to swap from plant-eating to hunting.

This article appeared in print under the headline "Identical brains, but one eats the other"

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Football: Returning Carroll steers West Ham past Swansea

LONDON: On-loan striker Andy Carroll scored only his second goal of the season as West Ham United won 1-0 at home to Swansea City on Saturday to end a run of four Premier League games without victory.

West Ham were largely dominant at Upton Park but could find no way past Swansea's inspired goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel until Carroll powered home a header from a corner with 13 minutes to play.

Victory lifted West Ham two places to 11th in the table, while League Cup finalists Swansea remain eighth after a first defeat in eight games.

Eager to prevent Swansea from settling into their usual passing rhythm, West Ham snapped into their tackles from the off and Ricardo Vaz Te was booked for a lunge at Wayne Routledge in the eighth minute.

Carroll, on loan from Liverpool, was making his first West Ham start since November 28 and the hosts looked for him at every opportunity as they began to impose themselves on the game.

Tremmel did brilliantly to prevent Kevin Nolan putting West Ham ahead from close range in the 21st minute after Joey O'Brien left Routledge for dead with a step-over on the right flank.

A second contest between Nolan and Tremmel in the 37th minute produced the same result, with the German saving superbly after the home skipper took aim from a Carroll knock-down.

Tremmel came to his side's rescue again shortly before half-time when he diverted a 25-yard shot from Vaz Te around the post.

The hosts remained on the front foot in the second period, with Tremmel repelling Vaz Te again and Carroll hoisting the ball wastefully over the Swansea crossbar from a Matt Jarvis cut-back.

Belatedly, Swansea reacted, Pablo Hernandez testing Jussi Jaaskelainen from a free-kick and top scorer Michu nodding a cross from Hernandez over the top.

Tremmel unleashed yet another fine save to thwart Carroll before the visitors' resistance finally subsided in the 77th minute.

Carroll cleverly shook off the attentions of Ashley Williams inside the Swansea box before planting a header past Tremmel from a corner.

In response, Jaaskelainen saved from Ki Sung-Yueng and then sprang to his feet to block Ben Davies' follow-up effort, while the hosts also survived a desperate scramble inside their own area in the dying stages.

English Premier League results:
Arsenal 1 Stoke 0
Everton 3 Aston Villa 3
Fulham 0 Manchester Utd 1
Newcastle 3 Chelsea 2
QPR 0 Norwich 0
Reading 2 Sunderland 1
West Ham 1 Swansea 0
Wigan 2 Southampton 2

- AFP/de

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Man killed, cut up wife, burned body parts at campsite, jury finds

Daily pilot murderA college computer manager on Friday was sentenced to 15 years to life for beating his wife to death with a statue, decapitating and dismembering her body, then burning her remains in a Ventura County campground, prosecutors said.

Richard Gustav Forsberg, 64, was found guilty in December of second-degree murder for the death of his longtime wife, a former Daily Pilot feature writer.

Forsberg got into an argument with Marcia Ann Forsberg -- his wife of 39 years -- in their Santa Margarita home in February 2010, the Orange County district attorney's office said. 

At the sentencing hearing on Friday, the woman’s brother read an impact statement to the court.

“I speak on behalf of my 86-year-old grieving and emotionally shattered mother, I speak for my bewildered distant family members, and also on behalf of my sister’s wonderful and loyal lifelong friends, all of whom struggle to make any sense of your senseless act of murder,” he said.

“You have stolen something very precious from each and every one of us.... Your actions to deceive us and eliminate all traces of your wife of 40 years are truly unforgivable to any society....”

Prosecutors say that Forsberg, a computer manager at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, grabbed a small statue and hit his wife on the head, killing her.

He decapitated and dismembered her body over the next several days, then rented an RV and purchased two freezers to stow the remains, prosecutors say.

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Pictures We Love: Best of January

Photograph by Dieu Nalio Chery, AP

The magnitude 7 earthquake that struck near Port au Prince, Haiti, in January 2010 so devastated the country that recovery efforts are still ongoing.

Professional dancer Georges Exantus, one of the many casualties of that day, was trapped in his flattened apartment for three days, according to news reports. After friends dug him out, doctors amputated his right leg below the knee. With the help of a prosthetic leg, Exantus is able to dance again. (Read about his comeback.)

Why We Love It

"This is an intimate photo, taken in the subject's most personal space as he lies asleep and vulnerable, perhaps unaware of the photographer. The dancer's prosthetic leg lies in the foreground as an unavoidable reminder of the hardships he faced in the 2010 earthquake. This image makes me want to hear more of Georges' story."—Ben Fitch, associate photo editor

"This image uses aesthetics and the beauty of suggestion to tell a story. We are not given all the details in the image, but it is enough to make us question and wonder."—Janna Dotschkal, associate photo editor

Published February 1, 2013

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Turkey says tests confirm leftist bombed U.S. embassy

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A member of a Turkish leftist group that accuses Washington of using Turkey as its "slave" carried out a suicide bomb attack on the U.S. embassy, the Ankara governor's office cited DNA tests as showing on Saturday.

Ecevit Sanli, a member of the leftist Revolutionary People's Liberation Army-Front (DHKP-C), blew himself up in a perimeter gatehouse on Friday as he tried to enter the embassy, also killing a Turkish security guard.

The DHKP-C, virulently anti-American and listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and Turkey, claimed responsibility in a statement on the internet in which it said Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was a U.S. "puppet".

"Murderer America! You will not run away from people's rage," the statement on "The People's Cry" website said, next to a picture of Sanli wearing a black beret and military-style clothes and with an explosives belt around his waist.

It warned Erdogan that he too was a target.

Turkey is an important U.S. ally in the Middle East with common interests ranging from energy security to counter-terrorism. Leftist groups including the DHKP-C strongly oppose what they see as imperialist U.S. influence over their nation.

DNA tests confirmed that Sanli was the bomber, the Ankara governor's office said. It said he had fled Turkey a decade ago and was wanted by the authorities.

Born in 1973 in the Black Sea port city of Ordu, Sanli was jailed in 1997 for attacks on a police station and a military staff college in Istanbul, but his sentence was deferred after he fell sick during a hunger strike. He was never re-jailed.

Condemned to life in prison in 2002, he fled the country a year later, officials said. Interior Minister Muammer Guler said he had re-entered Turkey using false documents.

Erdogan, who said hours after the attack that the DHKP-C were responsible, met his interior and foreign ministers as well as the head of the army and state security service in Istanbul on Saturday to discuss the bombing.

Three people were detained in Istanbul and Ankara in connection with the attack, state broadcaster TRT said.

The White House condemned the bombing as an "act of terror", while the U.N. Security Council described it as a heinous act. U.S. officials said on Friday the DHKP-C were the main suspects but did not exclude other possibilities.

Islamist radicals, extreme left-wing groups, ultra-nationalists and Kurdish militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past.


The DHKP-C statement called on Washington to remove Patriot missiles, due to go operational on Monday as part of a NATO defense system, from Turkish soil.

The missiles are being deployed alongside systems from Germany and the Netherlands to guard Turkey, a NATO member, against a spillover of the war in neighboring Syria.

"Our action is for the independence of our country, which has become a new slave of America," the statement said.

Turkey has been one of the leading advocates of foreign intervention to end the civil war in Syria and has become one of President Bashar al-Assad's harshest critics, a stance groups such as the DHKP-C view as submission to an imperialist agenda.

"Organizations of the sectarian sort like the DHKP-C have been gaining ground as a result of circumstances surrounding the Syrian civil war," security analyst Nihat Ali Ozcan wrote in a column in Turkey's Daily News.

The Ankara attack was the second on a U.S. mission in four months. On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American personnel were killed in an Islamist militant attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The DHKP-C was responsible for the assassination of two U.S. military contractors in the early 1990s in protest against the first Gulf War, and it fired rockets at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul in 1992, according to the U.S. State Department.

It has been blamed for previous suicide attacks, including one in 2001 that killed two police officers and a tourist in Istanbul's central Taksim Square. It has carried out a series of deadly attacks on police stations in the last six months.

Friday's attack may have come in retaliation for an operation against the DHKP-C last month in which Turkish police detained 85 people. A court subsequently remanded 38 of them in custody over links to the group.

(Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Astrophile: A scorched world with snow black and smoky

Astrophile is our weekly column on curious cosmic objects, from the solar system to the far reaches of the multiverse

Object: Titanium oxide snow
Location: The hot-Jupiter planet HD 209458b

There is something magical about waking up to discover it has snowed during the night. But there's no powdery white blanket when it snows on exoplanet HD 209458b. Snow there is black, smoky and hot as hell – resembling a forest fire more than a winter wonderland. Put it this way: you won't be needing mittens.

HD 209458b belongs to a family called hot Jupiters, gas-giant planets that are constantly being roasted due to their closeness to their sun. By contrast, the gas giants in our immediate neighbourhood, including Jupiter, are frigid, lying at the solar system's far reaches.

HD 209458b is also noteworthy because it is tidally locked, so one side is permanently facing towards its star while the other is in perpetual night. On the face of it, these conditions wouldn't seem to invite snow: temperatures on the day side come close to 2000° C, while the night side is comparatively chilly at around 500° C.

Snow made of water is, of course, impossible on this scorched world, but the drastic temperature differential sets up atmospheric currents that swirl material from the day side to night and vice versa. That means that any substances with the right combination of properties might be gaseous on the day side and then condense into a solid on the night side, and fall as precipitation. Say hello to titanium oxide snow.

Stuck on the surface

Although oxides of titanium make up only a small component of a hot Jupiter's atmosphere, these compounds have the right properties to fall as snow. But there was a snag that could have put a stop to any blizzards. Older computer models of hot Jupiters suggested that titanium oxides condensing in the air on the night side would snow – and remain on the relatively cool surface forever. "Imagine on Earth if you had no mechanism to evaporate water, it would never rain," says Vivien Parmentier of the Côte d'Azur Observatory in Nice, France.

Now he and colleagues have created a more detailed 3D computer model that shows that the snow can become a gas again as it falls and the temperature and pressure increase. Strong updraughts can then blow the titanium oxides back to the upper atmosphere. "The gas can come back on the top layers and snow again and again," says Parmentier.

Snowfall on HD 209458b would be like none you've ever seen. Though titanium dioxide is white and shiny, for example, the snowflakes would also contain silica oxides from the atmosphere, making them black. Since the atmosphere is also dark, snowstorms on the planet would be a smoky affair, the opposite of the white-outs we get on Earth. "It would be like being in the middle of a forest fire," says Parmentier.

Although the team studied a particular hot Jupiter, their model should apply equally to other planets of this type, suggesting hot snow is a common occurrence. Parmentier says we may have already spotted snow clouds on another hot Jupiter, HD 189733b, as spectral analysis of the planet suggests the presence of microscopic particles in its atmosphereMovie Camera.

David Sing of the University of Exeter, UK, who helped identify such particles on HD 189733b, says the team's new model goes a long way to explaining how titanium oxides behave on hot Jupiters. "We're pretty used to water condensing on Earth; there it is titanium because the temperatures are so much hotter."

Hot, black snow – now that would be something to wake up to.


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Oil prices rise after upbeat US, China data

NEW YORK: Oil prices finished higher Friday in New York, buoyed by greater optimism about global growth following encouraging indicators from the US and China.

A barrel of West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, settled 28 cents higher at US$97.77 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Even stronger was the price of European oil benchmark Brent futures, which closed at US$116.76 a barrel on the Intercontinental Exchange, up US$1.21. The close was Brent's highest level since May 2012.

Oil prices got a lift from Friday's monthly US nonfarm labour payroll data.

Although the number of net jobs added in January came in below expectations, markets were heartened by a significant upward revision in the 2012 monthly figures.

The Labor Department reported employers added 157,000 jobs in January and upped its estimate for December jobs growth to 196,000.

After a sweeping annual revision of earlier data, the department also said monthly job growth averaged 181,000 in 2012, well above the prior estimate of 153,000 jobs.

The US jobs report was not the only strong data point released Friday, said Dominick Chirichella, an analyst with the Energy Management Institute. There was also strong manufacturing data in the US and China, the world's two biggest energy consumers.

"Pretty much everything across the board was positive," Chirichella said.

The one exception was Wednesday's report on the US economy for the 2012 fourth quarter, which showed gross domestic product shrank 0.1 per cent, the first contraction since the 2009 recession.

But the oil and equity markets "ignored" the GDP reading, Chirichella added.

"Crude is being lifted with all the other markets, even though the underlying fundamentals do not necessarily justify that," said Matt Smith, an analyst with Schneider Electric. "Demand is relatively flat and supply is at a 20-year high."

Oil prices have also been supported by the fall in the US dollar against the euro. Because oil is traded in US dollars, it becomes cheaper for consumers who use other currencies to purchase the commodity.

Still, prices of US benchmark WTI continued to be weighed down by problems at the Seaway pipeline.

The pipeline has encountered operational problems that have limited the flow of oil from the Cushing, Oklahoma-based trading hub to refineries on the US Gulf Coast, producing a glut of oil at landlocked Cushing that has pressured prices.

- AFP/jc

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School board member pimped out girls for sex, authorities allege

Mike RiosThe young woman on the witness stand said Mike Rios approached her on the street with a school district business card in his hand and a job opportunity on his mind: He wanted her “to gather girls and sell them," she said.

The young woman, identified in court only as Valery, testified Wednesday that she and others worked as prostitutes for Rios, a member of the Moreno Valley Unified School District Board of Education.

Valery’s testimony came on the opening day of Rios’ trial in Riverside County Superior Court. He faces felony charges, including rape, pandering and pimping of six females, including two underage girls.

Valery, 21, with long black hair and bangs covering her forehead, bit her lip between questions, and her face was somber. In addition to working as a prostitute for Rios, she said she helped recruit other young women for him.

"He told me we had to get the best-looking girls so we could get more money for them," Valery said.

Prosecutors allege Rios ran a prostitution ring out of his Moreno Valley home.
In opening statements, Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Brusselback told the jury: "This is a case about greed. This is a case about money. This is a case about power."

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Pictures: Super Bowl Caps Banner Season in NFL Green Drive

Multiple-exposure photograph by Gerard Lodriguss, Getty Images

When the Ravens and 49ers face off Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII, it will be in a city—and stadium—that have spent more than six years battling back from natural and ecological disaster.

So it's no surprise that New Orleans aims to set a new mark for environmental sustainability in its ninth turn at hosting the NFL's marquee event, reflecting a broader green movement that is changing the look of stadiums and attitudes throughout the sports world.

"It's a wonderful platform to bring people together to think about how our actions as individuals matter, and what we can do about climate change," says Patty Riddlebarger, director of corporate social responsibility for the Gulf Coast energy company Entergy. She has chaired the New Orleans Host Committee's environmental effort over the past two years.

Riddlebarger notes that much of the world holds a lingering image of the Superdome far different from the renovated stadium that will showcase the game. After a $336 million restoration, the "refuge of last resort" for 30,000 people during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 is now buttressed with protective and energy-saving features. The stadium's outer wall is a specially designed double barrier system with improved insulation and rainwater control. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as it is now known, is ringed with 26,000 LED lights, covering two million square feet and supported by five miles of copper wiring, but which draw only ten kilowatts of electricity—as much as a small home. The stadium stands as an example for "not just rebuilding what was there before, but making it more environmentally sound," Riddlebarger says.

Entergy will donate carbon credits—investments in projects that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—to offset the estimated 3.8 million pounds of emissions expected to be generated due to energy use at the Super Bowl venues. New Orleans' Second Harvest Food Bank will recover unused food items from all Super Bowl events to donate to those in need. And two nonprofits, the Green Project and REPurposingNola, will reclaim Super Bowl banners, displays, and other promotional items to be recycled into souvenir items such as tote bags, wallets, and shower curtains.

The Host Committee organized a Super Bowl Saturday day of service focused on continuing restoration. New Orleans is one of the most deforested cities in the United States, having lost 100,000 trees to Katrina's wind and standing saltwater. The urban forestry initiative Hike for KaTreena will mark the planting of its 20,000th tree on Saturday—7,000 of them planted or given away in a drive organized around the game (a Super Bowl tree-planting record). And since Saturday is World Wetlands Day, local students will join a coastal restoration project in Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge coordinated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose administrator, Lisa Jackson, is a New Orleans native.

The effort around this year's Super Bowl is part of a larger movement around green games and green stadiums, featuring solar panels, wind turbines, efficient lighting, recycling, and innovative water-management systems. Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has been working for years with U.S. professional sports teams, believes that the influence of sports gives such partnerships "the potential to become one of the most important collaborations in the history of the environmental movement."

"Sports is the ultimate cultural unifier and if you want to change the world, you don't emphasize how different you are from everyone else," he wrote recently in his NRDC blog about the report, "Game Changer: How the Sports Industry is Saving the Environment." "We need to bond through our common connections."

—Marianne Lavelle, Amy Sinatra Ayres, and Jeff Barker

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

Published February 1, 2013

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Suicide bomber kills guard at U.S. embassy in Turkey

ANKARA (Reuters) - A far-leftist suicide bomber killed a Turkish security guard at the U.S. embassy in Ankara on Friday, officials said, blowing open an entrance and sending debris flying through the air.

The attacker detonated explosives strapped to his body after entering an embassy gatehouse. The blast could be heard a mile away. A lower leg and other human remains lay on the street.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the bomber was a member of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a far-left group which is virulently anti-U.S. and anti-NATO and is listed as a terrorist organization by Washington.

The White House said the suicide attack was an "act of terror" but that the motivation was unclear. U.S. officials said the DHKP-C were the main suspects but did not exclude other possibilities.

Islamist radicals, extreme left-wing groups, ultra-nationalists and Kurdish militants have all carried out attacks in Turkey in the past. There was no claim of responsibility.

"The suicide bomber was ripped apart and one or two citizens from the special security team passed away," said Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

"This event shows that we need to fight together everywhere in the world against these terrorist elements," he said.

Turkish media reports identified the bomber as DHKP-C member Ecevit Sanli, who was involved in attacks on a police station and a military staff college in Istanbul in 1997.


Turkey is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East with common interests ranging from energy security to counter-terrorism and has been one of the leading advocates of foreign intervention to end the conflict in neighboring Syria.

Around 400 U.S. soldiers have arrived in Turkey over the past few weeks to operate Patriot anti-missile batteries meant to defend against any spillover of Syria's civil war, part of a NATO deployment due to be fully operational in the coming days.

The DHKP-C was responsible for the assassination of two U.S. military contractors in the early 1990s in protest against the first Gulf War and launched rockets at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul in 1992, according to the U.S. State Department.

Deemed a terrorist organization by both the United States and Turkey, the DHKP-C has been blamed for suicide attacks in the past, including one in 2001 that killed two police officers and a tourist in Istanbul's central Taksim Square.

The group, formed in 1978, has carried out a series of deadly attacks on police stations in the last six months.

The attack may have come in retaliation for an operation against the DHKP-C last month in which Turkish police detained 85 people. A court subsequently remanded 38 of them in custody over links to the group.


U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone emerged through the main gate of the embassy shortly after the explosion to address reporters, flanked by a security detail as a Turkish police helicopter hovered overhead.

"We're very sad of course that we lost one of our Turkish guards at the gate," Ricciardone said, describing the victim as a "hero" and thanking Turkish authorities for a prompt response.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the attack on the checkpoint on the perimeter of the embassy and said several U.S. and Turkish staff were injured by debris.

"The level of security protection at our facility in Ankara ensured that there were not significantly more deaths and injuries than there could have been," she told reporters.

It was the second attack on a U.S. mission in four months. On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American personnel were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The attack in Benghazi, blamed on al Qaeda-affiliated militants, sparked a political furor in Washington over accusations that U.S. missions were not adequately safeguarded.

A well-known Turkish journalist, Didem Tuncay, who was on her way in to the embassy to meet Ricciardone when the attack took place, was in a critical condition in hospital.

"It was a huge explosion. I was sitting in my shop when it happened. I saw what looked like a body part on the ground," said travel agent Kamiyar Barnos, whose shop window was shattered around 100 meters away from the blast.


The U.S. consulate in Istanbul warned its citizens to be vigilant and to avoid large gatherings, while the British mission in Istanbul called on British businesses to tighten security after what it called a "suspected terrorist attack".

In 2008, Turkish gunmen with suspected links to al Qaeda, opened fire on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, killing three Turkish policemen. The gunmen died in the subsequent firefight.

The most serious bombings in Turkey occurred in November 2003, when car bombs shattered two synagogues, killing 30 people and wounding 146. Part of the HSBC Bank headquarters was destroyed and the British consulate was damaged in two more explosions that killed 32 people less than a week later. Authorities said those attacks bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda.

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler and Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Mohammed Arshad and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Swarm-mongering: Brainless blobs flock together

Birds of a feather flock together and now so do brainless, inanimate blobs. Made of microscopic particles, the artificial swarms could shed light on the mysterious mechanisms behind the natural swarming seen in fish and birds. They might also lead to materials with novel properties like self-healing.

Animals such as birds, fish and even humans that move together in swarms have individual intelligence, but Jérémie Palacci of New York University and colleagues wondered whether inanimate objects could also swarm. "From a physicist's point of view, if many different systems behave in the same way there must be an underlying physical rule," he says.

To explore this idea, the team created microscopic plastic spheres, each one with a cubic patch of haematite, an iron oxide, on its surface. When submerged in hydrogen peroxide, the spheres spread out in a disordered fashion. The team then shone blue light on the particles, causing the haematite cubes to catalyse the breakdown of any nearby hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. As hydrogen peroxide concentration dropped temporarily in these regions due to the reaction, osmotic forces cause more hydrogen peroxide to flow into them, and that in turn buffets the spheres. The whole process then repeats.

Self-healing swarm

When two spheres come close enough to each other, the balance of chemical forces shifts so that the two spheres are attracted. If there are enough spheres in the same place they will cluster together to form shapes of symmetrically arranged particles, which the team call crystals (see video, above). These crystals continue to be buffeted by the movement caused by the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide – but now they move together as one object, replicating a life-like swarm. Switch off the light, however, and the reaction stops, causing the crystal to lose the forces that hold it together, and the particle distribution becomes disordered once again.

"This system shows that even though the particles have no social interaction or intelligence, you can exhibit collective behaviour with no biology involved," says Palacci. Since the haematite is magnetic, it is even possible to steer the crystals in one direction by applying a magnetic field. Such control might be useful if the artificial swarms are to be harnessed for applications.

As the particles automatically fill any gaps that form in the crystal, again thanks to the chemical dynamics of the system, they could be used to create a self-assembling, self-healing material. The work is published in the journal Science today.

Schooled by fish

Iain Couzin of Princeton University says these kinds of systems are very useful for studying biological collective behaviour because researchers have complete control over their interactions – unlike natural systems.

His team has its own swarming experiment published in the same issue of Science, based on schools of fish that prefer to stay in shade. Their paper shows that shining a light on some of the fish in the school causes them to speed up, to get away from the light. But as a result, non-illuminated fish also speed up, even though, if acting purely as individuals, they would have had no reason to do so. "We show just by using simple interactions that schools can have a sense of responsiveness to the environment that individuals do not have," he says.

Couzin sees no reason why such behaviour should be limited to natural systems. "In future it may be possible to create systems of particles that can make collective decisions – something we often think of as only possible in biological systems," he says.

Journal references: Living crystals: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1230020; Fish: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1225883

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Judge to US government: stop censoring 9/11 hearings

GUANTANAMO BAY: A military judge overseeing September 11 pre-trial hearings revealed Thursday the government had censored discussion of secret CIA prisons from outside the courtroom, and angrily ordered such censorship not happen again.

The proceedings at the high-security courtroom where five alleged 9/11 plotters are to be tried are heard in the press gallery and in a room where human rights groups and victims' families sit, with a 40 second delay.

This is done so a court security officer, or CSO, sitting next to the judge can block anything deemed classified.

The officer has two switches -- "stop" and "go" -- and spectators behind a thick glass window can see a red light go on when proceedings are in fact being silenced.

Judge James Pohl disclosed Thursday that the government -- by means of the so-called original classification authority (OCA) -- also has a switch, but outside the courtroom, that allows it to cut off the broadcast of the proceedings.

On Monday part of the proceedings were censored when the discussion touched on secret CIA prisons where the suspects were held and abused.

The judge said he was stunned and angry that the censoring mechanism was activated from outside the court, without his knowledge.

This must stop, Pohl said, adding that "the judge and only the judge" can decide what happens in his courtroom.

On Thursday, the last day of this round of hearings, Pohl said the government must "disconnect the outside feed or ability to suspend the broadcast" from outside his court.

The ruling means censoring can go on, but it cannot be activated from outside the courtroom.

The judge said the "public has no unfettered right to access classified info. However, the only person who is authorised to close the courtroom is the judge."

"This order takes effect immediately," he said.

The Justice Department prosecutor in charge of classified material questions, Joanna Baltes, had said the OCA had the possibility of controlling the outside feed.

So it seems it was the OCA that pulled the plug on the sound Monday, as it was the CIA that ran the secret prisons where terror suspects, including the five defendants here, were subjected to "enhanced interrogation" methods.

The harsh interrogations have included techniques like waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, that are widely regarded as torture.

Thursday was the last day of the latest session of pre-trial hearings. The five defendants, including self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, were not present as they are boycotting the sessions.

The 9/11 trial at this US base on the southeastern tip of Cuba is not expected to start for at least a year.

The five men accused of plotting the suicide attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, which killed nearly 3,000 people, face the death penalty if convicted.

Before Pohl's ruling, defence attorneys filed an emergency request seeking to suspend the proceedings on grounds that a dispute over the confidentiality of their conversations with their clients had not been resolved.

David Nevin, lawyer for Mohamed, said all his conversations with his client -- including during prison visits and even in the courtroom -- were being recorded.

The next hearings are scheduled to begin February 11, and the confidentiality issue is to be addressed. Pohl has ordered the defendants be present for that hearing.

Before adjourning until that date, Pohl summoned Bruce MacDonald, who oversees all US military courts, to testify. This was another setback for the government because it had opposed his testifying.

- AFP/jc

Read More..

Man fell in love with Manti Te'o, pretended to be girlfriend

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

For the last two weeks, the story of Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend has unraveled one layer at a

The Notre Dame linebacker spoke, then a
Long Beach woman whose pictures were used in the ruse came forward. But the
biggest questions could be answered only by a
22-year-old man from Palmdale -- the man Te’o and the woman alleged was the
mastermind behind the hoax.

Now Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has broken his
silence publicly, saying he fell “deeply, romantically in
love” with the Heisman Trophy runner-up in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw
set to air later this week.

“Here we have a young man that fell deeply,
romantically in love,” McGraw told the “Today” show Wednesday. “I asked him straight up,
‘Was this a romantic relationship with you?’ And he says, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Are
you then, therefore, gay?’ And he said, ‘Well, when you put it that way, yes.’
And then he caught himself and said, ‘I am confused.’”

The new revelations come a day after
Tuiasosopo’s attorney, Milton Grimes, told The Times his client “feels as
though he needs therapy and part of that therapy is to come out of the closet,
so to speak, and tell the truth.” Grimes said Tuiasosopo is seeing a medical

“His point is that he wants to heal,”
Grimes said. “He knows that if he doesn’t come out and tell the truth, it will
interfere with him getting out of this place that he is in.”

The comments add another twist to a story
so bizarre, reporters from across the country
bombarded Tuiasosopo’s family and friends after revealed earlier
this month that Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, did not exist.

Tuiasosopo, the report said, was the
mastermind behind the hoax and used photos from an old high school classmate
and social media to connect Kekua with Te’o.

Te’o repeatedly spoke to the media,
including The Times, about his girlfriend, the car accident that left her
seriously injured and the leukemia that led to her September death. The tale
became one of the most well-known stories of the college football season as
Te’o led his team to an undefeated season and championship berth.

Te’o has denied any role in the ruse,
saying he spent hours on the phone with a woman he thought was Kekua.

Grimes confirmed his client pretended to be
Kekua, insisting it was possible that Tuiasosopo disguised his voice to sound
like a woman, similar to role-playing or method-acting techniques.

“I don’t think it’s so unusual that a
person could imitate that voice of a person of a different sex,” Grimes said.

Grimes offered no explanation as to why his
client hatched the plan but said he never wanted to hurt Te’o.

“He did not intend to harm him in any way,”
Grimes said. “It was just a matter of trying to have a communication with

Those who know Tuiasosopo said they were
baffled when they learned of his involvement in the hoax. Neighbors and former
high school coaches described him as popular, faith-driven and family-oriented.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking about it,”
said Jon Fleming, Tuiasosopo’s former football coach at Antelope Valley High.
“It’s all speculation. He’s goofy just like any other kid. The question that comes
up in my mind is: ‘What could he possibly gain from doing something like this?’
It would really surprise me. What would he gain?”

Grimes said he warned his client that he
could face legal consequences for admitting that he falsified his identity on
the Internet. But Tuiasosopo insisted that going public was something he had to

“This is part of my public healing,” Grimes
quoted Tuiasosopo as saying.

In a short clip of the TV
interview obtained by The Times, McGraw asks Tuiasosopo why he ended
his relationship with Te’o.

“For many reasons,” Tuiasosopo said. “There
were many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up before.... They would
break up, and then something would bring them back together, whether it was
something going on in his life or in Lennay’s life -- in this case, in my


Listen to Lennay Kekua’s voicemails for Manti Te’o

Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o get trapped in a good story

Manti Te'o hoax: Diane O'Meara says she was hounded for photos

--Matt Stevens, Kate Mather and Ann Simmons

Read More..

Opinion: Sizing Up Google’s New North Korea Map

Editor's note: Juan José Valdés is National Geographic's geographer and director of editorial and research for National Geographic Maps.

Google this week unveiled its first detailed maps of North Korea.

Where most of the reclusive police state had formerly appeared as white space, the new maps include street names in the capital, government buildings and businesses, and four sites that Google identifies as gulags.

The Internet search company noted that the project was made possible by citizen cartographers, who for years have been adding the names of roads and points of interest through Google's online Map Maker tool.

"As a result," Google said in a blog post this week, "the world can access maps of North Korea that offer much more information and detail than before." (Read "Escaping North Korea" in National Geographic magazine.)

It's certainly a commendable task. North Korea is among the hardest places on Earth from which to obtain information, let alone accurate cartographic data.

The advent of the fax machine, followed by the Web, has lessened this task. Map sources—specifically satellite imagery—as well as experts on obscure or secretive places like North Korea, are more readily accessible than ever before.

Google's new Korea maps speak to today's bottom-up approach to mapmaking. Traditionally, national survey offices and cartographic houses have dictated map content. (Video: Inside North Korea.)

But that tradition has quickly lost ground with the emergence of dynamic mapping platforms and the legions of citizen cartographers who have begun making and updating maps.

The best example of this movement is the OpenStreetMap project. Since its founding in 2004, over a million worldwide participants have—with the aid of satellite and aerial imagery, GPS, and hard-copy sources—catalogued everything from foot trails and bike paths to handicapped-accessible buildings in some of the world's major cities.

While the democratization of mapmaking has much to add to an old science by allowing anyone with access to a computer to upload their findings, it's also important that we acknowledge the pitfalls and limits of citizen cartography.

In many parts of the world such citizen mapping has proven challenging, if not downright dangerous. In many places, little can be achieved without the approval of local and or national authorities—especially in North Korea.

When attempting to map contentious areas, National Geographic not only works closely with individual governmental entities but also with external entities, including international toponymic (place-naming) authorities and agencies such as the United Nations.

At the other end of the spectrum there's the issue of a citizen cartographer's knowledge or understanding of official naming or boundary policies.

It's one thing to record and portray place-names on a map as recognized by locals or wondering citizen cartographers. It's quite another for them to abide by the official cartographic policies of the territories they are mapping.

In many countries, place-names, let alone the alignment of boundaries, remain a powerful symbol of independence and national pride, and not merely indicators of location. This is where citizen cartographers need to understand the often subtle nuances and potential pitfalls of mapping.

From National Geographic's perspective, all a map should accomplish is the actual portrayal of national sovereignty, as it currently exists. It should also reflect the names as closely as possible to those recognized by the political entities of the geographic areas being mapped.

To do otherwise would give map readers an unrealistic picture of what is occurring on the ground.

If not cognizant of these facts, there is a real danger that certain parts of the world could be erroneously mapped.

Such errors could, and have had, international repercussions. In 2000, an incorrect alignment of the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan border on Google Maps inflamed tensions between the two countries. Google quickly corrected the error.

Over the centuries, cartography has witnessed many "golden ages." Today, experts are proclaiming that we are in the midst of a new one.

A profession once practiced by few has become a discipline enthusiastically engaged by many. Unlike printed maps, where an error—as with the recent find of the phantom Sandy Island in the South Pacific—can be perpetuated through time, online maps enable such errors to be quickly corrected.

What better face-saving device could a cartographer ask for?

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Syria protests over Israel attack, warns of "surprise"

BEIRUT/AMMAN (Reuters) - Syria protested to the United Nations on Thursday over an Israeli air strike on its territory and warned of a possible "surprise" response.

The foreign ministry summoned the head of the U.N. force in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to deliver the protest a day after Israel hit what Syria said was a military research centre and diplomats said was a weapons convoy heading for Lebanon.

"Syria holds Israel and those who protect it in the Security Council fully responsible for the results of this aggression and affirms its right to defend itself, its land and sovereignty," Syrian television quoted it as saying.

The ministry said it considered Wednesday's Israeli attack to be a violation of a 1974 military disengagement agreement which followed their last major war, and demanded the U.N. Security Council condemn it unequivocally.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "grave concern". "The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to prevent tensions or their escalation," his office said, adding that international law and sovereignty should be respected.

Israel has maintained total silence over the attack, as it did in 2007 when it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site - an attack which passed without Syrian military retaliation.

In Beirut on Thursday Syria's ambassador said Damascus could take "a surprise decision to respond to the aggression of the Israeli warplanes". He gave no details but said Syria was "defending its sovereignty and its land".

Diplomats, Syrian rebels and security sources said Israeli jets bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border on Wednesday, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah. Syria denied the reports, saying the target was a military research centre northwest of Damascus and 8 miles from the border.

Hezbollah, which has supported Assad as he battles an armed uprising in which 60,000 people have been killed, said Israel was trying to thwart Arab military power and vowed to stand by its ally.

"Hezbollah expresses its full solidarity with Syria's leadership, army and people," said the group which fought an inconclusive 34-day war with Israel in 2006.

Russia, which has blocked Western efforts to put pressure on Syria at the United Nations, said any Israeli air strike would amount to unacceptable military interference.

"If this information is confirmed, we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the U.N. Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives," Russia's foreign ministry said.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian said the attack "demonstrates the shared goals of terrorists and the Zionist regime", Fars news agency reported. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad portrays the rebels fighting him as foreign-backed, Islamist terrorists, with the same agenda as Israel.

An aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday Iran would consider any attack on Syria as an attack on itself.

In battle-torn Damascus, residents doubted Syria would fight back. One mother of five said she had heard retaliation would come later. "They always say that. They'll retaliate, but later, not now. Always later," she said, and laughed.

"The last thing we need now is Israeli fighter jets to add to our daily routine. As if we don't have enough noise and firing keeping us awake at night."


Details of Wednesday's strike remain sketchy and, in parts, contradictory. Syria said Israeli warplanes, flying low to avoid detection by radar, crossed into its airspace from Lebanon and struck the Jamraya military research centre.

But the diplomats and rebels said the jets hit a weapons convoy heading from Syria to Lebanon and the rebels said they - not Israel - attacked Jamraya with mortars.

One former Western envoy to Damascus said the discrepancy between the accounts might be explained by Jamraya's proximity to the border and the fact that Israeli jets hit vehicles inside the complex as well as a building.

The force of the dawn attack shook the ground, waking nearby residents from their slumber with up to a dozen blasts, two sources in the area said.

"We were sleeping. Then we started hearing rockets hitting the complex and the ground started shaking and we ran into the basement," said a woman who lives adjacent to the Jamraya site.

The resident, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity over the strike, said she could not tell whether the explosions which woke her were the result of an aerial attack.

Another source who has a relative working inside Jamraya said a building inside the complex had been cordoned off and flames were seen rising from the area after the attack.

"It appears that there were about a dozen rockets that appeared to hit one building in the complex," the source, who also asked not to be identified, told Reuters. "The facility is closed today."

Israeli newspapers quoted foreign media on Thursday for reports on the attack. Journalists in Israel are required to submit articles on security and military issues to the censor, which has the power to block any publication of material it deems could compromise state security.

Syrian state television said two people were killed in the raid on Jamraya, which lies in the 25-km (15-mile) strip between Damascus and the Lebanese border. It described it as a scientific research centre "aimed at raising the level of resistance and self-defense".

Diplomatic sources from three countries told Reuters that chemical weapons were believed to be stored at Jamraya, and that it was possible that the convoy was near the large site when it came under attack. However, there was no suggestion that the vehicles themselves had been carrying chemical weapons.

"The target was a truck loaded with weapons, heading from Syria to Lebanon," said one Western diplomat, echoing others who said the convoy's load may have included anti-aircraft missiles or long-range rockets.

The raid followed warnings from Israel that it was ready to act to prevent the revolt against Assad leading to Syria's chemical weapons and modern rockets reaching either his Hezbollah allies or his Islamist enemies.

A regional security source said Israel's target was weaponry given by Assad's military to fellow Iranian ally Hezbollah.

Such a strike or strikes would fit Israel's policy of pre-emptive covert and overt action to curb Hezbollah and does not necessarily indicate a major escalation of the war in Syria. It does, however, indicate how the erosion of the Assad family's rule after 42 years is seen by Israel as posing a threat.

Israel this week echoed concerns in the United States about Syrian chemical weapons, but its officials say a more immediate worry is that the civil war could see weapons that are capable of denting its massive superiority in airpower and tanks reaching Hezbollah; the group fought Israel in 2006 and remains a more pressing threat than its Syrian and Iranian sponsors.

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Gabriela Baczynska in Moscow and Marcus George in Dubai; editing by David Stamp and Philippa Fletcher)

Read More..

Today on New Scientist: 30 January 2013

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Minimum booze price will rein in alcohol abuse

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First real time-travel movies are loopers

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Infrared laptop trackpad ignores accidental touches

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Close call coming: Averting the asteroid threat

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The right to fight: women at war

The US military has accepted women into combat. What can science tell us about how women deal with being in the line of fire? And are they any different to men?

Earth and others lose status as Goldilocks worlds

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The 10,000-year bender: Why humans love a tipple

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Read More..

Brazil night club owner attempts suicide

SANTA MARIA: An owner of the Brazilian night club where 235 people perished in a weekend fire tried to commit suicide, police said Wednesday, as the number of survivors seeking medical treatment after the disaster continued to rise.

Elissandro Sphor tried to kill himself with a plastic shower hose, said senior police official Lilian Carus in the town of Cruz Alta 125 kilometres from Santa Maria, where the club owner is hospitalised.

"It was clear he wanted to hang himself," Carus told AFP, adding that a police officer arrived at the scene -- a hospital where Sphor is being treated for gas poisoning -- before anything happened.

Police took Sphor and three others into custody as they pieced together what caused the inferno at the Kiss nightclub, which was packed with partying students when the blaze broke out early Sunday.

About 75 injured victims of the fire are clinging to life, some in critical condition, in the college town of Santa Maria.

Meanwhile, health officials there said about 20 people have been hospitalised since the fire with symptoms of "chemical pneumonitis" after breathing in smoke and toxic gases emitted during the inferno.

The symptoms may take five days to appear and can be severe, health official Neio Pereira said.

Most of the victims died of smoke inhalation as they desperately tried to escape.

Those treated for the respiratory ailments Wednesday were in addition to 123 people hospitalised after the fire, which authorities say was sparked by a cheap flare lit by musicians as part of an illegal pyrotechnics display.

Authorities catalogued a long list of other infractions at club, including a lack of emergency lighting, non-functioning fire extinguishers and suspected overcrowding.

It also was operating with an expired licence and had only one functioning exit, which survivors said was unmarked and blocked by steel barriers, making it difficult to flee the establishment.

Sphor's doctor told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that since the tragedy, his client -- who is one of two owners of the night club -- cries incessantly, has had to be put on a prescription of tranquilisers, and is emotionally "destroyed."

Meanwhile, dozens of people late Tuesday took to the streets of Santa Maria demanding justice and stricter laws.

"We will work tirelessly until all those responsible are identified," police commissioner Marcelo Arigony promised the demonstrators -- even as many blamed the government itself for failing to carry out the inspections that might have saved lives.

Some survivors said that security guards initially blocked the exit to prevent customers from leaving the club without paying their bar tabs.

Fire chief Sergio Roberto de Abreu said his department had been in the process of reviewing the club's fire extinguisher documentation, but that approval had not yet been given at the time of the fire.

Lawyers for the club, however, have insisted that the establishment was in full compliance.

- AFP/jc

Read More..

Manti Te'o hoax suspect 'in love' with football star

The man accused of hoaxing Manti Te’o fell “deeply romantically
in love” with the Notre Dame linebacker and said he was “confused” about his
sexuality, TV’s Dr. Phil McGraw told the "Today" show in a clip that aired Wednesday.

The Antelope Valley man, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, 22, is allegedly the person behind the Te’o fake-girlfriend affair. He is planning to
come clean and reveal the exact nature of his relationship with the football
player and his role in the hoax during an interview with McGraw to be aired Thursday, his
attorney, Milton Grimes, told The Times.

Grimes said Tuiasosopo was acting
when he portrayed "Lennay Kekua," the woman with whom Te’o said he
had fallen in love, but never met. Grimes said his client pretended to be
the woman in phone calls with the football star, disguising his voice to sound
like a woman, similar to what people do when they are role-playing or method

"I don’t think it’s so unusual
that a person could imitate the voice of a person of a different sex,"
Grimes said.

In a short clip of that interview
obtained by The Times, McGraw asks Tuiasosopo why he ended his relationship
with Te’o.

“For many reasons,” Tuiasosopo said. “There were many times where Manti and Lennay
had broken up before.... They would break up, and then something would bring
them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or something
going in Lennay’s life -- in this case, in my life. I wanted to end it, because
after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move
on with my life. I had to get me, Ronaiah. I had to start just living and just
let this go.”

Grimes, the onetime lawyer for the
late Rodney King, said Tuiasosopo "feels as though he needs therapy and part of that therapy
is to ... tell the truth."

McGraw told "Today" that “Ronaiah
had a number of life experiences that damaged this young man in some very
serious ways,” and after speaking with Tuiasosopo, he believes that Te’o "absolutely, unequivocally" was not involved in the hoax.

Grimes insisted his client didn't
mean to hurt Te'o.

"He did not intend to harm him
in any way," Grimes said.

Te'o had spoken to reporters
repeatedly about his supposed girlfriend and her battle with cancer, a story
that captivated college football fans throughout fall 2012, when the
Heisman Trophy runner-up helped his team finish out the regular season undefeated and helped get them to
the national championship game.

A report published Jan. 16 first
revealed that the girlfriend was fake, and identified Tuiasosopo as the man
behind the hoax.

Grimes said Tuiasosopo had chosen
Dr. Phil for his first public appearance because he felt that as a medical
professional, Dr. Phil "might be inclined to have better insight [than a
regular reporter] into what he’s going through ... the particular
condition," Grimes said.

Diane O'Meara, a Southern California
woman whose photos were apparently used in the fake girlfriend's social media
accounts, told The Times that Tuiasosopo repeatedly asked for photos and videos
from her in the weeks before the hoax unraveled. She called his actions
"kind of annoying," but added, "as a compassionate person, I
totally believed him."

Grimes said he had warned his
client, who is seeing a medical professional, that he could face legal
consequences for admitting that he falsified his identity on the Internet. But
Tuiasosopo insisted that going public was something he had to do in order to
move on with his healing process.

"His point is that he wants to
heal," Grimes said. "He knows that if he doesn’t come out and tell
the truth, it will interfere with him getting out of this place that he is

"This is part of my public
healing," Grimes quoted Tuiasosopo as saying.


Listen to Lennay Kekua’s voicemails for Manti Te’o

Lance Armstrong and Manti Te'o get trapped in a good story

Manti Te'o hoax: Diane O'Meara says she was hounded for photos

--Matt Stevens, Kate Mather and Ann Simmons 

Read More..

Water Demand for Energy to Double by 2035

Marianne Lavelle and Thomas K. Grose

The amount of fresh water consumed for world energy production is on track to double within the next 25 years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects.

And even though fracking—high-pressure hydraulic fracturing of underground rock formations for natural gas and oil—might grab headlines, IEA sees its future impact as relatively small.

By far the largest strain on future water resources from the energy system, according to IEA's forecast, would be due to two lesser noted, but profound trends in the energy world: soaring coal-fired electricity, and the ramping up of biofuel production.

Two pie charts show the share of different fuels for water consumption, as projected by the International Energy Agency.

National Geographic

If today's policies remain in place, the IEA calculates that water consumed for energy production would increase from 66 billion cubic meters (bcm) today to 135 bcm annually by 2035.

That's an amount equal to the residential water use of every person in the United States over three years, or 90 days' discharge of the Mississippi River. It would be four times the volume of the largest U.S. reservoir, Hoover Dam's Lake Mead.

More than half of that drain would be from coal-fired power plants and 30 percent attributable to biofuel production, in IEA's view. The agency estimates oil and natural gas production together would account for 10 percent of global energy-related water demand in 2035. (See related quiz: "What You Don't Know About Biofuel.")

Not everyone agrees with the IEA's projections. The biofuel industry argues that the Paris-based agency is both overestimating current water use in the ethanol industry, and ignoring the improvements that it is making to reduce water use. But government agencies and academic researchers in recent years also have compiled data that point to increasingly water-intensive energy production. Such a trend is alarming, given the United Nations' projection that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in regions with severe water scarcity, and that two-thirds of the world's population could be living under water-stressed conditions.

"Energy and water are tightly entwined," says Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project, and National Geographic's Freshwater Fellow. "It takes a great deal of energy to supply water, and a great deal of water to supply energy. With water stress spreading and intensifying around the globe, it's critical that policymakers not promote water-intensive energy options."

Power Drunk

The IEA, established after the oil shocks of the 1970s as a policy adviser on energy security, included a warning on water in a special report within its latest World Energy Outlook released late last year. "A more water-constrained future, as population and the global economy grow and climate change looms, will impact energy sector reliability and costs," the agency said.

National Geographic News obtained from IEA a detailed breakdown of the figures, focusing on the agency's "current policies" scenario—the direction in which the world is heading based on current laws, regulations, and technology trends.

In the energy realm, IEA sees coal-powered electricity driving the greatest demand for water now and in the future. Coal power is increasing in every region of the world except the United States, and may surpass oil as the world's main source of energy by 2017. (See related interactive map: The Global Electricity Mix.)

Steam-driven coal plants always have required large amounts of water, but the industry move to more advanced technologies actually results in greater water consumption, IEA notes. These advanced plants have some environmental advantages: They discharge much less heated water into rivers and other bodies of water, so aquatic ecosystems are protected. But they lose much more water to evaporation in the cooling process.

The same water consumption issues are at play in nuclear plants, which similarly generate steam to drive electric turbines. But there are far fewer nuclear power plants; nuclear energy generates just 13 percent of global electricity demand today, and if current trends hold, its share will fall to about 10 percent by 2035. Coal, on the other hand, is the "backbone fuel for electricity generation," IEA says, fueling 41 percent of power in a world where electricity demand is on track to grow 90 percent by 2035. Nuclear plants account for just 5 percent of world water consumption for energy today, a share that is on track to fall to 3 percent, IEA forecasts. (See related quiz: "What You Don't Know About Water and Energy.")

If today's trends hold steady on the number of coal plants coming on line and the cooling technologies being employed, water consumption for coal electricity would jump 84 percent, from 38 to 70 billion cubic meters annually by 2035, IEA says. Coal plants then would be responsible for more than half of all water consumed in energy production.

Coal power producers could cut water consumption through use of "dry cooling" systems, which have minimal water requirements, according to IEA. But the agency notes that such plants cost three or four times more than wet cooling plants. Also, dry cooling plants generate electricity less efficiently.

The surest way to reduce the water required for electricity generation, IEA's figures indicate, would be to move to alternative fuels. Renewable energy provides the greatest opportunity: Wind and solar photovoltaic power have such minimal water needs they account for less than one percent of water consumption for energy now and in the future, by IEA's calculations. Natural gas power plants also use less water than coal plants. While providing 23 percent of today's electricity, gas plants account for just 2 percent of today's energy water consumption, shares that essentially would hold steady through 2035 under current policies.

The IEA report includes a sobering analysis of the water impact of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. If the world turns to CCS as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants, IEA's analysis echoes that of outside researchers who have warned that water consumption will be just as great or worse than in the coal plants of today. "A low-carbon solution is not necessarily a low-water solution," says Kristen Averyt, associate director for science at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado. However, based on current government policies, IEA forecasts that CCS would account for only 1.3 percent of the world's coal-fired generation in 2035. (See related story: "Amid Economic Concerns, Carbon Capture Faces a Hazy Future.")

Biofuel Thirst

After coal power, biofuels are on track to cause the largest share of water stress in the energy systems of the future, in IEA's view. The agency anticipates a 242 percent increase in water consumption for biofuel production by 2035, from 12 billion cubic meters to 41 bcm annually.

The potential drain on water resources is especially striking when considered in the context of how much energy IEA expects biofuels will deliver—an amount that is relatively modest, in part because ethanol generally produces less energy per gallon than petroleum-based fuels. Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel now account for more than half the water consumed in "primary energy production" (production of fuels, rather than production of electricity), while providing less than 3 percent of the energy that fuels cars, trucks, ships, and aircraft. IEA projects that under current government policies, biofuels' contribution will edge up to just 5 percent of the world's (greatly increased) transportation demand by 2035, but fuel processed from plant material will by then be drinking 72 percent of the water in primary energy production.

"Irrigation consumes a lot of water," says Averyt. Evaporation is the culprit, and there is great concern over losses in this area, even though the water in theory returns to Earth as precipitation. "Just because evaporation happens here, does not mean it will rain here," says Averyt. Because irrigation is needed most in arid areas, the watering of crops exacerbates the uneven spread of global water supply.

Experts worry that water demand for fuel will sap water needed for food crops as world population is increasing. "Biofuels, in particular, will siphon water away from food production," says Postel. "How will we then feed 9 billion people?" (See related quiz: "What You Don't Know About Food, Water, and Energy.")

But irrigation rates vary widely by region, and even in the same region, farming practices can vary significantly from one year to the next, depending on rainfall. That means there's a great deal of uncertainty in any estimates of biofuel water-intensity, including IEA's.

For example, for corn ethanol (favored product of the world's number one biofuel producer, the United States), IEA estimates of water consumption can range from four gallons to 560 gallons of water for every gallon of corn ethanol produced. At the low end, that's about on par with some of the gasoline on the market, production of which consumes from one-quarter gallon to four gallons water per gallon of fuel. But at the high end, biofuels are significantly thirstier than the petroleum products they'd be replacing. For sugar cane ethanol (Brazil's main biofuel), IEA's estimate spans an even greater range: from 1.1 gallon to 2,772 gallons of water per gallon of fuel.

It's not entirely clear how much biofuel falls at the higher end of the range. In the United States, only about 18 to 22 percent of U.S. corn production came from irrigated fields, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And the remaining water in ethanol production in the United States—the amount consumed in the milling, distilling, and refining processes—has been cut in half over the past decade through recycling and other techniques, both industry sources and government researchers say. (One industry survey now puts the figure at 2.7 gallons water per gallon of ethanol.) A number of technologies are being tested to further cut water use.

"It absolutely has been a major area of focus and research and development for the industry over the past decade," says Geoff Cooper, head of research and analysis for the Renewable Fuels Association, the U.S.-based industry trade group. "Our member companies understand that water is one of those resources that we need to be very serious about conserving. Not only is it a matter of sustainability; it's a matter of cost and economics."

One potential solution is to shift from surface spraying to pumped irrigation, which requires much less water, says IEA. But the downside is those systems require much more electricity to operate.

Water use also could be cut with advanced biofuels made from non-food, hardy plant material that doesn't require irrigation, but so-called cellulosic ethanol will not become commercially viable under current government policies, in IEA's view, until 2025. (If governments enacted policies to sharply curb growth of greenhouse gas emissions, IEA's scenarios show cellulosic ethanol could take off as soon as 2015.)

Fracking's Surge

Fracking and other unconventional techniques for producing oil and natural gas also will shape the future of energy, though in IEA's view, their impact on water consumption will be less than that of biofuels and coal power. Water consumption for natural gas production would increase 86 percent to 2.85 billion cubic meters by 2035, when the world will produce 61 percent more natural gas than it does today, IEA projects. Similarly, water consumption for oil production would slightly outpace oil production itself, growing 36 percent in a world producing 25 percent more oil than today, under IEA's current policies scenario.

Those global projections may seem modest in light of the local water impact of fracking projects. Natural gas industry sources in the shale gas hot spot of Pennsylvania, for instance, say that about 4 million gallons (15 million liters) of water are required for each fracked well, far more than the 100,000 gallons (378,540 liters) conventional Pennsylvania wells once required. (Related: "Forcing Gas Out of Rock With Water")

IEA stresses that its water calculations are based on the entire production process (from "source to carrier"); water demand at frack sites is just one part of a large picture. As with the biofuel industry, the oil and gas industry is working to cut its water footprint, IEA says. "Greater use of water recycling has helped the industry adapt to severe drought in Texas" in the Eagle Ford shale play, said Matthew Frank, IEA energy analyst, in an email.

"The volumes of water used in shale gas production receive a lot of attention (as they are indeed large), but often without comparison to other industrial users," Frank added. "Other sources of energy can require even greater volumes of water on a per-unit-energy basis, such as some biofuels. The water requirements for thermal power plants dwarf those of oil, gas and coal production in our projections."

That said, IEA does see localized stresses to production of fossil fuels due to water scarcity and competition—in North Dakota, in Iraq, in the Canadian oil sands. "These vulnerabilities and impacts are manageable in most cases, but better technology will need to be deployed and energy and water policies better integrated," the IEA report says. (See related story: "Natural Gas Nation: EIA Sees U.S. Future Shaped by Fracking.")

Indeed, in Postel's view, the silver lining in the alarming data is that it provides further support for action to seek alternatives and to reduce energy use altogether. "There is still enormous untapped potential to improve energy efficiency, which would reduce water stress and climate disruption at the same time," she says. "The win-win of the water-energy nexus is that saving energy saves water."

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

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Egypt curfew scaled back as Mursi seeks end to bloodshed

CAIRO/BERLIN (Reuters) - Egyptian authorities scaled back a curfew imposed by President Mohamed Mursi, and the Islamist leader cut short a visit to Europe on Wednesday to deal with the deadliest violence in the seven months since he took power.

Two more protesters were shot dead before dawn near Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Wednesday, a day after the army chief warned that the state was on the brink of collapse if Mursi's opponents and supporters did not end street battles.

More than 50 people have been killed in the past seven days of protests by Mursi's opponents marking the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Mursi imposed a curfew and a state of emergency on three Suez Canal cities on Sunday - Port Said, Ismailia and Suez. That only seemed to further provoke crowds. However, violence has mainly subsided in those towns since Tuesday.

Local authorities pushed back the start of the curfew from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. in Ismailia and to 1:00 a.m. in Port Said and Suez.

"There has been progress in the security situation since Monday. Calm has returned," Suez Governor Samir Aglan said.

Mursi, speaking in Berlin before hurrying home to deal with the crisis, called for dialogue with opponents but would not commit to their demand that he first agree to include them in a unity government.

He sidestepped a question about a possible unity government, saying the next cabinet would be formed after parliamentary elections in April.

Egypt was on its way to becoming "a civilian state that is not a military state or a theocratic state", Mursi said.

The violence at home forced Mursi to scale back his European visit, billed as a chance to promote Egypt as a destination for foreign investment. He flew to Berlin but called off a trip to Paris and was due back home after only a few hours in Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met him, echoed other Western leaders who have called on him to give his opponents a voice.

"One thing that is important for us is that the line for dialogue is always open to all political forces in Egypt, that the different political forces can make their contribution, that human rights are adhered to in Egypt and that of course religious freedom can be experienced," she said at a joint news conference with Mursi.


Mursi's critics accuse him of betraying the spirit of the revolution by keeping too much power in his own hands and those of his Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement banned under Mubarak which won repeated elections since the 2011 uprising.

Mursi's supporters say the protesters want to overthrow Egypt's first democratically elected leader. The current unrest has deepened an economic crisis that saw the pound currency tumble in recent weeks.

Near Cairo's Tahrir Square on Wednesday morning, dozens of protesters threw stones at police who fired back teargas, although the scuffles were brief.

"Our demand is simply that Mursi goes, and leaves the country alone. He is just like Mubarak and his crowd who are now in prison," said Ahmed Mustafa, 28, a youth who had goggles on his head to protect his eyes from teargas.

Opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei called for a meeting of the president, ministers, the ruling party and the opposition to halt the violence. But he also restated the precondition that Mursi first commit to seeking a national unity government.

The worst violence has been in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, where rage was fuelled by death sentences passed against soccer fans for roles in deadly riots last year.

After decades in which the West backed Mubarak's military rule of Egypt, the emergence of an elected Islamist leader in Cairo is probably the single most important change brought about by the wave of Arab revolts over the past two years.

Mursi won backing from the West last year for his role in helping to establish a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinians that ended a conflict in Gaza. But he then followed that with an effort to fast-track a constitution that reignited dissent at home and raised global concern over Egypt's future.

Western countries were alarmed this month by video that emerged showing Mursi making vitriolic remarks against Jews and Zionists in 2010 when he was a senior Brotherhood official.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said ahead of Mursi's visit that the remarks, in which Mursi referred to Zionists as "descendants of apes and pigs" were "unacceptable".


Asked about those remarks at the news conference with Merkel, Mursi repeated earlier explanations that they had been taken out of context.

"I am not against the Jewish faith," he said. "I was talking about the practices and behavior of believers of any religion who shed blood or who attack innocent people or civilians. That's behavior that I condemn."

"I am a Muslim. I'm a believer and my religion obliges me to believe in all prophets, to respect all religions and to respect the right of people to their own faith," he added.

Egypt's main liberal and secularist bloc, the National Salvation Front, has so far refused talks with Mursi unless he promises a unity government including opposition figures.

"Stopping the violence is the priority, and starting a serious dialogue requires committing to guarantees demanded by the National Salvation Front, at the forefront of which are a national salvation government and a committee to amend the constitution," ElBaradei said on Twitter.

Those calls have also been backed by the hardline Islamist Nour party - rivals of Mursi's Brotherhood. Nour and the Front were due to meet on Wednesday, signaling an unlikely alliance of Mursi's critics from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Brotherhood leader Mohamed El-Beltagy dismissed the unity government proposal as a ploy for the Front to take power despite having lost elections. On his Facebook page he ridiculed "the leaders of the Salvation Front, who seem to know more about the people's interests than the people themselves".

In a sign of the toll the unrest is having on Egypt's economy, ratings agency Fitch downgraded its sovereign rating by one notch to B on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry, Yasmine Saleh and Marwa Awad in Cairo, Yusri Mohamed in Ismailia and Stephen Brown and Gernot Heller in Berlin; Writing by Peter Graff)

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