SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) A few months before he died, Carl Sagan recorded a message of hope to would-be Mars explorers, telling them: "Whatever the reason you're on Mars is, I'm glad you're there. And I wish I was with you."
On Monday, 17 years after the pioneering astronomer set out his hopeful vision of the future in 1996, a company from the Netherlands is proposing to turn Sagan's dreams of reaching Mars into reality. The company, Mars One, plans to send four astronauts on a trip to the Red Planet to set up a human colony in 2023. But there are a couple of serious snags.
Firstly, when on Mars their bodies will have to adapt to surface gravity that is 38% of that on Earth. It is thought that this would cause such a total physiological change in their bone density, muscle strength and circulation that voyagers would no longer be able to survive in Earth's conditions. Secondly, and directly related to the first, they will have to say goodbye to all their family and friends, as the deal doesn't include a return ticket.
The Mars One website states that a return "cannot be anticipated nor expected". To return, they would need a fully assembled and fuelled rocket capable of escaping the gravitational field of Mars, on-board life support systems capable of up to a seven-month voyage and the capacity either to dock with a space station orbiting Earth or perform a safe re-entry and landing.
"Not one of these is a small endeavour" the site notes, requiring "substantial technical capacity, weight and cost".
Nevertheless, the project has already had 10,000 applicants, according to the company's medical director, Norbert Kraft. When the official search is launched on Monday at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, they expect tens of thousands more hopefuls to put their names forward.
Kraft told the Guardian that the applicants so far ranged in age from 18 to at least 62 and, though they include women, they tended to be men.
The reasons they gave for wanting to go were varied, he said. One of three examples Kraft forwarded by email to the Guardian cited Sagan.
An American woman called Cynthia, who gave her age as 32, told the company that it was a "childhood imagining" of hers to go to Mars. She described a trip her mother had taken her on in the early 1990s to a lecture at the University of Wisconsin.
In a communication to Mars One, she said the lecturer had been Sagan and she had asked him if he thought humans would land on Mars in her lifetime. Cynthia said: "He in turn asked me if I wanted to be trapped in a 'tin can spacecraft' for the two years it would take to get there. I told him yes, he smiled, and told me in all seriousness, that yes, he absolutely believed that humans would reach Mars in my lifetime."
She told the project: "When I first heard about the Mars One project I thought, this is my chance – that childhood dream could become a reality. I could be one of the pioneers, building the first settlement on Mars and teaching people back home that there are still uncharted territories that humans can reach for."
The prime attributes Mars One is looking for in astronaut-settlers is resilience, adaptability, curiosity, ability to trust and resourcefulness, according to Kraft. They must also be over 18.
Professor Gerard 't Hooft, winner of the Nobel prize for theoretical physics in 1999 and lecturer of theoretical physics at the University of Utrecht, Holland, is an ambassador for the project. 'T Hooft admits there are unknown health risks. The radiation is "of quite a different nature" than anything that has been tested on Earth, he told the BBC.
Founded in 2010 by Bas Lansdorp, an engineer, Mars One says it has developed a realistic road map and financing plan for the project based on existing technologies and that the mission is perfectly feasible. The website states that the basic elements required for life are already present on the planet. For instance, water can be extracted from ice in the soil and Mars has sources of nitrogen, the primary element in the air we breathe. The colony will be powered by specially adapted solar panels, it says.
In March, Mars One said it had signed a contract with the American firm Paragon Space Development Corporation to take the first steps in developing the life support system and spacesuits fit for the mission.
The project will cost a reported $6bn (£4bn), a sum Lansdorp has said he hopes will be met partly by selling broadcasting rights. "The revenue garnered by the London Olympics was almost enough to finance a mission to Mars," Lansdorp said, in an interview with ABC News in March.
Another ambassador to the project is Paul Römer, the co-creator of Big Brother, one of the first reality TV shows and one of the most successful.
On the website, Römer gave an indication of how the broadcasting of the project might proceed: "This mission to Mars can be the biggest media event in the world," said Römer. "Reality meets talent show with no ending and the whole world watching. Now there's a good pitch!"
The aim is to establish a permanent human colony, according to the company's website. The first team would land on the surface of Mars in 2023 to begin constructing the colony, with a team of four astronauts every two years after that.
The project is not without its sceptics, however, and concerns have been raised about how astronauts might get to the surface and establish a colony with all the life support and other requirements needed. There were also concerns over the health implications for the applicants.
Dr Veronica Bray, from the University of Arizona's lunar and planetary laboratory, told BBC News that Earth was protected from solar winds by a strong magnetic field, without which it would be difficult to survive. The Martian surface is very hostile to life. There is no liquid water, the atmospheric pressure is "practically a vacuum", radiation levels are higher and temperatures vary wildly. High radiation levels can lead to increased cancer risk, a lowered immune system and possibly infertility, she said.
To minimise radiation, the project team will cover the domes they plan to build with several metres of soil, which the colonists will have to dig up.
The mission hopes to inspire generations to "believe that all things are possible, that anything can be achieved" much like the Apollo moon landings.
"Mars One believes it is not only possible, but imperative that we establish a permanent settlement on Mars in order to accelerate our understanding of the formation of the solar system, the origins of life, and of equal importance, our place in the universe" it says.
The longest anyone has ever spent in space is 438 days, achieved by Valeri Polyakov, of Russia, in a manned space flight in 1994.
But the Mars One website states: "While a cosmonaut on board the Mir was able to walk upon return to Earth after 13 months in a weightless environment, after a prolonged stay on Mars the human body will not be able to adjust to the higher gravity of Earth upon return.
"There is a point in time after which the human body will have adjusted to the 38% gravitation field of Mars, and be incapable of returning to the Earth's much stronger gravity. This is due to the total physiological change in the human body, which includes reduction in bone density, muscle strength, and circulatory system capacity."
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – How to Stand Tall in Life for the Righteousness with NO Fear for the good Deeds & Justice
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- In the old days we did the spring clean by washing the winter's accumulated soot off our paintwork. Now, where this tradition still exists, we are more likely to take the curtains to the dry cleaners and dare to see what has been breeding down the back of the sofa. As well as seeing off unwanted dirt and clutter, spring is as good a time as any to extend this ritual to look at our metaphorical fluff. We could take out everything we've ever been told, everything we've ever absorbed and only put back what we need.
When it comes to working on ourselves, though, it's usually more difficult than cleaning out a cupboard. But difficult does not necessarily translate to being undesirable. We need stimulation. We can look for it within or externally. When we get away to explore a new place, we feel refreshed by the new sights, smells, environment or culture. Certainly when I do this, I can feel it doing me good. If we seek out richer and more exciting environments it has the side-effect of not only enhancing our self-esteem but also boosting our immune system. A little unfairly, experiments have been done with rats showing that they can withstand the effects of poison better when they are in a stimulating environment, as opposed to poor rats stuck in a familiar situation. So don't let these rats suffer in vain – seek out enough stimulation.
As the motivational speaker Ed Foreman says: "If we always do what we've always done, then we're going to get what we've always got." If we wish for different things we tend to want change to be outside ourselves – to be in the form of a saviour, such as a Prince Charming, or a win on the lottery, or a significant-other undergoing a character change. And this is normal. But just because passivity is normal, it doesn't mean it's viable. Changes that make a positive difference don't have to be dramatic; they can be tiny, fine-tuned adjustments, such as deciding to cultivate a different variety of plant or learning a new word a day. Even when we make a very small difference to our routine or outlook, it can make a significant impact on our feelings of well-being.
When we experiment with something new, it's normal to feel in two minds about it. Sometimes it feels the more good it's going to do us is in direct proportion to how much dread we feel when contemplating it. We often talk to ourselves in a defeatist way by saying: "This isn't really me", but we can clock such excuses and decide to experiment in spite of them. If the experiment doesn't make us feel more stimulated, more interconnected, more alive, no harm will have been done and we can drop it.
Here's my recommendation: get a large piece of plain paper and draw a circle in the middle. Inside the circle write examples of activities that you feel completely comfortable doing. In mine, I might put something like going for a short walk. Around the outside of that circle write down examples of activities that you can do but that you have to push yourself a little bit to do. For example, climbing to the top of a monument or hill. Draw a larger circle around this circle of activities. In the next band write activities that you would like to do but feel some trepidation about. These might be things like a seven-day walk, approaching someone with a new business idea or starting a charity. Draw another circle around this ring of activities. Write down those things you are far too scared to try but harbour ambitions about – maybe putting yourself forward for public office. Create as many circles as you like.
In time, the activities immediately outside our inner circle become commonplace and our comfort zone expands. What may be in an outer circle might well be in an inner circle of someone else's, but we should remember that whatever we try is for ourselves alone. It does not matter what anyone else might think. The idea is to expand in small steps. In my experience, I have found that if we don't test our limits from time to time, the comfort zone can shrink. So onwards and outwards…
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A dead whale is a cozy place to live. In death, splayed over the seafloor, the massive marine mammals offer deep-sea organisms an embarrassment of blubbery and bony riches that feed entire communities of unusual creatures for decades.
One such bottom buffet was found in 2010 by researchers aboard the RRS James Cook as they guided a remotely operated vehicle over the seafloor around Antarctica's South Sandwich Islands (map), the first whalefall ever seen in the vicinity of the continent.
Even better, Natural History Museum, London marine biologist Diva Amon and colleagues now report in the journal Deep Sea Research Part II, the body of the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) was host to at least nine species that have never been seen before.
Dead whales that sink to the seafloor have a peculiar afterlife. Sharks, crabs, and other scavengers quickly hone in on the carcass and remove most of the whale's soft parts, such as the fat and muscle.
Then the whale's story takes a stranger turn. Bone-boring worms, clams, and other organisms—called "enrichment opportunists"—settle in and around the body to draw resources from the bones.
Once these ephemeral creatures have taken all they can from the whale, extensive mats of bacteria grow over the skeleton. These microbial pastures draw in snails that graze upon them. The first two phases pass relatively quickly, over the course of years, but the final stage can take decades to unfold. (Watch an animated video of the phases of a whalefall.)
A Rare Find
Whalefalls are seldom discovered. Since marine biologists first recognized them three decades ago, only six natural whalefall communities have been found.
Marine biologists have resorted to intentionally sinking whale carcasses to get a better understanding of the communities that take up residence on the huge bodies.
The reason behind the fascination is because these communities are unusual aggregations of organisms that seem to specialize in finding and thriving on a very rare resource.
In the case of the Antarctic minke whale found by Amon and her collaborators, the deceased cetacean was home to a new species of limpet, bone-eating "snotworms", woodlice-like creatures called isopods, and other unusual critters.
The carcass was entirely skeletonized when researchers found it. They expect that the whale's body had been laying on the seafloor for several decades before they stumbled on it.
As desolate as the site looked, though, the whale's body still supported an array of life. The list of species found living around and within the whale included corals, anemones, squid, snails, isopods, and more, including a new species of worm in the genus Osedax. These worms make a living by burrowing into whale bones with the help of symbiotic bacteria in their gut.
This genus of worm was first discovered on the bodies of dead whales, in fact. But how the invertebrate evolved such a bizarre lifestyle is still a mystery. (See pictures of other bone-eating worms.)
Of the various species found on the whalefall, though, a new and as-yet-unnamed species of the limpet Lepetodrilus is among the most tantalizing. Species of this snail relative are often found among deep-sea hydrothermal vents and methane seeps—places where outpourings of chemical energy provide oases for life.
In fact, Amon and her coauthors report, the newly-discovered limpet species appears to be the same as those inhabiting hydrothermal vents found about 825 feet (250 meters) away from the whale carcass.
These limpets, the researchers suggest, might use whalefalls as "stepping stones" between hydrothermal vents, meaning that their kind is specially adapted to taking advantage of relatively short-lived seafloor environments, carcass-hopping to new habitats.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- An answer to this question depends squarely on an appropriate understanding of the Day of Judgment, resurrection and its signs. We will therefore elaborate on some of the signs of the Day of Judgment and then an answer will follow to the foregoing question:
First: What is inferred from the verses of the Holy Quran is that the world ends with the arrival of the Day of Judgment and that a new world will come into being after the day of Resurrection. The Holy Quran has made mention of some signs which we shall mention under three categories:
A) Incidents which take place before the end of the world: One of the pre-resurrection signs is the coming of the last Messenger. Another sign of the end of this period is a smoke that will appear in the sky. The Quran says: "Then watch thou for the Day that the sky will bring forth a kind of smoke (or mist) plainly visible."
It is narrated that a companion of the Holy Prophet (s) asked him, “What is this smoke?” The Holy Prophet (s) recited the above verse and then said, “This is such a smoke that will envelope the entire world from east to west, and it will remain for 40 days and 40 nights. A believer will experience the uneasiness of cold (like hay fever), whereas the smoke will come out of the nose, ears and rear of a disbeliever”.
B) Incidents which take place on the verge of the end of the world:
1. The mountains will be crushed following a few other incidents. They will be shaken by quakes,lifted up and then they will be moved and crushed at one stroke. Then they will turn into a heap of sands and then they turn into dust and disperse.
3. Devastating quakes: On the Day of Judgment, an ear-shattering sound will follow the sounding of the trumpet, and an unequalled tremor will rock Earth. Massive mountains, trees—in fact every place on Earth—will begin to rock at the same time. People will panic and be gripped by great fear. The most fear-inspiring aspect is that no one can escape it or find any sort of refuge, for this tremor is not like the ones with which we are familiar; rather, this tremor will continue until Earth has been flattened: "Mankind, heed your Lord! The quaking of the Hour is a terrible thing."
4. On the Day of Judgment, the Sun and the Moon, the Earth's two sources of light, will be darkened one after the other: "When the sun (with its spacious light) is folded up; When the stars fall, losing their luster."
5. The sky and other planets are rent asunder: "When the heaven is split asunder."
6. The incidents which will be created at the start of the Day of Judgment and resurrection:
The last stage of the Judgment Day involve incidents which take place following the two preceding stages: " On the day when the earth shall be changed into a different earth, and the heavens (as well), and they shall come forth before Allah, the One, the Supreme.", 
It can be concluded from the above that the Day of Judgment is not the continuation of this world. This world shall turn into a mess completely because great explosions and horrific quakes will destroy everything. Thereupon, the world will emerge with a new design on the mess and ruins of this world. The resurrection of human beings shall take place in that new world.
Second: There are also other evidences in the Quran which somehow substantiate the temporariness of this world. For example, the Holy Quran says, "We created not the heavens and the earth and all between them but for just ends, and for a Term Appointed." That appointed day or term is the Day of Judgment when the skies and the earth are folded up and the earth will go through a metamorphic change. Not only the earth but also the sun, moon and other planets will not be in this system for ever. Their movement and the system in which they operate are for a temporary period of time. When the appointed time expires, then they will be overthrown and rent asunder.
Scientific predictions made about the world and the existing system also accord, to a great extent, with the revelation and religious underpinnings. If there is a view opposing the revelation, it is, according to us, nothing but a conjecture which is soon or late perfected or modified by other scholars and drawn closer and nearer to the realities of the Quran.
Third: As for whether or not God will create a new creature following the Day of Resurrection and upon people's going to Paradise and Hell, it is a question which has been touched by some traditions:
Jabir bin Yazeed says that he asked Imam Baqir, peace be upon him, about this verse: "Were We then worn out by the first creation? Yet they are in doubt about a new creation. "
He (Imam Baqir) said, “O Jabir, the explanation of that verse is that when Allah, the Exalted, will destroy this creation and this world, and doom people to living in paradise and in hell then Allah, the Sublime, will create a new cosmos from the beginning, and will create a new creature without male or female that will worship Him and accept the oneness of Him. Further, He will create a new earth without this earth for that creature, which will carry the burden of it. And He will create a new sky/heaven other than this sky that will spread its shadow on them.
Perhaps you think God has created only one universe and you think God has not created any man except you.
Yes by Allah, the Sublime, who has created thousands of universes and thousands of Adams, you are in the last of the worlds and you are the last descendants of those Adams"
Late Allamah Muhammad Hussein Tabatabai (may his soul rest in peace) quote this meaning and considers it as one of the possible (not the only) meanings of this verse.
Therefore, this world with its sky and earth will be overthrown after the Day of Judgment. And if a world is also created, it will have different features and would be beyond our imagination and perception.
For further information, see the following indexes:
1. The Nature of the Relationship of Action with Temporal Incidents, question 2229 (site: 2525)
2. The Age of Mankind, 637 (site: 701).
3. The creation of Adam and the Findings of Scientists, 2999 (site: 3297)
 - Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Payam-e Qur'an (The Message of the Quran), vol.6, pg. 21, Amirul Momeneen School Publications, 1374 (1995).
 -Dukhan, 10
 - Payam-e Qur'an (The Message of the Quran), vol.6, pg. 27, Amirul Momeneen School Publications, 1374 (1995)
 -Al-Muzzammil, 14
 - Al-Haqqah, 14
 - Tur, 10
 - Al-Haqqah, 14
 - Al-Muzzammil, 14
 - Al-Waqeah, 5 and 6.
 - Al-Infitar, 3
 - Al-Takwir, 6.
 - Al-Hajj, 1.
 - Al-Takwir, 1 & 2.
 - Al-Inshiqaq, 1.
 - Ibrahim, 48
 - See: question 1946 on our website.
 - Makarem Shirazi, Naser, Payam-e Qur'an (The Message of the Quran), vol.6, pg. 40
 - Al-Ahqaf, 3.
 - Qira'ati, Mohsen, Resurrection, pg. 200, Jame'ah Islamic Modarresin Publications, Qom, 3rd edition.
 - Ibid, pg. 201.
 - Quran, Qaf 50, 15 أَ فَعَیِینا بِالْخَلْقِ الْأَوَّلِ بَلْ هُمْ فِی لَبْسٍ مِنْ خَلْقٍ جَدِیدٍ"
 - Faiz Kashani, Tafsir al-Saafir, vol.5, pg. 60, Tehran, Sadr, 1415 A.H.
 - Tabatabai, Muhammad Hussein, translation by Muhammad Baqir Musavi Hamedani, vol.18, pg. 534, Jame'ah Modarresin Publications, Qom, 1374 (1995).
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Cockroach research may provide engineers with the key to search-and-rescue robots that will be more capable of operating in challenging uneven or rocky terrain.
The research team -- led by Shai Revzen, an electrical engineering, computer science, ecology and evolutionary biology professor at the University of Michigan -- revealed that when running cockroaches are shoved sideways, they start to recover their balance and movement before their nervous system directs a response from their legs.
By understanding cockroach movement patterns, the team believes it could improve how machines and their “neurology” work together.
“The fundamental question is, ‘What can you do with a mechanical suspension versus one that requires electronic feedback?’ The animals obviously have much better mechanical designs than anything we know how to build,” Revzen wrote in Biological Cybernetics.
“But if we could learn how they do it, we might be able to reproduce it.”
Approximately 70 percent of Earth’s land surface cannot be traveled using the wheeled or tracked vehicles. Revezen believes a legged approach may open up operations in this terrain.
In 41 trials, his team used a squad of 15 cockroaches running one by one across a small bridge onto a placemat-sized cart. The cart was pulled back, like a slingshot. As the roach ran they unleashed the cart, which hurtled toward the cockroach and slammed it sideways to destabilize it.
“The force was equivalent to a sumo wrestler hitting a jogger with a flying tackle … [but] cockroaches are much more stable than humans,” Rezven said.
In the team’s experiments, the roaches maintained their footing by using their momentum and the biomechanics of their legs. If the cockroaches relied on impulses from their central nervous system instead, it took three times longer than the researchers expected.
“What we see is that the animals’ nervous system is working at a substantial delay… for some reason, the nervous system is waiting and seeing how it shapes out,” Rezven said.
The results of these experiments may mean brains adapt their gait only at a “whole-step interval” rather than at any point in between steps.
In robotics, a computer often guides the machine’s movements by providing continuous feedback from feet sensors.
Rather than using a continuous feedback approach, their research suggests bi-pedal robots may benefit from more stability while using less energy by capitalizing on a periodic feedback approach like cockroaches to execute walking.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Fox News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – When Safiya returned home and informed her brothers (the Prophet's uncles) of the authenticity of the news, happiness mixed with amazement and astonishment overtook them.
Khadija who refused to marry the princes and lords of the Arabs, because she deemed them unworthy to marry, chose to be the wife of a poor man who owned nothing of the ephemeral things of this world, of even a foot of land!!
This was the wonder of wonders!!
The Prophet's uncles proceeded towards Khadija's house and asked for her hand from her father (or uncle) who at first rejected them but later agreed to the proposal.
Inevitably, an appropriate sum of money had to be presented to Khadija as her dowry; how could it be obtained? And who would donate it?
This was a difficult question at hand, until Khadija once again surprised everyone by giving four thousand dinars as a gift to the Prophet, and urged him to pay it to her father as her dowry. Although according to another historical finding, it was Abu Talib who paid the dowry from his own money.
Even though Khadija was a woman of high standards who sacrificed material gains to achieve honor, her father, Khuwaylid, possessed contradicting values. This difference between Khadija
and her father is not rare between parents and their children; in fact, this ideological difference can also be found between various classes of people, brothers, spouses, and parents.
Khadija's payment of the dowry was a unique, amazing and unforeseen act; for the Arabs were not acquainted with women giving dowries to their husbands. Thus, it was not unexpected of Abu Jahel to incite an envious commotion and say:
"O people, we have thus seen men paying dowries to women; we are not used to women giving dowry to men" In answer to this, Abu Talib angrily replied:
"What is the matter with you? O you wicked man! Men like Muhammad are to be given gifts and grants, but your likes give gifts that people always reject."
or he said:
"If it was a man like my nephew then the greatest dowries are to be granted to him, but men like you cannot get married save by paying large sums of money."
The blessed wedding took place in the best possible way, the Messenger moved in with Lady Khadija who felt that she was going through the happiest period of her life, because she had reached her best wishes and sweetest dreams.
Khadija gave birth to several children of whom only four daughters survived: Zainab, Umme Kulthum, Ruqiya, and Fatima-Zahra who was the youngest and most exalted of them all.
There is a difference between historians regarding the first two daughters, for some claim that they were the Prophet's step-daughters; but the fact is that they were his direct daughters. This fact will be explained in the coming pages, if Allah wills.
 The story of Khadija's marriage was summarized and carried on from Bihar al-Anwar: v.6.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Our programme this week starts with the way we consume the everyday stuff like food, apparel and increasingly, electronic gadgets. These are things which make our lives easier, more exciting. But when we dig a little deeper, we find them all to be tainted with some kind of scandal - the type that exploits people, usually in places where they can least afford it.
But it is something we often put to the back of our minds. When we pick up, say, our Apple iPhone - do we think about the conditions in the Foxconn factories in China where they are made?
Worse still, people die in fires in textile factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh - but does it stop us returning to the same clothes stores to buy more of those products?
Usually not until we start to consume something we had no intention of consuming and the recent horsemeat scandal across Europe has illustrated that quite starkly.
Bangladesh exports $24.3bn worth of clothing - almost 80 percent of all its exports. With around 5,000 garment factories employing more than three million workers - most of them women, the tiny nation is the world's second largest exporter of clothing after China.
Much of the clothing it produces goes to big international brands like H&M, Calvin Klein and Gap. But consider this:
Fires at clothing factories in Bangladesh have killed more than 700 people in the last seven years and the clothing industry has some of the worst paid workers in the world.
In this episode, Al Jazeera's Tarek Bazely caught up with Bangladesh's finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith to discuss if the country was too dependent on the textile industry.
We also speak to Judy Gearhart, the executive director at the International Labor Rights Forum, an organisation which takes an active role in trying to improve conditions in some of these factories.
Austerity - Italian style
Meanwhile in Italy, Berlin's favourite technocrat, Mario Monti, got a bloody nose at the hand of the voters. We talk about Monti, who, in some circles, was lauded for protecting the Italian economy from further damage.
But what did Monti really do for Italy? The economy was slowing when he stepped into Silvio Belusconi's shoes but by the end of his 15 months, Italy was in recession and that is likely to continue.
Debt as a percentage of gross domestic product has actually risen to 127 percent - at the end of 2012 it was 120 percent - with unemployment peaking at 9.5 percent last year, compared to 8.4 percent in 2011.
At the end of it all, the government needs to raise almost $560bn this year to finance its spending - and that is the consequence of austerity.
Italians do not like it but Europe insists a coalition government is needed immediately in the country to continue with its programme of cuts. It has become the classic economic argument in Europe - austerity vs stimulus - and we discuss the two, in the Italian context with Silvio Peruzzo, an economist at Nomura Holdings in London.
Finally, Indonesia has the world's largest coconut plantations and is the second largest coconut exporter after the Philippines. But, as Step Vaessen reports, while there is a huge boom for coconut products worldwide, it looks like Indonesia's farmers are missing out.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Religious and cultural norms often dictate which animals should be protected, eaten or avoided at all costs. Islam prohibits consuming pork; cows are considered sacred by Hindus; and most Americans squirm at the idea of eating a horse. These varying taboos and customs can change the faunal landscape around certain groups of people.
Researchers from Stanford University investigated how three Christian influences — evangelical, Sabbatarian and Roman Catholic/Anglican — may have altered animal treatment among converted indigenous communities in the Amazon. It turns out that missionaries might not only be changing hearts and minds in the region, but also biodiversity, the researchers say.
Though people of the Makushi and Wapishana tribes have traditionally believed that consuming lowland tapir meat can make them sick, many of them eat the animal anyway, trusting that their shamans will cure the potential illness. But people in the tribes who converted to one of the Sabbatarian faiths, such as such as Seventh-Day Adventism, and strongly rejected shamanism were much less likely to eat tapir, because their new religion made doing so taboo, the researchers found in their survey of 9,900 individuals in the Amazon. [The Awá: Faces of a Threatened Tribe]
While the new religions might mean fewer tapirs are killed, getting rid of shamanism, especially among evangelical and Sabbatarian groups, seems to have hit animals that once enjoyed protection under the indigenous leaders, the researchers say. Shamans often guarded and discouraged hunting in areas of land thought to be swarming with powerful spiritual entities.
"Based on field observations, I think that the removal of shamans has translated into more killing of animals," José Fragoso, a scientist at Stanford University, said in a statement. "Our perception is that they are killing more animals that are not taboo, such as pigs, and also that they are making kills in the holy areas, which were previously off-limits."
Fragoso and his colleagues, whose research is funded by the National Science Foundation, plan to investigate whether some animals are being killed in greater numbers, according to Stanford University. Their most recent findings were published last year in the journal Human Ecology.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Fox News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –
For the first time, scientists believe they have collected life-forms from deep under the Antarctic ice.
Last week, a team found and collected microbes in a lake hidden under more than a half-mile of ice. (Related: "Race Is On to Find Life Under Antarctic Ice.")
Among other things, the discovery may shed light on what lies under the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.
The newfound life-forms have little connection to life on the earth's surface and many apparently survive by "eating rocks," team member Brent Christner said in an interview from the U.S. McMurdo Station, after spending several weeks working at a remote field site at Lake Whillans.
That may explain how life on other celestial objects—such as on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn—survive in the absence of available carbon.
"The conditions faced by organisms in Lake Whillans are quite parallel to what we think it would be like on those icy moons," Christner said.
"What we found tells us a lot about extreme life on Earth," and how similar life beyond Earth might survive.
Making a Living in Ice
A 50-member U.S. team broke through to the 20-square-mile (50-square-kilometer) subglacial lake on January 28, and had two days of 24-hour sunlight to bring up samples before the borehole began to close. A day of reaming the hole was followed by two more days of sample collection.
The scientists are now returning with a four-day haul of lake water, lake bottom sediments, and hundreds of dishes of living organisms that are being cultured for intensive study in the United States.
An early task will be to make sure the newfound microbes were not introduced while drilling through the ice into the lake, which involved a hot-water drilling technique designed to greatly reduce or eliminate any contamination that might come from other kerosene-based drilling technology, Christner said.
Christner said that a commonly used dye was added to the water to illuminate the DNA of the microscopic organisms, and a substantial green glow told scientists that microbes were indeed present. Many of the organisms are likely chemolithotrophs, which rely on inorganic compounds of iron, sulfur, and other elements for nourishment.
Montana State's John Priscu, chief biologist of the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) program, said lab work at the drill site determined that microbial cells were present—and that they were alive. (Take an Antarctic quiz.)
"I believe it is safe to say that subglacial lake beneath the Whillans Ice Stream supports a microbial assemblage that is growing within this dark and cold habitat" of 31 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.5 Celsius), he wrote in an email.
DNA sequencing in the U.S. "will tell us who they are and, together with other experiments, tell us how they make a living."
The U.S. team is one of three digging into what is now known to be a vast system of lakes and streams deep below the surface of Antarctica. (See "Chain of Cascading Lakes Discovered Under Antarctica.")
A British team attempting to drill into much deeper Lake Ellsworth had to return home in December because of equipment failure, but a Russian team is also at work now retrieving a core of water from Lake Vostok.
With much fanfare, the Lake Vostok core was pulled up last year from more than 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) below the frigid surface. Vostok is much deeper and larger than any other Antarctic lake, and both it and Ellsworth lie under much colder ice and are believed to have less deep subsurface water flowing in and out than does Whillans.
The existence of subglacial lakes and streams in Antarctica is a relatively new discovery, and the size of this wet world under the ice has only been grasped in recent years. (See Antarctic pictures by National Geographic readers.)
Helen Fricker, a glaciologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a principal investigator of the Whillans team, first described Lake Whillans in 2007.
Using satellite data, she and her colleagues discovered a periodic rising and falling of the ice surface above the Whillans Ice Stream between 2003 and 2006, and concluded that a lake was likely underneath.
The dynamics of Antarctic ice has taken on a much greater significance in the era of global warming, since some 90 percent of Earth's fresh water sits on the continent.
Although the lakes themselves are not affected by warming, how they interact with the region's ice is important to predicting the future behavior of the ice sheets.
For instance, understanding whether the ice is moving more quickly toward the surrounding ocean is a key goal of the WISSARD project, which is part of a larger U.S. National Science Foundation project to understand the ice movements, glaciers, and biology of the ice sheet of West Antarctica.
More Work to Be Done
For Christner, a specialist in Antarctic biology at Louisiana State University, the work has only just begun. (Also see "Pictures: 'Extreme' Antarctic Science Revealed.")
Two labs were brought to the Whillans site by a caravan of trucks from McMurdo: One to perform a quick analysis of the lake water, and the other to examine sediment.
Christner's team is charged with culturing samples in dishes so they can be studied more extensively later. He said some of the microbe species, including bacteria and archaea, may be unique, but many may well be found elsewhere—at great ocean depths and deep underground.-www.shfaqna.com/English