Friday, September 28, 2007

Weird And Wonderful Ways To Set Records

Remarkable Records

The 2008 edition of the Guinness World Records book features brand new weird and wonderful achievements from around the globe.

Let's start with a category that must be one of the most hotly contested.

It's no wonder he looks chuffed after setting the record for unhooking the most bras.

Who said sofas were for couch potatoes?
And who would have thought there was a record for the fastest furniture?

Now that is some serious squirting.
Don't try this at home or you'll be crying over spilt milk.

"When I grow up I want to be just like you."
The tallest and smallest horses suss each other out.

Here's a record that will make your head spin.
89 times in one minute to be precise.

How many hula hoops could you handle?

The appropriately named Bigfoot 5 makes it into the book as the largest monster truck.

What looks like steps to the sun is actually a tower of milk crates balanced on the chin.

Look Mum, no feet!
Helium balloons are probably not the most reliable form of air travel but they are great for setting a wacky record.

It's not worth walking over hotplates for anything, or is it?

Well maybe if you get your name in the Guinness World Records book...................................

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The world's tiniest baby - born at 24 weeks and weighing just 10oz

Tiny Kimberley Mueller weighed just over 10 ounces when she was born - making her the world's smallest surviving baby.

Her chances of living were rated at worse than 1,000-1 when she was born 15 weeks prematurely.

These incredible pictures published for the first time today show that Kimberley was about the size of a mobile phone at birth.

Now six months old, the miracle baby has been allowed home for the first time.

The size of a mobile phone: Kimberley Mueller weighed just over 10 ounces when she was born in Hanover, Germany - making her the world's smallest surviving baby

But Kimberley, who was just 10.2cm long, spent months on a life support system as doctors in Germany fought to save her.

The tiny mite was kept in an incubator for warmth and drip-fed, while a respirator help her breathe.

British birth experts said it was "incredible" that she had survived.

Now six months, Kimberley has been allowed home for the first time (Above with mother Petra and father Andreas)

Dr Arvind Shah, consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street's Middlesex unit, said: "This is amazing - she must be a little fighter.

"Now we have more sophisticated equipment premature babies do have a better chance of living. But there are obviously huge health risks."

Kimberley's chances of living were rated at worse than 1,000-1 when she was born 15 weeks prematurely

Kimberley's mother Petra Mueller, from Hanover, said: "I was allowed to stroke her with my finger and I always spoke to her.

"It was the nicest thing when she would grip my finger in her tiny hands."

Scientists create the world's first see-through frog

Frogs come in nearly every colour of the rainbow - from the dull greens of British species, to the vivid yellows and reds of their tropical relatives.

But Japanese scientists have gone one step further than mother nature - and created a transparent frog.

The creature's see-through skin allows researchers to see details of its internal organs and blood vessels. They say this could bring huge benefits to medicine, making it easier and cheaper to study diseases such as cancer.

Professor Masayuki Sumida, who led the project at the Institute for Amphibian Biology at Hiroshima University, said scientists could look at the effect of drugs and chemicals on the frog's internal organs and blood vessels without the animals having to be killed and dissected.

'Because the frogs remain transparent from their birth to adulthood, organs of the same frog could be studied throughout,' he said. 'This is simple and cheap when studying, for instance, how certain chemicals influence bones.'

By attaching green fluorescent markers to a stretch of DNA and injecting it into the frog, researchers can also study the behaviour of genes in a living organism.

The transparent frog (pictured) is the offspring of common Japanese brown frogs. It was created through traditional selective breeding, rather than genetic modification, using wild frogs with a mutation that gives them pale skin.

By mating the palest frogs they could find and then breeding from their palest offspring the researchers were able to create the see-through strain.

The scientists say they plan to patent the technique but have yet to perfect the process. Only one in 16 frogs they breed has transparent skin and they have not succeeded in getting the transparent frogs to breed see-through offspring.

Most of the world's natural see-through creatures live underwater. Animals such as jellyfish, sea worms, sea snails and octopuses evolved transparency as a form of camouflage. In an environment where there are few hiding places, being see-through can give them an edge.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Strange facts about the human body

1- Every single day you, unless you are already bald, will lose as many as 100 strands of hair ? that?s 36,500 in a year. This is rather worrying as the average human scalp has 100,000 hairs.

2- A sneeze can blast out of your nose at a speed greater 100 mph.

3- The ashes of the average cremated person weighs 9 pounds.

4- The human body can survive longer without food than without sleep. While starvation takes a few weeks you would die after about 10 days without sleep.

5- An average human drinks about 16, 000 gallons of water in a lifetime.

6- Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood we have only 206 in our bodies.

7- Your heart beats some 37,000,000 times in a year. During your life it�s will beat some two-and-a-half billion times.

8- Every square inch of your body is populated by an about 32 million bacteria.

9- Your largest internal organ is the small intestine at an average length of 20 feet. If cut into pasta size pieces it would serve four.

10- 85% of your brain is water.

11- Three-hundred-million cells die in the human body every minute.

12- The largest human organ is the skin, with a surface area of about 25 square feet.

13- Humans shed about 600,000 particles of skin every hour - about 1.5 pounds a year. By 70 years of age, an average person will have lost 105 pounds of skin.

14- Humans shed and regrow outer skin cells about every 27 days - almost 1,000 new skins in a lifetime.

15- It takes 17 muscles to smile --- 43 to frown.

16- The average duration of sexual intercourse for humans is 2 minutes. ?see pigs

17- It is impossible to kill yourself by holding your breath.

18- The human heart creates enough pressure to squirt blood 30 feet.

19- You blink about 84 million times in a year.

20- When you sneeze, all bodily functions stop-- even your heart!

21- 40 people are sent to the hospital for dog bites every minute.

22- Babies are born without knee caps. They don't appear until they are 2 -6 years old.

23- In the course of a lifetime the average person will grow 2 Metres of nose hair.

24- Ladies in nudist camps tend to use more makeup than ladies elsewhere.

25- A team of medical experts in Virginia contends you're more likely to catch the common cold virus by shaking hands than by kissing.

26- The human tooth has 55 miles of canal in it.

27- Nerve impulses to and from the brain travel as fast as 170 miles per hour.

28- People have legs of slightly different lengths.

29- The average cough comes out the mouth at 60 mph.

30- Men / women The average person speaks about 31,500 words per day.

31- Most dust particles in your house are made from dead skin.

32- It is estimated that at any one time, 0.7% of the world's population are drunk.

33- Number of times intestines can wrap round

Scientists ponder future of space exploration

PASADENA, Calif. — In the next 50 years of space exploration, scientists are hopeful that we will find other life in the universe.

Weeks away from the 50th anniversary of space flight, a group of aerospace engineers, space entrepreneurs and astronauts met here Thursday at the California Institute of Technology to reflect on the past and discuss the coming 50 years of space exploration.

The two-day conference, called 50 Years in Space, is marked by the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik on October 4, 1957. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, astronaut and former U.S. Senator, called that event an "intellectual earthquake" for science and the first trigger of interest in space. To be sure, the United States formed NASA in November of the following year; and in 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced that Americans would land on the moon by the end of the decade. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed the first man on the moon.

More than that milestone, early space flight paved the way for decades of technological innovation and scientific discovery and brought about a multibillion-dollar space industry. Scientists believe that new technology and knowledge about the universe will easily push us further in the years to come.

"The first 50 years have given us a new view of the physical places in the universe, new knowledge; and obviously new technology was essential," Ed Stone, director emeritus of NASA's research center, the Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, said during a morning keynote speech.

"An unexpected diversity in the universe has given us a new view. That diversity promises that there is so much more to be discovered and beckons us to expand new frontiers into space."

Paul Dimotakis, chief technologist at JPL and professor at Caltech, added that considering that all of the matter on Earth comprises only 4% of what's in the universe, "the next 50 years may well reveal (whether) we have company."

Stone named five frontiers of space: physical, knowledge, technology (developing the capability to travel to space), human and applications. "In the last 50 years, we've made remarkable progress in exploring and pushing those frontiers," Stone said. He gave some examples of new views of the universe brought about by work in those areas. Through the Cassini mission to Saturn, for example, scientists have seen plumes erupting from the surface, posing the question, "Where is this energy coming from?" Stone asked.

In another example, the Mars rover mission, which landed in 2004, has yielded findings from crater bedrocks that indicate there was once a vast amount of water on the planet. "Here on Earth, wherever you find water you find life," he said.

Gentry Lee, chief engineer for the JPL's Planetary Flight Systems Directorate and a science fiction author, said the changes in his profession as space engineer over the last 50 years have been dramatic, especially considering there was no such profession when he was a child.

He attributed one of the biggest changes to computers. At the beginning of the space program, for example, all simulations were done through hardware. Now, 99% of flight simulations are done through software, he said. For the Viking robotic mission to Mars in 1976, for example, the team might have run simulations of entry and landing on Mars all night on a mainframe computer. Now it would take "10 minutes on my desktop," said Lee, who worked on the Viking project for 12 years.

"Where the computer has been a magnificent tool, there is a downside, too," Lee said. "Often the people using the computer programs didn't have a hand in building them, so we as engineers must remember that the computer and processes are tools there to guide us, and not the engineering substance itself."

The one common denominator between now and 50 years ago, he said, is the human factor. "The right processes, tools and computers are not enough, you must have the right people who can tie it all together and reduce the risks," Lee said.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Search startup ready to challenge Google

Barney Pell - President and CEO of Powerset, a new search engine that uses ‘natural-language’ technology to make Web search easier - hopes to demonstrate that Google isn’t as smart as most people think

There’s no business like search business. And this is precisely why a US-based start-up called Powerset is pursuing a particularly challenging goal: It’s aiming to outshine Internet’s search giants, Google, with its own new search software.

After nearly two years of hushed development, the San Francisco-based company is finally providing a peek at a “natural-language” technology that is supposed to make it easier to communicate with search engines.

The algorithms in Powerset are programmed to understand search requests submitted in plain English, a change from the “keyword” system used by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and the owners of the other leading engines.

The distinction means Web surfers will theoretically be able to get more meaningful results by typing more precise search requests in the form of straightforward questions like “What did Steve Jobs say about Apple?” instead of entering an ungrammatical mishmash like “Apple Steve Jobs said.”

Barney Pell, Powerset’s co-founder and chief executive, likens the hit-and-miss-process of searching with keywords to talking to a 2-year-old.

“In one sense, you are happy you can talk to it at all, but you still really want it to grow up so you can hold a real conversation,” he said.

This isn’t the first time a search engine has tried to understand simple English, but Powerset has drawn more attention because its natural-language technology is being licensed from the Palo Alto Research Centre.

Better known as PARC, the Xerox Corp subsidiary is renowned for hatching breakthroughs – such as the computer mouse and the graphical interface for personal computers – that were later commercialised by other companies.

“We have the best natural-language search technology that has ever been developed,” Pell, an artificial intelligence expert, said.

Backed by $12.5 million in venture capital, Powerset is gradually opening its testing ground, dubbed Powerlabs, to 16,000 people who signed up to get an early glimpse at the search engine.

The start-up is so confident that its methods are superior to Google that Powerlabs will present some answers alongside what its rival returns when asked the same questions. Powerset is requiring its users to vote on which engine produced better results before they are allowed to enter another search request.

Search Antecedents

Other search engines have previously promised to understand conversational English with little success.

Ask Jeeves was founded in the 1990s on the premise that Internet search requests should be presented as simple questions. It frustrated users with too many irrelevant answers.

After nearly failing in the dot-com bust, the company embraced the keyword approach to search and abandoned its mascot – a cartoon butler named Jeeves – to distance itself from the days it relied on natural-language algorithms. It is now known simply as

Industry analyst Charlene Li of Forrester Research is sceptical about Powerset’s prospects, too. She doubts Powerset will be able to comprehend all the different ways that people seeking the same type of information can phrase their questions.

For instance, the questions “What caused the collapse of Enron?” and “What caused the downfall of Enron?” typically produce different search results even though they are essentially asking the same thing, Li said. That’s because computers have trouble recognising synonyms and other subtle nuances in language.

“Understanding the meaning of many words is difficult without people involved,” she said.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Google Turns 10

Google is 10Born 10 years ago, the Google Internet search engine has grown into the electronic center of human knowledge by indexing billions of Web pages as well as images, books and videos.

On September 15, 1997 Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Stanford University students, registered the domain name of “” Google started as a research project by Larry page and Sergey Brin when they were 24 and 23 years respectively. Google's mission statement is to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

From Googol to GoogleInitially, Larry and Sergey Brin called their search engine BackRub, named for its analysis of the of the Web's “back links.” The search for a new name began in 1997, with Larry and his officemates starting a hunt for a number of possible new names for the rapidly improving search technology.

The word is a variation of ‘googol,’ which refers to the number 10 to the power of 100, a term popularised by US mathematician Edward Kasner. Page and Brin incorporated Google one year later, on September 7, 1998, in a household garage in northern California.

Growing in millions
Soon after its launch this search engine became a motor that “absorbed” Web pages across the Internet, at a rate of billions per day.

News of Google spread largely thanks to the efficient way the search engine classified results through algorithms, and it quickly became one of the most used methods to find information on the Internet.

Google has become the most popular Internet search engine in the world outside of China, Japan and Russia, handling more than 500 million visits a day.

Google bank
To search for Internet documents it is necessary to permanently contact each site and memorise its pages, a colossal task for the Google data bank, which is constantly renewed, allowing the users to search for key words. Google needs several weeks to troll the Internet and renew its data bank.

The basis of Google's search technology is called PageRank, and assigns an “importance” value to each page on the Web and gives it a rank to determine how useful it is. However, that's not why it is called PageRank. It's actually named after Google co-founder Larry Page.

Hitting BoursesWhen Google went public in August 2004 its shared initially sold at $85. Today, its shares are valued at $525 and Google has a stock market value worth some $164 billion.

In 2006 Google reached $13.4 billion in revenue -- the third part based on Internet ads -- and profits of $3.7 billion.

In the past years Google has expanded at a breakneck pace, and currently has some 13,700 employees. The company thrives on a culture of innovation. Google asks employees to dedicate 20 per cent of their time to develop ideas for the company.

Page and Brin, now in their mid-30s, each have some $16 billion in personal wealth.

Healthy, wealthy and...

In 2000 Google began to sell ads linked to key words. At the time, as the dotcom bubble was bursting and scores of Web-based operations were declaring bankruptcy, Google was making a healthy profit.

In 2006 Google bought YouTube, the largest and most popular video exchange website, and soon after bought DoubleClick, one of the Internet's most powerful ad services.

Google also launched free e-mail -- Gmail -- as well as a word processing programme, picture editing programmes and a calender that competes directly with products from software giant Microsoft.

Stay away from evil
Despite the company motto of “Don't be Evil,” it seems that the Google's ubiquitous presence increasingly generates hostility. Both Google and YouTube have been sued by media groups that charge that they have stolen content. Its ads are directed at a very specific public based on their Internet searches.

Google's photographing of city streets has also been criticized, but also admired and widely used. The human rights group Privacy International is lukewarm on Google's respect for private data. “At it most blatant it is hostile, and at its most benign is ambivalent,” the group said.

Google goes to moon
Many have heard of Google Earth, but not many know there is a site called Google Moon, which maps the Lunar surface.

Google Moon is an extension of Google Maps and Google Earth that, courtesy of NASA imagery, enables you to surf the Moon's surface and check out the exact spots that the Apollo astronauts made their landings.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Guinness Book of Records Facts

1. Highest walk on air balloon. Mike Howard (Mike Howard) from Britain walked the beam that can extend between two balloons at an altitude of 6522 m. near the city Yovil, County Somersetshir, UK, September 1, 2004 This feat was captured on videotape for the television show "Guinness records : 50 years, 50 of Records."

2. The most stretchable skin. Harry Turner (Garry Turner) from Britain could spread to the abdominal skin to see 15,8 This is due to a rare disease known as syndrome Elersa- Danlosa violation connective tissue, affecting the skin, ligaments and internal organs. Collagen, strengthens skin, and is responsible for its elasticity, damaged, which, among other things, is the weakening of the skin and joints razboltannost. In more severe cases, this can result in the destruction or rupture of blood vessels, leading to death.

3. The longest dog ears.The longest dog ears and see the size 34,9 34,2 cm-right and left, respectively, measured on September 29, 2004 They belong Tiggeru (Tigger), Jr., whose owners Brian and Christine Flessner (Bryan and Christina Flessner) lived in the city of St. Joseph, Illinois.

4. The highest paid attraction in slow decline. The highest attraction slow fall called "Sky Jump" (Leap from the sky) and is located in the tower and entertainment center crossovers Macau. Fall begins with a 61-level towers at a height of 233 m. over land, and continues for 17-20 seconds. Solemn leap committed A. J. Hackett (A. J. Hackett) from New Zealand on August 17, 2005

5. The heaviest apple. The heaviest weighing 1.849 kg apple. Chisato raised Iwasaki (Chisato Iwasaki) for its apple farm in the town of Hirosaki (Hirosaki), Japan, which was thwarted by October 24, 2005

6. An old man, who committed lowering a rope. The oldest person spustivshimsya a rope from a height of more than 30 metres. a britanka Doris Long (Doris Long), which on June 10, 2006 has descend from the building Millgate House-60 m. from the roof to the ground, at the age of 92 years and 24 days (she was born on May 18, 1914). The building is located in an area of St. George in the city of Portsmouth, England.

7. The biggest hamburger, which can be bought. The biggest hamburger weighing 35.6 kg. included in the menu bar grill Bob's BBQ & Grill on the beach in Pattaya, Thailand on July 31, 2006

8. The largest mirror ball. The largest mirror ball is 5.01 m. in diameter. Imaginate Events. His boat Nigel Burrows (Nigel Burrows) from the company Imaginate Events. Shaer was demonstrated in the city of Reading, England, October 13, 2006

9. The quickest office. The quickest office is a table specially equipped to ride on the roads, and moving with a maximum speed of 140 km / h. His boat Briton Edd China (Edd China), and he also has held across Westminster Bridge in London on November 6, 2006 on the Day Guinness World Records.

10. The biggest leap riding on a lion. The biggest leap riding on a lion to a distance of 2.3 m. Askold committed and Edgar Zapashnye (both Russian) - Russian State Circus performers, the circus scene Perm July 28, 2006

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Most notorious viruses in PC history

The computer virus has completed 25 years. The sinister computer programme that still gives computer users jitters has come a long way since the days of 'Elk Cloner', the first computer virus which started circulating in 1982. While some of the early viruses clogged networks, later ones corrupted or wiped documents or had other destructive properties.

More recently, viruses have been created to steal personal data such as passwords or to create relay stations for making junk e-mail more difficult to trace. While the earliest viruses spread through floppy disks, the growth of the Internet gave a new way to spread viruses: e-mail.

Today, viruses have found several platforms: instant-messaging, file-sharing software, rogue web sites; images etc. As these malicious programmes go more sophisticated and their numbers increase on a daily basis, here's a look into some of the most notorious virus attacks over the last twenty-five years.

Elk Cloner (1982)
Regarded as the first virus to hit personal computers worldwide, "Elk Cloner" spread through Apple II floppy disks. The programme was authored by Rich Skrenta, a ninth-grade student then, who wanted to play a joke on his schoolmates.

The virus was put on a gaming disk, which could be used 49 times. On 50th time, instead of starting the game, it opened a blank screen that read a poem that read: "It will get on all your disks. It will infiltrate your chips. Yes it's Cloner! It will stick to you like glue. It will modify RAM too. Send in the Cloner!" The computer would then be infected.

Elk Cloner was though a self-replicating virus like most other viruses, it bears little resemblance to the malicious programmes of today. However, it surely was a harbinger of all the security headaches that would only grow as more people get computers -- and connected them with one another over the Internet.

Brain (1986)
"Brain" was the first virus to hit computers running Microsoft's popular operating system DOS. Written by two Pakistani brothers, Basit Farooq Alvi and his brother Amjad Farooq Alvi, the virus left the phone number of their computer repair shop.

The Brain virus was a boot-sector virus. It infected the boot records of 360K floppy disks. The virus would fill unused space on the floppy disk so that it could not be used. The first "stealth" virus, it hides itself from any detection by disguising the infected space on the disk.

The virus is also known as Lahore, Pakistani and Pakistani Brain. BusinessWeek magazine called the virus the Pakistani flu.

The brothers told TIME magazine they had written it to protect their medical software from piracy and it was supposed to target copyright infringers only.

Morris (1988)
Written by a Cornell University graduate student, Robert Tappan Morris, the virus infected an estimated 6,000 university and military computers connected over the Internet. Incidentally, Morris's father was a top government computer-security expert,

The computers Morris invaded were part of the Arpanet, an international grid of telephone lines, buried cables, and satellite hookups established by the Department of Defense in 1969.

Interestingly Morris later claimed that the worm was not written to cause damage, but to gauge the size of the Internet. An unintended consequence of the code, however, led to the damage caused.

Melissa (1999)
'Melissa' was one of the first viruses to spread over e-mail. When users opened an attachment, the virus sent copies of itself to the first 50 people in the user's address book, covering the globe within hours.

The virus known as Melissa -- believed to have been named after a Florida stripper its creator knew -- caused more than $80m in damage after it was launched in March 1999. Computers became infected when users received a particular e-mail and opened a Word document attached to it.

First found on March 26, 1999, Melissa shut down Internet mail systems at several enterprises across the world after being they got clogged with infected e-mails carrying the worm.

The worm was first distributed in the Usenet discussion group The creator of the virus, David Smith, was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment by a United States court.

Love bug (2000)
Travelling via e-mail attachments, "Love Bug" exploited human nature and tricked recipients into opening it by disguising itself as a love letter. The virus stunned security experts by its speed and wide reach. Within hours, the pervasive little computer programme tied up systems around the world.

The virus which was similar to the earlier Melissa worm, spread via an e-mail with the tantalising subject line, "I Love You." When a recipient opened the attachment, the virus sent copies of itself to his entire address book. It then looked for files with .jpeg, .mp3, .mp2, .css and .hta extensions and overwrote them with itself, changing the extensions to .vbs or .vbe. These files then could not be retrieved in searches.

The bug affected companies in Taiwan and Hong Kong -- including Dow Jones Newswires and the Asian Wall Street Journal.

Companies in Australia had to close down their email systems to keep the virus from spreading (80 per cent of the companies in Australia reportedly got hit). The victims also included Parliaments of Britain and Denmark. In Italy, the outbreak hit almost the entire country. In the United States too, the e-mail systems were shut down at several companies.

Code Red (2001)
Said to be one of the most expensive viruses in history, the self-replicating malicious code, 'Code Red' exploited vulnerability in Microsoft IIS servers. Exploiting the flaw in the software, the worm was among the first few "network worms" to spread rapidly as they required only a network connection, not a human opening like attachment worms. The worm had a more malicious version known as Code Red II.

Both worms exploited a bug in an indexing service shipped with Microsoft Window's NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 operating systems.

In addition to possible website defacement, infected systems experienced severe performance degradation. The virus struck multiple times on the same machine.

Code Red II affected organisations ranging from Microsoft to the telecom company Qwest to the media giant Associated Press.

According to a research firm Computer Economics, the virus caused damage worth above $2 billion.

Incidentally, Microsoft had issued a patch to fix the vulnerability almost a month earlier, however, most system operators failed to install it.

Blaster (2003)
'Blaster' (also known as Lovsan or Lovesan) took advantage of a flaw in Microsoft software. The worm alongwith 'SoBig' worm which also spread at the same time prompted Microsoft to offer cash rewards to people who helped authorities capture and prosecute the virus writers.

The worm started circulating in August 2003. Filtering by ISPs and widespread publicity about the worm curbed the spread of Blaster.

On August 29, 2003, Jeffrey Lee Parson, an 18-year-old from Hopkins, Minnesota was arrested for creating the B variant of the Blaster worm; he admitted responsibility and was sentenced to an 18-month prison term in January 2005.

Sasser (2004)

Another worm to exploit a Windows flaw, 'Sasser' led to several computers crashing and rebooting themselves.

Sasser spread by exploiting the system through a vulnerable network port. The virus, which infected several million computers around the world, caused infected machines to restart continuously every time a user attempted to connect to the Internet. The worm also severely impaired the infected computer's performance.

The first version of worm struck on April 30, 2004. The worms three modified versions have followed it since then, known as Sasser.B, Sasser.C and Sasser.D.

The companies affected by the worm included the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Delta Air Lines, Nordic insurance company If and their Finnish owners Sampo Bank.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ancient diamonds hint at Earth’s age

Diamonds more than 4 billion years old – nearly as old as the Earth itself – have been discovered in Australia, giving scientists vital clues about the early history of our planet.

Found trapped in zircon crystals, the small gems are the oldest identified fragments of the Earth’s crust and their existence suggests the Earth may havecooled faster than previously thought, experts said on Wednesday.

The time between the creation of the Earth around 4.5 billion years ago and the formation of the oldest known rocks some 500 million years later is known as the Hadean period – the “dark ages” of geology.

Many geologists have traditionally thought of it as a time when the surface of the planet was a mass of molten lava. But the discovery of the ancient diamonds, reported in the journal Nature, challenges that view.

Martina Menneken of Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Muenster, Germany, and colleagues said the presence of diamonds – which are created under intense pressure – implied there was a relatively thick continental crust as early as 4.25 billion years ago.This suggests it may have taken only around 200 million years for the Earth’s surface to cool enough for water to condense and oceans to form.

“These latest findings indicate that the planet was already cooling and forming a crust much earlier than previously thought,” said Alexander Nemchin, an expert in geochemistry at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology and one of Menneken’s co-researchers. “We’re dealing with the oldest material on the planet.

”Radioactive dating showed the crystals from Australia varied in age from 3.06 billion to 4.25 billion years, making them almost one billion years older than the previous oldest-known diamonds.

Martin Van Kranendonk, a senior geologist with the Geological Survey of Western Australia, said unravelling the history of the crystals was a boon for researchers.

“Any information about the very early Earth is fantastic. It’s like a Christmas present for geoscientists,” he said.

Immense knowledge