Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Could Israel become oil production leader?

April 6, 2011 Leave a comment

With second largest oil shale deposits in the world, some believe it’s very possible.


According to Dr. Vinegar, Israel has the second-biggest oil shale deposits in the world, outside the United States. “We estimate that there are the equivalent of 250 billion barrels of oil there. To put that in context, there are proven reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil in Saudi Arabia.” he told The Times.

The punch line to a joke that’s been told by generation of Jews soon will need to be changed.

“Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!” This joke was made famous by Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel, and for many years held a lot of truth. The lack of oil and natural gas is seen as one of the main reasons Israel has become one of the world’s leaders in technology, green energy and health science.

But with the recent findings of the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas reserves off its waters, Israel has a future as an energy independent country. By why stop there? Some believe that Israel could become one of the world’s leading oil producers.

Such is the plan of Harold Vinegar and his colleagues. Dr. Vinegar, the former chief scientist of Royal Dutch Shell, and current chief scientist at Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI), believes that with Israel’s oil shale deposits, this could be reality.

IEI is working on an ambitious project to extract oil and natural gas from oil shale from a 238 sq km area off the Shfela Basin, southwest of Jerusalem.

As the price of conventional sources of petroleum has risen, oil shale has gained attention as an energy source, and as a way for some areas to secure independence from external suppliers of energy. However, oil shale mining does raise a number of environmental concerns due to it being very water intensive, and a high producer of greenhouse gas emissions. China has a well established oil shale industry and Brazil, Germany and Russia also utilize oil shale.

IEI claims that its technique will be cleaner than those currently being used because the oil will be separated from the shale rock up to 300 meters beneath the ground, therefore greatly minimizing the amount of water being consumed.

According to Dr. Vinegar, Israel has the second-biggest oil shale deposits in the world, outside the United States. “We estimate that there are the equivalent of 250 billion barrels of oil there. To put that in context, there are proven reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil in Saudi Arabia.” he told The Times.

Once operational, IEI estimates that the cost of production of shale oil would be between $34-40 per barrel. This would make it comparable to the current price of $30-40 per barrel for deepwater oilfield and cheaper than Canadian sand oil and crude oil extracted from the Arctic.

The expectations of Tamar and Leviathan have already given Israel a very positive outlook. Should IEI’s claims turn to reality, Israel would become one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

From ynetnews.

Categories: News, Science Tags: , ,

Violent Seismic Activity Tearing Africa in Two

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Oxford University’s David Ferguson predicts a considerable increase in volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the [north eastern Africa] region over the next decade. They will, he says, “become of increasingly large magnitude.”

High-Speed Geology : Violent Seismic Activity Tearing Africa in Two

By Axel Bojanowski

University of Bristol / Lorraine Field

The fissures began appearing years ago. But in recent months, seismic activity has accelerated in northeastern Africa as the continent breaks apart in slow motion. Researchers say that lava in the region is consistent with magma normally seen on the sea floor — and that water will ultimately cover the desert.

Cynthia Ebinger, a geologist from the University of Rochester in New York, could hardly believe what the caller from the deserts of Ethiopia was saying. It was an employee at a mineralogy company — and he reported that the famous Erta Ale volcano in northeastern Ethiopia was erupting. Ebinger, who has studied the volcano for years, was taken aback. The volcano’s crater had always been filled with a bubbling soup of silver-black lava, but it had been decades since its last eruption.

The call came last November. And Ebinger immediately flew to Ethiopia with some fellow researchers. “The volcano was bubbling over; flaming-red lava was shooting up into the sky,” Ebinger told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

The earth is in upheaval in northeastern Africa, and the region is changing quickly. The desert floor is quaking and splitting open, volcanoes are boiling over, and seawaters are encroaching upon the land. Africa, researchers are certain, is splitting apart at a rate rarely seen in geology.

The first fracture appeared millions of years ago, resulting in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The second fracture, stretching south from Ethiopia to Mozambique, is known as the Great Rift Valley, and it is lined with several volcanoes. Millions of years from now, it too will be filled with seawater.

Could Go Quickly

But in the Danakil Depression, in the northern part of the valley, the ocean could arrive much sooner. There, low, 25 meter (82 foot) hills are the only thing holding back the waters of the Red Sea. The land behind them has already dropped dozens of meters from previous levels and white salt deposits on the desert floor testify to past encroachments of the sea. But lava soon choked off its access.

For now, no one can really say when the sea will finally flood the desert. But when it does, it could go quickly. “The hills could sink in a matter of days,” Tim Wright, a fellow at the University of Leeds’ School of Earth and Environment, said at a recent conference hosted by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.

In the last five years, the geologic transformation of northeastern Africa has “accelerated dramatically,” says Wright. Indeed, the process is going much faster than many had anticipated. In recent years, geologists had measured just a few millimeters of movement each year. “But now the earth is opening up by the meter,” says Loraine Field, a scholar at the University of Bristol who also attended the conference.

Earth tremors cause deep fissures to form in the desert floor and the ground in East Africa is shattering like broken glass. Researchers in the Gulf of Tadjoura, which juts into Djibouti from the Gulf of Aden, have recently registered a barrage of seismic shocks. “The quakes are happening on the mid-ocean ridge,” Ebinger reports.

Shifting Tectonic Plates

Lava gushes out of fissures in these underwater mountain ranges to constantly create new earth crust — when it hardens, it becomes part of the sea floor. As the magma surges upward, it spreads the ocean floor on both sides, shifting tectonic plates and causing tremors.

In recent months, the quaking in the Gulf of Tadjoura has been getting closer and closer to the coastline. As Ebinger explains, the splitting of the ocean floor will gradually extend to dry land. This is already the case along some fault lines in the Ethiopian desert, creating a geological spectacle that can otherwise only be witnessed deep below the surface of the ocean.

Even the pattern of earthquakes supports the conclusion that the desert landscape is transforming into a deep seafloor, according to a recent article in the Journal of Geophysical Research published by Zhaohui Yang and Wang-Ping Chen, two geologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The researchers have recorded several strong earthquakes at a shallow depth in northeastern Africa similar to ones that are otherwise only seen on mid-ocean ridges far out at sea.

In recent months, researchers have also recorded an up-tick in volcanic activity. Indeed, geologists have discovered volcanic eruptions near the earth’s surface at 22 places in the Afar Triangle in northeastern Africa. Magma has caused fissures up to eight meters (26 feet) wide to open up in the ground, reports Derek Keir from the University of Leeds. While most of the magma remains beneath the surface, in places like Erta Ale it has made its way above ground.

An Ocean Without Water

Scientists have also noted that the kind of magma bubbling up in the region is the type otherwise only seen spewing forth from mid-ocean ridges deep below the water’s surface. One of its signature characteristics is a low proportion of silicic acid. The magma coming out of Erta Ale has the same chemical composition as the kind that emerges from deep-sea volcanoes. The entire region increasingly resembles an ocean floor — one without water.

The new burst in activity began in 2005, when a 60-kilometer-long fissure suddenly formed in the Afar Depression. Since then, roughly 3.5 cubic kilometers of magma have gushed forth, according to Tim Wright — enough to cover the entire area of London to an average person’s height.

From a geological perspective, the speed with which the magma is pushing forth is astonishing. It has been channeling its way through the rock below the earth’s surface at speeds of up to 30 meters per minute, reports Eric Jacques from the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris. Satellite measurements attest to the consequences: In one 200-kilometer stretch welling up with magma, the ground looks like asphalt on a hot summer day. Magma is also pooling up under the Dabbahu Volcano in northern Ethiopia, Lorraine Field reported in San Francisco.

Continuing to Expand

The satellite data has also shown that a much larger area has been scarred by fissures than previously assumed, says Keir. Subterranean currents of magma are also causing ground temperatures to spike in eastern Egypt, a team of geologists from Egypt’s National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics recently reported in Seismological Research Letters. At the AGU conference, Columbia University’s James Gaherty reported that magma eruptions have ripped a 17-kilometer gash into the desert floor in the northern part of Malawi and that the lateral pressure they have exerted has even lifted the surrounding earth up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) in places.

The most violent upsurge of magma in recent years, though, happened in an unexpected place. In May 2009, a subterranean volcano erupted in Saudi Arabia. A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7 accompanied by tens of thousands of milder tremors forced 30,000 to seek shelter. Magma spewed out of the ground in an area about the size of Berlin and Hamburg combined, Sigurjon Jonsson from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology reported at the AGU meeting. The fact that the eruption took place almost 200 kilometers (124 miles) away from the fault line in North Africa “surprised all of us,” says Cynthia Ebinger. And the world’s largest geological construction site continues to expand. Loraine Field confirms that more and more magna is pushing its way to the earth’s surface, adding that: “The magma chamber is reloading.”

Oxford University’s David Ferguson predicts a considerable increase in volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the region over the next decade. They will, he says, “become of increasingly large magnitude.”

Source article here.

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Science : Implicitly Bound To Facts Beyond Suspicion?

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

“A powerful riposte to atheist mockery and cocksure science, and to the sort of philosophy that surrenders to them. David Berlinski proceeds reasonably and calmly to challenge recent scientific theorizing and to expose the unreason from which it presumes to criticize religion.”
—Harvey Mansfield, Professor of Government, Harvard University

Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness. And these authors are merely the leading edge of a far larger movement–one that now includes much of the scientific community.

“The attack on traditional religious thought,” writes David Berlinski in The Devil’s Delusion, “marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion.”

A secular Jew, Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:

Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
Not even close.

Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.

Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Close enough.

Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.

Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

Berlinski does not dismiss the achievements of western science. The great physical theories, he observes, are among the treasures of the human race. But they do nothing to answer the questions that religion asks, and they fail to offer a coherent description of the cosmos or the methods by which it might be investigated.

This book explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it can be–indeed must be–the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world and ourselves.

David Berlinski is an American educator and author of several books on mathematics. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He has authored works on systems analysis, differential topology, theoretical biology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics, as well as three novels. He has also taught philosophy, mathematics and English at Stanford, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Université de Paris. In addition, he has held research fellowships at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques.

“My Genes Made Me Do It”

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

My Genes Made Me Do It, Homosexuality and the Scientific Evidence shows homosexuality is not inborn or biologically innate and that sexual orientation naturally undergoes huge change.

The book argues for a roughly 10%/90% nature/nurture effect in homosexuality while asserting that any genetic effect is very indirect eg: any physical characteristic making a person feel gender-atypical. The book shows that homosexual orientation is not biologically driven or fixed but that change toward heterosexuality frequently occurs naturally without any therapeutic interventions. It contains arguments not found elsewhere. Using orthodox science and summarising over 10,000 scientific publications and papers, it is nevertheless very accessible to the average reader.

The book is available for free (or to purchase) online at


Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Can genes create sexual preferences?
Chapter 2. The genetic implications of SSA population percentage
Chapter 3. Are heterosexuals born that way?
Chapter 4. How strong are our instincts?
Chapter 5. What produces the sexual identity of intersexes?
Chapter 6. What do different cultures tell us about homosexuality?
Chapter 7. Pre-natal hormones? Stress? Immune attack?
Chapter 8. Are brains gay?
Chapter 9. The “discovery” of the “gay gene”
Chapter 10. Twin Studies: the strongest evidence
Chapter 11. Path Analysis – social factors do lead to homosexuality?
Chapter 12. Can sexual orientation change?

Categories: Culture, Deception, Science

TV & Children…!

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Never before in parenting history has there been entire product ranges (and channels) available to make television-watching more ‘appropriate’ for children, as young as three months old. Surely, if I am letting my baby watch a dvd that was specifically designed for him, it’s ok? Surely, television is as beneficial for our children as it is for us?

The simple and honest answer is “No”. Television is not good for babies or young children at all. It doesn’t matter what’s on, even if it’s a special dvd you spent your hard-earned money on. A whole series of scientific research projects confirms this for us. Sorry folks, that’s the ugly truth.

What do the scientists say?

The University of Washington studied more than 1000 families and reported that for every hour that infants of 8 – 16 months watched dvds such as “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby”, they understood 6-8 fewer words than other babies who were not exposed to such dvds (Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children under Age 2 years – The Journal of Pediatrics, V151, Issue 4, Pgs 364-368). Interestingly, Disney, who own Baby Einstein, is now offering refunds to disgruntled US parents.

A study from Seattle examined more than 2500 children younger than 36 months, and found that for every hour of television watched daily, the risk of attention problems at age seven increased nearly 10 percent. They were more likely to be confused, impulsive, restless or obsessive about things in their lives – the problems were similar to symptoms of ADHD. (Attention-Deficit Risk Linked to Young Kids’ TV Time, Seattle Times, 5 April 2004)

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV before the age of two years and that children over two years be limited to one to two hours per day of educational material on TV. (Eh-Oh! Pediatricians Ban TV for Toddlers, David Burke

In August 2009, France’s broadcasting authority banned the airing of TV shows aimed at children under three, after French psychologists found that: “Television viewing hurts the development of children under three years old and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness, troubles with sleep and concentration, as well as dependence on screens.” (France Pulls Plug on TV Shows Aimed at Babies, CBC News, Wed Aug 20 2008)

Why does television have such a negative effect on children during the early years?

As adults, we can watch something on television and give it meaning – this is primarily because our brains are already wired. We have real life experiences behind us, we understand language and we have a frame of reference to draw from.

Young children, however, are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of television because a young child’s brain is being wired at a rate of half a million brain cell connections per second…(The Baby Brain-Drain, The Times, 1 Nov 2007, Dr Miriam Stoppard). The experiences that your child is having is literally shaping his brain, and the more often he uses certain pathways, the more ‘hardwired’ those neural pathways become.

Young children simply stare at the rapidly changing scenes and take in the noises without any understanding whatsoever. We know this for a fact because scientists using Positron Imaging Technology can see inside a young child’s brain when they’re watching television. They have discovered that only the visual and listening areas of the child’s brain is stimulated, while the areas of the brain used for communicating, learning, thinking, memorising, expressing personality and fine tuning social behaviour remain inactive and completely un-stimulated during television-time.

In stark contrast, when a parent reads to a child and plays various games with him, his brain lights up like a Christmas tree as links are rapidly formed between all the regions of the brain. For example, when you show your child a picture of a dog and explain how the dog jumps and barks, he has to use various parts of his brain to form a mental picture of this through his imagination – when he watches television, the work of understanding and imagining is literally stolen away from his young developing brain, and along with that, the brain development that could’ve taken place is also snatched away. This arguably makes television one of the greatest and most silent thieves in the modern child’s world.

Reading and interacting with your child gives him language (scientific research proves that spoken language on TV is just ‘white noise’ for your child, without any meaning). In addition, when you’re interacting with your child you can read his emotions and respond appropriately, giving a little more attention to an area he doesn’t quite understand or laughing at the parts that he finds amusing (television cannot do this).

As adults, we often use television as a relaxation tool, ‘spacing out’ in front of our television sets after a stressful or busy day, and many adults find that it helps them to fall asleep. For young children, the rapidly changing scenes and noise is so mesmerising, it can actually be equated to ‘baby crack cocaine’.

Watching television literally rewires a child’s brain during the early years – the result is a child whose brain is so used to side-stepping the language and thinking areas that it becomes the default setting of that child’s brain to react to information without understanding – not only when they’re watching television, but in the real world as well.

The result is child who literally looks without ‘seeing’ and hears without ‘listening’.

OK – so what if your child has already been exposed to large amounts of television?

As quoted by a writer for The Times, Dr Martin Ward-Platt believes, “of course, the thing that really makes a difference for a baby is interaction with a caregiver and there is nothing we can invent as a people substitute. But if a child watches some TV and is exposed to people for the rest of the time, they will do fine. What we don’t know is where the limit is, where you start to hold children back.”

In real life, if you have a strong immune system, your body can fight off small viral attacks, and if you exercise everyday you can indulge in that piece of chocolate cake without fear of putting on too much weight. Similarly, if your baby receives large amounts of loving one-on-one interaction and stimulation from the important people in her life, her brain will be more densely wired and therefore will be more resilient to the impact of short periods of television watching.

As a parent I didn’t understand the effects of television on my young baby, and knowing what I know now, I will make wiser choices. If you enjoy some ‘me-time’ or a cup of coffee while your young child is watching television in the morning or evening, it is not the end of the world. As long as you don’t for one second believe it is actually good for them in any way. Keep in mind that you need to ensure a healthy balance by giving your young child as much individual attention as possible, whenever you can. We literally have to counter-act the negative effects of television-viewing with the positive effects of large amounts of one-on-one interaction.

This is a copy of the article originally posted at


Categories: Culture, Science

Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design

October 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer was released in June 2009 and has been viewed as “the first book to make a comprehensive case for intelligent design based upon DNA”. Meyer defines what ID is and is not and shows that the argument for intelligent design is not based on ignorance or ‘giving up on science’, but instead upon our growing scientific knowledge of the information stored in the cell.

The book has been well-received and made the list of “Top Ten Best Selling Science Books of 2009” at According to the Discovery Institute, by November 2009 the book had entered its fifth printing.

The book was endorsed by scientists such as Philip Skell, J. Scott Turner, Alistair Noble and Edward Peltzer, and received a favorable review from philosopher Thomas Nagel, in The Times, who wrote that “Signature in the Cell…is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin … Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.” The book also received a favorable review in TELICOM, “The Journal of the International Society of Philosophical Enquiry.”

When Thomas Nagel submitted the book as his contribution to the “2009 Books of the Year” supplement for The Times, many in the philosophical and scientific community responded negatively to his recommendation. Specifically, Stephen Fletcher, chemist at Loughborough University, wrote in The Times Literary Supplement, Nagel is “promoting the book to the rest of us using statements that are factually incorrect.” Fletcher explained “Natural selection is in fact a chemical process as well as a biological process, and it was operating for about half a billion years before the earliest cellular life forms appear in the fossil record.” In another publication, Fletcher wrote that “I am afraid that reality has overtaken Meyer’s book and its flawed reasoning” in pointing out scientific problems with Meyer’s work by citing how RNA “survived and evolved into our own human protein-making factory, and continues to make our fingers and toes.”. Meyer responded to Fletcher’s criticisms of the book via an unpublished letter to The Times Literary Supplement that was posted on Meyer’s website, stating that “To support his claim that scientific developments have ‘overtaken Meyer’s book,’ Fletcher cites, first, a scientific study by chemists Matthew Powner, Beatrice Gerland and John Sutherland of the University of Manchester. This study does partially address one, though only one, of the many outstanding difficulties associated with the RNA world scenario, the most popular current theory of the undirected chemical evolution of life. Starting with several simple chemical compounds, Powner and colleagues successfully synthesized a pyrimidine ribonucleotide, one of the building blocks of the RNA molecule. Nevertheless, this work does nothing to address the much more acute problem of explaining how the nucleotide bases in DNA or RNA acquired their specific information-rich arrangements, which is the central topic of my book.”

In May 2010, the Discovery Institute, which is directed by Meyer, released a free 105 page eBook titled Signature of Controversy: Responses to Critics of Signature in the Cell with chapters by Discovery Institute fellows David Berlinski, David Klinghoffer, Casey Luskin, Stephen C. Meyer, Paul Nelson, Jay Richards and Richard Sternberg.

Debate with Michael Shermer dealing with objections to intelligent design, the existence of design in nature & “Who designed the designer?”

For more information about the book, further reviews & related debates go to

Experts: ‘Big One’ could come soon

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

It seems like earthquakes may be increasing. That would be the alternative way to say “more frequent than previously thought”… assuming that previous calculations may have been correct.

“There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.” – Mark 13:8

Experts: ‘Big One’ could come soon…

2010-08-21 11:01

Los Angeles – Strong earthquakes along the San Andreas fault in southern California are more frequent than previously thought, so the dreaded “Big One” could be just around the corner, US researchers said Friday in a study.

University of California at Irvine and Arizona State University scientists examined the geological record stretching back 700 years along the fault line 160km northwest of Los Angeles.

They found that strong earthquakes – between 6.5 and 7.9 magnitude – shook the area every 45-144 years, instead of the previously established 250-400 years.

Since the last big 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck southern California in 1857, or 153 years ago, scientists believe the next “Big One” could happen at any time.

The scientists on Friday provided an abstract of their study, which will be published in full in the September 1 issue of the magazine Geology.

“What we know is for the last 700 years, earthquakes on the southern San Andreas fault have been much more frequent than everyone thought,” said the study’s lead author Sinan Akciz.

“Data presented here contradict previously published reports,” he added.

People urged to take precautions

With 37 million people living in southern California, chiefly in the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego and Anaheim, a major earthquake could kill between 2 000 and 50 000 people and cause billions of dollars in damage, scientists said.

UCI seismologist Lisa Grant Ludwig, the study’s chief investigator, said people in the area should already be taking precautions.

“There are storm clouds gathered on the horizon. Does that mean it’s definitely going to rain? No, but when you have that many clouds, you think, I’m going to take my umbrella with me today.’ That’s what this research does: It gives us a chance to prepare,” she said.

For individuals, that means having ample water and other supplies on hand, safeguarding possessions in advance, and establishing family emergency plans.

For regulators, Ludwig advocates new policies requiring earthquake risk signs on unsafe buildings and forcing inspectors in home-sale transactions to disclose degrees of risk.

Some things, she added however, remain unpredictable, especially Los Angeles’ troublesome highway grid, which in the best of times gets hopelessly choked in traffic.

Ludwig said the new data “puts the exclamation point” on the need for state residents and policymakers to be prepared.


Categories: News, Science
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