Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Four-Sun Planetary Find

Yesterday night, researchers meeting in Reno, Nevada, at the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society presented their discovery of a four-sun planet.  A circumbinary planet is one that orbits two suns.  Only six other circumbinary planets are known to exist.  "Citizen scientists" Robert Gagliano and Kian Jek combed through data from NASA's $600 million Kepler telescope and coordinated their findings with Yale astronomers to find the first known quadruple-sun system.  This rare planet is a little bigger than Neptune, with a radius about six times greater than Earth.  It is now known as PH1 (short for Planet Hunters 1), taking its name from the online citizen science project behind its discovery.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fattening Cows on Candy

According to a CNN article, the rising cost of corn is driving thrifty farmers to turn to alternative sources of feed for their livestock.  Food products such as chocolate bars, gummy worms, ice cream sprinkles, marshmallows, bits of hard candy, crumbled cookies, breakfast cereal, trail mix, dried cranberries, orange peelings and even powdered hot chocolate mix are being used as more economical alternative feeds.  These are typically blended with more traditional forms of feed, like hay.

The sugar, providing the same kind of energy as the corn it is replacing, helps fatten the cows and increase milk production without any known ill effect to the cow or human consumers of its milk or meat.

Candy is not alone in its use as a substitute feed.  A wide assortment of other byproducts, including cherry juice, fish meal, peanut butter, fruit fillings, tapioca and left-over grain from distilleries, also often find their way into the diet of livestock as a cost-saving measure.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Colorful Honey

A LiveScience.com article, today, reports on the results of honey bees attracted to colorful sugary waste rather than wildflowers for nectar.

Near Ribeauvill√©, France, local bees have acquired a taste for processed sugars at a biogas plant that processes waste from a nearby Mars chocolate factory, where M&M candies are made.  With dyes from the processed sugars turning their honey blue and green, though, the beekeepers can't sell their honey.  Apparently it still tastes like honey, but they consider it something completely different.  The planned solution is to keep the waste M&Ms better contained so that the bees can no longer get to them.

Watch for "designer" honey products based on this principle in the future.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Facebook Reaches 1 Billion User Mark

Facebook has reached another major milestone.  Today, a CNN Money article reports on co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's announcement that the social media site now helps over one billion users connect.    This means that it is used by one of every seven people on the planet.

Much of their recently added user community is from Asia and the developing world.  While now less than 20% of Facebook's users live in the U.S. and Canada, however, those users still account for 48% of the $992 million in advertising revenue that Facebook took in last quarter.

One of Facebook's future focus areas will be the growing mobile market.  Half of Facebook's users access the site at least once a month through mobile devices.  102 million users (roughly 10% of total) only use Facebook's mobile site.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Moo for a Potential Milk Allergy Solution

A Health.com article on Monday reports that scientists in New Zealand have cloned a genetically modified, tail-less calf that produces milk containing no detectable levels of beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), the protein that is believed to trigger allergic reactions. Additionally, the hypoallergenic milk from this calf appears to be even more nutritious than regular cow’s milk, as it contains double the amount of the healthy milk proteins known as caseins.

So far, though, no genetically modified animals or animal products have been sold for food.  The nearest example is a patent-protected salmon containing genes from two other fish species that enable it to grow faster, but that fish has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Search For Hoffa Reaches Another Dead End

The latest lead on the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa's remains is another bust.  Recently, a tipster claimed to have seen a body buried in the yard of a home in suburban Detroit the day after Hoffa disappeared in 1975. Today, two soil samples taken from that property showed no evidence of human remains.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Red Lobster Revamping Menu

According to a Fox News article today, popular seafood chain Red Lobster is planning changes to its menu by the middle of the month.  It will be increasing the number of lower cost entrees (less than $15) to appeal to customers cutting back on spending. Items in this price range represent about 40 percent of the current menu selections. This proportion will be increased to about 60 percent.

A quarter of the new menu will be non-seafood dishes, up from 8 percent and will include a Parmesan-crusted Chicken Alfredo and Pork chops.  Roasted Vegetable Skewers will represent the first vegetarian entree that isn’t salad or pasta.  For those who want to go light, the Island Grilled Mahi-Mahi and Shrimp is only 510 calories.  There are now three salads, including the Bar Harbor Salad, which has dried berries, pecans and blue cheese.

A new ‘‘Four-Course Feast’’ that comes with a soup, salad, entree and dessert will be offered for $15.99.  For those who want to splurge, the NY Strip Steak & Rock Lobster Tail will still be available for $32.99.