Science briefs

Residents of PEI might call it “mini me”

Researchers from the Australia Antarctic Division (AAD) noticed something missing from Antarctica this February, namely a 2,500-square km (that’s half the size of Prince Edward Island) chunk of ice from the continent’s Mertz Glacier, a long chunk of ice which extends across part of Antarctica’s east coast.

Rob Massom of the AAD says that the Luxembourg-sized piece of ice breaking off the glacier had little, if anything, to do with global warming, and everything to do with another large iceberg — itself a remnant from a 5,000-square km iceberg, which broke off the continent in 1987 — hitting the glacier.

While the iceberg’s breaking off was not related to climate change, Massom cautioned that it could have global climate consequences if it disrupts the natural flow of ocean currents, something it might do if it became lodged on some shallow rocks or a reef.

Google gives up on Internet Explorer 6 users

Google has announced that 2010 will go down in history as “the year that Google stopped supporting Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 (IE6).” Starting last week with Google Docs and Google Site Editor, Google will no longer ensure that updates to these apps are IE6 friendly, warning that IE6 users may experience more lag time and might even be unable to use some features.

Google also says that it has plans to stop IE6 support in Gmail and Goggle Calendar before the end of 2010.

Introduced in 2001, IE6 is currently two generations behind Microsoft’s current browser, IE8. However, despite this, IE6 users still represent 13.5 per cent of Internet Explorer users.

Warning: 9th century poetry may be deadly

The conclusion of a multiple decade study at University College in London is suggesting that bored people are more likely to die.

The study, which interviewed civil servants between the years 1985 and 1988, asked the participants to rate their level of boredom. In April 2009, the study reconnected with participants, with the goal of finding out how many of them had died. They found that the people who reported being chronically bored were 37 per cent more likely to have died, as compared to non-bored people.

The study found a strong correlation between boredom and heart disease, which the researchers correlate to a lower level of “life satisfaction,” leading to a higher incidence of unhealthy practices, such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

I want my millionth of a second back

With the total number of dead and wounded not fully counted from the 8.8 magnitude quake that struck Chile on Feb. 27, it is very difficult to label something resulting from the tragedy as “cool” — however, the quake did have a very interesting effect on the world; Feb. 26 was 1.26 milliseconds (one millisecond = one millionth of a second) longer than Feb. 27.

The quake, which measured 8.8 on the Richter magnitude scale, managed to shift the axis of the Earth by about 8 cm, which had the effect of shortening the length of a day by 1.26 milliseconds.
While not the largest quake in recent years — a 2004 quake in Sumatra measured 9.1 on the Richter scale — the Chilean quake had a greater effect on the axis of the earth, since Chile is located in the mid latitudes, and therefore had, in effect, more leverage.

Higgs on hold

The large Hadron collider (LHC), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced, will run at half power for 2010 and 2011 before being shut down entirely in 2012.
The reasoning behind the conservative regiment is to provide researchers with enough data to keep them busy, and give them a shot at finding the Higgs boson — the particle some researchers believe is what gives atoms mass — while not stressing the LHC’s temperamental power couplings.
The temporary shutdown in 2013 will give CERN an opportunity to replace the 10,000 couplings, which connect the machine’s magnets, with redesigned units.

Meanwhile the smaller Tevatron, which is run by the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, and is only capably of 1/7 the LHC’s power, will be kept running through 2012 in an effort to beat CERN to the discovery of the Higgs boson.