The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (5/12)


Odd Chemical Found Common in Our Galaxy 

A peculiar chemical compound has been found to be ubiquitous in interstellar gas clouds throughout our Milky Way galaxy and may give scientists a better way to track hydrogen across the universe.The compound, called hydrogen fluoride, was detected by the European-built Herschel infrared space observatory. It is a mix of the elements hydrogen and fluorine and could serve as a signpost for astronomers trying to track hydrogen caches in the cosmos, researchers said. “Hydrogen fluoride may be a more robust tracer of hidden molecular hydrogen than any other molecule used at present,” said study team member Edwin Bergin of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Gravity Lows Mark Burial Sites of Ancient Tectonic Plates

Scientists have unearthed a new explanation for several low-gravity spots detected around the world. They’re blaming the anomalies on vast “slab graveyards” that lie buried deep near the planet’s core. When these slabs of rock were buried long ago, they released water that reduced the density of overlying rock, Caltech geophysicist Michael Gurnis and his colleagues reported online May 9 in Nature Geoscience. Low-density rock has less mass, and so less gravitational pull. Scientists had previously noticed that gravity’s tug is smaller where tectonic plates, or large sections of Earth’s crust, once plunged below the surface, Gurnis says. The team’s new findings, he notes, provide insight into the causes of super-low values measured in four regions — in particular, areas south of Asia, along the coast of Antarctica south of New Zealand, in the northeastern Pacific and in the western Atlantic. Beneath those four areas, seismic waves travel slower than normal at shallow depths –1,000 kilometers or less — but faster than normal deeper down, says Gurnis. Because sound waves travel faster through dense material (for example, water compared with air) the difference in speed with depth told the team that lighter, less dense material is lying over a layer of very dense material. Most likely, the top layer’s relative buoyancy stems from its water-rich composition, the researchers contend.

Prequel to Philip K. Dick’s Electric Sheep Hits iPad

Nearly three decades after Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? sparked Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner movie, the novel has inspired a comic book prequel that explores Earth’s first wave of droid hunters. Titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dust to Dust, the $4 comic book by I Zombie writer Chris Roberson and 48 Stron artist Robert Adler lands May 26. Roberson says the comic, offered in four variant covers (including the Trevor Hairsine art pictured above left), draws on a major theme running through Dick’s 1968 sci-fi classic. “There are a number of references to World War Terminus and the radioactive dust responsible for killing off nearly all animal life and rendering humans sterile,” he told in an e-mail. “Our story takes place in the immediate aftermath of that war as the populace comes to grips with the virtual extinction of animal life,” he said. “Meanwhile, the off-world colonies lure more and more people away, and androids originally intended for the battlefield are being repurposed to serve as the colonial workforce.”


Android Passes iPhone in Sales

Android fans will be celebrating the news that Google’s smartphone OS has passed Apple’s iPhone in total U.S. market share. But the reality is that the sales dominance of Android was inevitable. In the first quarter of 2010, Apple secured a 21% market share, Android surged to 28%, and RIM’s BlackBerry held strong at 36%. I don’t mean to ignore BlackBerry here, but they’ve been dominating sales for so long, and with so little change in their fundamental business, that they’re barely worth discussing from a sales perspective. It’d be like writing a post about how U2’s latest album is selling well. It was really a foregone conclusion that eventually Android would beat the iPhone in sales, for a bunch of simple reasons (including the recent study showing Android dominating mobile web use). iPhone OS is limited to one smartphone, on one network (the second-place network in terms of customers), and offers only one real model at a time (the iPhone 3G is technically still available but it’s not dramatically different in design or functionality from the 3GS). Android, on the other hand, is available in several iterations from several different manufacturers in several different price points on every single major network.


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