Almagest Ephemeris Calculator

At is a web page with Java Script calendar and ephemeris modules for calculating geocentric luni-solar and planetary positions for an arbitrary calendar date according to the kinematical models of the sun, the moon and the planets as described in the Almagest of Claudius Ptolemy in AD150.

Himalayan Odds

At html there is a report on a geological study into the formation of the Himalayas, the movement of the Indian plate into the Asian plate. The Indian plate was subducted and this in turn led to the creation of the mountain chain as it just kept pushing against the other. The Indian plate also included oceanic crust which was pushed down into the mantle. Now, researchers on the high mountains have discovered eclogites and the samples have been found to contain garnet.

Demise of rainforests once again, and a paper in Conservation Letters says 45 per cent of plants and animals making up the rainforest habitat will remain intact over the next 100 years - but they add the caveat that may be as low as 18 per cent (to make it more scary). However, the rest of it will disappear, they say, but fear not this is a computer simulation based on an assumption that temperatures will continue to rise over the same period.

Strings and Things

At physicists use an offshoot of string theory to describe the puzzling behaviour of super conductors - material that conducts electricity without resistance. Published in Science August 5th


At there is a claim that the evolution of kangaroos was intricately tied to Australian climate change - but suitably confined to millions of years ago rather than anything to do with modern greenhouse gas emissions. The Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (August 2010) claims the appearance of kangaroos, wallabies, and similar animals occurred millions of years ago when they foraged on soft leaved forest growing plants.

Painted Stones by Painted People

The story is reported in The Scotsman (but see also ) stones painted with patterns such as zigzags and chevrons have been found in the Orkneys. The use of colour has been suspected but this is the first tangible evidence of it yet found in an megalithic structure in Britain. It occurs in Sardinian megaliths (as reported a couple of weeks ago) and now it has been found in the far north.

The auroral heartbeat of Saturn

At ... a paper in Geophysical Research Letters (Aug 6th) claims that Saturn's aurora, a low ultraviolet glow which illuminates the upper atmosphere near the poles, pulses roughly at one a day (Saturnian time). The study used Hubble Space Telescope images from 2005 to 2009. There is a pulse to radio emissions too and the aurora heartbeat appears to be in tandem with the radio emissions

Lightning and Hurricanes

At (see also ) is about a connection between lightning (electricity in the atmosphere) and hurricane intensification. NASA are now peering inside storms in search of the lightning and how it interacts with the surface of the earth - particularly how it might affect hurricane development and intensification, as well as other phenomena of nature.

The Spacecraft Fly-by Mystery

'The Spacecraft fly-by mystery - is dark matter the culprit or is there new physics waiting to be discovered?' is another headline grabber from Casey Kazan at on August 3rd. When NASA sends its spacecraft across the solar system they save fuel by making use of sling-shot fly-bys. Rather than firing up thrusters the spacecraft changes trajectory by harnessing the gravitational pulls of the planets. However, this clever trick has had an unexpected side-effect.

Cyrus and the Chinese (see News section if story unavailable) ... it seems a British Museum curator, Irving Finkel, has identified a cuneiform text inscribed on horse bones found in China, and they represent extracts from the Cyrus Cylinder.