Firefox 3.0 Feature Restoration

Everyone else probably knew this, but I just found it.

There was a feature fork between the Windows and Mac versions of Firefox when version 2.0 came out. At least on our two G4 machines. In version 1.x, you could grab a site’s favicon up there next to the url, drag it to one of your folders on the bookmark bar and the menu would open, allowing you to place the new bookmark where you wanted it. Slick. Neat.

That stopped for Macs in version 2.x. (Again, at least on our machines.) You could drop the bookmark on a folder, but it wouldn’t open. Provided the tooltip (“I know I can drag this to a folder! Let me do it!”) didn’t block your destination folder.

The Windows version continued the ‘proper’ behavior with 2.0. And I assume with version 3.0, but I haven’t been around a Windows machine since 3.0 came out.

grumble. I guess I should use Camino. That is the Mac application after all… mutter

But for whatever reason, I never stuck with Camino. I tried, but pretty soon Firefox was the default browser again. The slow, cpu hogging, memory eating, default browser. /sigh So, I was just mildly disgruntled with my web browser. Kind of in the background along with the collapse of the housing market and home values, job scarcity and national and international politics. Blah, blah, blah, and then you die. Fine.

Quite accidentally (actually *reflexively* is probably the better term) Twenty minutes ago (I type slow) I drug and dropped a favicon to a folder in Firefox 3.x on my Mac and it just worked! Just as I expected it to.

Niiiice.

It is probably somewhere in a “What’s new in 3.0!” document, but I never read those…

Woolly-Mammoth Gene Study Changes Extinction Theory

More fodder, more grist for that mill.

Woolly-Mammoth Gene Study Changes Extinction Theory

Credit: Penn State
by Staff Writers
University Park PA (SPX) Jun 13, 2008
A large genetic study of the extinct woolly mammoth has revealed that the species was not one large homogenous [sic–ed.] group, as scientists previously had assumed, and that it did not have much genetic diversity.

“The population was split into two groups, then one of the groups died out 45,000 years ago, long before the first humans began to appear in the region,” said Stephan C. Schuster, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University and a leader of the research team.

“This discovery is particularly interesting because it rules out human hunting as a contributing factor, leaving climate change and disease as the most probable causes of extinction.” The discovery will be published later this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The research marks the first time scientists have dissected the structure of an entire population of extinct mammal by using the complete mitochondrial genome — all the DNA that makes up all the genes found in the mitochondria structures within cells.

Data from this study will enable testing of the new hypothesis presented by the team, that there were two groups of woolly mammoth — a concept that previously had not been recognized from studies of the fossil record.

The scientists analyzed the genes in hair obtained from individual woolly mammoths — an extinct species of elephant adapted to living in the cold environment of the northern hemisphere. The bodies of these mammoths were found throughout a wide swathe of northern Siberia. Their dates of death span roughly 47,000 years, ranging from about 13,000 years ago to about 60,000 years ago.

Schuster and Webb Miller, professor of biology and computer science and engineering at Penn State, led the international research team, which includes Thomas Gilbert at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and other scientists in Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The team includes experts in the fields of genome evolution, ancient DNA, and mammoth paleontology, as well as curators from various natural-history museums.
Another important finding for understanding the extinction processes is that the individuals in each of the two woolly-mammoth groups were related very closely to one another. “This low genetic divergence is surprising because the woolly mammoth had an extraordinarily wide range: from Western Europe, to the Bering Strait in Siberia, to Northern America,” Miller said.

“The low genetic divergence of mammoth, which we discovered, may have degraded the biological fitness of these animals in a time of changing environments and other challenges.”
Our study suggests a genetic divergence of the two woolly-mammoth groups more than 1-million years ago, which is one quarter the genetic distance that separates Indian and African elephants and woolly mammoths,” Miller said. The research indicates that the diversity of the two woolly-mammoth populations was as low centuries ago as it is now in the very small populations of Asian elephants living in southern India.

“The low genetic divergence of the elephants in southern Indian has been suggested as contributing to the problems of maintaining this group as a thriving population,” Schuster said. Intriguingly, the mitochondrial genomes revealed by the researchers are several times more complete than those known for the modern Indian and African Elephants combined.

Whereas studies before this research had analyzed only short segments of the DNA of extinct species, this new study generated and compared 18 complete genomes of the extinct woolly mammoth using mitochondrial DNA, an important material for studying ancient genes.

This achievement is based on an earlier discovery of the team led by Miller, Schuster, and co-author Thomas Gilbert, which was published last year and that revealed ancient DNA survives much better in hair than in any other tissue investigated so far.
This discovery makes hair, when it is available, a more powerful and efficient source of DNA for studying the genome sequences of extinct animals. Moreover, mammoth hair is found in copious quantities in cold environments and it is not regarded as fossil material of enormous value like bone or muscle, which also carries anatomical information.

“We also discovered that the DNA in hair shafts is remarkably enriched for mitochondrial DNA, the special type of DNA frequently used to measure the genetic diversity of a population,” Miller said. The team’s earlier study also showed that hair is superior for use in molecular-genetic analysis because it is much easier than bone to decontaminate.

Not only is hair easily cleaned of external contamination such as bacteria and fungi, its structure also protects it from degradation, preventing internal penetration by microorganisms in the environment.

An important aspect of the new study is that the hair samples it used had been stored in various museums for many years before being analyzed by the researchers, yet the scientists were able to obtain lots of useful DNA from them. “One of our samples originates from the famous Adams mammoth, which was found in 1799 and has been stored at room temperatures for the last 200 years,” Schuster said.

This research technique opens the door for future projects to target interesting specimens that were collected a long time ago and are no longer available from modern species, the scientists said. Even the molecular analysis of entire collections seems now possible, an effort that the team calls “Museomics.”

“We plan to continue using our techniques to untangle the secrets of populations that lived long ago and to learn what it might have taken for them to survive,” Schuster said. “Many of us also have a personal interest in learning as much as we can about how any species of large mammal can go extinct.”
The research was supported, in large part, by Penn State University, Roche Applied Sciences, and a private sponsor. Additional support was provided by the National Human Genome Research Institute, Marie Curie Actions, the Australian Research Council, the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. [via ARCH-L]

Well, it largely rules out hunting in the 45KYA extinction. Probably. 😉

Let’s see how the use of DNA from hair holds up. That’s a factor, too. Though this appearing in the National Academy of Sciences is heartening, as that implies it has gone through the initial vetting process.

False-color “postcard” from the Phoenix Lander

I mean no slight for not linking earlier to Susan Kitchens’ own excellent coverage of the Phoenix Lander and, in fact, all things JPL and space-related.

This is via Emily’s post Phoenix: last press briefing of the day after the successful landing at the Planetary Society Blog:

False-color "postcard" from Phoenix

False-color “postcard” from Phoenix
This image, one of the first captured by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander, shows the vast plains of the northern polar region of Mars. The flat landscape is strewn with tiny pebbles and shows polygonal cracking, a pattern seen widely in Martian high latitudes and also observed in permafrost terrains on Earth. The polygonal cracking is believed to have resulted from seasonal freezing and thawing of surface ice.

Phoenix touched down on the Red Planet at 4:53 p.m. Pacific Time (7:53 Eastern Time), May 25, 2008, in an arctic region called Vastitas Borealis, at 68 degrees north latitude, 234 degrees east longitude.

This is an approximate-color image taken shortly after landing by the spacecraft’s Surface Stereo Imager, inferred from two color filters, a violet, 450-nanometer filter and an infrared, 750-nanometer filter.

Credit: NASA / JPL / U. Arizona

Mars Phoenix Lander at 23:53:52 (UT) 4:53 p.m. (PDT)

Today is the day for the Mars Phoenix Lander to land on Mars. These details are from Phil’s Bad Astronomy Blog.

The Mars Phoenix Lander will be touching down on the surface of Mars on Sunday at 23:53:52 Universal Time (4:53 p.m. Pacific time). Of course, there will be lots of action leading up to that moment.

You can get live info from a few different sources.

For online video and such, your best bet is NASA TV. If you have it, The Science Channel is covering it live on TV. And if you want live blogging action, Emily’s your destination. She has a nice schedule on her blog of the whole thing. She’s also been doing some great blogging on the pre-landing press conferences, so she has all the info you want. And if you’re in the Tucson area, the Lunar and Planetary Institute Lab has a ton of stuff going on for the whole family.

[update:] Today’s APOD is all about Phoenix on Mars with lots of details, including NASA’s animation of the landing sequence.

Communications Workers of America ‘Speed Matters’ Broadband Test

This came over the e-mail transom earlier today. Perhaps you would be interested in this effort to improve high-speed Internet access in the United States.

Millions of Americans—especially in rural and low-income urban areas—don’t have high-speed Internet access. Millions more who have, what we in America call, “high-speed” Internet pay much more for slower speeds than people in Europe or Japan.

How fast is your Internet access? How does your speed compare nationwide and around the globe? Are you getting what your Internet provider says you’re paying for?

Take the Communications Workers of America Speed Matters test to find out:

www.speedmatters.org/wfn2008

Speed Matters is a public policy and awareness campaign to invest in our nation’s high-speed networks and close the digital divide. Testing your Internet connection speed is an important part of this campaign.

Last year, Speed Matters used tens of thousands of speed tests from people like you to develop a state-by-state report on Internet connection speed. USA Today featured the findings on its front page, reporting that the United States is falling far behind other industrialized nations in high-speed Internet access.

Thanks to the first report, state broadband initiatives were developed in Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Washington State and elsewhere. It also was used to help convince the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to change its definition of high-speed Internet and to urge the U.S. Congress to adopt a national broadband policy, complete with a broadband map of America.

Speed Matters is getting ready to release its second annual speed test report this summer, and it needs as many people as possible to take the speed test.

You can help with the new report by taking the speed test:

www.speedmatters.org/wfn2008

With your help, the second report should make as big of a splash as the first one. Speed Matters is timing the release of the report with the Democratic and Republican national conventions to make sure high-speed Internet access is on both parties’ agendas.

In the 21st century, we all deserve access to quality, high-speed Internet. By taking the Speed Matters speed test, you can help make it happen.

Sincerely,

Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO

These are our results:

Tomorrow I’m Going to Be a Judge at the 2008 Science and Engineering Fair

This will be fun. I’m one of the judges in the 9-12 division. I have always loved science fairs…

The K-12 science fair will be held March 6-8 in UNLV’s new student union ballroom. Project drop-off for K-8 will be on Thursday, March 6 beginning at 2 p.m. The 9-12 science fair will be held on March 7, also in the ballroom, with project check-in beginning at 2 p.m. The fair will be open to the public on Saturday, March 8. See the dates and deadlines below.

[update on March 9] I was sad, the contestants assigned to be judged by my team did not show up.

Dungeons & Dragons Co–Creator Gary Gygax Dead at 69

Geeks everywhere are retrieving and clutching their d-20s while remembering that when the Dungeon Master out-rolls you, that’s it.

Dungeons & Dragons Co – Creator Dies at 69 [NY Times/AP]
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died Tuesday morning at his home in Lake Geneva. He was 69.

He had been suffering from health problems for several years, including an abdominal aneurysm, said his wife, Gail Gygax.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

Gygax always enjoyed hearing from the game’s legion of devoted fans, many of whom would stop by the family’s home in Lake Geneva, about 55 miles southwest of Milwaukee, his wife said. Despite his declining health, he hosted weekly games of Dungeons & Dragons as recently as January, she said.

”It really meant a lot to him to hear from people from over the years about how he helped them become a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, what he gave them,” Gygax said. ”He really enjoyed that.”