New York: Scientists claim to have built a supercomputer which has confirmed the Standard Model theory of the Universe to even greater precision than before. The 30-year-old theory encapsulates understanding of all the material that makes up the universe. However, it excludes the force of gravity which is the missing piece in the jigsaw that would extend the Model into a complete theory. The project's enormously complex calculations relate to the behaviour of tiny particles found in the nuclei of atoms, known as quarks. In order to carry out these calculations, the researchers first designed and built a supercomputer that was among the fastest in the world, capable of tens of trillions of calculations per second. The computations themselves have taken a further three years to complete. The results have revealed that the Standard Model's claim to be the best theory invented holds firm. It raises the stakes for the riddle to be solved by experiments to be conducted later this year. "Modern supercomputers and improved theoretical techniques are allowing us to explore the limits of the Standard Model to an unprecedented precision. "The next stage will be to combine such computations with new experimental results expected from the Large Hadron Collider to unravel the next level of fundamental physics,' lead scientist professor Chris Sachrajda of the University of Southampton was quoted by the ScienceDaily as saying. Added co-researcher professor Richard Kenway: "Although the Standard Model has been a fantastic success, there were one or two dark corners where experiments had been inconclusive as vital calculations were not accurate enough. We shone a light on one of these, but nothing was lurking there.' PTI

Pranab Aims To Take IAEA Safeguards Pact To US The ides of March may be India's internal deadline for completing the IAEA safeguards agreement on its civilian nuclear facilities. This has reportedly been decided by the government, after the MEA-DAE team returned from Vienna on Sunday with what appears to be the final draft of the agreement. The government's legal brains will now go through the agreement to see if India can "live with' it. This exercise, sources said, should be completed by the middle of this month. The completed Indian safeguards agreement is expected to dovetail into foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee's maiden visit (as foreign minister) to Washington on March 23-25, where he is expected to present this to his counterpart Condoleezza Rice. Politically, sources said, it would make sense for Mukherjee to go to Washington with a concrete document in hand, rather than open himself up to a host of diplomatic harangue. Sources indicated that the crucial UPA-Left meeting will probably be scheduled after his return and after the CPM's party congress scheduled for March 29. This remains the imponderable because it's not yet clear whether the government will take the agreement beyond the Left's veto

Amidst speculation that the government, riding high on

THE CENTRE, which now has the

A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said on Thursday that he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel. Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially worldchanging "fourth-generation fuel' project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy,' Venter told an audience that included global warming fighter Al Gore and Google co-founder Larry Page. "We think we will have fourth-generation fuels in about 18 months, with CO2 as the fuel stock.' Simple organisms can be genetically re-engineered to produce vaccines or octane-based fuels as waste, according to Venter. Biofuel alternatives to oil are third-generation. The next step is life forms that feed on CO2 and give off fuel such as methane gas as waste, according to Venter. "We have 20 million genes which I call the design components of the future,' Venter said. "We are limited here only by our imagination.' His team is using synthetic chromosomes to modify organisms that already exist, not making new life, he said. Organisms already exist that produce octane, but not in amounts needed to be a fuel supply. "If they could produce things on the scale we need, this would be a methane planet,' Venter said. "The scale is what is critical; which is why we need to genetically design them.' The genetics of octane-producing organisms can be tinkered with to increase the amount of CO2 they eat and octane they excrete, according to Venter. The limiting part of the equation isn't designing an organism, it's the difficulty of extracting high concentrations of CO2 from the air to feed the organisms, the scientist said in answer to a question from Page. Scientists put "suicide genes' into their living creations so that if they escape the lab, they can be triggered to kill themselves. Venter said he is also working on organisms that make vaccines for the flu and other illnesses. "We will see an exponential change in the pace of the sophistication of organisms and what they can do,' Venter said. "We are a ways away from designing people. Our goal is just to make sure they survive long enough to do that.' But, if two scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States are correct, people will still be on gasoline even 50 years from now, churning out climate changing pollutants in the process, and yet not be accelerating an ecological disaster. With crude at nearly $100 a barrel

Since the beginning of the space age, astronomers have dreamed of putting telescopes and other instruments on the far side of the moon. Not only would that avoid all the distortions and disturbances caused by Earth's turbulent atmosphere, but equally important, the moon's mass would block the noisy torrent of radio signals emanating from Earth. Only in the moon's radio "shadow' could the farseeing radio telescopes envisioned for the future pick up the extremely faint signals left over from the early universe, signals that would otherwise be drowned out by the broadcast barrage from Earth. But placing astronomy equipment on the always far side of the moon was well beyond the capabilities of the Apollo programme, and no robotic lunar mission could do it either, which is why the telescopes were never developed. With NASA planning to send astronauts back to the moon sometime after 2019, those dreams of a radio telescope looking out through the galaxies from the protected side of the moon have been revived. The agency recently awarded two planning grants for research on the necessary technologies and on how to put them in place. The $500,000 grants to a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to the Naval Research Laboratory will be used to flesh out ideas for designing folded-up radio antennas that would pop open after being dropped on the lunar surface, for transmitting the flood of data that the antennas could theoretically collect, and for taking advantage of the planned presence of astronauts on the moon.

A Vast Lake Trapped Under Ice Sheet Drained Into The Sea, Bringing Down Temperatures Paris: Canadian geologists say they can shed light on how a vast lake, trapped under the ice sheet that once smothered much of North America, drained into the sea, an event that cooled Earth's climate for hundreds of years. During the last ice age, the Laurentide Ice Sheet once covered most of Canada and parts of the northern United States with a frozen crust that in some places was three kilometres thick. As the temperature gradually rose some 10,000 years ago, the ice receded, gouging out the hollows that would be called the Great Lakes. Beneath the ice's thinning surface, an extraordinary mass of water built up

Fuel from carbon dioxide could solve the power and pollution problem Imagine thinking out of the box, on steroids. Like, why not have a system where one could effortlessly extract all the emitted carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

The Arctic reflects what ails a world gripped by global warming. As the ice melts and nations vie for rich mineral resources once hidden under the snow, the writing on the wall is often ignored, says Fatima Chowdhury Thousands of miles away in the Arctic region, fate stands delicately balanced at the edge of time. Located at the North Pole, the region includes the Arctic Ocean surrounded by the five Arctic states

Astronomers claim to have discovered a rich diversity of at least 67 gravitational lenses around a number of massive elliptical and lenticular-shaped galaxies in the distant Universe, using the Hubble Space Telescope. The strong lensing produced by massive galaxies is much more common than the usual giant "arc' gravitationally lensed galaxies that Hubble has previously observed; but they are generally more difficult to find as they extend over a smaller area and have a wide variety of shapes, the NASA said. Gravitational lensing occurs when light travelling towards earth from a distant galaxy is magnified and distorted as it encounters a massive object. These gravitational lenses often allow astronomers to peer much further back into the early universe than they would normally be able to. The massive objects that create the lenses are usually huge clusters of massive galaxies. "We typically see the gravitational lens create a series of bright arcs or spots around a galaxy cluster. What we are observing here is a similar effect but on much smaller scale

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