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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Sept. 20, 2012 at 7:04 PM   |   Comments

Shuttle Endeavour arrives in California

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The space shuttle Endeavor has arrived at California's at Edwards Air Force Base, the final destination in its multistage flight from Florida, officials said.

Departing from Houston around 9 a.m. EDT, Endeavour was carried atop a modified 747 that made a refueling stop in El Paso, Texas, then made low-level flyovers in New Mexico and Arizona -- including a pass over Tucson to honor former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a strong supporter of NASA's shuttle program whose husband, Mark Kelly, commanded Endeavour's final mission last year -- the Los Angeles Times reported.

Kelly requested the flyover, NASA confirmed.

Endeavour will depart Edwards early Friday and will fly low over the Edwards-area communities of Palmdale, Lancaster, Rosamond and Mojave before heading north to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, NASA officials said.

Later in the morning it will return to land at Los Angeles International Airport after flying over its future home, the California Science Center in Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles.

Endeavour will remain in a hangar at the airport until Oct. 12 when it will be transported though Los Angeles streets to its display pavilion at the science center.


System IDs people by the way they walk

LONDON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A recognition system may soon help track individuals though a TV-monitored area by analyzing the way they walk, British researchers say.

The National Physical Laboratory, working with the Center for Advanced Software Technology, the BBC and BAE Systems, has developed technology that improves spatial awareness for closed-circuit TV and security systems.

A test system combining a computer model of the NPL building on the outskirts of London with feeds from CCTV cameras placed around the site can record a person's gait signature, or specific walk, check where else that person has been in the building, and display the results in the computer model, the NPL reported Thursday.

Live video feeds from cameras monitoring the physical space record a gait signature when an individual passes by the cameras, separating the fixed background and the moving subject during the natural cycle of walking to form silhouettes.

Measurements are taken of the rise and fall of head height between each silhouette, a pattern that can be represented by a set of numbers in a computer, researchers said.

The system could have many uses, they said, including identifying crime suspects captured on CCTV systems by the way they walk.


The 'tree that built America' harvested

NEWCOMB, N.Y., Sept. 20 (UPI) -- University researchers in New York say they are harvesting 16 acres in a school research forest of white pine, often called "the tree that built America."

The harvest in Huntington Wildlife Forest in Newcomb belonging to SUNY College of Environmental Science is part of a research and demonstration project to help restore the economically valuable tree, a SUNY release reported Thursday.

White pine has significant historical importance in the United States, the researchers said.

Not only did the British treasure the tall, straight trees for ship masts but nearly every early structure in the New World was constructed with white pine.

"Every time I go in that stand of white pine I get chills because it's such a beautiful place," resource management Professor Rene Germain said. "When you walk in there you think you're in an old-growth stand of trees, but they're not old growth -- not even close. They're not even a hundred years old. It's because they're growing on such good soil."

The white pine plantation at Huntington, planted in 1916, is being harvested now because the trees are economically mature and the stand is ready to regenerate, researchers said.

They said they hope to support the restoration of white pine in New York state by demonstrating how well it can grow when planted and well maintained in high quality soil.

"Believe it or not, we are in danger of losing white pine as a cover type in the state," Germain said. "Currently, it represents less than 5 percent of the state's forest cover, while in the 1970s white pine represented about 10 percent of the state's forest cover."


Climate models fail at short-term forecast

TUCSON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Climate-prediction models can accurately forecast long-term climate patterns but struggle when applied to patterns shorter than 3 decades, U.S. researchers say.

And while good at global-scale predictions they do less well at future projections for smaller geographical regions, they said.

That was the conclusion of a study intended to bridge the communities of climate scientists and weather forecasters who sometimes disagree with respect to climate change, said Xubin Zeng, a professor in the University of Arizona department of atmospheric sciences who leads a research group evaluating and developing climate models.

The weather forecasting community has demonstrated skill and progress in predicting weather up to about two weeks into the future, whereas the climate science community tasked with identifying long-term trends for the global climate has had a less successful track record, Zeng said.

"Without such a track record, how can the community trust the climate projections we make for the future?" Zen said. "Our results show that actually both sides' arguments are valid to a certain degree."

"Climate scientists are correct because we do show that on the continental scale, and for time scales of three decades or more, climate models indeed show predictive skills. But when it comes to predicting the climate for a certain area over the next 10 or 20 years, our models can't do it."

"That is because our models are only as good as our understanding of the natural processes, and there is a lot we don't understand," he said.

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