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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Dec. 21, 2012 at 6:48 PM   |   Comments

Seafloor collapse threatens tsunami

BRISBANE, Australia, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- An area of the seafloor near Australia's Great Barrier Reef is in the early stages of collapse and could trigger a tsunami, scientists say.

Marine geologists from Australia's James Cook University said 3-D mapping techniques have revealed a slab of seafloor a quarter of a cubic mile in size -- the remains of an ancient underwater landslide -- are perched on the continental shelf off the coast of Queensland, Sky News reported Friday.

"Undersea landslides are a well understood geological process, but we didn't know there were any on the Barrier Reef," university geologist Robin Beaman said.

"It is sitting on top of a submarine canyon, cutting into the slopes and it is in the preliminary stage of collapse."

The research vessel Southern Surveyor made the discovery on the deepest part of the reef where researches said they've found dozens of submarine canyons.

"It is slowly giving way although it remains stable under current conditions," Beaman said.

Exactly when it would collapse is unclear, he said.

"But it is absolutely going to collapse and when it does it will fall 1 kilometer [3,200 feet] into the adjacent basin.

"This will generate a localized tsunami that will affect the Queensland coastline, which is around 40 miles away," he said.

"We're not trying to alarm people, but we need to know it is there and what could happen when it falls."


Motorola working on 'X phone' for Google?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Motorola is working on a sophisticated smartphone to compete with devices like Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy III S, The Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Sources familiar with the effort told the Journal that Motorola, acquired this year by Google for $12.5 billion, is working on a device known internally as the "X phone" to stand above existing phones.

The phone is said to be a key part of Google's strategy for improving the market position of the cellphone pioneer based on quality over quantity, purposely reducing the number of Motorola products.

Motorola makes a number of devices sold by carrier partner Verizon Wireless, such as the "Droid" line of smartphones, but Google is pinning hopes for improved success for Motorola on the X phone.

Motorola is "investing in a team and a technology that will do something quite different than the current approaches," said Dennis Woodside, Motorola's chief executive who was formerly a Google sales executive.

Although Motorola has "fallen under hard times," he said, it "now has the support of a shareholder in Google that has resources to do big things."

However, Woodside declined to discuss specific products under development, the Journal said.


Science knows why Rudolph's nose is red

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Santa's reindeer Rudolph really does have a red nose and it's because of the way his body deals with cold temperatures, European researchers say.

Scientists from Rotterdam's Erasmus University with colleagues from Norway discovered reindeer have a high concentration of blood vessels in their noses, which are important in temperature regulation when it gets very cold and causes their noses to turn bright pink, DutchNews.nl reported.

"These factors explain why the nose of Rudolph, the lead flying reindeer employed by Santa Claus to pull his sleigh, is red and well-adapted to carrying out his duties in extreme temperatures," Rotterdam Professor Can Ince said.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, involved two adult reindeer from Tromso, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle.


Apple Maps scores poorly against Google

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A test of the accuracy of directions given by map apps found Apple Maps is three times more likely to get someone lost than Google Maps, a U.S. company says.

Crowdsourcing company CrowdFlower analyzed directions to 1,000 businesses in the United States and 100 in Britain given by Apple Maps, Google Maps and Microsoft's Bing browser, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

CrowdFlower, which has headquarters in San Francisco, went to the website of each business to find its listed address, then entered the company name and its city as search terms in each mapping service

CrowdFlower said it scored the applications on two things: Did the mapping service give a result and was the result accurate?

Google led the way in the first score in United States, finding 89 percent of the businesses. Bing followed with 79 percent and Apple Maps with 74 percent.

Results in Britain were roughly the same, CrowdFlower said.

And when it came to giving actual directions to businesses, Apple Maps was much more likely to get a user lost than Google, it said.

Apple Maps scored a 3.4 percent error rate in the United States while Google Maps had a 1.1 percent rate and Bing a 1.3 percent rate.

But in Britain, Apple's major error rate skyrockets to 30 percent while the two other mapping services stayed below 5 percent.

"There's a decent chance Apple Maps will send you in the wrong direction," CrowdFlower said, adding "you're three times as likely to be sent on a wild goose chase with Apple Maps."

"Apple Maps in the United States is bad enough to be noticeable," it said. "You probably won't throw away your iPhone, although you may miss a dinner reservation."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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