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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Jan. 8, 2013 at 7:01 PM   |   Comments

'Catastrophic' heat ahead for Australia

CANBERRA, Australia, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Australia, already beset by disastrous bush fires, can expect another week of catastrophic heat, the country's Bureau of Meteorology says.

"No relief can be expected from severe heatwave conditions for at least another week," bureau spokeswoman Danita Matush said.

A record-breaking "dome of heat" has resulted in the worst fire threat on record and has forces Australian meteorologists to add two new colors to their heat maps to denote the high temperatures, NewScientist.com reported Tuesday.

On Monday, the average maximum temperature across the country was 105 degrees F, surpassing the old record of 104 degrees set in 1976.

"Previously, the only time we ever had a sequence above 39 degrees centigrade was four days in 1973," Karl Braganza of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said. "Today [Monday] will make it seven days."

The bureau said temperatures later this week could reach 122 degrees F, leading them to add two new shades of purple to the top of their temperature scale maps.

Four months of record maximum temperatures, a stationary high-pressure system over the continent, clear skies and the failure of the northern monsoon have led to the extraordinary weather, Braganza said.


'Spear phishing' attacks target networks

ATLANTA, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Corporate networks are at risk from "spear phishing," a cyberattack using specific knowledge about employees and their organizations, U.S. researchers say.

Security researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology say the attacks often take the form of emails that seem to originate from a fellow worker or a superior, asking workers to visit a particular website or provide some personal or work-related information.

The website may attempt to install malware into the corporate network, launch a virus or ask for a user's password, they said.

"Spear phishing is the most popular way to get into a corporate network these days," researcher Andrew Howard said. "Because the malware authors now have some information about the people they are sending these to, they are more likely to get a response. When they know something about you, they can dramatically increase their odds."

Public information, much of it from social media sites, often provides the attacker with that personal information.

The weakest link in a corporate network can be a single worker who falls for an authentic-looking email, the researcher said.

"Organizations can spend millions and millions of dollars to protect their networks, but all it takes is one carefully crafted email to let someone into it," Howard said. "It's very difficult to put technical controls into place to prevent humans from making a mistake. To keep these attacks out, email users have to do the right thing every single time."


Cancer-linked chemicals found worldwide

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Chemicals linked to cancer have been detected at locations around the globe, including some of the Earth's most remote locations, U.S. researchers say.

Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, linked to cancer and neurological damage, have been found in remote sites in Indonesia, Nepal and Tasmania, Indiana University scientists reported Tuesday.

The researchers used a novel but effective sampling technique of measuring concentrations of the chemicals in the bark of trees around the world, which absorb compounds in both vapor and particle phases, a university release said.

"These findings illustrate further that flame retardants are ubiquitous pollutants and are found all around the world, not only in biota and humans but also in plants," researcher Amina Salamova said.

While the highest concentrations were found at an urban site near Toronto in Canada, the second-highest concentration of one type of flame retardant, Dechlorane Plus, was found at a remote site at Bukit Kototabang in Indonesia, researchers said.

The cause of the relatively high concentrations at that site is unknown, researchers said, but added they suspect it may be near a source of the chemical.

Because of a link with diseases, the production and use of certain flame retardants has been restricted in North America and the European Union.


Giant squid caught on video near Japan

TOKYO, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Scientists say they've captured footage of a giant squid, long the stuff of legend, in its natural habitat thousands of feet below the sea's surface near Japan.

Scientists located the Architeuthis squid in the North Pacific Ocean near Japan's Ogasawara archipelago at a depth of 2,066 feet and followed it down to a depth of 2,952 feet before it swam even deeper into the ocean darkness.

"All of us were so amazed at what it looked like," Edie Widder, a marine biologist who was part of the video-making expedition, told the Los Angeles Times. "It looked carved out of metal. And it would change from being silver to gold. It was just breathtaking."

The squid captured in the video footage is 9 feet long but was missing its two longest tentacles that could have made its overall length 26 feet if they had been present, Tsunemi Kubodera from Japan's National Science Museum said.

The scientists said they used a lure mimicking the bioluminescent display of a jellyfish to attract the giant squid's attention.

"This squid has an eye that is bigger than your head," said Widder, who developed the lure used to bring the creature within camera rage.

"It is a visual predator. And that is what we were taking advantage of: They've been so elusive before because every time we've gone to explore they see us with our bright white lights and stay away."

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