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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Feb. 18, 2013 at 6:51 PM   |   Comments

App helps those with sight loss to read

LONDON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- British researchers say they've developed software that converts electronic books into a format enabling people with macular degeneration to read.

Researchers at Royal Holloway University London say converting e-books into a single line of continuously scrolling text can help those suffering from one of the most common causes of sight loss to read, The Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

Macular degeneration caused loss of sight from the center of the field of vision, making it difficult for sufferers to focus on detail, especially large chunks of text.

The Royal Holloway researchers said their system allowed them to use their peripheral vision to read instead.

"Scrolling text across a screen aids the ability to see it in the peripheral vision, so it means people with macular disease can read more easily," psychologist Robin Walker said.

"We have developed an application that converts e-pub documents used to create electronic books into this format automatically."

The MD_evReader app for the iPad creates text that scrolls across the screen at an adjustable speed in large brightly colored letters, he said.

"Volunteers who have been involved in testing the app have largely reported that the experience of reading was greatly improved with this system."


Asteroid impact site found in Australia

CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- One of the largest ancient asteroid impact zones on Earth has been discovered in the Australian outback, scientists say.

Researchers from the Australian National University and University of Queensland said the impact zone in northeastern South Australia was caused by an asteroid up to 12 miles wide crashing into the planet between 298 and 360 million years ago, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The landscape around the impact site shows evidence of changes caused by shock-wave related deformation, they said.

"This shock metamorphic terrain covers an area of over 30,000 square kilometers (12,000 square miles) making it the third-largest site of its kind ever discovered on Earth," Andrew Glikson from the Australian National University said.

Microscopic examination of quartz grains retrieved from drill holes revealed tiny fractures, indicating the grains had been shocked by an asteroid or meteor impact.

"This is the only way these features are formed," Glikson said.


Panda pair in Scotland show mating signs

EDINBURGH, Scotland, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Two pandas at a zoo in Edinburgh, Scotland, have begun to display courtship behavior, raising hopes of a successful mating, zoo officials said.

Both pandas, female Tian Tian (Sweetie) and male Yang Guang (Sunshine), have started to display significant changes in their behavior which are seen as indications of their readiness to mate soon, the zoo's panda specialists told The Guardian newspaper.

Yang Guang has recently begun doing handstands against trees, walls and rocks, scent-marking as high up as possible, considered a display of virility, the panda experts said.

For her part, Tian Tian has begun calling out to Yang Guang, a behavior often seen during breeding season, they said.

The pandas arrived at the Edinburgh Zoo from China in December 2011.

"We're delighted that both Tian Tian and Yang Guang have started to scent mark and call, both clear behavioral indicators of courtship and mating behavior," Iain Valentine of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said.


Moon water complicates formation theory

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The interior of the moon contained water early in its history, suggesting the formation theories of the moon may have to be re-thought, U.S. researchers say.

University of Michigan researchers and colleagues found tiny amounts of water in mineral grains from samples from the lunar highlands obtained during the Apollo missions.

The lunar highlands are thought to represent the original crust that crystallized from a mostly molten early moon, suggesting the lunar interior contained water during this molten stage before the crust solidified, a university release said Monday.

That's difficult to reconcile with the theory that the moon formed from the debris generated during a giant impact with the proto-Earth and any water in lunar rocks was added after its formation by smaller meteorite impacts or solar wind.

"Because these are some of the oldest rocks from the moon, the water is inferred to have been in the moon when it formed," UM researcher Youxue Zhang said. "That is somewhat difficult to explain with the current popular moon-formation model, in which the moon formed by collecting the hot ejecta as the result of a super-giant impact of a martian-size body with the proto-Earth.

"Under that model, the hot ejecta should have been degassed almost completely, eliminating all water."

The new findings, however, indicate the early moon was wet and that water there was not substantially lost during the moon's formation, the researchers said.

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