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March 18, 2013 at 7:03 PM   |   Comments

Internet pioneers honored with U.K. prize

LONDON, March 18 (UPI) -- Five Internet pioneers have been named the first recipients of a British prize created as a companion to the Nobel prizes to raise the profile of engineering.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Kahn, Vinton Cerf, Louis Pouzin and Marc Andreessen will share the million-pound ($1.51 million) Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, the BBC reported Monday.

A selection panel for the award, which is endowed by industry and administered by an independent trust, said all had contributed to the revolution in communications created by the Internet.

Berners-Lee, working with others in the late 1980s, helped develop the World Wide Web which simplified the way information could be shared on the net; Kahn and Cerf created the TCP/IP protocols that control the way data travels around the Internet; Pouzin came up with a labeling system that guided that data to the right destination, and Andreessen developed Mosaic, the first popular browser for the web.

"The prize recognizes what has been a roller-coaster ride of wonderful international collaboration," Berners-Lee said.

"Bob and Vint's work on building the Internet was re-enforced by Louis' work on datagrams and that enabled me to invent the Web.

"Marc's determined and perceptive work built on these platforms a product which became widely deployed across nations and computing platforms. I am honored to receive this accolade and humbled to share it with them," he told BBC News.

Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to present the prize at Buckingham Palace in June.


Are cars driving evolution of birds?

TULSA, Okla., March 18 (UPI) -- Cars are driving the evolution of birds in Nebraska, leading to birds with shorter wings to take off more quickly and avoid onrushing vehicles, scientists say.

Of the 80 million birds killed in the United States by traffic each year, cliff swallows are particularly vulnerable because many have taken to building their nests on road bridges over streets and highways, researchers say.

However, Charles Brown of the University of Tulsa, who has been counting dead swallows for decades, said roadkill numbers have steadily declined since the 1980s even though the number of swallows nesting on roadsides has risen, NewScientist.com reported Monday.

Birds killed by traffic have been found to have longer wings than living birds caught in nets for research, researchers said.

Shorter wings may improve the birds' ability to make quick vertical take-offs and improve their maneuverability, they said.

"Everything fits with the idea that it's vehicular selection," helping them avoid dying on roads by taking off quickly and darting away from cars, Ronald Mumme of Allegheny College in Pennsylvania said.


Roosters 'tell time' to begin crowing

NAGOYA, Japan, March 18 (UPI) -- Roosters crowing at dawn aren't just reacting to the external stimulus of light, Japanese researchers say; they actually know what time of day it is.

In a study reported in the journal Current Biology, scientists at Nagoya University say there is indeed a clock in "cock-a-doodle-doo" -- a biological one.

"'Cock-a-doodle-doo' symbolizes the break of dawn in many countries," researcher Takashi Yoshimura said. "But it wasn't clear whether crowing is under the control of a biological clock or is simply a response to external stimuli."

While external stimuli such as a car's headlights can cause a rooster to crow at any time of day, the researchers say the morning call is a matter of their responding to their internal clock.

Yoshimura and his colleague Tsuyoshi Shimmura placed birds under constant light conditions and found when kept under round-the-clock dim lighting, the roosters were still crowing each morning just before dawn, proof that the behavior is linked to a circadian rhythm.

So whether it's "cock-a-doodle-doo" or "ko-ke-kok-koh" as they say in the research team's native Japan, roosters are reliable alarm clocks because they've got a clock of their own, the study found.


Life found in world's deepest ocean spot

OBAN, Scotland, March 18 (UPI) -- Life exists in the Marianas Trench, the deepest point in the world's oceans and once considered too hostile an environment for life to survive, scientists say.

The 7-mile-deep underwater chasm in the Pacific Ocean with near-freezing temperatures, immense pressures and complete darkness is teeming with microbes, an international team of researchers reported.

"The deepest parts of the deep sea are certainly not dead zones," study researcher Robert Turnewitsch of the paper from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, told the BBC last week.

An analysis of the levels of oxygen in a sample of sediment from the floor of the trench by a deep sea robotic lander revealed the presence of a large number of microbes, researchers said.

"These microbes, they respire as we do," Turnewitsch said. "And this oxygen consumption is an indirect measurement of the activity of the community."

The microbes exist on dead plants and creatures drift down from the sea surface to settle within the steep walls of the trench, he said.

"The amount of food down there and also the relative freshness of the material is surprisingly high -- it seems to be surprisingly nutritious," for the microbes, he said.

The research has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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