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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

May 3, 2012 at 7:04 PM   |   Comments

Hot summer forecast for central U.S.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa., May 3 (UPI) -- The Rockies and U.S. Plains states will have a hot summer while active severe weather targets portions of the Great Lakes to the mid-Atlantic, forecasters say.

Meanwhile, the Northeast should escape any prolonged period of heat, meteorologists at AccuWeather.com reported in a summer 2012 forecast.

Drought-stricken and wildfire-ravaged areas of Florida should see some relief in the form of showers and thunderstorms while heavy monsoon downpours will target portions of the Southwest deserts as moisture streams in from the eastern Pacific, likely moving in across the Southwest by the middle of July, they said.

The La Nina pattern of cooler than normal water temperatures over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific that has been in place for of the last two years has ended and is transitioning into an El Nino pattern with above-normal temperatures, AccuWeather said.

The hottest summer weather will hit the central and western Plains into the Rockies as a large dome of high pressure sets up residence across the region, Paul Pastelok of the service's Long-Range Forecasting Team said.

"Western Nebraska, western Kansas and eastern Colorado have the potential to see temperatures in the upper 90s and more than 100 degrees for a long string of days," he said.

The large area of high pressure will shift farther west as the summer progresses, Pastelok said, drawing the hottest air farther north and west.

Wyoming and Colorado could be the hottest during the peak of summer in July and into August, while Denver is expected to have a hot summer, he said.


Implant gives 'useful' vision to blind

LONDON, May 3 (UPI) -- Two British men have regained partial but "useful" vision after being given electronic eye implants in the first successful trial in Britain, scientists say.

The patients, suffering from an inherited form of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa, experienced "useful vision" -- able to distinguish black from white and see the rough outlines of objects -- just weeks after having a light-sensitive microchip inserted into the back of their eye, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

After years of total blindness the brain needs to "relearn" how to process vision, doctors said, raising hopes the patients' vision may undergo further improvement.

The implant is placed underneath the retina and the eye's natural focusing power transmits light to it, then the implant uses its 1,500 electrodes to convert light into electrical impulses which are sent up the optic nerve to the brain.

"You can think of the retina as the film in the back of a camera," Tim Jackson, a consultant retinal surgeon at King's College Hospital and one of the trial leaders, said.

"That has died away but the remaining connections are still intact and we can use these to transmit a signal to the brain. The chip replicates the action of the cells that have died away."

Robin Millar, 60, from London, is one of the patients who received the retinal implant.

"Since switching on the device I am able to detect light and distinguish the outlines of certain objects which is an encouraging sign," he said.

"I have even dreamt in very vivid color for the first time in 25 years so a part of my brain which had gone to sleep has woken up."


Curiosity rover is 100 days from Mars

PASADENA, Calif., May 3 (UPI) -- NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is now within 100 days of landing on the Red Planet, heading that way at 13,000 mph, the space agency said.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, carrying the 1-ton rover, has about 119 million miles to go toward its planned arrival at Mars August 5, NASA said.

"Every day is one day closer to the most challenging part of this mission," said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"Landing an SUV-sized vehicle next to the side of a mountain 85 million miles from home is always stimulating. Our engineering and science teams continue their preparations for that big day and the surface operations to follow."

Curiosity will be delivered the planet's surface to begin its two-year prime mission, landing on a mountain inside Gale Crater to study layers in the mountain for evidence of wet environments of early Mars.


Gmail offers free translation

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., May 3 (UPI) -- Google says its new free language translation feature in its Gmail service is an attempt to eliminate the language barrier for e-mailers around the world.

The feature is intended to provide a seamless and user-friendly way to communicate by e-mail with people who don't know a single word of a Gmail user's language and vice versa.

Automatic message translation has been residing in Gmail's "Google Labs" section for quite some time and now Google has decided to make it a native Gmail feature, TG Daily reported Wednesday.

"We heard immediately from Google Apps for Business users that this was a killer feature for working with local teams across the world," Gmail product manager Jeff Chin wrote in the official Gmail blog.

"Some people just wanted to easily read newsletters from abroad. Another person wrote in telling us how he set up his mom's Gmail to translate everything into her native language, thus saving countless explanatory phone calls," Chin said.

Users will see a "Translate message" button within their Gmail account, which when clicked will automatically detect the language of the message and convert it into the language the user chooses.

An option can set up Gmail to automatically detect when a message is in a language other than the user's default language and can translate them without any action needed from the user, TG Daily reported.

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