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Feb. 21, 2013 at 6:58 PM
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Rare asteroid sporting 'tail' spotted

MADRID, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Asteroids, unlike comets, are seldom seen sporting a tail as they orbit the sun, but Spanish astronomers say they've observed one of these rare exceptions.

Using a telescope in the Canary Islands, they spotted an asteroid dubbed P/2012 F5 that displayed a trail like that of comets.

Its emission of dust or gas may have been caused by internal rupture or collision with another asteroid, a release from the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology reported Wednesday.

"Our models indicate that [the trail] was caused by an impulsive short-lived event lasting just a few hours around the July 1st, 2011, with an uncertainty of 20 days," Fernando Moreno, researcher at the Astrophysics Institute of Andalusia said.

Telescope images reveal "a fine and elongated dust structure that coincides exactly with the synchrone [timing] of that day," Moreno said.

"It could have arisen from collision with another asteroid or rather a rotational rupture" of material gradually breaking free after partial fragmentation of the asteroid, the researchers said.

The said they estimate the asteroid has a radius of between 300 and 450 feet and the dust mass emitted is about half a million tons.

Apple patent filing ups rumors of iWatch

CUPERTINO, Calif., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Patent filings by Apple suggest the company is considering an iWatch concept with a flexible touchscreen display, an Apple-watching website says.

AppleInsider says the filings suggest Apple is investigating a wearable accessory device boasting a full-length flexible touchscreen display that would conforms to a user's body through the use of a bi-stable spring "slap bracelet" mechanism.

Such bracelets -- which are straight like a metal tape measure until "slapped" around the wrist -- have been popular with children.

The watch would connect to a portable device like a smartphone or tablet through Bluetooth or WiFi to display information in real time, AppleInsider said.

In addition to displaying information the watch could interact with a smartphone, the filing said.

"With a touch screen user input a user can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, and reviewing a list of recent phone calls. A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display," the filing said.

Small solar panels could be included in the watch band to boost battery life, the filing said.

Rumors regarding a possible iWatch have been increasing as wearable computing is considered a logical next step for mobile technology, CNET reported.

Study: Brain 'conducts' human speech

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say the neurological basis of speech motor control lies in tiny brain regions that control the lips, jaw, tongue and larynx as people speak.

A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, said identifying those brain areas has potential implications for developing computer-brain interfaces for artificial speech communication and for the treatment of speech disorders.

Speech is an ability unique to humans among living creatures but is poorly understood, they said.

"Speaking is so fundamental to who we are as humans -- nearly all of us learn to speak," Edward Chang of the university's Center for Integrative Neuroscience said. "But it's probably the most complex motor activity we do."

Scientists have not previously understood how the movements of distinct "articulators" -- the lips, tongue, jaw and larynx -- are precisely coordinated in the brain.

Chang and colleagues recorded electrical activity directly from the brains of three people undergoing brain surgery to determine the spatial organization of the "speech sensorimotor cortex," creating a map of which parts of the brain control which parts of the vocal track.

This cortical area has a hierarchical and cyclical structure that exerts a split-second, symphony-like control over the tongue, jaw, larynx and lips, they found.

Speaking demands well-timed action of several various brain regions within the speech sensorimotor cortex, like musicians in a symphony orchestra having to time their playing to each other, they said.

Wine to be aged on the sea floor

CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A California winery says it's trying out a new way to age its wine -- not in a warehouse but submerged on the sea floor.

Napa Valley-based Mira Winery said it thinks aging 48 bottles of its 2009 Cabernet in South Carolina's Charleston Harbor could enhance its taste.

Winery officials said they were inspired to try the experiment by wine recovered from shipwrecks that has demonstrated unique flavors, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

"The ocean has similar ideal elements that impact aging -- temperature, pressure, humidity, pressure, motion, light or lack thereof and oxygen," Gustavo Gonzalez, a Mira Winery winemaker, said in a statement. "Is there something just as impactful and interesting in aquaoir as there is about terroir? We are going to try and find out."

Terroir refers to the special characteristics geography, geology and climate of a certain place can give to wine grapes.

The bottles of wine have been put into cages and submerged to the sea floor where it will remain for three months, the winery said.

When it is brought to the surface, wine tasters will compare the vintage to an identical batch aged conventionally, it said.

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