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May 31, 2012 at 6:53 PM
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'Supervolcanoes' said to have short fuses

NASHVILLE, May 31 (UPI) -- So-called supervolcano eruptions, with potential to cause widespread extinctions of life, may have surprisingly short fuses, U.S. earth scientists say.

Such super-eruptions are more than 100 times larger than ordinary volcanic eruptions like Mount St. Helens and emit tremendous flows of super-heated gas, ash and rock capable of blanketing entire continents and plunging the global climate into decade-long volcanic winters, they said.

Geologists have generally held that a super-eruption is produced by a giant pool of magma that forms a couple of miles below the surface and then simmers for 100,000 to 200,000 years before erupting.

However, a new study led by researchers at Vanderbilt University suggests otherwise, a university release reported Thursday.

"Our study suggests that when these exceptionally large magma pools form they are ephemeral and cannot exist very long without erupting," said Guilherme Gualda, a professor of earth and environmental sciences.

They may only exist for a few thousand years, or even just a few hundred years, before erupting, he said.

These giant magma pools tend to be shaped like pancakes and are 10 to 25 miles in diameter and 1/2 to 3 miles deep.

While no such giant magma body currently exists capable of producing a super-eruption, the researchers say they believe this may be because these magma bodies exist for a relatively short time rather than persisting for hundreds of thousands of years as previously thought.

"The fact that the process of magma body formation occurs in historical time, instead of geological time, completely changes the nature of the problem," Gualda said.

Instead of concluding there is virtually no risk of another super-eruption for the foreseeable future because there are no suitable magma bodies, geologists need to monitor areas regularly where super-eruptions are likely, such as Yellowstone, to provide advanced warning if such a magma body begins to form, he said.

Propaganda use of Twitter studied

ATLANTA, May 31 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've identified four telltale signs of political propaganda on Twitter, separating it from genuine political views of individual users.

A study by the Georgia Tech School of Computer Science set out to identify "hyperadvocacy," defined as systematic dissemination of information meant to support or discredit an idea -- the textbook definition of propaganda.

The study of tweets from two recent politically charged U.S. events -- the 2010 U.S. Senate race in Nevada and the 2011 debate over raising the U.S. debt ceiling -- found characteristic behaviors of Twitter hyperadvocates, whose actions clearly separate them from the tweeting behavior of typical users, researchers said.

-- Sending high volume of tweets over a short period of time.

-- Retweeting while publishing little original content.

-- Quickly retweeting others' content.

-- Coordinating with other, seeming unrelated users to send duplicate or near-duplicate messages on the same topic simultaneously.

"As social media become more and more ingrained in our culture, and as people use social media more as a source of information about the world, it's important to know the provenance of that information -- where it's coming from and whether it can be trusted," researcher Nick Feamster said in a Georgia Tech release Thursday. "As a user, you might think the information you see is coming from lots of different sources, but in fact it can be part of an orchestrated campaign."

3-D vision helps robot debone poultry

ATLANTA, May 31 (UPI) -- A robot with advanced imaging technology that automatically debones chicken could help boost agricultural production and improve safety, U.S. researchers say.

Food processing experts at the Georgia Tech Research Institute said their Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System employs a 3-D vision system that determines where to cut a particular bird, automatically making precision cuts to optimize yield while reducing the risk of bone fragments in the finished product.

"Each bird is unique in its size and shape," Gary McMurray of GTRI's Food Processing Technology Division said in a Georgia Tech release Tuesday. "So we have developed the sensing and actuation needed to allow an automated deboning system to adapt to the individual bird, as opposed to forcing the bird to conform to the machine."

The system makes 3-D measurements of various location points on the outside of the bird, using them as inputs for custom algorithms to define a proper cut by estimating the positions of internal structures such as bones and ligaments.

"Our statistics research shows that our external measurements correlate very well to the internal structure of the birds, and therefore will transition to ideal cutting paths," researcher Michael Matthews said.

The research is funded by the state of Georgia, where poultry is the top agricultural product.

Internet traffic to quadruple by 2016

SAN JOSE, Calif., May 31 (UPI) -- Internet traffic will quadruple by 2016 and hit 1.3 zettabytes -- a trillion gigabytes -- as more people with more devices go online, experts say.

By 2016, around 3.4 billion Internet users -- about 45 percent of the world population -- will be using multiple connections, networking giant Cisco said.

"Each of us increasingly connects to the network via multiple devices in our always-on connected lifestyles," Suraj Shetty, Cisco's vice president of product and solutions marketing, told TG Daily.

"Whether by video phone calls, movies on tablets, web-enabled TVs, or desktop video conferencing, the sum of our actions not only creates demand for zettabytes of bandwidth, but also dramatically changes the network requirements needed to deliver on the expectations of this 'new normal,'" he said.

The fastest-growing sector of Internet traffic is video, expected to account for 86 percent of all data traffic by 2016, Cisco said.

A demand for broadband speed and increasing WiFi use will also add to the traffic, it said.

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