Physics Today Daily Edition
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Updated: 27 min 19 sec ago
New York Times: According to a recent telephone poll, a growing number of Americans believe that climate change is occurring and is caused by human activity. In addition, a majority of Americans support government action to fight global warming, and two-thirds prefer political candidates who say they will take on that challenge. The poll was conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University, and Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan environmental research group. Although by party, Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to feel that global warming is an important issue, the poll found that 61% of Republicans admit that reducing emissions is essential to curbing global warming and 51% say the government needs to take action. Many Republican politicians, however, continue to resist efforts to curb global warming on the basis that they will hurt the economy.
BBC: Human norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, which is characterized by severe nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. The virus spreads particularly well in crowded areas, such as cruise ships, and has been difficult to study because it is almost impossible to grow in a laboratory. Now Birte Ahlfeld and Günter Klein of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover, Germany, and their colleagues propose fighting the virus using nonthermal atmospheric pressure plasma, or cold plasma. The room-temperature, ionized gas molecules, created by applying an electric field to ambient air, were shown to be successful at inactivating the virus. Cold plasmas also are being developed for other medical applications, including the treatment of dental caries.
BBC: Launched more than 10 years ago, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft reached comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko last August. On 12 November, Rosetta’s robotic lander Philae touched down on the comet’s surface after having bounced twice. Thanks to its primary battery, it was able to transmit about 60 hours’ worth of data before it exhausted its power supply. However, Philae’s exact location has not yet been determined, and it has not received enough sunlight to recharge its secondary battery. ESA controllers hope that as the comet moves closer to the Sun over the next few months, Philae will be able to reboot itself and resume its communications with Rosetta.
Nature: Metadata collected from credit card transactions has provided much useful information to researchers, businesses, and others interested in consumer spending, economic trends, and so forth. To protect the card holders’ identities, their name, address, credit card number, and other information directly linked to them are deleted. However, according to a study published in Science, even without that information, card holders can still be identified. The researchers looked at three months of credit card records for some 1 million people and were able to identify 90% of them just by knowing the date and location of four of their transactions. Although complete anonymity may be impossible in this modern age, progress is being made in creating legislation to protect consumers.