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cause plant circles in African deserts

These fairy rings of perennial grass species dot arid, sandy sweeps from Angola to South Africa and have inspired ecological and mythological speculation about their origins. After 40 trips to study the water distribution and life around the fairy rings, Norbert Jrgens of the University of Hamburg in Germany concludes that the sand termite Psammotermes allocerus is the hidden force behind them.

Among the hundreds of species that thrive in these rings, the sand termite is the only one found throughout the range, he reports in the March 29 Science.

Termites unintentionally engineer these marvels by eating the roots of grasses, creating a bald patch that becomes the rings center. The subsurface depths of that patch stay moister than neighboring areas, where plants draw the water out of the soil. The circles bulls eye favors not only the moistureloving termites, but also a belt around its edge of perennial grasses and many other species that couldnt survive baked sand.

As ecosystem engineers, Jrgens says, the sand termite rivals the beaver.

Am I correct in my interpretation that the rings of perrenial grasses are there because they can draw on the moisture not only of the soils directly below themselves, but also on the adjacent soils within the rings. This would indicate that the grasses can be present in otherwise inhospitable conditions because of the lack of competition for the water within the circles. They can draw from a larger area than would be possible were the vegetation more densely packed. In the latter case, a different species would crowd them out.

The termites should be eating their roots too. The ability of the grasses to survive where other plants dont suggests either the grasses have some mode of discouraging termite foraging some biodefense, better ability to repair termite damage, or alternately that the moisture in rootfree soils is being drawn laterally through the soils to the roots by the capillary suctions so the plants in the ring dont have to have roots extend into the ring.

One other thought concerns the termite food supply. Perhaps the continuing production of roots by the surrounding grass ring provides a sustainable condition. The termites dont overgraze during most moisture conditions so the grasses can survive the grazing losses while still getting enough water to produce enough biomass to keep the termites from expanding the rings and destroying the grasses. Probably during droughts the rings would expand, but during wetter periods perhaps the grasses would actually encroach on the bare areas. This would be an interesting study. I also wonder how far the plants could draw moisture laterally from the soils beyond the extent of their roots. An interesting question for soil physics. I dont know the answer, but am curious.

I also wonder what limits the termite population so they dont overeat their food supply? As the ring diameter increases, geometry will have certain effects. The amount of biomass in the ring will increase linearly with the radius by the simple formula relating perimeter to radius. The travel distance from the center of the circle also increases, increasing the energy cost to the termites to travel to their food supply. Also, as the ring diameter increases, the curvature of the grassy ring decreases, becoming progressively more like a straight line. If the distance of effective capillary draw from within the ring is significant and is less than the radius of the circle a guess, I dont know, then the area of the wedge of soil from which adjacent grasses draw will increase as the curvature decreases, adding a bit more water to the adjacent grass plants as the ring grows. The significance of this geometric factor depends on the distance of capillary draw and radius of the circle and will vary as the ring grows.

All of this speculation is building fairy castles in the air as this is outside my field of expertise. I know little about soil physics and capillary movements in soils and plant root action and next to nothing about termite ecology, its energy balances, and other factors that control termite population. This is not how I would proceed were I actually studying this as a scientist, but is fun as a dilletante exercise.

In case anyone is wondering, I am only making dilletante comments on this because I dont subscribe to Science so I cant read the article itself to learn more about the underlying study and also because I cant afford the time to pursue all the things I find interesting or I really would become just a dilletante. Unfortunately, there is only one of me and I can readily generate more work than ten of me could do in the first iteration and then exponentially more than that as the multiple mes pursues the ongoing expansion of the things that interest me. As I have leisure to broaden my interests, I will still have to continually truncate what I wish to pursue to keep things manageable. The world has multiple wonders that keep a curious mind interested, but one cant pursue everything and still achieve any real understanding of anything.

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Celebrating Kwanzaa

In the mid60s, Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa, an observance that honors African heritage in AfricanAmerican and PanAfrican cultures. From Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, these days are dedicated to the seven principles Nguzo Saba focusing on African philosophy that encompasses the mutual and interactive relationship with family, community, environment and the world. For more information on Kwanzaa, the principles and symbols, visit the official Kwanzaa website. Join us in celebrating Kwanzaa and enriching our lives with its beauty and truths.

One of the seven principles of Kwanzaa is Umoja, which calls for promoting unity in our families and communities. We can accomplish this by spending quality time together, striving to overcome our differences and celebrating the ties that bind us. Our country is a melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and religions, yet we all share the common experience of belonging to one family the human race.

As we celebrate this holiday season with loved ones, our hearts and minds are with the victims and families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Such devastating tragedies reinforce the need for us to unite as a people to bring peace and healing to our communities and our nation. As a Swahili proverb rightly states, Unity is strength, division is weakness.

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Samsung Unveils SSD 840 EVO Line

Samsung Unveils New Solid State Drives at its Annual SSD Global Summit

New Highspeed 1TB SSD to expedite transition to SSDs

SEOUL, KoreaBUSINESS WIRESamsung Electronics Co., Ltd., the world leader in advanced memory technology, today held the 2013 Samsung SSD Global Summit at the Westin Chosun Seoul in celebration of the launch of its new solid state drive SSD, the Samsung SSD 840 EVO. Along with the announcement of its latest SSD and under the theme of SSDs for everyone, the Samsung SSD Global Summit also explored the future of the global SSD market, which is quickly replacing the hard disc drive HDD market.

Samsung continues to enhance its SSD brand image by delivering the industrys highest quality solutions and continuously increasing its SSD market share by expanding the adoption of higher density SSDs especially in client PC segments.

After accelerating the growth of the SSD market with last years launch of entrylevel, highperformance SSDs, we are introducing much faster SSDs with up to 1TB capacities offering consumers a wider range of choices, said YoungHyun Jun, executive vice president, memory sales marketing, Samsung Electronics. Samsung continues to enhance its SSD brand image by delivering the industrys highest quality solutions and continuously increasing its SSD market share by expanding the adoption of higher density SSDs especially in client PC segments.

At this years event, Samsung unveiled new highperformance, highdensity SSDs. Among the highlights were the 840 EVO, a consumeroriented entrylevel, highperformance SATA based SSD offering up to 1TB capacity.

As part of its strategy to expand into the consumer market and further popularize SSDs, Samsung plans to initially introduce the Samsung SSD 840 EVO to major global markets in early August. Samsung will expand into additional markets at a later date.

The new Samsung SSD 840 EVO lineup makes use of the industrys most compact 10nanometer class 128Gb highperformance NAND flash memory, which Samsung began mass producing in April. With these chips and Samsungs proprietary multicore MEX controller, the Samsung SSD 840 EVO achieves unrivaled value for performance with improved sequential read and write speeds.

At this years Samsung SSD Global Summit, approximately 150 global business press, consumer media and power bloggers from twelve countries were invited, allowing Samsung to introduce high efficiency SSDs to global consumers and show participants just how simple it is to install and utilize SSDs in their notebooks.

ConsumerOriented HighPerformance EntryLevel SSD 840 EVO Lineup Launch up to 1TB

Samsung has released the entrylevel SSD 840 EVO lineup with significantly higher sequential write performance. Utilizing the industrys most compact 10nmclass 128Gb highperformance NAND, Samsung proprietary controller and Turbo Write drive, the Samsung SSD 840 EVO boasts superior performance.

Compared with the 250GB 840 Series SSD, the highest selling capacity of the 840 lineup, the new 250GB 840 EVO now delivers 520MB/s sequential write speed making it more than two times faster than the previous generation. In the case of 120GB model, the 840 EVO achieves up to 410MB/s sequential write speed, which is approximately three times as fast as that of the 120GB 840 Series SSD.

For the 1TB 840 EVO SSD, the sequential read/write performance has reached 540MB/s and 520MB/s. Furthermore, both the random read and write performance have improved, reaching 98,000 IOPS Input Output Operations Per Second and 90,000 IOPS, respectively. This significantly enhances the users realworld computing experience, especially when he or she is dealing with very large data files.

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. is a global leader in technology, opening new possibilities for people everywhere. Through relentless innovation and discovery, we are transforming the worlds of televisions, smartphones, personal computers, printers, cameras, home appliances, LTE systems, medical devices, semiconductors and LED solutions. We employ 236,000 people across 79 countries with annual sales exceeding US$187.8 billion.

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Scoliosis in Children

Adolescents are the most common age group to have idiopathic scoliosis, and it usually begins between the ages of 10 and 14. While it occurs about equally in both boys and girls, girls are much more likely to have a progression of the curve that requires treatment. Still, only about 10% of children with scoliosis require corrective treatment bracing or surgery. The rest 90% will not require treatment and will have no long lasting effects or symptoms from the curve.

Idiopathic scoliosis can also much less commonly be found in young infants infantile scoliosis, and children 4 to 10 years of age juvenile scoliosis. Younger children should be seen by a pediatric orthopedic specialist, even if they have a small curve.

Scoliosis is usually discovered during routine screening with the forward bend test Adams test, either at school or as part of a childs regular well child visits with their Pediatrician. During this exam, the child takes of his or her shirt girls can leave their bra on, and stands up straight, with feet together. The examiner will first check that the shoulders, scapulae shoulder blades, and hips are level uneven shoulders can be a sign of scoliosis and the spine is straight. Next the child will bend forward at the hips, with the arms loosely extended and the palms held together. In children with scoliosis, bending forward will reveal an asymmetry of the back or posterior chest wall causing an elevation of one side of the back, or a rib hump.

If your child was identified as having scoliosis during a routine school screening test, then you should see your Pediatrician for a confirmatory exam. Not all children with a positive test at school really have a curve.

Since most children with scoliosis do not have symptoms scoliosis is usually painless, and they can develop compensatory curves that keep the shoulders level and give the appearance that the back is straight, it is very important that all children between the ages of 10 and 14 have yearly scoliosis screening, especially if they are at high risk, including having another family member with scoliosis.

Once a child is identified as having scoliosis, they should have an xray to determine the degree of curvature of the spine. These xrays usually consists of a standing PA posteroanterior and lateral xray of the spine. From these xrays, the physician usually a radiologist or orthopedic specialist can determine the degree of curvature of the spine by measuring different angles along the curve Cobb method. The xrays expose your child to a minimal amount of radiation.

The degree of curvature helps to determine what needs to be done next. For children with mild or small curves, usually less than 20 degrees, no treatment is generally required. Your physician will just observe your child with serial xrays every 46 months. Repeating the xrays is important to see if the curve is progressing. If the curve is progressing slowly 510 degrees over 23 years and has not reached 20, then your Pediatrician may just continue to do serial xrays until your child has reached full skeletal growth or maturation. This is usually about two years after a girl has her first period menarche or when boys are about 17 or 18. With skeletal maturation, the scoliosis progression will usually slow or end, except for the most severe curves, which can progress into adulthood.

Children with curves that progress very rapidly more than about 5 degrees in 46 months, or that progress past 20 degrees, should be evaluated by an orthopedic specialist that cares for children with scoliosis.

An exception to the 20 degree rule is children under 12, who should be referred to a specialist even if their curve is under 20. Since the curve progresses as your child grows, a child with scoliosis at a young age has much more time for the curve to grow, in contrast to a 14 or 15 year old who only has a few more years of growing ahead of them.

Also important is the location of the curve, which can occur in the thoracic, thoracolumbar, or lumbar regions of the spine, its pattern single vs double, and direction right vs left. Double curves are more likely to progress than single curves and single thoracic curves are more likely to progress than single curves in the lumbar region.

For children with rapidly progressive curves, or with curves that are above 30 degrees, treatment will likely be necessary. The main treatments are bracing and surgical correction, although surgery is usually reserved for children with curves over 45 to 50 degrees, or which dont respond to bracing.

Bracing is usually necessary for children with rapidly progressive curves, or curves between 30 and 45 degrees, although it also depends on the childs age and degree of skeletal development. Younger children may need treatment with a smaller curve than older children, because they have more room to grow and for the curve to progress. While a brace will not fix the curve or make the spine straight, it can help to prevent the curve from progressing anymore or worsening.

The most commonly used brace to treat children with scoliosis is the thoracolumbosacral orthosis TLSO, which is custom molded, fits beneath clothing, and is worn for most of the day and night. Another type of brace is the Charleston bending brace, which is worn at night only. The Charleston brace is usually used for single lumbar curves. The Milwaukee brace extends up to the neck and isnt used very much anymore.

For children who do not respond to bracing, who have a very large curve over 4550 degrees, or who are having symptoms, including physical deformities, pain, and compromise in their heart or lung function, then surgery will probably be needed. The most common surgical procedure is a posterior spinal fusion, with correction of the curve and the use of implanted internal metal fixation rods until the bone fusion heals. The rods are usually permanently placed and are not removed, but they usually do not cause any problems and will not set off airport metal detectors.

Alternative treatments for scoliosis which are not thought to work to slow or stop scoliosis from progressing include chiropractic manipulations and electrical stimulations.

Although much less common than idiopathic scoliosis, children can also have congenital scoliosis, which is often associated with genitourinary abnormalities, congenital heart disease, and other defects of the spinal column. These children should be closely followed by an orthopedic specialist to monitor the progression of their curve. Only about 25% of children with congenital scoliosis do not require treatment.

Scoliosis can also be associated with certain types of neuromuscular disorders, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophies and spinal muscular atrophy SMA. Iannellis new book