SciTech Briefs

Microsoft bids on Yahoo

Silicon Valley has been abuzz since Friday when technology powerhouse Microsoft offered to buy out search engine Yahoo Inc. in what experts are saying would be a “shotgun marriage.” The leaders of Yahoo are taking some time to consider Microsoft’s bid, which came to nearly $42 billion.

Though the potential transaction involves only Microsoft and Yahoo, many claim that the bid is a reflection on the success of Google Inc., which is clearly the motivation for Microsoft to look to Yahoo.

Microsoft is still the leader in worldwide technology, through it is questionable how the company will continue to fare in a market dominated by online services and advertising.

Even if Yahoo accepts the bid, it is unclear whether the transaction would pass antitrust regulations.

Source: The Washington Post

Asia, Middle East lose Internet access

A widespread Internet outage on Thursday debilitated regions of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, causing particular damage to businesses reliant on telecommunications. Some of the affected countries included Qatar, Egypt, and India.

Experts trade the problem to breaks in two undersea cables. No one knows what caused the damage, though some sources have claimed that a ship’s anchor might have torn the cables.

Though some of the affected countries’ governments have satellite systems to provide backup Internet service, others were left essentially in the dark. Some experts called the outage a “wake-up call” for countries that were unprepared for incidents like this one.

A third cable near Dubai was cut on Friday, aggravating the delays.

Source: CNN

Black Death hit those already sick

Two anthropologists have found evidence to suggest that the majority of the victims of Europe’s Black Death plague were already ill. The researchers’ study, published Monday, helps explain differences between the plague and other illnesses, like the Spanish flu and HIV, which more often kill healthy people.

Researchers studied the exhumed bodies of 490 skeletons from a cemetery in London. While examining the bodies, they were able to note the ages of the deceased by looking at their dental regions. They also looked at bone lesions to determine prior illnesses. The scientists compared the bodies from the cemetery to a group from a Danish cemetery that was buried a few years before the plague started.

Scientists hope to use the data to study current diseases similar to the plague, including Ebola and SARS.

Source: The New York Times

Student, teacher find dark matter

A high school astronomy teacher and an 11th-grade student from Pennsylvania’s Venango County detected dark matter in a disk surrounding the binary star WZ Sagittae. Dark matter is a term for matter in the universe that cannot be seen directly but produces gravitation effects on visible matter.
The student and teacher observed dark matter in the star’s accretion disk, hot gas that builds up stars and other masses. This suggests that accretion disks are more massive than scientists once thought.

Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette