Previous The Marble Caves: Patagonia's Sculpted Azure Caverns

1:01:32 PM, Saturday, July 02, 2011
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Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Southern Cliff in the Lagoon

12:49:59 PM, Friday, July 01, 2011

-- "Undulating bright ridges and dusty clouds cross this close-up of the nearby star forming region M8, also known as the Lagoon Nebula. A sharp, false-color composite of narrow band visible and broad band near-infrared data from the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope, the entire view spans about 20 light-years through a region of the nebula sometimes called the Southern Cliff. The highly detailed image explores the association of many newborn stars imbedded in the tips of the bright-rimmed clouds and Herbig-Haro objects. Abundant in star-forming regions, Herbig-Haro objects are produced as powerful jets emitted by young stars in the process of formation heat the surrounding clouds of gas and dust. The cosmic Lagoon is found some 5,000 light-years away toward constellation Sagittarius and the center of our Milky Way Galaxy."

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Krokodil - The Drug That Eats Junkies: Flesh Eating Drug Destroys Body Parts With Every Injection

12:28:08 PM, Friday, July 01, 2011

"(22 JUNE 2011, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/krokodil-the-drug-that-eats-junkies-2300787.html) Oleg glances furtively around him and, confident that nobody is watching, slips inside the entrance to a decaying Soviet-era block of flats, where Sasha is waiting for him. Ensconced in the dingy kitchen of one of the apartments, they empty the contents of a blue carrier bag that Oleg has brought with him – painkillers, iodine, lighter fluid, industrial cleaning oil, and an array of vials, syringes, and cooking implements.

Half an hour later, after much boiling, distilling, mixing and shaking, what remains is a caramel-coloured gunge held in the end of a syringe, and the acrid smell of burnt iodine in the air. Sasha fixes a dirty needle to the syringe and looks for a vein in his bruised forearm. After some time, he finds a suitable place, and hands the syringe to Oleg, telling him to inject the fluid. He closes his eyes, and takes the hit.

Russia has more heroin users than any other country in the world – up to two million, according to unofficial estimates. For most, their lot is a life of crime, stints in prison, probable contraction of HIV and hepatitis C, and an early death. As efforts to stem the flow of Afghan heroin into Russia bring some limited success, and the street price of the drug goes up, for those addicts who can't afford their next hit, an even more terrifying spectre has raised its head.

The home-made drug that Oleg and Sasha inject is known as krokodil, or "crocodile". It is desomorphine, a synthetic opiate many times more powerful than heroin that is created from a complex chain of mixing and chemical reactions, which the addicts perform from memory several times a day. While heroin costs from £20 to £60 per dose, desomorphine can be "cooked" from codeine-based headache pills that cost £2 per pack, and other household ingredients available cheaply from the markets.

It is a drug for the poor, and its effects are horrific. It was given its reptilian name because its poisonous ingredients quickly turn the skin scaly. Worse follows. Oleg and Sasha have not been using for long, but Oleg has rotting sores on the back of his neck.

"If you miss the vein, that's an abscess straight away," says Sasha. Essentially, they are injecting poison directly into their flesh. One of their friends, in a neighbouring apartment block, is further down the line.

"She won't go to hospital, she just keeps injecting. Her flesh is falling off and she can hardly move anymore," says Sasha. Photographs of late-stage krokodil addicts are disturbing in the extreme. Flesh goes grey and peels away to leave bones exposed. People literally rot to death..."

-- WARNING THE VIDEO IS GRAPHIC, don't watch if you'd rather not see.

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Aluminum Panels Set To Take On Pollution As 'Smog Eaters'

1:40:30 AM, Friday, July 01, 2011

"In the witch's brew of gases and particles that make up smog in most cities, nitrogen oxides are a plentiful ingredient. The pollutants also help create ground-level ozone, a nasty irritant for lungs, and bothersome fine particles.

The family of chemicals, called NOx in shorthand, can inflame people's airways and trigger asthma attacks, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Reducing emissions is one way to curb NOx pollution. But aluminum giant Alcoa has another idea for taking on NOx: a building panel with an special coating, called EcoClean, that the company says can turn buildings into smog eaters.

The secret weapon against smog? Titanium dioxide. Used to coat Alcoa's aluminum panels, the material can neutralize harmful pollutants through simple oxidation.

When sunlight strikes the titanium dioxide, its electrons transfer energy to oxygen and water in the air, creating free radicals. Alcoa says these free radicals then oxidize NOx molecules, and they'll eventually wash away as nitrate. Alcoa had panels tested by an independent firm in Georgia, and the results "confirm that on a molecular level EcoClean neutralizes smog."

The panels aren't on the market yet, but they're expected to cost 4 percent to 5 percent more than conventional aluminum panels. The company says that 10,000 square feet of its panels "has the approximate air cleansing power of 80 trees." The European marketing tagline even asks: "How much forest can I build?"

That may be overstating the case a tad. EcoClean may remove a lot of NOx (and other oxidizable compounds) from the air. But air pollution is complex stuff.

According to research by David Nowak, project leader and research director for the Urban Forests, Human Health, and Environmental Quality unit of the U.S. Forest Service, trees can remove additional pollutants like particulate matter, ozone and carbon monoxide. Trees have the added bonus of improving air quality with their canopy cover, too, Nowak says..."

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Watch Monster Tajima Tackle Pikes Peak and Break His Own Record

12:05:47 PM, Thursday, June 30, 2011

“There can be only one King of the Hill, and that is Nobuhiro Tajima; the ‘Monster' just beat his own personal best to claim overall victory at the annual Pikes Peak hill climb.

Held on the now-infamous Colorado mountain, Monster took his 850bhp Suzuki SX4 and gunned the 12.42mile race course (of which just three miles of unpaved surfaces remain) to register a scarcely believable time of 9m 51.28s, besting his own PB from 10m 01.41s.

Rhys Millen - son of Pikes legend Rod - returned to the mountain in his Hyundai Genesis PM580 but was beset with brake problems and settled for second place with a time of 10m 09.24s.

Just to reiterate, Monster Tajima is 61 years old. And he is the fastest man up the mountain. Watch and learn..."

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Lady Gaga Dresses Up As A Panda For Japanese TV Show

12:26:21 AM, Thursday, June 30, 2011

-- Yep...

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American Tourist Left on Great Reef by Tour Boat Company

8:51:12 PM, Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“An American tourist fought off panic when an Australian tour boat company accidentally left him stranded near the Great Barrier Reef in his snorkeling gear.

Michigan 28-year-old Ian Cole says he grew frightened when he surfaced and realized the Passions of Paradise tour boat was gone last Saturday. Since American couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan disappeared after being left behind by a boat in nearby Port Douglas in the 1990s, tour companies have followed strict head count rules, the AFP reports. You can watch an Australian TV news report on the incident in the video above.

"Panic kicks in, your heart rate goes up, and you don't know what's going to happen. I was sucking water back into my snorkel and was really trying hard to stay calm," Cole told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Cole saw another tour boat and says he swam about 15 minutes to reach it. ''When I got to the other boat they looked down like 'what the hell are you doing here?' They said my boat had left 15 minutes ago. I thought they were joking.''

The staff member who failed to do an accurate headcount has been fired, the paper says, and Cole was given a $200 restaurant voucher and a refund for the trip.

But the spokesman of a regional tour operators association told local Australian CairnsBlog that he thought Cole was exaggerating the danger he faced in the incident. Association of Marine Park Operators' Col McKenzie said Cole was ''making a mountain out of a molehill'' to get media attention..."

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Debris Gives Space Station Crew Members a 29,000-M.P.H. Close Call

4:05:53 PM, Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"One of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of space-age litter orbiting Earth zipped uncomfortably close to the International Space Station on Tuesday.

The six crew members of the space station took refuge in their “lifeboats” — two Soyuz space capsules they would use to escape a crippled station — as the unidentified object hurtled past them at a speed of 29,000 miles per hour, missing the space station by only 1,100 feet. The episode took place at 8:08 a.m. Eastern time.

“We believe the probability that it would the hit the station was about 1 in 360,” said Lark Howorth, who leads the team at NASA that tracks the space station’s trajectory. NASA rules call for precautions when the risk of impact is greater than 1 in 10,000.

In the section of the station run by the United States, astronauts closed the hatches in case the debris — commonly known as space junk — crashed through, to limit the danger of explosive decompression. To prepare for a rapid departure, the clamps holding the Soyuz capsules to the station were released.

“They would be one command away from releasing the hooks and undocking,” said Edward Van Cise, NASA’s lead flight director.

Mission controllers gave the all-clear signal four minutes later, and the crew members returned to work. There was no sign of damage or impact to the station..."

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Catherine Feeny – Mr. Blue

8:54:44 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011
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Bridge Comes to San Francisco With a Made-in-China Label

7:35:49 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Talk about outsourcing.

At a sprawling manufacturing complex here, hundreds of Chinese laborers are now completing work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Next month, the last four of more than two dozen giant steel modules — each with a roadbed segment about half the size of a football field — will be loaded onto a huge ship and transported 6,500 miles to Oakland. There, they will be assembled to fit into the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge.

The project is part of China’s continual move up the global economic value chain — from cheap toys to Apple iPads to commercial jetliners — as it aims to become the world’s civil engineer.

The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans. But construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them are a Made in China affair. California officials say the state saved hundreds of millions of dollars by turning to China.

“They’ve produced a pretty impressive bridge for us,” Tony Anziano, a program manager at the California Department of Transportation, said a few weeks ago. He was touring the 1.2-square-mile manufacturing site that the Chinese company created to do the bridge work. “Four years ago, there were just steel plates here and lots of orange groves.”

On the reputation of showcase projects like Beijing’s Olympic-size airport terminal and the mammoth hydroelectric Three Gorges Dam, Chinese companies have been hired to build copper mines in the Congo, high-speed rail lines in Brazil and huge apartment complexes in Saudi Arabia.

In New York City alone, Chinese companies have won contracts to help renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium. As with the Bay Bridge, American union labor would carry out most of the work done on United States soil..."

-- Yep.

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Snail Attack: Snail Consumes a Worm

3:26:21 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011

-- Ahh!!! Damn nature you scary!

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Tiny Marine Crustaceans Construct Wax 'Weight Belts' to Stay Deep

1:13:59 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"At high latitudes, the open ocean is treacherous in winter. The water is frigid and turbulent, food is scarce, and predators are on the prowl. So copepods, tiny herbivorous crustaceans that look like microminiaturized shrimp, head down deep and wait out the winter months in a hibernation-like state called diapause. A new study helps explain how they manage to stay down without constant swimming. Surprisingly, the trick is similar to the one sperm whales use when diving.

Copepods are abundant, calorie-packed morsels that numerous marine creatures depend on for food, so biologists are keenly interested in their survival strategies, especially diapause. During diapause, copepods gather in layers, generally between 500 and 3500 meters deep depending on the species, for 6 months at a stretch. They don't eat. They don't move. Their metabolism slows way down.

Yet after copepods gorge on diatoms at the surface all summer, their bodies can be half fat and presumably pretty buoyant. For decades, researchers have puzzled over how diapausing copepods manage to stay at depth without wasting calories swimming downward. After all, their lives depend on it. "If the animals can't maintain neutral buoyancy, then they burn up their energy really quickly, so they have to either reascend to the surface at the wrong time or they just die," says David Pond, lead author of the new paper, published this month in Limnology and Oceanography.

Pond, a biochemist, and Geraint Tarling, a zooplankton ecologist, both at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, U.K., collected Calanoides acutus copepods from various depths in the Southern Ocean. Analyzing the copepods' fat stores, the duo found that the deeper the animals had been caught, the more fat they tended to have and the richer the fat was in compounds called polyunsaturated wax esters. Moreover, lab tests showed that these wax esters had the peculiar property of changing from an oily liquid to a butterlike solid at temperatures and pressures that occur below 500 meters in the Southern Ocean.

Pond and Tarling think that, as summer ends and Antarctic copepods journey downward to enter diapause, their fat solidifies and becomes denser and thus less buoyant. Once they pass 500 meters, it functionally transforms from balloon to ballast. The descent ends at a depth where the copepod is neutrally buoyant, which depends on the composition of the fat it stored eating diatoms all summer..."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: Globular Cluster M15 from Hubble

1:08:13 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011

-- "Stars, like bees, swarm around the center of bright globular cluster M15. This ball of over 100,000 stars is a relic from the early years of our Galaxy, and continues to orbit the Milky Way's center. M15, one of about 150 globular clusters remaining, is noted for being easily visible with only binoculars, having at its center one of the densest concentrations of stars known, and containing a high abundance of variable stars and pulsars. This sharp image, taken by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, spans about 120 light years. It shows the dramatic increase in density of stars toward the cluster's center. M15 lies about 35,000 light years away toward the constellation of the Winged Horse (Pegasus). Recent evidence indicates that a massive black hole might reside as the center of M15."

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This Trimaran Must Really Be a Secret Alien Ship

10:51:54 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011

"I love sailboats. I despise yachts. But I can see myself zooming through the Mediterranean on board the 139-foot Adastra, a high speed trimaran that looks like an alien attack vessel. It isn't a fantasy prototype. It's very real.

It's being built in China right now for a Anto and Elaine Marden, a couple from Hong Kong. With a 16-metre long beam, this spaceship looks like a perfect place not just to fly through the oceans, but to live in. The ship can host nine people and a crew of five or six.

It's powered by a Caterpillar C18 in the main hull, a 1150hp, 2300 rpm engine. The two outer hulls hold Yanmar 110hp engines. They allow the Adastra to push a maximum speed of 22.5 knots. According to the designer's testing, it would be an exceptionally stable ship:

Extensive tank testing and radio controlled model tests in waves have been carried out to analyze stability and performance. Outrigger height has been optimized for ease of motion at sea, and a new outrigger shape has been developed to increase stability in waves.

But, apart from the design, the ship has other space-age qualities: A superstructure made of carbon fibre with Nomex honeycomb core and a hull made of a fibre-glass/Kevlar foam sandwich. Inside, everything is custom made to reduce weight. The oak cabinetry, for example, is built using honeycomb panels instead of solid wood..."

-- WANT!!!

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Iraq And Afghanistan War Debt Includes Steep Price Tag For Air Conditioning

10:39:50 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011

"This week, Beltway lawmakers have ramped up the efforts to negotiate the terms of how and when the nation's debt ceiling will be raised, with President Barack Obama reportedly stepping into the fray to bring about a deal. But once everyone has decided on how the debt ceiling will be renovated, will the stifling DC summer heat still make it uncomfortable to enter the "debt room" to marvel at the new "debt ceiling?" Perhaps we should relocate our debt to Iraq or Afghanistan, where a lot of it is going anyway and where we are at least spending a king's ransom on air conditioning. NPR's "All Things Considered" has the news:

The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion.

That's more than NASA's budget. It's more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It's what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.

"When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world -- escorting, command and control, medevac support -- when you throw all that infrastructure in, we're talking over $20 billion," Steven Anderson tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin. Anderson is a retired brigadier general who served as Gen. David Patreaus' chief logistician in Iraq..."

-- I'd agree with the sentiment of the people that say leave the troops alone, but somehow I really doubt the troops spend much time just sitting around in air conditioned offices. They don't.

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