Video of Hissing Cockroach Giving Birth

2:01:11 AM, Friday, March 09, 2012

-- That is all. Enjoy.

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LEGO Space Shuttle Launched into Space

6:50:04 PM, Tuesday, March 06, 2012

From the blog of Raul Oaida, who is behind this project:“2001: A Brick Odyssey

This is the full story on how the Space Shuttle took flight once more.

I've always been profoundly inspired by spaceflight, the Lego Shuttle was the only space program I could afford.

The story begins in mid-November 2011 with me trying to find someone to support a rocketry project of mine entitled 'October Sky', I found Steve Sammartino on twitter one night and asked and for his Skype in a PM, him thinking I was another person from the business world accepted my request.

We chated a bit and he wasn't too sure about my October Sky, then I mentioned one of the things in my 'to-do' list would be a high altitude balloon experiment.

I showed him my previous work (steam engines, a jet engine and and some rocketry)he was impressed by my passion & determination and decided to fund my cosmic experience.

We had to send something up, so after some debate Steve came up with the Lego Space Shuttle as a payload, which was a brilliant idea!. He is also teaching me valuable skills and we are progressing from something small (the Lego Shuttle), to something way bigger (Top Secret), so stay tunned!

The biggest problem was getting a flight clearance, in my country (Romania) there is A LOT of bureaucracy and a 45 day (minimum) waiting period and even then there would be next to no chance for me, a teenager getting such a thing.

After some research I found out every EU country has different regulations for this things, Germany was by far the best with my father being there for work.

I only got all the equipment through mail right before Christmas, on the 21st-22nd I built the rig and on the 23rd left for Germany.

The first days had terrible conditions, the jet streams kept dropping my shuttle into the Czech Republic, and on one particular day the prediction software was indicating a 350km Est landing site (far far away!).

On 31st of December things looked better (250km S-E), it was a now or never moment!

We got everything in the car and found a small muddy field near Lauda-Königshofen to deploy our gear.

We were in a big hurry to launch within the flight window appointed so we quickly filled the balloon, tied the parachute, payload and released it into the heavens.

After this I checked with my laptop in the chase-car to see if it's sending data and we started getting the first position reports (every 10 minutes). After about 30 minutes we headed off in the general direction of the balloon losing contact at 18000m (GPS signal limit). I waited anxiously to re-gain contact which happened in about 1 hour from the loss of contact, only it was 200km away by now.

A couple more position reports and it was on the ground 240km S-E in a very remote densely forested area of S-E Germany (2-3 houses here and there).

We passed by the shuttle a couple of times before noticing it in the snow, it was undamaged.

After playing the video we were in total awe, I still find it hard to belive that it was actually up there!

Equipment used:

1600g Weather Ballon.

Rocketmodel parachute - slowing things down on the descent.

Spot GPS - for recovery.

GoPro Hero - video camera.

Kodak Zx1 - video camera which took shit images I couldn't even use.

New Trent - external battery for the GoPro (broke down before leaving for Germany) .

Handwarmers - keepin' it warm at -50 Celsius.

40mm Sytrofoam - building the box.

Fishingwire - attached the shuttle by 5 wires.

LED Beacon - in case of night recovery.

Balsa wood - made the camera arm from it to obtain that filming angle.

And of course: Lego Shuttle model 3367.”

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Borders Fossils Fill 'Gap' in Evolution Story

6:29:41 PM, Tuesday, March 06, 2012

“(BBC) A collection of fossils described as a breakthrough in the study of evolution is set to be unveiled.

The fossils, discovered in the Borders, are going on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The find is said to unearth a "missing chapter" of the evolution story and overturn a long-held theory about evolution on Earth.

Scientist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough described the discovery as "wonderful and exciting".

Romer's Gap, named after the American palaeontologist Alfred Sherwood Romer, is a gap in the fossil record, showing little evidence of life on land between around 345 and 360 million years ago.

The gap led some palaeontologists to conclude that there were low levels of oxygen during that time, which limited evolution on land.

However, the newly-unveiled fossils suggest that a wide diversity of amphibians, plants, fish and invertebrates all existed during the 15 million-year period and are said to shed light on a period that previously had been almost blank.

The fossils were unearthed by palaeontologist Stan Wood following a 20-year search.

One notable amphibian specimen has been nicknamed Ribbo due to its prominent and well-preserved vertebrate structure.

It has provided scientists with enough information to interpret what the creature may have looked like as it roamed the Tweed basin around 350 million years ago.

Nick Fraser, keeper of natural sciences at National Museums Scotland, said: "This is a real 'eureka' moment in palaeontology.

"These fossils aren't much to look at in and of themselves, but they may prove to be profoundly important in advancing our understanding of the earliest development of land-dwelling life as we know it today.

"For that reason, we are tremendously excited to be able to give people the chance to see these fascinating objects first-hand."

Evolution's Missing Chapter runs from Tuesday until 29 April.

Sir David Attenborough said: "One is accustomed these days to hear of sensational new fossil finds being made in (other) parts of the world.

"But to learn of a site in this country, which must surely be counted among the most extensively explored, in geological terms, is wonderful and exciting."”

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Oxygen Envelops Saturn's Icy Moon

9:59:39 PM, Monday, March 05, 2012

“(BBC) A Nasa spacecraft has detected oxygen around one of Saturn's icy moons, Dione.

The discovery supports a theory that suggests all of the moons near Saturn and Jupiter might have oxygen around them.

Researchers say that their finding increases the likelihood of finding the ingredients for life on one of the moons orbiting gas giants.

The study has been published in Geophysical Research Letters.

According to co-author Andrew Coates of University College London, Dione has no liquid water and so does not have the conditions to support life. But it is possible that other moons of Jupiter and Saturn do.

"Some of the other moons have liquid oceans and so it is worth looking more closely at them for signs of life," Prof Coates said.

The discovery was made using the Cassini spacecraft, which flew by Dione nearly two years ago. Instruments on board the unmanned probe detected a thin layer of oxygen around the moon, so thin that scientists prefer to call it an "exosphere" rather than an atmosphere.

But the discovery is important because it suggests there is a process at work around the solar system's gas giants, Saturn and Jupiter, in which oxygen is released from their icy satellites.

It seems that highly charged particles from the planets' powerful radiation belts split the water in the ice into hydrogen and oxygen.

Dione's sister moon, Enceladus is thought to harbour a liquid ocean below its icy surface. The same is thought to be true of Europa, Callisto and Ganymede which orbit Jupiter.

Prof Coates is among a group of scientists lobbying the European Space Agency to send an orbiter to explore Jupiter's icy moons - known as the Juice mission.

"These are fascinating places to look for signs of life," he said.

As is Titan, Saturn's largest satellite. Its nitrogen and methane atmosphere is reminiscent of the early Earth, according to Prof Coates.

"It may be an Earth waiting to happen as the outer Solar System warms up," he said.

Nasa is developing a proposal to send a landing craft, or lander, to float on one of the planet's oily lakes.”

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A Tiny Horse That Got Even Tinier as the Planet Heated Up

2:27:38 AM, Sunday, March 04, 2012

“”(NYT) Rising seas, killer storms, droughts, extinctions and money wasted on snowblowers are not the only things to worry about on a warming planet. There is also the shrinking issue.

It happened to Sifrhippus, the first horse, 56 million years ago. Sifrhippus shrank from about 12 pounds average weight to about eight and a half pounds as the climate warmed over thousands of years, a team of researchers reported in the journal Science on Thursday.

The horse (siff-RIP-us, if you have to say the name out loud) lived in what is still horse country, in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming, where wild mustangs roam.

Sifrhippus was not much like the mustangs or any other modern horses. It was the size of a cat, ate leaves rather than grass and counts as a horse only in scientific classification. It might have made a nice pet if anyone had been around to domesticate it, but the first hominids were a good 50 million years in the future.

Its preserved fossils, abundant in the Bighorn Basin, provide an excellent record of its size change over a 175,000-year warm period in the Earth’s history known as the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, when temperatures are estimated to have risen by 9 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit at the start, and dropped again at the end.

Scientists have known that many mammals appear to have shrunk during the warming period, and the phenomenon fits well with what is known as Bergmann’s rule, which says, roughly, that mammals of a given genus or species are smaller in hotter climates.

Although the rule refers to differences in location, it seemed also to apply to changes over time. But fine enough detail was lacking until now.

In Science, Ross Secord, of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Jonathan Bloch, of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville; and a team of other researchers report on the collection and analysis of Sifrhippus fossils from the Bighorn Basin.

They report that the little horse got 30 percent smaller over the first 130,000 years, and then — as always seems to happen with weight loss — shot back up and got 75 percent bigger over the next 45,000 years.

The fossils indicate that at its smallest Sifrhippus weighed about eight and a half pounds, and at its largest about 15 pounds.

Using fine-grained detail on both climate and body size, the researchers concluded that the change in size was, as suspected, driven primarily by the warming trend.

“It seems to be natural selection,” said Dr. Secord. He said animals evolved to be smaller during warming because smaller animals did better in that environment, perhaps because the smaller an animal is, the easier it is to shed excess heat.

Paul L. Koch, head of the department of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a specialist in reconstructing ecosystems and climates from many millions of years ago, said, “The paper lets us see the effect of warming on mammals where the climate change is really large.”

Dr. Koch, who was not involved in the study, said he thought that the question of whether natural selection was the cause of the changes was still open, and that the disruption of ecosystems during the warming period might have led smaller animals to migrate to new locations.

The current warming period is occurring on a scale of hundreds of years, not thousands, and scientists can only speculate on whether modern mammals will shrink.

“It’s difficult to say that mammals are going to respond in the same way now,“ Dr. Secord said. “If I had to guess,” he said, he thinks some will get smaller. And, he said, some studies have shown some birds to be getting smaller in response to warming.

If warming continues at the highest rate projected, he said, there’s another question: “Can mammals keep up?””

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Physicists Measure the Skin of a Nucleus

2:20:45 AM, Sunday, March 04, 2012

“A large atomic nucleus is like a chocolate truffle with a gooey interior and a harder shell. Inside, the nucleus contains a mixture of protons and neutrons. Outside, it's covered with a nearly pure layer of neutrons—the "neutron skin." Now, for the first time, nuclear physicists have measured the thickness of that skin in a fairly direct way. More-precise future measurements could transform the study of all nuclei and even of neutron stars.

"This single piece of data would provide an extremely useful and extremely important constraint on theoretical models," says Witold Nazarewicz, a nuclear theorist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who was not involved in the new study.

In the past, experimenters have tried to measure the distribution of neutrons in nuclei by pelting the nuclei with protons, antiprotons, or particles called pions. These particles all interact with the nucleus through the strong nuclear force, which is so complicated that to interpret the results, researchers have to resort to approximate theoretical models. As a result, the answer you get depends on which model you use.

Now, one team has measured the neutron distribution in a way that relies a lot less on theory. At the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (JLab) in Newport News, Virginia, physicists with the Lead Radius Experiment (PREX) fired electrons at a thin sheet of lead-208. Each lead-208 nucleus has 82 protons and a whopping 126 neutrons, making it especially rich in the latter. Electrons do not feel the strong force but instead interact with the nucleus primarily through the electromagnetic force. So the tug of the protons' electric field deflects the trajectories of the electrons. By studying that deflection, researchers can measure the distribution of protons to determine a nucleus's "proton radius."

PREX researchers went a big step further to measure the neutron distribution and the "neutron radius" of lead-208 (from which they would subtract the proton radius to get the thickness of the neutron skin). To do that the team had to tease out the effects of a third, much fainter force, the weak nuclear force. Through that force, the electrons interact primarily with the neutrons in the nucleus. Unlike the electromagnetic force, the weak force affects electrons differently depending on which way they spin—whether spiraling to the right like a football thrown by a right-handed quarterback or to the left like a pigskin thrown by a southpaw. Thus, the weak force should produce a slight asymmetry in the deflection of right- and left-spinning electrons that can reveal the distribution of the neutrons.

So the PREX team bombarded lead-208 nuclei with pulses of electrons all spinning the same way—either to the right or to the left—and compared the results. "The thing that makes the experiment hard is that when you flip the spin [from one bunch to the next], you don't want to change anything else," says JLab's Robert Michaels, co-spokesperson for the PREX team. "If you change the energy or the trajectory of the beam, you introduce a systematic error" that could fake a signal.

PREX researchers measured a 0.656-parts-per-million asymmetry in the probability that right- or left-spinning electrons would be deflected by a certain angle. From that asymmetry, they deduced a neutron radius of 5.78 millionth of a nanometer, as they report in a paper in press at Physical Review Letters. Subtracting the known proton radius revealed a neutron skin 0.33 millionths of a nanometer thick, give or take about 50%.

So what's a measure of lead-208's neutron skin good for? Quite a lot. The incredibly complex mathematical theory of the nucleus contains terms that depend on the difference of the proton distribution and the neutron distribution. Measuring the neutron skin of lead-208 could bring key parameters in those terms into much sharper focus, Nazarewicz says. That, in turn, could lead to much better estimates of how many neutrons can be crammed into heavy nuclei or of which nuclei are involved in the so-called r process, a cascade of nuclear reactions inside exploding stars that forge half the elements heavier than iron throughout the universe, Nazarewicz says.

Nailing down such parameters would have equally big implications for the theory of neutron stars, says James Lattimer, a theoretical astrophysicist at Stony Brook University in New York state. "That directly tells you the radius of a neutron star [of a given mass] and a lot of other things like the thickness of its crust, the response of its surface to explosions, et cetera," Lattimer says.

Alas, the uncertainty on the PREX measurement is still too large to pin down the parameters, Lattimer says. "It's a very important experiment and has the potential to constrain theory very nicely, but it's not there yet," he says. JLab's Michaels says the PREX team will run the experiment next year and aims to reduce the uncertainty to one-third its current value. "Then it becomes a very interesting result," he says.

Something else physicists will be watching for: The PREX measurement suggests that the neutron skin of lead-208 is twice as thick as more-precise but model-dependent methods indicate. Right now, the PREX result has too much uncertainty to pose a direct challenge to earlier estimates. But if the new value holds up as the uncertainty shrinks, things could get really interesting, Nazarewicz says: "Then, there is something wrong with all theoretical models." There's a possibility to set your skin a-tingling.”

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Bar-Coded Condoms Track Where You Have Sex Because It's The Future

11:34:25 PM, Thursday, March 01, 2012

“Discovery News reports that Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has distributed 55,000 condoms around local colleges and universities that feature implanted QR codes, which track when and where people have sex. The reported data is then collected on a website called WhereDidYouWearIt.com.

It's sort of the Foursquare of sex: each condom has a barcode which the user can scan with their Smartphone to upload their location as well as general details of their sexual experience (anonymously). An unconventional way to promote public health? Yes. But it does sound kind of fun, right?

A rep for Planned Parenthood says of the check-in system: "Condoms are an essential tool in preventing unintended pregnancy and stopping the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV... We hope the site promotes discussions within relationships about condoms and helps to remove perceived stigmas that some people may have about condom use. Where Did You Wear It attempts to create some fun around making responsible decisions."

Too futuristic for you? Would you participate in the safe-sex check-in game?”

-- Um, awesome...? o.O

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Ancient Penguin Weighed 130 Pounds

11:09:45 PM, Thursday, March 01, 2012

“The tallest and heaviest ever known penguin stood nearly 5 feet tall and tipped the scales at around 130 pounds, according to a 27-million-year-old fossil found in New Zealand.

The penguin, Kairuku grebneffi lived in what is now New Zealand and likely speared fish and squid with its curved beak. In comparison, today's largest penguin is the Emperor penguin, which measures just over 3 feet tall and weighs approximately 85 pounds.

Yet another new big fossil penguin, Kairuku waitaki, was also recently discovered. It lived alongside K. grebneffi. The finds by an international team of researchers was described in the latest Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

"The Kairuku penguins were the last generation of so-called "giant penguins," the term indicating any fossil penguins that were much larger than the living largest Emperor penguin," co-author Tatsuro Ando of the Ashoro Museum of Paleontology in Japan told Discovery News.

Ando explained that these big flightless birds emerged around 50 million years ago and thrived for about 25 million years before dying out. It remains a mystery as to why they disappeared, "but probably the drastic change in paleoenvironment was the cause of their demise," he said.

The researchers, led by Daniel Ksepka of North Carolina State University, analyzed the near-complete fossils for the penguins, which were unearthed at New Zealand's Waitaki Region. This area was known as Zealandia during prehistoric times, and it was a veritable penguin paradise.

"For much of its history, New Zealand has been sitting in the middle of the Southern Ocean, the sea that circles Antarctica," co-author Ewan Fordyce of Otago University told Discovery News. "For millions of years, it has provided suitable land for rookeries (breeding grounds) and access to rich food resources in nearby seas."

To this day, New Zealand is a center of diversity for penguins. Out of the 17 existing species of penguin, six live and breed in New Zealand.

The two new fossil species, from a distance, would have looked like modern penguins, Fordyce said.

"Up close, however, it is clear that both species had relatively longer bills and a more slender body than in living species," he explained. "The wing was probably able to flex a little more."

Their long beaks would have enabled these penguins to spear prey, such as fish and squid. Sharks and shark-toothed dolphins, a type of prehistoric super strong dolphin with heavily toothed jaws, probably hunted the enormous penguins, which could have snapped back with their beaks.

The research team, which also included Craig Jones, mentioned that the oldest known penguin so far is Waimanu from New Zealand.

"It lived 55-60+ million years ago, not long after the extinction of dinosaurs," Fordyce said.

Ksepka said one theory holds that penguins lost their ability to fly after the Cretaceous mass extinction. DNA evidence indicates that the closest living relatives of penguins are tubenose seabirds, such as albatrosses and petrels. Since the latter can dive to significant depths, the scientists suspect that the first penguins could both fly and dive underwater.

Nicholas Pyenson, curator of Fossil Marine Mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, told Discovery News that the authors of the new paper "are spot on with their conclusions about the early evolution of penguins."

Stig Walsh, senior curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at National Museums Scotland, suspects that even taller penguins might be unearthed in the future but, for now, K. grebneffi is the height and weight champ.”

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New Twist in Antimatter Mystery

3:04:37 PM, Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“(www.bbc.co.uk) Physicists have taken a step forward in their efforts to understand why the Universe is dominated by matter, and not its shadowy opposite antimatter.

A US experiment has confirmed previous findings that hinted at new phenomena outside our understanding of physics.

The results show that certain matter particles decay differently from their antimatter counterparts.

Such differences could potentially help explain why there is so much more matter in the cosmos than antimatter.

The findings from scientists working on the CDF experiment have been presented at a particle physics meeting in La Thuile, Italy.

CDF was one of two multi-purpose experiments at the now-defunct Tevatron particle smasher in Illinois.

Physicists think the intense heat of the Big Bang should have forged equal amounts of matter and its "mirror image" antimatter. Yet today we live in a Universe composed overwhelmingly of matter.

Antimatter is relatively uncommon, being produced at particle accelerators, in nuclear reactions or by cosmic rays. Getting to the bottom of where all this antimatter went remains one of the great endeavours of particle physics.

The latest results support findings from the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, which were announced in November 2011.

Both CDF and LHCb have been looking at the process by which sub-atomic particles called D-mesons decay - or transform - into other ones. For example, D mesons are made up of particles known as charm quarks, and can decay into kaons and pions.

Our best understanding of physics so far, known as the Standard Model, suggests the complicated cascades of decay of D-mesons into other particles should be very nearly the same - within less than 0.1% - as a similar chain of antimatter decays.

But the LHCb team reported a difference of about 0.8%, and the team from CDF have now presented data showing a difference of 0.62%.

Getting such a similar measurement as LHCb was "a bit of a surprise", according to CDF's spokesperson Giovanni Punzi, because it is a "very unusual result".

He told BBC News: "That two separate experiments have found this using different methods - different environments - is very interesting."

Prof Punzi, from the University of Pisa and Italy's National Nuclear Physics Institute (INFN), said this was likely to "change the minds of many people about this being just one of those effects, to something that will be considered a confirmed observation - because of this independent result"…”

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Nature Spectacular - Massive Crab Migration in Cuba

1:35:15 AM, Wednesday, February 29, 2012
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New evidence suggests Stone Age hunters from Europe discovered America

1:18:51 AM, Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“(www.independent.co.uk) New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.

A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.

The new discoveries are among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for several decades - and are set to add substantially to our understanding of humanity's spread around the globe.

The similarity between other later east coast US and European Stone Age stone tool technologies has been noted before. But all the US European-style tools, unearthed before the discovery or dating of the recently found or dated US east coast sites, were from around 15,000 years ago - long after Stone Age Europeans (the Solutrean cultures of France and Iberia) had ceased making such artefacts. Most archaeologists had therefore rejected any possibility of a connection. But the newly-discovered and recently-dated early Maryland and other US east coast Stone Age tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago - and are therefore contemporary with the virtually identical western European material.

What’s more, chemical analysis carried out last year on a European-style stone knife found in Virginia back in 1971 revealed that it was made of French-originating flint.

Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, the two leading archaeologists who have analysed all the evidence, are proposing that Stone Age people from Western Europe migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age by travelling (over the ice surface and/or by boat) along the edge of the frozen northern part of the Atlantic. They are presenting their detailed evidence in a new book - Across Atlantic Ice – published this month.

At the peak of the Ice Age, around three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year.

However, the seasonally shifting zone where the ice ended and the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources – migrating seals, sea birds, fish and the now-extinct northern hemisphere penguin-like species, the great auk.

Stanford and Bradley have long argued that Stone Age humans were quite capable of making the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice - but till now there was comparatively little evidence to support their thinking.

But the new Maryland, Virginia and other US east coast material, and the chemical tests on the Virginian flint knife, have begun to transform the situation. Now archaeologists are starting to investigate half a dozen new sites in Tennessee, Maryland and even Texas – and these locations are expected to produce more evidence.

Another key argument for Stanford and Bradley’s proposal is the complete absence of any human activity in north-east Siberia and Alaska prior to around 15,500 years ago. If the Maryland and other east coast people of 26,000 to 19,000 years ago had come from Asia, not Europe, early material, dating from before 19,000 years ago, should have turned up in those two northern areas, but none have been found.

Although Solutrean Europeans may well have been the first Americans, they had a major disadvantage compared to the Asian-originating Indians who entered the New World via the Bering Straits or along the Aleutian Islands chain after 15,500 years ago…”

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Mass Effect 3 Games Launched, Descend from Space, Get Stuck in a Tree

2:28:23 PM, Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“Electronic Arts has taken video game marketing to scary new heights.

To commemorate the March 6th release of their highly-anticipated role-playing game Mass Effect 3, the company decided to launch a handful of advance copies into space. Literally. Like, they crammed them into weather balloons and shot 'em into the stratosphere.

The point? Each game contains a GPS tracking device; fans were told to follow those coordinates to find the games as they landed back on Earth. Locate a copy, and you've got a solid week with the game before it's in stores.

At least, that was the plan.

Mother Nature had her own plan, it seems. The first two copies sent into orbit, both launched from the San Francisco bay area, survived the insane round trip flight only to land in hard-to-reach spots a few hours away in Seaside, California. One copy wound up tucked away in a dense forest protected by overhead brambles and bushes while the other decided to hang out in the upper branches of a 150-foot tall tree.

A dozen or so diehard gamers spent two days trying to figure out how to get it down. Baseballs didn't work, nor did a slingshot. If ever we could use personal jetpacks, now is the time, science.But alas, science has officially failed us. According to a post on the Mass Effect Facebook page, the tree recovery attempt ended in vain due to safety concerns (and a distinct lack of jetpacks). From the post:

"It is unfortunate, but we have to require all participants halt further investigations due to legal and safety reasons. We are floored at the support, involvement, and contribution of the ME3 community in the last 48 hours, it has been nothing short of an amazing adventure."

Despite the rough start, the Mass Effect 3: Space Edition promotion seems to be faring much better in other cities. Packages launched in Las Vegas, New York and London have been recovered. Berlin is up next.

Update: EA has sent word that the first Seaside package -- the one trapped under fierce brambles -- has been found by a dedicated group of gamers, who hacked and slashed their way through the dense underbrush. The tree package, however, is still stuck in a tree.”

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Ice Speaking!: Video of Ice Creaking in Odessa, Ukraine

4:43:32 AM, Monday, February 27, 2012

-- Still better than most dubstep.

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Astronaut Builds LEGO Space Station Inside Real-Life Space Station

12:04:19 AM, Monday, February 27, 2012

“It took more than 200 astronauts from 12 countries more than a dozen years to build the International Space Station (ISS). Satoshi Furukawa, an astronaut from Japan, matched that feat in just about two hours — and he did it all while aboard the orbiting outpost itself.

It helped that his space station was made out of LEGO.

"It was a great opportunity for me to have built the LEGO space station," Furukawa, a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) flight engineer, told collectSPACE.com in an interview after he returned to Earth. "I enjoyed building it."

"The ISS was put together in space, piece by piece," said Furukawa. "It's very similar to how you put together LEGO bricks on Earth."

The approximately two-foot (0.6-meter) long model, which replicated the nearly 360-foot (110-meter) space station was more than just a toy. Accompanied by other building brick sets that were launched last year, the LEGO space station was part of an educational collaboration between the Danish toy company and NASA.

After piecing together the toy brick-built station, Furukawa used it as a demonstration for a series of recorded videos aimed at engaging and educating children about living and working in space.

"Kids like LEGO and when they see LEGO floating in space, I'm sure they are excited," Furukawa said. "Well, I hope this experience inspires them to make greater efforts to study science and technology."

Not that the activity was all work and no play.

"He really enjoyed doing that and he kind of became 'the LEGO guy,'" NASA astronaut Michael Fossum said of his crewmate. Fossum was in command of the real station when Furukawa built the LEGO version.

Although building the LEGO space station was an activity aimed at students, it was not all child's play.

"There was actually some learning curve to that, believe it or not," Fossum told collectSPACE.com during a post-mission interview. "LEGOs are an example of something that is a lot of fun on the ground but it can be very frustrating when you have a lot of loose floating pieces."

To keep the bricks contained and to protect against some potentially serious dangers, Furukawa pieced together the model inside a glovebox — a sealed container with gloves built into its sides to allow the contents to be manipulated. Station crew members use a more complex glovebox to conduct science experiments with hazardous materials.

"A lot of the work dealing with the small pieces had to be done in an enclosure, like a simple payload glovebox," Fossum said. "A simple structural one with plastic sides so you could see inside, but a glovebox so you don't have all of these little pieces getting loose and becoming either lost or potentially getting jammed in equipment or even becoming a flammability hazard."

Fire is usually not one of the warnings that people find on the side of LEGO boxes.

"It's a little hard to comprehend, but there are flammability concerns about the LEGOs," Fossum said.

For Furukawa, he had his hands full just working with the enclosure without having to worry about it combusting.

"The challenging part was using the thick rubber gloves in the containment system because it made me clumsy in building the LEGO space station," he said. "I needed to use the system to put many small pieces of LEGO under control in microgravity."

Assembly complete

The real space station was declared "assembly complete" on May 29, 2011, during the penultimate mission of the space shuttle program. The same mission delivered the LEGO space station.

Furukawa, making his first spaceflight, arrived aboard the station a week later. Using a step-by-step building guide, he completed assembly of the LEGO station on Sept. 27.

Made up of hundreds of bricks, the model was launched in partially-preassembled "chunks" to help make up for the difficulties working with very small pieces in microgravity. The space station could not be launched fully-assembled, because like the real orbiting outpost, it could only be built in space.

"It's a solid model but I believe it can't bear its own weight under gravity," Furukawa said.

The LEGO station's time fully assembled was short lived however. Due to the flammability hazards, the toy bricks could only be exposed to the open cabin air for two hours.

Just like parents telling their kids to put away their toys when they are done playing, Mission Control instructed Furukawa to take the model apart and stow it after his educational videos were recorded.

"Per the ground's instruction, I needed to put it away," Furukawa said. "It is stowed in a drawer in the [European Space Agency's] Columbus module right now."

In addition to the ISS, Furukawa also built LEGO models of lunar exploration and Mars rovers, the Hubble Space Telescope and a communications and global positioning (GPS) satellite. He also constructed tools to demonstrate science principles, including a balance and fishing rod.”

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Playboy and Virgin Galactic Dream Up Cosmic Men's Space Club

12:05:34 AM, Saturday, February 25, 2012

“Playboy is about to launch into the final frontier, at least in its imagination.

The iconic adult-magazine company has dreamed up a vision of a Playboy Club in space — a sprawling sci-fi-inspired depiction of fun and games on a huge private space station – in conjunction with the space tourism company Virgin Galactic. The results appear in the March issue of Playboy magazine on newsstands now.

A zero-gravity dance club, a casino featuring "human roulette" and a restaurant for fine dining are just some of the amenities envisioned by artist Thomas Tenery and released by Playboy Tuesday (Feb. 22). The magazine worked with several futurists and scientists, including Virgin Galactic head designer Adam Wells, to illustrate the potential space Playboy Club.

"As Virgin Galactic gets closer to becoming the world's first commercial space line, Playboy is eagerly pondering the creation of the ultimate intergalactic entertainment destination," Playboy editorial director Jimmy Jellinek said in a statement. "This heaven-in-the-heavens will exceed starry-eyed travelers' wildest dreams, and guests will truly experience a party that's out of this world."

Founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is a private space company seeking to become the world's first passenger spaceliner service. The company has built the first commercial suborbital spacecraft, called SpaceShipTwo, and is selling tickets for flights at $200,000 per seat.

The first rocket-powered test flights of SpaceShipTwo are expected later this year. The air-launched spacecraft has already performed a series of unpowered drop tests and captive-carry flights with its massive mothership, the WhiteKnightTwo.

Playboy's clubs were launched by magazine founder Hugh Hefner in the 1960s. But every Playboy Club has the same limitation: It's stuck on Earth.

"The Playboy Club in space will be on a station in orbit, like a cruise ship," Playboy writers A.J. Baime and Jason Harper explain in a description. "Orbiting Earth is one idea, but it could also travel around other celestial bodies."

Tenery's paintings suggest the club could be built on a vast wheel-shaped space station that would spin to create a sort of artificial gravity. Unmanned cargo ships could be shot up to the space station to keep the club stocked with supplies.

"You could literally swing around the dark side of the moon," Wells told Playboy.

A big selling point would be the restaurant, which would be built into the spinning section so diners (and their food) wouldn't float off their seats and tables, explained Baime and Harper, who also sought input from futurist Thomas Frey of the Davini Institute think tank, and former NASA scientist Stan Kent.

A plethora of windows (Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rockets ships are covered with viewports) would also give diners the atmosphere – pun intended – of flying in space. In Tenery's depictions, the space game room would include a roulette system in which you are the ball, as well as zero-gravity bungee jumping and the obligatory space bar.

There would be no windows in the zero-gravity dance club, but there would be drinks, served by Playboy bunnies wearing jetpacks. And there would be exterior windows in the private "orbital pleasure dome," so clubgoers could gaze down at Earth during romantic interludes including, you guessed it, sex in space, the writers added.

"The entire Kama Sutra will have to be reimagined according to the rules of zero-gravity physics," Baime and Harper wrote.”

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