North Sea Oil Spill: Shell Struggles To Shut Down Second Leak

4:22:54 PM, Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"LONDON -- Royal Dutch Shell struggled to contain the worst North Sea oil spill in a decade as well as damage to its credibility Tuesday as a second leak was found in an oil line the company had said was "under control."

Although the amount of oil involved in the Shell spill off the coast of Scotland is an order of magnitude smaller than BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster – around 1,300 barrels so far compared to an estimated 4.9 million in the Gulf – the spill undercuts Shell's earlier suggestions that it is a safer company than BP.

The Gannet Alpha oil rig, 112 miles (180 kilometers) east of the Scottish city of Aberdeen, is operated by Shell and co-owned by Shell and Esso, a subsidiary of the U.S. oil firm Exxon Mobil. Shell first told U.K. authorities about a leak in a flow line at the rig on Wednesday.

Shell shut down the main leak by closing the well and isolating the reservoir, said Glen Cayley, technical director of Shell's European exploration and production activities. However, he acknowledged that a second, smaller leak at the rig has proved more elusive to control.

"It has proved difficult to find the exact source of the leak because we are dealing with a complex subsea infrastructure and the leak seems to be coming from an awkward place surrounded by marine growth," he said late Tuesday.

"We face a number of technical challenges to ensure that there is no further release of hydrocarbons to the sea, so we are working on this methodically and carefully."

He said the secondary spill is now pumping less than one barrel – or 42 gallons – into the cold water each day..."

-- A bit late, as I sad I'm cleaning up all the tabs I've had open for awhile and since this got 0 media coverage I'm posting anyway.

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The Cleverlys Perform Bluegrass Cover of Super Mario Bros. Theme

11:01:45 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011
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Copenhagen Apartment Complex Built Around Two Unused Seed Silos

7:23:07 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011

"..Copenhagen and its environs are now home to works by major architects like Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel, but no new building has captured the city's imagination quite like the 2005 Gemini Residence by the Rotterdam firm MVRDV. Located on Islands Brygge—or the Iceland Quay, the first neighborhood on Amager as you leave the city's historical center—the waterfront apartment building is a refurbishment of two mid-20th-century seed silos. The firm had the idea to build glass-enclosed apartments around the silos, instead of inside them, and in doing so they produced a kind of monumental, fantastical greenhouse, which has become a symbol of the reinvented city.

The Gemini Residence may be an icon, but it is also a condominium complex, where hundreds of people need to domesticate the building's unusual characteristics. Eight floors of apartments wrap around the concrete silos, creating rounded walls that resist everything from hung paintings to conventional furniture. And the apartments themselves are wrapped in terraces, flooding, even overwhelming, rather narrow living spaces with light..."

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Age-Related Brain Shrinking Is Unique To Humans

3:27:17 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011

"The brains of our closest relatives, unlike our own, do not shrink with age.

The findings suggest that humans are more vulnerable than chimpanzees to age-related diseases because we live relatively longer.

Our longer lifespan is probably an adaptation to having bigger brains, the team suggests in their Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper.

Old age, the results indicate, has evolved to help meet the demands of raising smarter babies.

As we age, our brains get lighter. By 80, the average human brain has lost 15% of its original weight.

People suffering with age-related dementias, such as Alzheimer's, experience even more shrinkage.

This weight loss is associated with a decline in the delicate finger-like structures of neurons, and in the connections between them.

Alongside this slow decline in its fabric, the brain's ability to process thoughts and memories and signal to the rest of the body seems to diminish.

Researchers know that certain areas of the brain seem to fare worse; the cerebral cortex, which is involved in higher order thinking, experiences more shrinkage than the cerebellum, which is in charge of motor control..."

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Black Hole Drinks 140 Trillion Earths' Worth of Water

2:21:59 PM, Monday, August 22, 2011

"We don't think of the universe as a terribly wet place, but in fact there's water out in space pretty much everywhere you look. A few billion years ago, Mars was awash in the stuff, with rivers scouring twisted channels en route to ancient seas. The solar system from Jupiter outward would be an interplanetary water park if most of the H2O out there weren't frozen. Saturn's rings are made mostly of trillions of chunks of ice. The comets are mostly ice. So is Pluto. Jupiter's moon Europa has a thick shell of ice surrounding a salty ocean, kept warm by the little world's internal heat. Saturn's moon Eceladus spews subsurface water into space in titanic geysers that form a ring of vapor that surrounds Saturn. Uranus and Neptune are known to planetary scientists simply as "ice giants."

And it doesn't stop in our solar system. Water — solid, liquid or vaporous — has been turning up for years, all over the cosmos. So it takes a pretty impressive discovery to put space water in the headlines. But impressive may be an understatement for what two international teams of astronomers have turned up. Peering out to the very edges of the visible universe, both groups have detected a cloud of water vapor, weighing in at a mind-bending 140 trillion times the mass of the world's oceans, swirling around a giant black hole 20 billion times the mass of the sun.

To be precise, the water vapor is mixed with dust and other gases, including carbon monoxide, forming a cloud hundreds of light-years across. (The star closest to Earth, Proxima Centauri, is less than four light-years away.) The cloud is so enormous that while it's incredibly massive, it's also vanishingly sparse: the thinnest morning fog is hundreds of trillions of times as dense.

Most surprising of all, perhaps, is that finding such an immense reservoir of water lurking in the cosmos just 1.6 billion years or so after the Big Bang makes perfect sense. Hydrogen has always been the most common element in the universe. Oxygen is less common, but there's still plenty of it, and the two love to combine whenever they get the chance. And in fact, earlier observations had turned up water from only about a billion years later in the life of the cosmos. Earthly astronomers have previously used water vapor swirling around a black hole to try to understand the mysterious dark energy that pervades the cosmos..."

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'Bullet-Proof Skin', Made With Spider Silk And Goat's Milk, Created By Scientists

11:39:17 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Imagine having a gun fired at you, the bullet whizzing toward you at a super-fast speed. But instead of the bullet piercing your skin and traveling deep inside your body, what if it instead repelled off your skin?

What sounds like a scenario straight out of a superhero movie or a sci-fi novel could eventually become reality. Scientists have created a skin made with goat's milk packed with spider-silk proteins, according to news reports. Their hope is that they can eventually replace the keratin in human skin -- which makes it tough -- with the spider-silk proteins.

To make the bullet-proof material, Dutch scientists first engineered goats to produce milk that contains proteins from extra-strong spider silk. Then, using the milk from the goats, they spun a bullet-proof material; a layer of real human skin is then grown around that skin, a process that takes five weeks, the Daily Mail reported.

"Science-fiction? Maybe, but we can get a feeling of what this transhumanistic idea would be like by letting a bulletproof matrix of spidersilk merge with an in vitro human skin," researcher Jalila Essaidi told the Daily Mail..."

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Woman Takes Off Her Pants While Riding The Subway

9:58:27 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

-- And this is exactly why I prefer to stand and not touch anything at all @ subway...

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Darkest Planet Found: Coal-Black, It Reflects Almost No Light

9:15:51 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

"It may be hard to imagine a planet blacker than coal, but that's what astronomers say they've discovered in our home galaxy with NASA's Kepler space telescope.

Orbiting only about three million miles out from its star, the Jupiter-size gas giant planet, dubbed TrES-2b, is heated to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (980 degrees Celsius). Yet the apparently inky world appears to reflect almost none of the starlight that shines on it, according to a new study.

"Being less reflective than coal or even the blackest acrylic paint—this makes it by far the darkest planet ever discovered," lead study author David Kipping said.

"If we could see it up close it would look like a near-black ball of gas, with a slight glowing red tinge to it—a true exotic amongst exoplanets," added Kipping, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

NASA's Planet Detector

The Earth-orbiting Kepler spacecraft was specifically designed to find planets outside our solar system. But at such distances—TrES-2b, for instance, is 750 light-years from us—it's not as simple as snapping pictures of alien worlds.

Instead, Kepler—using light sensors called photometers that continuously monitor tens of thousands of stars—looks for the regular dimming of stars.

Such dips in stellar brightness may indicate that a planet is transiting, or passing in front of a star, relative to Earth, blocking some of the star's light—in the case of the coal-black planet, blocking surprisingly little of that light..."

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Astronaut Photographs Perseid Meteor... From Space

8:54:03 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Seeing regular updates from the International Space Station (ISS) is a special joy of mine, especially since the shuttle fleet was retired last month. As poignantly noted by Irene in "Atlantis' Final Reentry Seen From Space," although the shuttle is gone, the U.S. presence on the ISS certainly is not.

So, in a stunning photograph taken by NASA astronaut Ron Garan through a space station window, a single Perseid meteor was captured as the piece of comet dust slammed into the Earth's atmosphere.

"What a 'Shooting Star' looks like #FromSpace Taken yesterday during Perseids Meteor Shower..." Garan tweeted from his Twitter account on Sunday. Garan is approaching the end of his six-month stay aboard the orbital outpost after he was launched as part of the Expedition 27 crew in April.

Interestingly, Garan's meteor doesn't look much different from a meteor you would see from the ground, but there is a key difference: this meteor is falling away from the observer (Garan); whereas for us terrestrial folk, meteors fall toward us.

It must have been a magical sight; one that is likely often seen from orbit, but rarely captured in a photograph."

-- That's not scary at all... While sitting in a little tin can that is ISS!

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Dessa - Alibi

8:29:38 PM, Sunday, August 21, 2011

-- I'm back! I haven't had the chance to post the last few days, so whatever I post next might be a bit out of date. Sorry and I hope you check back soon!

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Fine, I'm Still Gonna Marry You!

1:21:23 PM, Tuesday, August 16, 2011
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Mazda to Drop Wankel Rotary Combustion Engine?

1:54:57 AM, Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Rumour has it that the proponent of the Wankel rotary combustion engine, Mazda, may be planning to drop the tech it first adopted nearly five decades ago. The next-gen Renesis rotary has been in development since 2007, but economic hardship is ever slowly pushing the Japanese automaker towards ending things on that front.

According to reports, there’s a huge, ongoing discussion within the company on whether it should continue pursuing movement on the Wankel front. So says the automaker’s executive officer of product planning and powertrain development, Kiyoshi Fujiwara.

Fujiwara states that the development of the rotary has been halted at the moment, and not just because of technical issues – three major problems were identified with the current rotary engine generation, though two of these three blocks have been overcome. Seemingly, with the need to cut costs, Mazda leadership is cutting back on programs, and the one with the engine happens to be on the list..."

-- Not dedicated cult-like lover of the Wankel engine or anything, but it's always sad to see a technology that still has huge potential to grow getting scrapped and replaced with the mainstream option, especially when that technology is something as legendary as the Wankel Rotary. Hopefully this remains a rumor.

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HCG 7: Crowded, But Suspiciously Quiet?

1:44:35 AM, Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has imaged part of the Hickson Compact Group 7, or HCG 7 for short. This grouping is composed of one lenticular (lens-shaped) and three spiral galaxies in close proximity. In this image, one of the spirals dominates the foreground, with many more distant galaxies peppering the background. Observing tightly-knit galaxy groups like HCG 7 is important because they evolve in a different way from their more spaced-out counterparts in less crowded regions of the Universe.

A recent study using Hubble data analysed the star clusters in HCG 7. Three hundred young clusters and 150 globular clusters were charted, and their ages and distributions measured. The results suggest that the rate of star formation has been fairly steady through time, although quite high in the central regions. Additional studies, including searches for material between the galaxies, hint that the stars in the HCG 7 galaxies formed by converting their gas without any gravitational influences caused by merging with other galaxies. This is puzzling, as the galaxies are depleting their supplies of gas at a rate that suggests that they have merged in the past.

This raises the question of whether the group really has evolved serenely, or if there are mysterious processes at work that are yet to be understood. The currently known information is contradictory and an encouragement for further studies to discover the real story behind HCG 7..."

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Shakira - Loca (Spanish Version) ft. El Cata

1:10:51 AM, Tuesday, August 16, 2011
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Astronomy Picture of the Day: Millions of Stars in Omega Centauri

11:05:20 PM, Monday, August 15, 2011

-- "Featured in this sharp telescopic image, globular star cluster Omega Centauri (NGC 5139) is some 15,000 light-years away. Some 150 light-years in diameter, the cluster is packed with about 10 million stars much older than the Sun. Omega Cen is the largest of 200 or so known globular clusters that roam the halo of our Milky Way galaxy. Though most star clusters consist of stars with the same age and composition, the enigmatic Omega Cen exhibits the presence of different stellar populations with a spread of ages and chemical abundances. In fact, Omega Cen may be the remnant core of a small galaxy merging with the Milky Way. "

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