Astronomy Picture of the Day: NGC 253 Close Up

3:44:59 PM, Thursday, July 21, 2011

-- "This dusty island universe is one of the brightest spiral galaxies in planet Earth's sky. Seen nearly edge-on, NGC 253 is only 13 million light-years away, the largest member of the Sculptor Group of galaxies, neighbor to our own local galaxy group. The detailed close-up view is a five frame mosaic based on data assembled from the Hubble Legacy Archive. Beginning on the left near the galaxy's core, the sharp panorama follows dusty filaments, interstellar gas clouds, and even individual stars toward the galaxy's edge at the right. The magnificent vista spans nearly 50,000 light-years. The frame at the far right has been compressed slightly to bring into view an intriguing pair of background galaxies. Designated a starburst galaxy because of its frantic star forming activity, NGC 253 features tendrils of dust rising from a galactic disk laced with young star clusters and star forming regions. NGC 253 is also known to be a strong source of high-energy x-rays and gamma rays, likely due to massive black holes near the galaxy's center."

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Two Door Cinema Club - Eat That Up, It's Good For You

3:10:10 PM, Thursday, July 21, 2011

Two Door Cinema Club - Eat That Up, It's Good For You from Kevin Lin on Vimeo.

-- An Unofficial Music Video by Kevin Lin.

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Leopard Terrorizes An Indian Village

2:06:59 PM, Thursday, July 21, 2011

"A leopard snuck into a a village in India yesterday and mauled 11 people before being killed. Looking at the terrifying pictures makes us feel pretty stupid for complaining about subway construction.

The showdown between the leopard and forest guards happened in a village in West Bengal, India. Villagers attacked the cat with stones and knives, while guards tried driving the cat into a nearby wildlife sanctuary, according to the AP. Eventually the leopard was tranquilized, but it later died of its injuries at a veterinary hospital.

Check out the pictures snapped during the battle. We haven't bothered to caption them, but you can just imagine everyone screaming "HOLY CRAP, IT'S A LEOPARD!" in the local dialect..."

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Man Tries to Kill Mom With Kamikaze Flight Into House

9:11:54 PM, Wednesday, July 20, 2011

""Are you home mum? I'm just about to drop in."

Those words Konrad Schmidt said over the phone to his mother, Rosemary Schmidt, Sunday were possibly the last ones he ever said. He was calling from the cockpit of a twin-engine small airplane, which he flew into the window of her first-floor bedroom, killing himself, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported.

Rosemary Schmidt survived what police characterized as an attack on the house in Oberhallau, Switzerland. Konrad Schmidt, a qualified pilot, had been feuding with his mother for a long time after his parents' marriage ended, which was followed by his father's death from cancer, the police told The Telegraph.

Konrad Schmidt suffered from depression and also had financial problems, the police said.

The mother's neighbors told the Swiss newspaper Blick that the 47-year-old man flew past the house three times as though he was practicing for his final descent, The Telegraph reported..."

-- Flawless plan and execution. NOT! Haha... Still, love his last words.

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Japanese Seafood Bowl Featuring Live 'Dancing' Squid

8:06:12 PM, Wednesday, July 20, 2011

-- Well that's just sad...

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The Shuttle's Successors

4:44:50 PM, Wednesday, July 20, 2011

After three decades, the shuttle era is all but over and the United States no longer has the means to send astronauts into space. Nasa is looking to the private sector to provide a new generation of space vehicles to take on the work of delivering crew and cargo to the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. We detail five of the possible successors to the shuttle.

-- Spacecraft shown in approximate proportion to the space shuttle. Picture credits: Boeing, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corp, Nasa and Blue Origin.

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New Goblin Spiders Sure Can Spin

2:20:37 PM, Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"This posterior lateral spinneret, a silk-spinning organ of a spider, features frond-like setae and whorls of exoskeleton. It belongs to a female Stenoops peckorum, a newly discovered species of goblin spider from southern Florida.

This species was among 17 new species of goblin spider discovered in 2010 by Norman Platnick, curator emeritus in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History.

Despite their fearsome name, goblin spiders are tiny. They tend to be less than 2 millimeters in length. The spinneret pictured above is approximately 30 micrometers across, roughly the diameter of a thin strand of hair.

The five protrusions at the center of the spinneret are spigots that produce a single type of spider silk. The silk, sometimes in combination with silk from other spinnerets, can be used in any number of ways, including reproduction or navigation, but not for a conventional prey-trapping spider web.

"All spiders do make silk, they just don't always use it to catch food," said Platnick. Instead, goblin spiders hunt down and devour whatever small insects they can catch.

Platnick's discovery opens the door for future research on goblin spiders. "Most aspects of their biology have not been explored at all," said Platnick..."

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Opportunity Rover Tops 20 Miles of Mars Driving

12:28:45 PM, Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"More than seven years into what was planned as a three-month mission on Mars, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has driven more than 20 miles, which is more than 50 times the mission's original distance goal.

A drive of 407 feet (124 meters) completed on July 17 took Opportunity past the 20-mile mark (32.2 kilometers). It brought the rover to within a few drives of reaching the rim of Endeavour crater, the rover's team's long-term destination since mid-2008. Endeavour is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter, and its western rim exposes outcrops that record information older than any Opportunity has examined so far. The rover is now about eight-tenths of a mile (about 1.3 kilometers) from the site chosen for arriving at the rim.

"The numbers aren't really as important as the fact that driving so much farther than expected during this mission has put a series of exciting destinations within Opportunity's reach," said Alfonso Herrera, a rover mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. who has worked on the rover missions since before launch in 2003.

The latest drive included an autonomous hazard detection portion during which the rover paused at intervals to check for obstacles before proceeding..."

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'Asexual' Ants May Be Having Sex After All

10:44:21 PM, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Even ants can't completely swear off sex. A new survey of a Latin American species famed for being one of the world's few asexual ants has uncovered a surprising find: secret nooky. And that could explain why the insect has managed to survive for so long.

The species in question, Mycocepurus smithii, is a fungus-harvesting ant that, like a farmer, sows fungi for food. Researchers didn't suspect anything unusual about it until a 2005 study reported that colonies of M. smithii in Puerto Rico seemed to be missing something important: males. Two 2009 studies discovered similar societies made up entirely of female workers and one or more queens. These matriarchs were reproductively mature, but their spermatheca, chambers that store sperm postmating, remained bone dry, says Christian Rabeling, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University and a co-author of one of the 2009 studies. "When I did the first dissections, ... I suspected that I made a mistake," he says.

Rabeling's surprise was understandable. With males a no-show, queens would have to reproduce asexually, somehow turning eggs into larvae without fertilization from sperm. Of the more than 10,000 known species of ants, researchers have identified only a handful that could boast similar skills. And most of those seemed to mix sexual and asexual reproduction.

Celibate animal species are rare for a reason, Rabeling says. Because asexual populations can't mix and match genes through mating, they often lack the genetic diversity to respond to unexpected challenges like disease.

In the new study, Rabeling and his colleagues looked wider, sampling genetic patterns in 234 M. smithii colonies from 39 different populations throughout Latin America. Like the Puerto Rico colonies, most of these ants lived like nuns in a convent. In 35 of the populations, every ant appeared to be an identical clone of its mother..."

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Russia Launches Long-Delayed Deep Space Radio Telescope

10:30:26 PM, Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Russia's long-delayed Spektr-R radio telescope successfully launched July 18 aboard a Zenit rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the country's Federal Space Agency said.

There was no immediate word on the operational status of the new radio observatory beyond the fact that it was placed into the planned elliptical orbit that peaks nearly 207,000 miles (330,000 kilometers) above the Earth, and reaches a low of about 621 miles (1,000 km).

Featuring a giant 30-foot (10-meter) wide antenna, the Spektr-R observatory is part of the international Radioastron astronomy project. Featuring a giant 30-foot (10-meter) wide antenna, the Spektr-R observatory is part of the international Radioastron astronomy project.

"The aim of the mission is to use the space telescope to conduct interferometer observations in conjunction with the global ground radio telescope network in order to obtain images, coordinates, motions and evolution of angular structure of different radio emitting objects in the universe," Federal Space Agency officials said in a statement. "Scientists also expect to obtain more information about pulsars and interstellar plasma, black holes and neutron stars in the Milky Way."

Scientists from more than 20 nations, including the United States, are participating in the project, either through contributions of on-board hardware or access to the terrestrial antennas that, working with Spektr-R, will permit interferometry measurements during the observatory's planned five years of operations..."

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Hidden Under Black Netting in the Remote Mexican Desert - the Largest Ever Marijuana Plantation

1:26:39 PM, Monday, July 18, 2011

"Mexican soldiers discovered the largest marijuana plantation in the country's history, hidden under black cloth in the middle of the desert.

The 300-acre plantation is four times larger than the previous record discovery by authorities and workers had even installed toilet facilities, the Defence Department said.

The towering pot plants sheltered under black screen-cloth in a huge square on the floor of the Baja California desert, more than 150 miles south of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego.

It was only when soldiers on the ground reached the isolated area on Tuesday that they found thousands of pot plants as high as 2.5 meter tall.The average height of the plants was about 1.5 yards (meters).

'We estimate that in this area, approximately 60 people were working. When they saw the military personnel, they fled,' Gen Duarte told reporters.

A few were later reportedly detained at a nearby roadblock, but he added no arrests were made at the scene.

He said traffickers could have harvested about 120 tons of marijuana from the plantation, worth about 1.8 billion pesos or about $160 million..."

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Mounting Trash Emergency Literally Encircles Beijing

1:22:17 PM, Monday, July 18, 2011

"The Chinese mega-city has grown so fast that it has built seven peripheral roads, but has also become surrounded by rings of garbage dumps. A journey to the depths of Beijing's sprawling, unregulated trash dumps.

China's capital has grown so huge that it now has seven peripheral roads. It is also becoming encircled by garbage. This is both a metaphor and serious dilemma.

Wang Jiuliang, a photographer, was the first to expose the little-known Seventh Ring Zone garbage dumps in his documentary video and photos called “Besieged by Garbage.” Wang illustrates the scope by marking these 400 sites in yellow on a Google map, which form a dense ring, effectively encircling Beijing. The image is shocking, of a city besieged.

Wang Jiuliang has visited all 400 refuse heaps. “When you walk around these landfills, you can hear the sound of money flowing everywhere. Behind each dumping site lies interests.” he says, in a voice still charged with emotion.

I went to one of these dumping grounds near Xiaozhangwan village, three kilometers south of the Beijing’s Sixth Ring Road. Some scavengers were classifying the garbage by picking out cloth, metal, and plastic, and then putting the remnants into a more distant pit.

According to villagers, the pit with an area of about 300 acres was formerly a sandpit around 6 to 7 meters deep. It has been contracted to certain individuals since 2009, and is now almost completely full. A thin layer of earth covers the pit. Above it are lines of shanties for those who work on the site..."

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Eye Witness to History: Building the Brooklyn Bridge, 1871

1:18:36 PM, Monday, July 18, 2011

"The cold, bitter winter of 1866-67 reminded the citizens of Brooklyn why they so desperately wanted a bridge constructed over the East River to connect them with New York City. Once again, the East River was frozen, leaving them no easy way to get to the city to either work or play. It took less time; it was said, to go from the state capital of Albany to New York City by train than to go from Brooklyn to New York City by carriage when the river was frozen. This time, the political leaders of Brooklyn determined, the dream would not be denied.

The dream was realized only after the support of New York City's political boss, William Tweed, was assured with an ample financial payoff. Nothing like it had ever been tried on such a large scale. It would be the longest suspension bridge in the world - stretching over a mile from end to end. It would include an elevated pedestrian promenade and two twin towers that would dwarf everything in the surrounding skyline.

The bridge's designer, John Roebling, died in a freak accident as he was surveying the location of the bridge's Brooklyn tower in 1869 and the task of turning his design into reality fell to his son, Washington.

The first objective was to securely anchor the bridge's two towers on the solid bedrock found under the layers of mud below the East River. A huge wooden caisson, resembling a giant box, was assembled on land, towed to the site of the Brooklyn-side tower and sunk. Compressed air was pumped into the chamber to prevent the surrounding water from leaking in. The caisson's false floor was then ripped out allowing workers to dig up the river bottom. ..."

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Dumb Voters Most Influenced by Candidate’s Looks

1:14:28 PM, Monday, July 18, 2011

"The looks of political candidates are a key factor influencing voters, a phenomenon identified by a number of scholars in recent years. Now, a new study by MIT political scientists adds to this body of research by detailing which types of citizens are most influenced by candidate appearances, and why: The tendency is most prevalent among low-information voters who watch a lot of television.

Using data from the 2006 U.S. Senate and governors’ races, the study shows that for every 10-point increase in the advantage a candidate has when rated by voters on his or her looks, there will be a nearly 5 percent increase in the vote for that candidate by the uninformed voters who are most firmly planted on their couches. Yet that same advantage in looks is worth only about a 1 percent increase among low-information voters who watch little television.

“It’s not that this effect influences all voters exactly the same way,” says Chappell Lawson, an associate professor of political science at MIT and a co-author of the study. “Voters who watch a lot of television but don’t really know much about the candidates, besides how they look, are particularly susceptible.”

Lawson and Gabriel Lenz, also an associate professor of political science at MIT, detail the results in a new paper, “Looking the Part: Television Leads Less Informed Citizens to Vote Based on Candidates’ Appearance,” published this month in the American Journal of Political Science..."

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U.S. Spacecraft Enters Orbit of Giant Asteroid Vesta

11:46:04 AM, Sunday, July 17, 2011

"The US spacecraft Dawn has entered the orbit of Vesta, one of the largest asteroids in the solar system, the US space agency announced early Sunday.

Dawn is expected to come within 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) of Vesta to study its surface while traveling 116 million miles (188 million kilometers) from Earth.

"It has taken nearly four years to get to this point," said Robert Mase, manager of the $466 million project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

After a year of observations and measurements around Vesta, Dawn will depart for its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012. It will be the first craft to orbit two solar system destinations beyond Earth, said NASA officials.

The foremost objective of Dawn's eight-year mission is to compare and contrast the two giant bodies, which NASA says will help scientists "unlock the secrets of our solar system's early history."

"Dawn's science instrument suite will measure surface composition, topography and texture. In addition, the Dawn spacecraft will measure the tug of gravity from Vesta and Ceres to learn more about their internal structures," NASA said in a press release..."

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