Deep Below Park Avenue, a Monster at Rest

3:13:39 PM, Monday, July 25, 2011

"Rome has the catacombs; Paris has its sewers. Now New York will have its own subterranean wonder: a 200-ton mechanical serpent’s head.

It is a gargantuan drill that has been hollowing out tunnels for a train station under Grand Central Terminal. As tall as four men and with the weight of two whales, the so-called cutter head — the spinning, sharp-edged business end of a tunnel boring machine — is usually extracted, dismantled and sold for scrap when the work is done.

But the Spanish contractor overseeing the project is taking a different approach. It believes it can save time and money by simply leaving it behind, dormant and decayed, within the rocky depths of Midtown Manhattan. The drill’s final resting place: 14 stories beneath the well-tended sidewalks of Park Avenue.

There is little precedent for such a Brobdingnagian burial. No one at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which plans to officially entomb the machine sometime this week, can recall such an interment. “It’s like a Jules Verne story,” Michael Horodniceanu, the authority’s chief of construction, said.

A recent visit to the cutter’s future crypt revealed a machine that evokes an alien life form that crashed to earth a millennia ago. Its steel gears, bolts and pistons, already oxidizing, appeared lifeless and fatigued. A wormlike fan, its exhaust pipe disappearing into the cutter’s maw, was still spinning, its drone not unlike a slumbering creature’s breath..."

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DJ Fresh - Gold Dust (Flux Pavilion Remix)

2:38:17 PM, Monday, July 25, 2011
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Why Dolphins Wear Sponges

11:56:51 PM, Sunday, July 24, 2011

"In 1984, researchers spotted dolphins doing something unusual in Shark Bay, Western Australia. When the animals got hungry, they ripped a marine basket sponge from the sea floor and fitted it over their beaks like a person would fit a glove over a hand. The scientists suspected that as the dolphins foraged for fish, the sponges protected their beaks, or rostra, from the rocks and broken chunks of coral that litter the sea floor, making this behavior the first example of tool use in this species.

But why do dolphins go to all of this trouble when they could simply snag a fish from the open sea?

The answer, researchers hypothesize and report online today in PLoS ONE, is that the bottom-dwelling fish are a lot more nutritious. Some species also don't have swim bladders, gas chambers that help other fish control their buoyancy as they travel up and down the water column. In the Bahamas, where dolphins are also known to forage for bottom-dwelling fish, dolphins hunt partly by echolocating these bladders, which give off a strong acoustic signal. That helps the cetaceans find prey even when it's buried in sea sand.

But bottom-dwelling fish, such as barred sandperch, which are favored by some Shark Bay dolphins, don't have swim bladders and so are harder to find with echolocation. The sea floor is not nearly as soft here as it is in the Bahamas, so if dolphins want to probe for these fish, they risk injuring their rostra..."

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Pure Nanotubes by the Kilo

7:27:37 PM, Sunday, July 24, 2011

"An improved process for making large amounts of pure metallic carbon nanotubes could hold the key to overhauling the electrical power grid with more efficient transmission lines.

Researchers at Rice University plan to generate a large quantity of this material by the end of summer. They'll use these nanotubes to make long and highly conductive fibers that could be woven into more efficient electrical transmission lines.

There are a few different classes of carbon nanotube, each with slightly different properties and different potential uses. Unfortunately, existing production methods result in a mixture of different nanotubes, with varying dimensions and wildly different electrical properties. Purely semiconducting nanotubes, useful for future integrated circuits, are in the mix with metallic nanotubes that could be used to make highly conductive wires. So nanotubes have to be separated by type, a slow and expensive process, says Andrew Barron, professor of chemistry and materials science at Rice.

"There is a subset of nanotubes that are the best conducting materials to be found, that don't lose any energy to heat," says Barron..."

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Weed, Booze, Cocaine and Other Old School 'Medicine' Ads

1:55:55 AM, Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Granted, hindsight is 20/20, but some awfully strange substances have been used for pharmaceutical purposes in the past -- and some might argue, continue to be used today. Here are some vintage advertisements touting items that we might balk at taking today..."

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Best Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Classic Films

1:42:02 AM, Sunday, July 24, 2011

"A selection of some of the most awesome Behind-the-scenes shots. Back when set designs were huge and hand made, when special effects where mechanic and photographic and film stars were risking their lives on the set.

Below, - a self portrait of Stanley Kubrick with his daughter, Jack Nicholson and the crew at the set of The Shining..."

-- Awesome. Awesome. Awesome little collection. The description is spot on. Check it out!

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NSA Refuses to 'Confirm or Deny' That it Has a Relationship With Google

2:47:29 PM, Saturday, July 23, 2011

"EPIC v. NSA: Agency Can “Neither Confirm Nor Deny” Google Ties (Electronic Information Privacy Center):

A federal judge has issued an opinion in EPIC v. NSA, and accepted the NSA’s claim that it can “neither confirm nor deny” that it had entered into a relationship with Google following the China hacking incident in January 2010. EPIC had sought documents under the FOIA because such an agreement could reveal that the NSA is developing technical standards that would enable greater surveillance of Internet users. The “Glomar response,” to neither confirm nor deny, is a controversial legal doctrine that allows agencies to conceal the existence of records that might otherwise be subject to public disclosure. EPIC plans to appeal this decision. EPIC is also litigating to obtain the National Security Presidential Directive that sets out the NSA’s cyber security authority. And EPIC is seeking from the NSA information about Internet vulnerability assessments, the Director’s classified views on how the NSA’s practices impact Internet privacy, and the NSA’s “Perfect Citizen” program..."
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Russian Air Force - Flankers and Fulcrums [HD]

6:13:32 PM, Friday, July 22, 2011

-- Some Russian Air Force goodness.

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Mice With Human Brain Cells? More Oversight, Please, Says U.K. Panel

3:14:25 PM, Friday, July 22, 2011

"Mice with human-derived livers, goats with human blood cells, and other animals that contain human genes or cells are arguably valuable tools for medical research, but they also can raise tricky ethical questions and trigger public controversy. Acknowledging this reality, a report issued today by the British Academy of Medical Sciences recommends that the U.K. government establish an expert commission to help regulate certain types of experiments involving "animals containing human material."

The report's authors hope that early public discussion of potentially controversial work—before it is undertaken—will help to encourage wider acceptance of such research. "We are trying to get this issue out there before anything has happened," says geneticist Martin Bobrow of the University of Cambridge, who chaired the academy's working group. "If public has heard about something, they are less likely to get irritable when something does hit the headlines."

The report proposes that experiments with animals containing human material (ACHM) should be divided into three categories: those that should be subject to the same oversight and regulation as other animal experiments, those that should undergo extra review before receiving permission to proceed, and a few that should be entirely off-limits. Areas that should undergo extra scrutiny include experiments that modify an animal's brain to make it more "human-like," experiments that place functional human germ cells in animals, experiments that could make animals' appearance or behavior more human, and experiments that add human genes or cells to nonhuman primates..."

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Kitten vs. Mirror

11:51:43 PM, Thursday, July 21, 2011
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Woman Finds Giant Sinkhole Under Her Bed

11:42:53 PM, Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Here's something you never want to hear: "That loud booming sound is coming from inside the house!"

That's what one Inocenta Hernandez from Guatemala City learned after a sudden noise caused her to run outside, thinking there had been an explosion nearby. When she realized the problem was inside her home, she returned to find a gaping, three feet wide, 40 feet deep sinkhole beneath her bed.

Hernandez, 65, was relieved that the damage was only to her house, and hadn't harmed her grandchildren, who had been playing near the bed. This was a little too close to home, but she couldn't have been too surprised that a sinkhole had visited her city.

Guatemala City is prone to spawning giant pits, which are often caused by tropical rain storms. Sinkholes are natural depressions in the earth that can range anywhere from a few feet to hundreds of acres wide, and measure a shallow foot to 100 feet deep.

A massive chasm opened up in Guatemala City back in May 2010; it swallowed up whole buildings and an intersection. No deaths were blamed on the almost perfect cylindrical crater, though..."

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Two Men Arrested After Pretending To Get Arrested

6:54:47 PM, Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Police arrested two drunk men from South Jersey for pretending to get arrested after they accidentally locked themselves in the back of a police van taking pictures of themselves.

Ryan Letchford and Jeffrey Olsen thought it would be funny to break into the van and take pictures of each other 'in custody'.

But the prank took a turn for the worse when the van locked with the jokers still inside.

According to police, a third man, who was also drunk, found his friends in the back of the van after leaving a nearby party to search for them, but he was unable to set them free and was forced to call 911.

Radnor constable Mike Connor told the Philadelphia Daily News: 'I came down and unlocked the doors, and "Dumb and Dumber" pranced out of the van.

'They looked a little embarrassed.'

The pranksters didn't regain their freedom for too long, as they were immediately arrested for attempted theft of a motor vehicle, criminal mischief and public drunkenness..."

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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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