Starting a Train the Russian Way

11:39:12 PM, Sunday, August 14, 2011

-- Ah... Mother Russia.

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Charity of the Apes – Chimps Spontaneously Help Each Other

11:24:35 PM, Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Compared to most other animals, humans are unusual in our tendency to help each other out. We donate to charity. We give blood. We show kindness to strangers, even when we stand to gain nothing in return. This behaviour is so odd that the natural question arises: are we alone in such selflessness? And if any animal could help to answer that question, it’s the chimpanzee, one of our closest relatives.

Dozens of scientists study the behaviour of chimps, looking at how these apes act towards their peers. But the results of these studies have been frustrating for many in the field. People who watch captive and wild chimps have documented hundreds of cases of seemingly altruistic behaviour. They have seen individuals helping each other to climb walls, consoling each other after fights, sharing food, risking death to save companions from drowning, and even adopting the babies of dead and unrelated peers. Anecdotes like these suggest that chimps, like humans, behave selflessly towards each other.

But experiments have often shown otherwise. In some studies, chimps choose to help their peers retrieve out-of-reach objects rather than doing nothing. But when chimps have a choice between two equal actions – say, cashing in a token that leads to personal gain versus another that also benefits a partner – they only looked out for themselves. One paper bore the title “Chimpanzees are indifferent to the welfare of unrelated group members”. Another concluded that “chimpanzees made their choices based solely on personal gain”.

Collectively, these studies championed a view of chimps as reluctant altruists, who only act selflessly in response to pressure, and who generally don’t help unfamiliar chimps, “even when they are able to do so at virtually no cost to themselves”. But Frans de Waal from the Living Links Centre at Emory University thinks that this portrait is wrong. He says, “The authors of these studies moved from not finding evidence for prosocial choice to thinking they had proven its absence.”

De Waal thinks that the previous tests handicapped the chimps by putting them in situations that masked their altruistic tendencies. They couldn’t communicate, they had to cope with complicated equipment involving levers, and they often sat so far apart that they had little understanding of how their choices affected their fellows. With his colleague Victoria Horner, de Waal designed a new experiment to account for these problems. And, lo and behold, chimps spontaneously helped their partners, even without any prompting..."

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7 Worst Capital Punishments for Being (Illegally) Gay

11:01:36 PM, Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Homosexuality has a long way to go in the United States, but an even tougher, bleaker road to pass through in other parts of the world. Particularly in Africa and the Middle East where the Islamic law is held in extreme rigor, homosexuality is dealt with as an outright crime and is sometimes even punishable by death. Here are the worst forms of government-mandated punishment for simply being homosexual in different parts of the world..."

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World's Best Marine Reserve: Cabo Pulmo: Photos

10:38:59 PM, Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Established in 1995, Mexico's Cabo Pulmo Marine National Park is slightly more than 7,000 hectares of coastal waters in the Gulf of California, offshore from the small village of Cabo Pulmo. The park’s establishment followed a period of determined lobbying by the village’s 100 or so residents, who had become alarmed at overfishing and declines in the area’s marine life.

The reserve is no more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) wide and measures just 14 kilometers (almost 9 miles) north to south. And yet its impact on the marine life within it, such as these Devil Rays, has been profound – so much so that researchers have dubbed it “the most successful marine reserve in the world.”"

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Johnny Cash - Hurt

1:16:33 PM, Saturday, August 13, 2011
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Orion Spaceship Set For New Tests In Colorado

1:03:51 PM, Saturday, August 13, 2011

"A spaceship that could carry the next wave of astronauts to an asteroid or beyond is being prepared for a new round of tests at a Lockheed Martin facility near Denver.

Engineers have attached a launch-abort system to the nose of the capsule and will subject the combined spacecraft to a series of experiments to see if it can withstand the rigors of blastoff, Lockheed Martin said Friday.

The launch-abort system, essentially a rocket attached to the nose of the capsule, could lift the capsule off its booster rocket and carry it to safety if a problem developed before or during launch.

Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Md., is building the capsule, called the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, under a $7.5 billion NASA contract issued in 2006.

The capsule was originally part of President George W. Bush's $100 billion program to return astronauts to the moon, called Constellation. President Barack Obama canceled the program last year, saying the U.S. would concentrate on developing new rocket technology instead.

Obama then revived the Orion portion of the program amid criticism that his plan lacked details and put U.S. space leadership at risk.

Orion doesn't yet have a destination. NASA has said it could service the space station in low Earth orbit or take four astronauts on more distant missions of up to 21 days. Lockheed Martin officials have said Orion could explore the far side of the moon, land humans on asteroids or take them to one of the moons of Mars, where they could control robotic instruments on the surface.

In the next round of tests, the capsule and launch-abort system will be subjected to sound vibrations at a Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton Canyon south of Denver..."

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US Drone War Kills Up To 168 Children In Pakistan: Report

11:49:27 AM, Saturday, August 13, 2011

"America's covert drone war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban has killed up to 168 children in Pakistan over the last seven years, according to an independent study released Thursday.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said its research showed there had been many more CIA attacks on alleged militant targets, leading to far more deaths than previously reported.

It said 291 CIA drone strikes had taken place in Pakistan since 2004, eight percent more than previously reported, and that under President Barack Obama there had been 236 strikes -- one every four days.

The Bureau said most of the 2,292 to 2,863 people reported to have died were low-ranking militants, but that only 126 fighters had been named.

It said it had credible reports of at least 385 civilians and a possible upper limit of 775 civilians being killed. It said there were reports of at least 164 children being killed and possibly up to 168.

Washington does not confirm Predator drone attacks, but US officials privately describe the program as vital in the fight against Islamist militants and say that the strikes are accurate, limiting any collateral damage.

"Civilian casualties do seem to have declined in the past year. Yet the Bureau still found credible evidence of at least 45 civilians killed in some 10 strikes in this time," said the Bureau's report..."

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AMC’s Crazy Ideas for Cutting Costs on The Walking Dead

1:26:38 PM, Friday, August 12, 2011

"AMC thinks that zombies should be heard and not seen. Read a few of the terrible money-saving ideas AMC reportedly threw at showrunner Frank Darabont, before throwing him out the door. A new report claims there was more to Darabont's precipitous departure than anybody realizes.

Just days after AMC trotted out Darabont at Comic-Con, who not only revved up thousands Walking Dead fans but also delivered one hell of a season two trailer, the studio allegedly fired the director, producer and writer of the most successful show they've ever had. What the hell happened?

The Hollywood Reporter has an interesting article about the what really happened behind the scenes on AMC's zombie show, and it's not encouraging. Simply put, Darabont was tossed out because he fought for a show he believed in. According to a collection of sources and insiders the aggressive budget cuts demanded by AMC for the second season of Walking Dead were the spark that started this whole mess. And wait until you read about the studio's ideas for making a cheaper series:

AMC's decision to cut the budget dated to the previous fall, when the network instructed Darabont to produce 13 episodes for a second season, up from six for the first season, for less money. Not only would the show get a lower budget, but AMC also decided that Walking Dead would no longer reap the benefit of a 30 percent tax credit per episode that came with filming in Georgia. Now the network was going to hold on to that money.

At the time, a source says, the show's producers decided not to get into a confrontation. "To have a fight over a number when they didn't know what the show was going to do didn't make sense," says this source. But when Walking Dead began to break AMC records, those involved figured that a negotiation would take place and the cuts might be reduced..."

-- Well damn... Should have seen this coming. Way to destroy one of the best shows ever on TV...

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Fossil 'Suggests Plesiosaurs Did Not Lay Eggs'

12:39:34 PM, Friday, August 12, 2011

"Scientists say they have found the first evidence that giant sea reptiles - which lived at the same time as dinosaurs - gave birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

They say a 78 million-year-old fossil of a pregnant plesiosaur suggests they gave birth to single, large young.

Writing in Science, they say this also suggests a degree of parental care.

The fossil, the first of a pregnant plesiosaur found, is at the US's Los Angeles County Natural History.

After being excavated from a ranch in Kansas, US, the 5m-long fossil skeleton Polycotylus latippinus lay for two decades in the basement of the Los Angeles County museum waiting to be chiselled from its rocky casing.

Immature skeleton

Two years ago when researchers began to piece the bones together they quickly realised that they were in fact dealing with two separate animals; an adult plesiosaur and a smaller juvenile.

The study's authors report that the juvenile was unlikely to have been eaten by the larger reptile because its tiny bones showed no evidence of bite marks, and its soft, immature skeleton suggested an animal only two-thirds of the way through its development.

For more than 200 years palaeontologists have speculated about how these colossal cretaceous animals reproduced.

Many believed the plesiosaur was too cumbersome to drag itself up the beach to lay eggs, and so must have given birth to live young.

"[The find] provides the first direct evidence for live birth in plesiosaur," said palaeontologist Adam Smith from the Thinktank Centre, Birmingham Science Museum..."

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A New Way to Measure the Expansion of the Universe

12:33:39 PM, Friday, August 12, 2011

"A PhD student from The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth has produced one of the most accurate measurements ever made of how fast the Universe is expanding.

Florian Beutler, a PhD candidate with ICRAR at The University of Western Australia, has calculated how fast the Universe is growing by measuring the Hubble constant.

"The Hubble constant is a key number in astronomy because it's used to calculate the size and age of the Universe," said Mr Beutler.

As the Universe swells, it carries other galaxies away from ours. The Hubble constant links how fast galaxies are moving with how far they are from us.

By analysing light coming from a distant galaxy, the speed and direction of that galaxy can be easily measured. Determining the galaxy's distance from Earth is much more difficult. Until now, this has been done by observing the brightness of individual objects within the galaxy and using what we know about the object to calculate how far away the galaxy must be.

This approach to measuring a galaxy's distance from Earth is based on some well-established assumptions but is prone to systematic errors, leading Mr Beutler to tackle the problem using a completely different method..."

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SEAT Girls 2011

12:13:56 PM, Friday, August 12, 2011

-- That is all. Also where is the nearest SEAT dealership?

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DIY Spy Drone Sniffs Wi-Fi, Intercepts Phone Calls

11:12:59 PM, Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"What do you do when the target you’re spying on slips behind his home-security gates and beyond your reach?

Launch your personal, specially equipped WASP drone — short for Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform — to fly overhead and sniff his Wi-Fi network, intercept his cellphone calls, or launch denial-of-service attacks with jamming signals.

These are just a few of the uses of the unmanned aerial vehicle that security researchers Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins demonstrated at the Black Hat security conference here Wednesday.

At a cost of about $6,000, the two converted a surplus FMQ-117B U.S. Army target drone into their personal remote-controlled spy plane, complete with Wi-Fi and hacking tools, such as an IMSI catcher and antenna to spoof a GSM cell tower and intercept calls. It also had a network-sniffing tool and a dictionary of 340 million words for brute-forcing network passwords.

The GSM hack was inspired by a talk given at last year’s DefCon hacker conference by Chris Paget, who showed how to create a cellphone base station that tricks nearby handsets into routing their outbound calls through it instead of through commercial cell towers.

That routing allows someone to intercept even encrypted calls in the clear. The device tricks phones into disabling encryption, and records call details and content before they’re routed to their intended receiver through voice-over-internet protocol or redirected to anywhere else the hacker wants to send them..."

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Is There Life on Mars? Answer Lies in Salty Liquid

11:06:11 PM, Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"For decades, space scientists have searched Mars for signs of water, the liquid generally believed to be essential for life. Now, they may well have found it.

It's a discovery that, if confirmed, would fundamentally change our understanding of Mars and would strongly support the widely held theory that the planet was once far more wet and warm. Scientists say the discovery of water would provide our best target yet for finding possible life beyond Earth.

''We haven't found any good way to explain what we're seeing without water,'' said Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. He's the lead author on a paper about the possible Martian water in the journal Science.

''And if we confirm that it is a salty water, then we have the best idea yet about where to go to try to find extant life on Mars,'' Professor McEwen said.

Using a powerful camera on a spacecraft in orbit around the red planet, scientists have spied what may be small streams of salty water flowing on Mars during warm seasons. Scientists have identified seven craters in which dark, finger-like features appear and seem to flow down slopes or tiny gullies during late spring. The most plausible explanation is that these features are caused by salty water..."

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U-2 Spy Plane’s Retirement Signals the End of an Era

10:40:35 PM, Sunday, August 07, 2011

"After more than 50 years gathering intelligence 13 miles above the ground, the United States’ U-2 spy planes will be phased out and replaced by unmanned drones by 2015, The New York Times reported this week. Find out more about the long history of the high-altitude aircraft, which first took to the skies during the tense Cold War era and has played a crucial role in recent operations, particularly in Afghanistan

High-altitude reconnaissance dates back to the American Civil War, when both the Union and Confederate armies used hot air balloons to gather intelligence about enemy troop positions. By World War II, planes and cameras had advanced enough for photoreconnaissance to play a key role in bombing campaigns. As tensions with the Soviet Union mounted in the early days of the Cold War, the United States began conducting peacetime aerial espionage missions over Russia. Existing aircraft proved vulnerable to Soviet anti-aircraft missiles and radar, however, so military leaders began planning a new system based on cutting-edge planes capable of flying at 70,000 feet or higher.

In 1953, the Air Force asked several smaller aircraft manufacturers to submit proposals for the new plane. The following year, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation presented an unsolicited design, developed by the aeronautical engineer Kelly Johnson. With a single engine, glider-like wings and unconventional landing gear, the aircraft would be light enough to fly at extremely high speeds and altitudes. The Air Force rejected Johnson’s unique concept, but a group of prominent scientists and support from President Eisenhower helped convince the CIA to order 20 of the spy planes, which became known as U-2s.

Meanwhile, the astronomer and optician James Baker designed special large-format cameras for the new aircraft. Shell produced a fuel that wouldn’t evaporate at high altitudes, and experts developed a partially pressurized suit for U-2 pilots that prevented their blood from vaporizing and supplied sufficient oxygen. (Survival gear used in early U-2s would later inspire astronauts’ spacesuits.) To sustain themselves during long missions, pilots would have to squeeze tubes of soft food mixtures through holes in their suits’ facemasks. At the beginning of the U-2 program, at least, they were also given the option of carrying cyanide-filled suicide pills, largely because the Soviet secret police was rumored to brutally torture captured agents..."

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Mumford & Sons - The Cave

10:34:00 PM, Sunday, August 07, 2011
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