A Stunning Interactive 360 Sky Panorama Image, Result of 37,000 Photo Combination

10:40:59 AM, Thursday, April 28, 2011

"This stunning 360 degree panorama of the night sky was stitched together from 37,000 images by a first-time astrophotographer.

Nick Risinger, a 28-year-old native of Seattle, trekked more than 60,000 miles around the western United States and South Africa to create the largest-ever true-color image of the stellar sphere. The final result is an interactive, zoomable sky map showing the full Milky Way and the stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae around it.

“The genesis of this was to educate and enlighten people about the natural beauty that is hidden, but surrounds us,” Risinger said.

The project began in March 2010, when Risinger and his brother took a suite of six professional-grade astronomical cameras to the desert in Nevada. By June, Risinger had quit his job as a marketing director for a countertop company to seek the darkest skies he could find.

Every night, Risinger and his father set up the cameras on a tripod that rotates with Earth. The cameras automatically took between 20 and 70 exposures each night in three different-color wavelengths. Previous professional sky surveys (including the Digitized Sky Survey of the 1980s, which is the source for the World Wide Telescope and Google Sky) shot only in red and blue. Including a third color filter gives the new survey a more real feeling, Risinger said.

“I wanted to create something that was a true representation of how we could see it, if it were 3,000 times brighter,” he said..."

-- This is absolutely incredible. A MUST SEE! See it!

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Turkey: Police Dress Up As Doctors To Test Citizens

9:09:31 AM, Thursday, April 28, 2011

"ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police donned white coats and stethoscopes to disguise themselves as doctors, then knocked on people's doors to see how easily they would fall for a confidence scam.

The undercover police officers told residents of the southeastern city of Gaziantep they were screening for high blood pressure and handed out pills, according to Turkish media.

They were alarmed when residents at 86 out of 100 households visited on Tuesday swallowed the pills immediately.

Police later returned to warn residents to be more cautious.

The police pills were harmless placebos. But a local gang had been using the same technique to give people heavy sedatives and then burgle them.

Turkish police in other provinces have also used novel methods to test citizens' gullibility.

Officers in Adana in southern Turkey last week called at houses, announcing through the intercom: "I am a burglar, please open the door."

Police said they were stunned at the number of people who opened the door, the Radikal daily newspaper reported."

-- WOW!

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Săpânţa: The Happy Cemetery

5:38:37 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Săpânţa is a village about 15 kms west of Sighet, smack up against the Tisa river in the far north of Romania. When I first came to Maramureş in 1990, the streets in this village were lined with cearga - furry raw sheep wool blankets - for sale, hanging from every house' fence along the road that leads to Sighet. Within weeks of the end of Communism, these villagers were doing business big time. In 1990, right after the fall of Ceaucescu and the Communist Party in Romania, the peasants of Săpânţa had their own reading on freedom. After annoucement of a federal tax on home brewed brandy - the ţuica so central to Maramureş existence - the villagers of Săpânţa blockaded the main road to Sighet and effectively revolted in defense of their beloved tax-free home brew.

After a couple of weeks the government backed down, and the villager's favorite hooch was safe. Yes, Maramureş folk - the moroşani - love to drink. And yes, they may even drink themselves to death, and how well they know it. Presently the most unique attraction in Săpânţa is the "Happy Cemetery." Originally begun by a peasant grave carver named Stan Petras in the 1930s, and carried on today by the Pop family, the cemetery has become one of the most popular tourism attractions in rural Romania, with tour buses pulling up and unloading foreigners hourly. We were lucky - we visited on a religious holiday just as the villagers were coming from a Church service..."

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'Gatsby Mansion' Torn Down

5:17:37 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Shed a tear, literature lovers: The 25-room Long Island mansion said to have inspired The Great Gatsby is in the process of being torn down. The demolition of Land's End, where parties in the 1920s and 1930s were attended by the likes of Winston Churchill and Ethel Barrymore, began Saturday, the AP reports. It will be replaced with five $10 million houses."

-- Just closing some browser tabs posting what I haven't gotten a chance to, so this might not be news to some of you.

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The Power of Words

4:50:52 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
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Russia Test Launches Sineva Strategic Missile

4:36:05 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"The Russian military successfully test launched a Sineva ballistic missile Tuesday from a submarine in the Arctic, the Interfax news agency quoted a defence ministry spokesman as saying.

"The launch was carried out from underwater in the Barents Sea from the Yekaterinburg nuclear submarine. At the expected hour, the payload of the Sineva missile arrived at the Kura range in Kamchatka" in Russia's Far East, said spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

The Sineva is an intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missile that entered service in 2007 and has a range of more than 11,000 kilometres (6,800 miles)."

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Auto Buds

4:13:12 PM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Welcome to Auto Buds. The place for auto buds. Auto Buds are two cars of the same make, model, color, or as identical as possible, that are parked right next to each other or in close proximity."

-- YES! =D

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Mutiny in the Syrian army?

1:05:19 AM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"With increasing military defections, the Syrian regime's violent crackdown may have backfired, analyst says.

In the early morning of April 25, the city of Deraa was invaded from all four corners by units affiliated with the 4th Division, which falls under the direct leadership of Maher Al-Assad, and the 5th Division, led by Muhammad Saleh Al-Rifai, with reinforcement from the 132 Battalion.

Shortly thereafter, reports began trickling then pouring in speaking of a mutiny in the units affiliated with 5th Division and troops from these units standing up to and halting the advance of units from the 4th Division trying to reach Al-Omary Mosque in central Deraa.

At first, many of us thought this might be a reference to a few more defections, as had transpired two weeks ago, but the reports continue to come from different sources and eyewitnesses that we managed to reach all through the day, leading us to believe that there might indeed be something worth monitoring here.

If such a mutiny has indeed taken place so early in the game, then Assad’s military gambit seems to be backfiring, a development that could spark a wider division within the army in the next few hours and days, with all different sorts of implications for the protest movement, depending on how this internal conflict plays out.

If, on the other hand, the reports turn out to be nothing more than exaggerations and wishful thinking, then the protest movement will still have a way to go before producing a significant impact on the structure and power base of the regime, and the challenge will be to keep on message and peaceful all the way through despite the mounting violence on part of the Assads.

It is important to note at this stage, however, the sheer falsehood of the regime allegations of widespread violence on part of the protesters and Salafist designs.

The videos we have clearly show protesters facing tanks with rocks not guns. Had Salafists really been present in the city and planning to establish an independent Islamic emirate, why did not they do so in three weeks of peace they had, and do they disappear all of a sudden, with their alleged caches of weapons, each time the army and security forces show up?"

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DARPA's New Space Surveillance Telescope Will Keep Our Satellites Safe From Interstellar Debris

12:27:23 AM, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"What's that in the sky? A bird? A plane? Oh, it's just some junk floating around in space, posing major threats to our military's spy satellites. To help keep an eye on it, engineers at DARPA, MIT and the Air Force have unleashed a new $110 million telescope that's been in the works for nine years now. The new Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) is capable of delivering wide-angle views of the Earth's firmament thanks to a curved CCD. This allows for a massive 3.5m aperture and f/1.0 exposure settings, capturing more light in a day that your average scope can in a week. As part of the Air Force's Space Surveillance Network (SSN), the telescope's primary task will be to look out for any microsatellites, meteors or other alien droppings moving at the same speed at which the Earth rotates. The system developed its first images earlier this year and the Air Force may eventually place SSTs all over the world, creating a 360-degree surveillance blanket and going a long way toward keeping our spycraft warm, cozy, and safe from galactic hazards."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Cat's Eye Nebula from Hubble

11:06:14 AM, Thursday, May 26, 2011

-- "Staring across interstellar space, the alluring Cat's Eye nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells by shrugging off outer layers in a series of regular convulsions. But the formation of the beautiful, more complex inner structures is not well understood. Seen so clearly in this sharp Hubble Space Telescope image, the truly cosmic eye is over half a light-year across. Of course, gazing into the Cat's Eye, astronomers may well be seeing the fate of our sun, destined to enter its own planetary nebula phase of evolution ... in about 5 billion years. "

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Tadpoles of IC 410

11:46:05 PM, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

-- "This telescopic close-up shows off the otherwise faint emission nebula IC 410 in striking false-colors. It also features two remarkable inhabitants of the cosmic pond of gas and dust above and left of center, the tadpoles of IC 410. The picture is a composite of images taken through both broad and narrow band filters. The narrow band data traces atoms in the nebula, with emission from sulfur atoms in red, hydrogen atoms in green, and oxygen in blue. Partly obscured by foreground dust, the nebula itself surrounds NGC 1893, a young galactic cluster of stars that energizes the glowing gas. Composed of denser cooler gas and dust the tadpoles are around 10 light-years long, potentially sites of ongoing star formation. Sculpted by wind and radiation from the cluster stars, their tails trail away from the cluster's central region. IC 410 lies some 12,000 light-years away, toward the constellation Auriga."

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Budget Cuts Shutdown SETI's Alien Seeking Telescopes

4:32:13 PM, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"If aliens come calling, we might not hear them.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the SETI Institute — the one made famous by the movie Contact — has put its program to find alien life on hold. In an April 22 letter SETI sent to significant supporters, Tom Pierson, SETI's CEO announced that beginning this week, the Allen Telescope Array "has been placed into hibernation due to funding shortfalls for operations of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory (HCRO) where the ATA is located."

The Mercury News reports:

The timing couldn't be worse, say SETI scientists. After millenniums of musings, this spring astronomers announced that 1,235 new possible planets had been observed by Kepler, a telescope on a space satellite. They predict that dozens of these planets will be Earth-sized — and some will be in the "habitable zone," where the temperatures are just right for liquid water, a prerequisite of life as we know it.

Scientific American reports that SETI would have liked to use the radio telescope array to listen in on any radio waves coming from the extra solar planets found by Kepler. They report SETI is not the only institution that listens for alien life, "but it is probably the instrument most committed to the task."

In his letter, Pierson says that it takes about $1.5 million a year to operate the telescope array, plus another million to cover SETI's "science efforts." Right now, budget cuts in both federal and state governments have slashed the size of the Hat Creek Radio Observatory to about one-tenth the size it used to be.

Pierson said SETI, which has scanned for alien life since 2007, is trying to secure $5 million in funding to bring the telescopes back online and to study the 1,235 exoplanets found by the Kepler mission.

"This fabulous opportunity represents a fundamental shift to be able to point our instruments at known planetary systems, rather than at stars that might or might not host planets," he wrote."

-- "...it takes about $1.5 million a year to operate the telescope array, plus another million to cover SETI's science efforts..." , - Whoo! We can now afford to rain three more missiles on Libya. Brilliant! All that CPU time I've been dedicating to SETI@home better not go to waste as well... That would just be adding insult to injury.

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Duckling vs. Dog

1:12:01 PM, Tuesday, April 26, 2011
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Most Powerful Millimeter-Scale Energy Harvester Generates Electricity From Vibrations

10:55:21 AM, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Electrical engineers at the University of Michigan have built a device that can harness energy from vibrations and convert it to electricity with five to ten times greater efficiency and power than other devices in its class. And it's smaller than a penny.

"In a tiny amount of space, we've been able to make a device that generates more power for a given input than anything else out there on the market," said Khalil Najafi, one of the system's developers and chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

This new vibration energy harvester is specifically designed to turn the cyclic motions of factory machines into energy to power wireless sensor networks. These sensor networks monitor machines' performance and let operators know about any malfunctions.

The sensors that do this today get their power from a plug or a battery. They're considered "wireless" because they can transmit information without wires. Being tethered to a power source drastically increases their installation and maintenance costs, said Erkan Aktakka, one of the system's developers and a doctoral student in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Long-lasting power is the greatest hurdle to large-scale use of pervasive information-gathering sensor networks, the researchers say..."

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Dogs Prove Evolution

9:43:42 AM, Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Dogs provide an interesting proof of evolution. Consider the astonishing variety of different dog breeds. There is the tiny Chihuahua, about six inches tall and weighing under six pounds. And other dogs are enormous, with the Irish wolfhound rising above a person when on his hind legs, and the Saint Bernard weighing over two hundred pounds. Some dogs are extremely intelligent, including the border collie, retriever, poodle and German shepherd. These dogs learn new commands with ease, and can perform complicated tasks. Other dogs, however, seems very dimwitted, often requiring hundreds of repetitions to learn, and even then usually failing to obey a command. There is such an incredible assortment of different dogs that it is easy to forget that they are all the same species, Canis lupus familiaris. This means that even a Chihuahua and a Saint Bernard (assuming that the obvious physical challenges could be overcome) could mate and produce live and fertile offspring.

So where did dogs come from? Darwin thought they might come from multiple sources, including the wolf, jackal and coyote, thereby in part explaining their diversity. The DNA evidence, however, shows that they are all derived from the wolf. DNA from all dogs is over 99% identical to that of a wolf, while the wolf and coyote DNAs, for example, are over 4% different from each other. This means, surprisingly, that all of the diversity of dog types in the world today came from a single source, the wolf.

How did the wolf get transformed into a woof? The precise order of events is a matter of conjecture, but it probably began when an abandoned litter was taken in and nursed by people. The DNA evidence, which shows a strong similarity for all dogs, suggests that there might have only been only a few such domestication events. These early wolf dogs would be subjected to what is called artificial selection. In the wild natural selection is at work with the strongest, fastest and smartest wolves surviving better to make more wolves. But once under the care of people survival depends on a new set of rules. For example, animals that liked to bite people probably did not fare well. But dogs are natural hunters and could help in the search for food. They also could provide an early warning system, barking when unwelcome visitors approach. So people friendly watchdogs, with their heightened senses of hearing and smell, would be very useful to early humans..."

-- A very well, eloquently written article. Citations would be nice though as that would have saved me a few web searches.

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