Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered the first pair of supermassive black holes in a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way. Approximately 160 million light years from Earth, the pair is the nearest known such phenomenon. The black holes are located near the center of the spiral galaxy NGC 3393. Separated by only 490 light years, the black holes are likely the remnant of a merger of two galaxies of unequal mass a billion or more years ago.
Definitely some food for thought here. Since over 80% of the world business is conducted in English, shouldn't we cherish it? Even the Chinese view it as the language of commerce and are learning it as fast as possible due to their desire to be even more successful globally.
Colorado high school principal Dennis Prager’s TV speech:
To the students and faculty of our high school By Dennis Prager...
This post is a thing of absolute beauty!
On a more general note - I don't often post, but I'd like to say that I do enjoy this particular thread a great deal. Lots of thought-inducing stuff here on a wide variety of topics.
September 3, 2011 Accustomed to Wheels, Thrill-Seeking Injured Veterans Take Wing By A. G. SULZBERGER
KETCHUM, Idaho — Searching for ways to keep his adrenaline pumping after a motorcycle accident forced him out of the military and into a wheelchair, Darol Kubacz recast himself as something of a pioneer of extreme sports.
First he took up downhill skiing, racing and jumping with such abandon that he broke his spine a second time. After a painful rehab he started mountain biking and scuba diving, and even hauled his barrel-chested frame up Mount Kilimanjaro.
Last month, that risks-be-damned pursuit of adventure drew Mr. Kubacz from his home in Arizona to a rocky mountaintop here to do something a pair of working legs never would have allowed anyway — take flight.
“Like the Marines say,” he said, “adapt and overcome.”
And with the crunch of sagebrush under a new, modified wheelchair, Mr. Kubacz, 37, and his instructor rolled down the slope and then soared into the expanse, his paraglider canopy lofting in the breeze.
For generations, returning soldiers with serious disabilities, whether sustained in combat or in risky off-duty pursuits like motorcycling, found limited — and relatively tame — options for athletic recreation. But the latest generation of disabled veterans are increasingly returning to the thrill-seeking activities they enjoyed before their injuries.
As they expand the range of so-called adaptive sports to surfing, rock climbing and white-water rafting, with the help of new technology and public and private financing, these veterans have worked to prove that a wheelchair does not necessarily require its occupant to stick to level ground.
“They are doing things we never thought possible 10 years ago,” said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA. Back when Mr. Bauer lost a leg in Vietnam, the organization had one chapter teaching one sport (skiing); today it has more than 100 chapters and offers 30 sports.
“They love speed, they love challenge, they love risk,” Mr. Bauer said. “And they are really pushing the envelope.”
That was the clear goal for the five paraplegic military veterans, none injured in combat, who arrived here last month to learn to paraglide, a type of unpowered flight similar to hang gliding but using equipment that more closely resembles a parachute.
Pilots launch on foot and then sit in a harness below a canopy, which can be steered with hand controls. Those with experience can stay aloft for hours before landing, typically in an open field.
Though they are not the first paraplegics to paraglide, they were the first being taught from scratch using a new device called the Phoenix, with a wheelchair in place of a normal harness. The eventual goal is for participants to pursue the high-altitude sport on their own, perhaps even at a competitive level.
“I knew I could do it with the right equipment, but I just didn’t know whether anyone had been brave enough to try it yet,” said Erik Burmeister, 37, who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident.
After his injury, Mr. Burmeister learned to ski and scuba dive, doing each as often as possible. One day, at home in Pennsylvania, he searched the Internet for an activity that would replicate the thrill of his dozen parachute jumps with the Army and stumbled upon information about the Able Pilot program, the group organizing the first wheelchair paragliding class. He was one of the five chosen from more than 100 applicants.
“We’ve all accepted that our mobility is limited,” he said. “But it’s a constant grind to drag our wheels around. In all these sports, moving is effortless again. The sense of freedom is just so incredible.”
The four-day training program served up constant reminders of the inevitable trial and error that comes with learning a new sport, particularly for someone in a wheelchair. During the introductions, the participants were told they were not hamsters in some experiment. Still, they embraced the role of putting their bodies on the line. By the end, four of the five had tipped or rolled over on landing; the fifth crashed on an aborted takeoff.
The volunteer instructors, as well as engineers from the University of Utah, took notes as the students suggested ways to change teaching methods and improve the wheelchair design to better fit their needs.
The program was paid for with grants from the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, with help from the local Sun Valley Adaptive Sports. A number of other groups declined to offer support, calling the program too risky.
“Yes, paragliding is inherently dangerous,” said Mark Gaskill, a veteran and a paraglider who started the Able Pilot program after taking several paraplegics on tandem flights. “Life is dangerous. These guys understand the risks. They understand what injury can do. But wheelchair tennis isn’t for everyone.”
The classes, which mostly consisted of on-the-ground training, started before sunrise, with the group hauling themselves out of their wheelchairs and into vans for the ride into the mountains. Each day students also were taken on tandem flights with the volunteer instructors, during which they were able to fly the gliders themselves.
“I didn’t think I’d ever fly again,” said Anthony Radetic, 32, a former helicopter pilot who broke his back when his motorcycle was struck by a car.
For years after his injury he was too embarrassed to even go outside, particularly after he was forced to leave the Army. That changed with his introduction to adaptive sports: Jet Skiing, downhill skiing and handcycle racing (he has competed in numerous marathons). And he even retrofitted his motorcycle, a Ducati, so he could continue to ride the back roads of his rural Alabama community.
This type of transformation is one of the reasons the Department of Veterans Affairs has enthusiastically supported what leaders there describe as an exponential increase in extreme sports, providing money for equipment and training. As risky as the activities may be, they are viewed as preferable to the drinking and depression that often follow life-altering injuries.
“It’s more than a bunch of yahoos going out and having a good time,” said Richard Stieglitz, who oversees physical health and wellness for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides programs for injured service members. “We use it as a tool to show them they can do anything they want.”
After a bumpy van ride to the top of the mountain used for the paraglider launches, Ernie Butler, 59, executive director of the northwest chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America in Washington, readied himself for his first flight in the Phoenix.
He pulled a fitted helmet out of a small bag. The last time he put it on was to sky dive 16 years earlier, he said, “the day I bounced.” His parachute had become tangled when it was hit by another sky diver; after he hit the ground he had more than 220 fractures.
His wisecracking betrayed no nervousness, just anticipation. “It’s been a long time since I had my knees in the breeze,” he said.
And then with a joyful holler he rolled down the slope and took off, whooping as he passed the group readying the second chair for launching.
EXETER — Fifty years after the alleged alien abduction of locals Betty and Barney Hill, downtown Exeter filled with alien enthusiasts who believe there is life beyond our planet, and some who said they've experienced it.
The third annual Exeter UFO Festival brought a day of entertainment and education on Saturday for those believers, those a bit more skeptical, and those just looking to have some fun.
"It's wonderful. It's getting to be more open and more accepted," said Audrey Hewins, co-founder of Starborn Support, which offers confidential guidance and support to alien abductees or experiencers. "The more it's accepted, the more they will show themselves."
Audrey Hewins, of Oxford, Maine, founded Starborn Support in 2006 with her twin sister Debbie Hewins, of Mechanic Falls, Maine, following their own lifelong experiences.
"We work with people all over the world. It's a worldwide phenomenon," Audrey Hewins said, adding they have attended each of the Exeter UFO Festivals.
Born in 1973, the twins said as young children they would draw pictures of aliens in their journals before today's image was widely publicized and would tell their mom about the "bald man" they often saw.
Now, Debbie Hewins said, "it's an everyday thing."
"It is quite scary at times," Audrey Hewins said, adding their experiences have become more intense over the years. "We are able to experience and remember more. It's exciting. So much is happening in these times, they are starting to make more of an impression."
Lifelong Exeter resident Arthur Baillargeon remembers what is now known as the Exeter incident, when Kensington resident Norman Muscarello reported a seeing a UFO in 1965. Muscarello reported his sighting to Exeter police officers Eugene Bertrand and David Hunt, whom Baillargeon knew.
"It was quite a thing at the time," Baillargeon said. "Everybody was looking around. A lot of people didn't believe it."
But Baillargeon said he always kept an open mind.
"Why couldn't there be something out there," he asked.
Sisters Emily and Sarah Low, of Epping and Newmarket, respectively, are believers after being told later in their lives about their mother's own sighting. The sisters said their mom saw a UFO in Northwood right around the time of Betty and Barney Hill's alleged abduction in 1961.
"The difference being she never told anyone," Emily Low said.
Dressed in alien-like attire, the Lows said they attended the UFO Festival last year and were struck by the number of people who claimed to have personal experiences.
"We're a small state, small town, so it says something," Emily Low said. "We are not alone."
Aviation warning issued over Al Qaeda, small planes
The FBI and Homeland Security say there is no specific threat, but issue a bulletin saying precautionary steps are being taken.
Associated Press 7:49 PM PDT, September 3, 2011
The FBI and Homeland Security have issued a nationwide warning about Al Qaeda threats involving small airplanes, just days before the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Authorities said there was no specific or credible terrorist threat for the 10-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But they have stepped up security as a precaution.
According to a law enforcement bulletin issued Friday, ahead of the travel-heavy Labor Day weekend, Al Qaeda was considering ways to attack using airplanes as recently as early this year.
The alert said terrorists have considered renting private planes and loading them with explosives.
"Al Qaeda and its affiliates have maintained an interest in obtaining aviation training, particularly on small aircraft, and in recruiting Western individuals for training in Europe or the United States, although we do not have current, credible information or intelligence of an imminent attack," according to the bulletin obtained by the Associated Press.
After the 2001 attacks, the government grounded thousands of crop dusters amid fears the planes could be used in an attack.
In 2002, U.S. officials said they uncovered an Al Qaeda plot to fly a small plane into a U.S. warship. In 2003, officials uncovered a plot to crash an explosives-laden plane into the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.
Trekkies: The Killingest Star Trek Dress (Transporter Not Included)
09/03/2011 - 10:00 am By Diana Adams
I’m sure all my fellow girl Trekkies will agree that the Star Trek dresses in all the movies and television shows would be so much fun to wear in real life. I’m not talking about Star Trek cosplay, which by the way is very cool in its own way. I’m talking about the fabulously geeky dresses that Nurse Chapel and Lieutenant Uhura used to wear. Of course, it would be even better to wear one of those skintight head-to-toe body suits that 7 of 9 wore, but who am I kidding… I’d have to spend six months in the gym to pull that badboy off.
I would be perfectly happy to wear one of those cute little red Star Trek signature dresses that we all know so well. As a matter of fact, I’m sure it would become my favorite dress by far. However, how would I dress it up so I could wear it to client meetings without looking like a Trekkie freak walking around in a conservative office building?
I’m very happy to say that Elizabeth Giorgi, the brilliantly creative writer at Being Geek Chic: http://beinggeekchic.com/post/9627025388/geeky-at-work-star-trek-dress has it all figured out for us. First, we need to go to Think Geek and purchase the cute little cotton Star Trek dress for 40 bucks (or you could go to this site and purchase the pattern for half that price and make it yourself, but who the hell would want to do that?). Then, following Elizabeth’s advice, we could pair it with the accessories you see in the images below to create a rockin everyday work-appropriate outfit. Nice!
New ‘Demon’ Bat Species Found in Vietnam By Danielle Venton September 2, 2011 | 2:31 pm Categories: Animals
Image: HNHM/Fauna & Flora International
Three new bat species, one resembling the Lord of the Underworld, have been discovered in the tropical forests of southern Indochina.
The tiny ‘demon,’ named Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, has been seen only in Vietnam.
“We chose the name Beelzebub to reflect the dark ‘diabolic’ coloration of the new species and its fierce protective behavior in the field,” said Gabor Csorba of the Hungarian Natural History Museum.
Bats represent nearly a third of the known mammal species in South East Asia already. But the true number of bat species in the region may be twice current count, based on recent genetic research, said Paul Racey, bat specialist and Vice Chairman of Fauna and Flora International, in a press release today.
Murina beelzebub, like the other two tube-nosed bats discovered, depends on the tropical forest for its survival. The bats are especially vulnerable due to ongoing deforestation in the region, researchers warn.
The new bats, found by biologists and conservationists from the Hungarian Natural History Museum and Fauna & Flora International, are described in the current issue of the Journal of Mammalogy .