The unique way someone walks can betray who they are with almost as much accuracy as fingerprints, scientists have found.
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent 8:15AM BST 08 Oct 2011
Researchers have developed a method that can identify a unique "pressure signature" in their footsteps.
By analysing more than 100,000 pressure points created by people's feet as they walk, the scientists were able to pinpoint 70 key patterns that are unique to an individual.
They hope the system could provide a new form of "biometric" identification that could work alongside retinal scanning and fingerprints at airports. The only snag is that the system can only identify people if they are not wearing shoes.
Kinda reminds me of 'The Ministry of Silly Walks'!!
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5222 on: Oct 9th, 2011, 12:32pm »
ESA finds that Venus has an ozone layer too
6 October 2011
ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft has discovered an ozone layer high in the atmosphere of Venus. Comparing its properties with those of the equivalent layers on Earth and Mars will help astronomers refine their searches for life on other planets.
Venus Express made the discovery while watching stars seen right at the edge of the planet set through its atmosphere. Its SPICAV instrument analysed the starlight, looking for the characteristic fingerprints of gases in the atmosphere as they absorbed light at specific wavelengths.
The ozone was detectable because it absorbed some of the ultraviolet from the starlight.
Ozone is a molecule containing three oxygen atoms. According to computer models, the ozone on Venus is formed when sunlight breaks up carbon dioxide molecules, releasing oxygen atoms.
These atoms are then swept around to the nightside of the planet by winds in the atmosphere: they can then combine to form two-atom oxygen molecules, but also sometimes three-atom ozone molecules
"This detection gives us an important constraint on understanding the chemistry of Venus' atmosphere," says Franck Montmessin, who led the research.
It may also offer a useful comparison for searching for life on other worlds.
Ozone has only previously been detected in the atmospheres of Earth and Mars. On Earth, it is of fundamental importance to life because it absorbs much of the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Not only that, it is thought to have been generated by life itself in the first place.
The build-up of oxygen, and consequently ozone, in Earth's atmosphere began 2.4 billion years ago. Although the exact reasons for it are not entirely understood, microbes excreting oxygen as a waste gas must have played an important role.
Along with plant life, they continue to do so, constantly replenishing Earth's oxygen and ozone.
As a result, some astrobiologists have suggested that the simultaneous presence of carbon dioxide, oxygen and ozone in an atmosphere could be used to tell whether there could be life on the planet.
This would allow future telescopes to target planets around other stars and assess their habitability. However, as these new results highlight, the amount of ozone is crucial.
The small amount of ozone in Mars' atmosphere has not been generated by life. There, it is the result of sunlight breaking up carbon dioxide molecules.
Venus too, now supports this view of a modest ozone build-up by non-biological means. Its ozone layer sits at an altitude of 100 km, about four times higher in the atmosphere than Earth's and is a hundred to a thousand times less dense.
Theoretical work by astrobiologists suggests that a planet's ozone concentration must be 20% of Earth's value before life should be considered as a cause.
These new results support that conclusion because Venus clearly remains below this threshold.
"We can use these new observations to test and refine the scenarios for the detection of life on other worlds," says Dr Montmessin.
Yet, even if there is no life on Venus, the detection of ozone there brings Venus a step closer to Earth and Mars. All three planets have an ozone layer.
"This ozone detection tells us a lot about the circulation and the chemistry of Venus' atmosphere," says Håkan Svedhem, ESA Project Scientist for the Venus Express mission.
"Beyond that, it is yet more evidence of the fundamental similarity between the rocky planets, and shows the importance of studying Venus to understand them all."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5224 on: Oct 9th, 2011, 1:07pm »
New York Times
October 8, 2011 Clamping Down on High-Speed Stock Trades By GRAHAM BOWLEY
Regulators in the United States and overseas are cracking down on computerized high-speed trading that crowds today’s stock exchanges, worried that as it spreads around the globe it is making market swings worse.
The cost of these high-frequency traders, critics say, is the confidence of ordinary investors in the markets, and ultimately their belief in the fairness of the financial system.
“There is something unholy about them,” said Guy P. Wyser-Pratte, a prominent longtime Wall Street trader and investor. “That is what caused this tremendous volatility. They make a fortune whereas the public gets so whipsawed by this trading.”
Regulators are playing catch-up. In the United States and Europe, they have recently fined traders for using computers to gain advantage over slower investors by illegally manipulating prices, and they suspect other market abuse could be going on. Regulators are also weighing new rules for high-speed trading, with an international regulatory body to make recommendations in coming weeks.
In addition, officials in Europe, Canada and the United States are considering imposing fees aimed at limiting trading volume or paying for the cost of greater oversight.
Perhaps regulators’ biggest worry is over the unknown dynamics of the computerized stock market world that the firms are part of — and the risk that at any moment it could spin out of control. Some regulators fear that the sudden market dive on May 6, 2010, when prices dropped by 700 points in minutes and recovered just as abruptly, was a warning of the potential problems to come. Just last week, the broader market fell throughout Tuesday’s session before shooting up 4 percent in the last hour, raising questions on what was really behind it.
“The flash crash was a wake-up call for the market,” said Andrew Haldane, executive director of the Bank of England responsible for financial stability. “There are many questions begging.”
The industry and others say that the vast majority of trading is legitimate and that its presence means many extra buyers and sellers in the markets, drastically reducing trading costs for ordinary investors.
James Overdahl, an adviser to the firms’ trade group, said that they favor policing the market to stamp out manipulation and that they support efforts to improve market stability. The traders, he said, “are as much interested in improving the quality of markets as anyone else.”
Some academic studies show that high-frequency trading tends to reduce price volatility on normal trading days.
And while a recent analysis by The New York Times of price changes in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index over the past five decades showed that big price swings are more common than they used to be, analysts ascribe this to a variety of causes — including high-speed electronic trading but also high anxiety about the European crisis and the United States economy.
“We are just beginning to catch up to the reality of, ‘Hey, we are in an electronic market, what does that mean?’ ” said Adam Sussman, director of research at the Tabb Group, a markets specialist.
High-frequency trading took off in the middle of the last decade when regulatory reforms encouraged exchanges to switch from floor-based trading to electronic. As computers took over, daily turnover of stocks rose to 8 billion shares in the United States from about 6 billion in 2007, according to BATS Global Markets.
The trading, done by independent firms or on special desks inside big Wall Street banks, now accounts for two of every three stock market trades in America.
Such trading has expanded into other markets, including futures markets in the United States. It has also spread to stock markets around the world where for-profit exchanges are taking steps to attract their business.
When British regulators noticed strange price movements in a range of shares on the London Stock Exchange, they tracked them to a Canadian firm issuing thousands of computerized orders allegedly designed to mislead other investors.
In August, regulators fined the firm, Swift Trade, £8 million, or $13.1 million, for a technique called layering, which involves issuing and then canceling orders they never meant to carry out. The action was challenged by Swift Trade, which was dissolved last year.
Susanne Bergsträsser, a German regulator leading a review of high-speed trading for the International Organization of Securities Commissions, said authorities have to be alert for “market abuse that may arise as a result of technological development.”
The organization will present its recommendations to G-20 finance ministers this month.
In the United States, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority last year fined Trillium Brokerage Services, a New York firm, and some of its employees $2.3 million for layering.
Even the traders’ authorized activities are coming under fire, especially their tendency to shoot off thousands of orders a second and suddenly cancel many. Long-term investors like pension funds complain that the practice makes their trading harder.
Global regulators are considering penalizing traders if they issue but then cancel a high degree of orders, or even making them keep open their orders for a minimum time before they can cancel. Long-term investors worry that some traders may be using their superior technology to detect when others are buying and selling and rush in ahead of them to take advantage of price moves. This is driving some investors who buy and sell in large blocks to move to new so-called dark pools — venues away from public exchanges. As more trading takes place in these venues, prices on exchanges have less meaning, critics say.
In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission has been looking into the new market structure for almost two years. In July, it approved a “large trader” rule, requiring firms that do a lot of business, including high-speed traders, to offer more information about their activities in case regulators need to trace their trades.
After the flash crash, exchanges introduced circuit breakers to halt trading after violent moves. Bart Chilton, a commissioner at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, called for regulators to go further. He wants compulsory registration of high-frequency firms and pre-trade testing of their algorithms.
One of the most controversial actions has been the European Commission’s recent proposal for a financial transaction tax on speculators, which would hit high-frequency firms and curtail volumes. The proposed tax would apply to all trades in stocks, bonds and derivatives, and may face stiff opposition from European governments. Many such firms are based in Britain or the Netherlands, and authorities fear a loss of business.
In Canada, a top regulator is proposing higher fees on the biggest players. Last year, the country put in place a monitoring system to track the 200 million to 250 million orders its exchanges receive daily — up from 70 million a year and a half ago.
And the S.E.C. last year proposed what would be an even more high-powered monitoring system called a consolidated audit trail that would gather data on trades in real time from all United States exchanges, and be a powerful tool in helping regulators piece together events in case of another flash crash.
The monitoring “will provide regulators a critical new tool to surveil the securities markets and pursue wrongdoers, in a much more efficient and effective way than we can today,” said David Shillman, associate director of the S.E.C.’s trading and markets unit.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5225 on: Oct 9th, 2011, 1:12pm »
'UFO Phil' Plans To Build UFO Gas Station On Alcatraz Island
First Posted: 10/8/11 07:17 AM ET Updated: 10/8/11 12:40 PM ET
UFO Phil has big plans now that he has completed his move from the mountain peaks of Colorado to the sunny California seaside. Not only is he working on a tan, but he is also planning to build a full-sized pyramid on Alcatraz Island.
The comedy songwriter and filmmaker said his design, which he calls the "Great Pyramid of Alcatraz," was inspired by Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza.
Phil, whose real name is Phil Hill, claims the Egyptian pyramid was designed by extraterrestrials and once served as a massive stone power station.
In interviews with The Huffington Post, Peter King of CBS and other media outlets, Hill, 39, said he is in possession of "secret blueprints and schematics" crafted by beings from another galaxy. Those blueprints reportedly reveal a "secret formula" for using Egyptian pyramids to generate hydrogen power.
Appearing on the popular radio show "Coast to Coast AM," Hill expressed his desire to "beam free energy to the world." He later said that energy would come from a full-sized stone pyramid 755 feet wide at the base. Alcatraz is less than 600 feet across, but Hill has a solution: "One corner of the pyramid will have to rest on a very tall undersea pylon until I can make the island bigger," he said.
Hill said he is already working with the National Park Service, the agency in charge of Alcatraz Island.
"They contacted me in July, and we are reviewing permits in preparation for a 2012 construction date," Hill told The Huffington Post.
The National Park Service did not respond to a request for comment, and has announced no plans to work with Hill on a pyramid for the island.
According to Hill, aliens have also instructed him to erect a slightly smaller pyramid behind the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles. It would serve as a backup generator "in case Alcatraz is compromised," he said.
In February, Hill announced a similar plan to build a giant pyramid on top of Pikes Peak in Colorado -- to be used by both humans and aliens. That plan never got very far.
Hill is also planning to hold a live concert for extraterrestrials on June 10, 2012, to correspond with the arrival of aliens on Earth, an event foretold centuries ago by the Mayans, according to Hill. The show will take place in California at the site of the legendary 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival.
A published composer, documentary filmmaker and self-proclaimed "man of science," Hill has appeared alongside actor and comedian Tom Green. His single "Listening to Coast to Coast" serves as a theme song for "Coast to Coast AM" on the Premiere Radio Network.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5226 on: Oct 9th, 2011, 1:19pm »
8 Outrageous Hairstyles All For Charity 10/09/2011 - 11:00 am By Diana Adams
Woah! These are some wild and crazy hair designs. The best part is that they were part of an event to raise money for charity, so that makes them even better. My only question is, obviously these designs on top of these women’s heads aren’t all made out of hair. When do they become hats instead of hairstyles? I guess they can be both. I remember when I wrote about Nagi Noda’s hair designs, and she always called them hair hats since I suppose there is a combination of materials used to get certain looks.
I remember when I had a hot pink hair extension put in my hair just for fun about a year ago. After a while, it got all nastified on my head. I wonder how difficult it was for these women to take all this off after the hair show. I suppose that detail doesn’t matter, it would just be fun to be a part of all this creativity and excitement.
These models were part of an event called the Alternative Hair Show which is an annual fundraiser to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma research. This event was recently held in the Moscow Kremlin, and it will be held again in about a week at the Royal Albert Hall in London. If you would like to buy tickets to the London event, you can go to Alternative Hair.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5227 on: Oct 9th, 2011, 1:22pm »
Protests in China over local grievances surge, and get a hearing
The demonstrators have a narrow agenda and concrete demands: Farmers want a stop to confiscations of their land or to get better compensation. Homeowners want to stop demolitions.
By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times 9:15 PM PDT, October 8, 2011 Reporting from Beijing
In a country with zero tolerance for public displays of disaffection, the 77-year-old retired doctor went very public with her anger over the demolition of her property in a booming Shanghai neighborhood: She stripped naked on the steps of a courthouse.
This might well be called the season of discontent in China. People, many of them middle-class homeowners, have been taking to the streets across the country in the last few months to air their grievances. At times, the protesters have turned violent — overturning police cars or smashing windows with baseball bats — but more often, they are engaging in civil disobedience.
Unlike 1989, when calls for democracy ended in carnage at Tiananmen Square, today's demonstrations lack an overarching political theme. Protesters for the most part are not demanding radical changes in the status quo of one-party rule.
In fact, anonymous calls over the Internet for pro-democracy demonstrations in sympathy with Egypt and Tunisia received little public support and were quickly stamped out by the government. But single-issue protests are raging throughout China.
These demonstrators have a narrow agenda and concrete demands: Farmers want a stop to confiscations of their land or to get better compensation for lost property. Homeowners want to stop demolitions. People want cleaner air and water and safer food. Truckers and taxi drivers want relief from soaring fuel prices.
The increased number of protests does not necessarily reflect fragility in the system as much as a pragmatic approach by the Communist Party to grievances, said Ding Xueliang, a professor of sociology at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
"If there is no channel for people to express their anger, they will come to the conclusion that it is the political system that is repressing them," Ding said. "You need to leave some room for collective action. You can't just open fire every time people come out on the streets."
The protests have been localized, with virtually no coordination between them, one reason the government has been relatively tolerant. But the risks for Beijing are not insignificant: There is a danger that people will be inspired by example, because the issues are the same throughout China, and that the "micro-protests" will coalesce into something bigger.
The number of reported "mass incidents" rose from 8,700 in 1993 to more than 90,000 in 2006, according to the Chinese Police Academy. A professor at Tsinghua University, Sun Liping, has told Chinese reporters he believes the figure last year was up to 180,000.
To some extent, the exponential increase is because of improved reporting of incidents that once would have been buried by the state press. Nowadays, the minute a window is smashed, somebody will whip out a cellphone camera and shoot a video that quickly is posted on a blog. The surge also reflects a public that is better informed and more active in seeking redress for grievances.
"People are getting braver," said Liu Baojun, 45, a farmer who was among protesters who lay down in a cornfield in front of tractors that were clearing the land for a highway in northeastern China in May. "In the past, whatever the government told us, we believed and we would do what they said. Now we have information. We have books."
Many of the new protesters are homeowners or middle-class professionals. Doctors at Tongren Hospital in Beijing staged a one-hour strike in mid-September to demand better security after one of their colleagues was stabbed and critically injured by a patient.
At a demonstration in the northeastern seaport of Dalian to demand the closing of a chemical plant that allegedly was spilling toxic substances into the sea, most of the 20,000 protesters were middle-class homeowners concerned about their property values and their children's health, much like the not-in-my-backyard protests so familiar in the United States.
Not only did police exercise restraint, some offered directions to protesters on how to reach the demonstration. Municipal authorities quickly responded to the pressure, announcing within days the closure of the offending factory, which produced paraxylene, a highly toxic ingredient in the production of polyester.
"It will be written into the history books," Qian Wenzhong, a history professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, crowed on his blog the day the closure was announced. "From today on, the rulers will understand that they can never neglect people's will anymore."
In China, it is impossible to go to court to get a temporary restraining order if, for example, a factory is spewing harmful sustances into the water supply or somebody starts building on your land. Petitioning, an archaic practice dating to imperial times, requires the aggrieved to travel to Beijing and wait for months, if not years.
Rioting gets results. Quickly.
"It wasn't until a police car was overturned that the government started to pay attention," said Li Jun, 22, an environmental activist in Haining in the eastern province of Zhejiang, where villagers last month stormed the gates of a solar-panel factory, smashing windows and vandalizing cars.
For months, villagers had been complaining that the plant's discharge was killing fish in the river and raising cancer rates. After four days of rioting, authorities closed the plant and the operator issued a formal apology.
In Anshun, a small city in the southern province of Guizhou, the death of a disabled fruit vendor in the custody of the chengguan, neighborhood police widely disliked throughout China for their brutality, brought thousands of infuriated people out into the streets hurling stones and overturning cars in July. Within days, authorities sacked the officers involved.
Residents of a Guangdong province fishing village called Wukan who watched luxury villas crop up on what had been their land ransacked municipal offices and a restaurant and ranch belonging to a wealthy Hong Kong real estate developer in late September. As a result, authorities agreed to an investigation of all land deals in the southern village going back to 1978.
Last month, residents in a neighboring village, inspired by example, began a similar protest.
"We have a huge gap between rich and poor in our village. We want to see what role land sales play in that," said Zhang Chenhao, 22, who calls himself one of a group of "patriotic youths" in Wukan.
Property confiscation is probably the largest single trigger for extreme protest. A 79-year-old man immolated himself last year to protest an eviction; in May, a farmer set bombs in three government buildings, killing himself and two others.
The woman who stripped at the Shanghai courthouse, Zhuang Jinghui, complained that her home and clinic were demolished in 2008 for redevelopment and that she was tricked out of the compensation she was promised. The extreme protest was effective: The judge and prosecutor handling her case sat down for a meeting and promised to get the case solved by the end of the year.
The land issue looms large in the countryside. Local governments last year earned $470 billion from land deals, up from $70 million in 1989, according to the Ministry of Land and Resources, and farmers — who lease their land rather than own it under the communist system — have scant protection if local officials want to give the leases to real estate developers who will pay more. Compensation is often inadequate.
Chinese laws designed to protect farmland by requiring permission from the State Council — in effect, the country's Cabinet — for transfers are widely ignored by local officials.
Ma Jinhua, a 43-year-old resident of Siping, in the northeastern province of Jilin, said she was sowing corn seeds on fields her husband's family had farmed for generations when local officials, accompanied by uniformed police, ordered her off the land.
In the two years since, villagers have managed to stave off the building of a pharmaceutical factory by confronting engineering crews and, in July, sabotaging surveyors' equipment.
"We usually send the women and old people out. We figure they won't hurt us. The local government has hired thugs with sticks and clubs. If the young men go out, it will turn violent," said Ma, who was in Beijing recently with other villagers trying to get a hearing at the petition office
So far they haven't dared to throw rocks or overturn cars.
"If we did anything like that, they'd kill us," said Xie Yajun, a 53-year-old neighbor. "But we are reading law books. We are getting ourselves prepared."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5229 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 08:12am »
New York Times
October 9, 2011 Church Protests in Cairo Turn Deadly By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
CAIRO — A demonstration by Christians angry about a recent attack on a church touched off a night of violent protests here against the military council now ruling Egypt, leaving 24 people dead and more than 200 wounded in the worst spasm of violence since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February.
The sectarian protest appeared to catch fire because it was aimed squarely at the military council that has ruled Egypt since the revolution, at a moment when the military’s latest delay in turning over power has led to a spike in public distrust of its authority.
When the clashes broke out, some Muslims ran into the streets to help defend the Christians against the police, while others said they had come out to help the army quell the protests in the name of stability, turning what started as a march about a church into a chaotic battle over military rule and Egypt’s future.
Nada el-Shazly, 27, who was wearing a surgical mask to deflect the tear gas, said she came out because she heard state television urge “honest Egyptians” to turn out to protect the soldiers from Christian protesters, even though she knew some of her fellow Muslims had marched with the Christians to protest the military’s continued hold on power.
“Muslims get what is happening,” she said. The military, she said, was “trying to start a civil war.”
Thousands filled the streets of downtown, many armed with rocks, clubs or machetes. Witnesses said several protesters were crushed under military vehicles and the Health Ministry said that about 20 were undergoing surgery for bullet wounds.
Protesters responding to the news reportedly took to the streets in Alexandria as well.
The protest took place against a backdrop of escalating tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population. Christians had joined the pro-democracy protests in large numbers, hoping for the protections of a pluralistic, democratic state, but a surge in power of Islamists has raised fears of how much tolerance majority rule will allow.
But the most common refrain of the protests on Sunday was, “The people want to bring down the field marshal,” adapting the signature chant of the revolution to call for the resignation of the military’s top officer, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
“Muslims and Christians are one hand,” some chanted.
The military and riot police, on the other hand, appeared at some points to be working in tandem with Muslims who were lashing out at the Coptic Christians. As security forces cleared the streets around 10 p.m., police officers in riot gear marched back and forth through the streets of downtown alongside a swarm of hundreds of men armed with clubs and stones chanting, “The people want to bring down the Christians,” and, later, “Islamic, Islamic.”
“Until when are we going to live in this terror?” asked a Christian demonstrator who gave his name only as John. “This is not the issue of Muslim and Christian, this is the issue of the freedom that we demanded and can’t find.”
By the end of the night, as clouds of tear gas floated through the dark streets and the crosses carried by the original Christian demonstrators had disappeared, it became increasingly difficult to tell who was fighting whom.
At one point, groups of riot police officers were seen beating Muslim protesters, who were shouting, in Arabic, “God is Great!” while a few yards away other Muslims were breaking pavement into rocks to hurl in the direction of a group of Christians.
“It is chaos,” said Omar el-Shamy, a Muslim student who had spent much of the revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and returned again to help support the Christians against the military. “I was standing with a group of people and suddenly they were chanting with the army! I don’t know what is going on.”
State television announced a curfew in downtown Cairo beginning at 2 a.m., and the civilian cabinet, which serves under the military council, said that a committee headed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was meeting to address the crisis. The cabinet said it would not allow any interference with “national unity” or “the path of the democratic transition,” noting that a first step, the registration of parliamentary candidates for elections Nov. 28, will begin Wednesday.
“What’s happening is not sectarian tension,” Mr. Sharaf said in a telephone interview with state television. “It is an escalating plan for the fall and fragmentation of the state. There’s a feeling of a conspiracy theory to keep Egypt from having the elections that will lead it to democracy.”
Echoing the Mubarak government’s propaganda, he added, “There are hidden hands involved and we will not leave them."
Public patience with both street protests and military rule has grown increasingly thin. The military, initially celebrated as the savior of the revolution for ushering Mr. Mubarak out the door, has become a subject of public ire both for its failure to establish stability and for its repeated deferrals of its pledged exit from power.
In a timetable laid out last week, the military’s top officers said they expected to finish parliamentary elections by March but wait for the subsequent drafting and ratification of a constitution before holding a presidential election. That schedule could leave the military as an all-powerful chief executive for another two years or more. Newspapers and talk shows, once cowed by the military’s threats to censor any perceived insult, have begin openly debating whether the military will follow through on its commitments to democracy.
Where previous Christian demonstrations here appealed to the military for protection against radical Islamists, Sunday’s demonstration began from the start as a protest against the military’s stewardship of the government.
Christians who marched from the neighborhood of Shubra to the radio and television building to protest the partial dismantling of a church near the southern city of Aswan, said that they scuffled at least three times with neighbors who did not want them to pass.
But the violence did not escalate until they joined another demonstration at the radio and television headquarters around 6 p.m. Demonstrators and plainclothes security forces began throwing rocks at each other.
State news media reported that at least three security officers had died in attacks by Christian protesters, though those accounts could not be confirmed. The protesters did not appear to be armed and they insisted they were peaceful until they were attacked.
In retaliation, military vehicles began driving into protesters, killing at least six, including one with a crushed skull, several witnesses said. Some said they saw more than 15 mangled bodies. Photographs said to depict some of them circulated online.
Father Ephraim Magdy, a priest fleeing the tear gas, said he saw soldiers fire live bullets at protesters, and showed a journalist two bullet shells. “It is up to the military to explain what happened, but I see it as persecution,” he said. “I felt that they were monsters. It’s impossible for them to be Egyptians, let alone members of the army that protected the revolution.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5231 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 12:01pm »
Fountains of Life Found at the Bottom of the Dead Sea By Jennifer Frazer October 9, 2011
For years, ripples at the surface of the Dead Sea hinted there was something mysterious going on beneath its salt-laden waters. But in a lake where accidentally swallowing the water while diving could lead to near-instant asphyxiation, no one was in a hurry to find out what it might be.
This year, some intrepid divers changed that, stumbling onto a geological and biological treasure and capturing it on video. We’ll get to that in just a moment.
This is the Dead Sea. As you can see, it appears quite dead. There are no plants, fish, or any other visible life in the sea. Its salt concentration is a staggering 33.7%, 8.6 times saltier than ocean water, which is only about 3.5% salt. The stones at the water’s edge encrusted in salt are a good clue in that department. As a result, the Sea is famous for its body buoyancy properties, as people who take an exploratory dip generally find themselves riding high on its waters.
The Dead Sea is also the lowest point on earth, and getting lower every year, as water that would ordinarily fill it by flowing in from the Jordan River has been diverted to quench the thirst of Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. Every year, the lake drops over a meter per year. If this goes on long enough, the Sea could face Owens Lake’s and the Aral Sea’s fate: becoming a wind-swept salt flat. Yet, for now, life goes on.
Biologists have known since the 1930s the lake is “not dead yet”. Instead, it’s full of microbes that get along quite happily in the salty soup, for it keeps out competitors that would take over in a more hospital aqueous environment. In general, the water contains 1,000 to 10,000 archaea* per ml, a much lower concentration of life than in seawater, but quite respectable, all in all, for a place where one molecule in three is not water. Occasionally, when conditions are right, the sea blooms red with life. This happened in 1980 and 1992.
In any case, divers from Israel and Germany finally braved the waters this year to see what might have been causing the aforementioned concentric-ringed ripples observed near shore. They were not disappointed. This is what they found (hit the button at the bottom right corner of the youtube player to watch it in uber-super-cool full screen mode):
These are freshwater springs, jetting into the bottom of the Dead Sea from inside craters. Found as deep as 100 feet from the surface, the springs lie at the base of craters as large as 50 feet wide and 65 feet deep. As can be seen, a variety of interesting geological formations surround them.
The springs roil the waters they flow into in a phantasmal slipstream. Starting at about 2:00, you can see it coiling and mixing like it’s hundreds of degrees hotter or more sugary than the surrounding water. But no, it’s just that much less salty (and dense). (There’s a famous scene in the “Caves” episode of Planet Earth that vividly illustrates salinity gradients (haloclines) in the cenotes of Mexico too — go track down a copy if you can).
What makes this place biologically amazing was the life they found near the plumes.
The top of the springs’ rocks are covered with green biofilms, which use both sunlight and sulfide—naturally occurring chemicals from the springs—to survive. Exclusively sulfide-eating bacteria coat the bottoms of the rocks in a white biofilm.
Bacterial mats or biofilms have never been found in the Dead Sea before. You can see the films of green photosynthetic bacteria on top of a rock and a film of white sulfide-oxidizing bacteria underneath it in the very last scene of the movie. Go have a peek.
Not only have the organisms evolved in such a harsh environment, Ionescu speculates that the bacteria can somehow cope with sudden fluxes in fresh water and saltwater that naturally occur as water currents shift around the springs.
Ionescu further pointed out that all known hard-core halophiles, or salt-loving microbes, die if you put them in freshwater, and vice versa. How these microbes are able to withstand what must be wicked shifts in salinity on an ongoing basis is anyone’s guess. This reminds me of the creatures at deep sea vents that must withstand massive fluctuations in temperature as ventwater hundreds of degrees hotter than the surrounding seawater shifts back and forth. I’ll say it along with Jeff Goldblum once more: “Life finds a way.”
Whatever they are — and scientists are planning to go back to find out more — they are not like the microbes found in the rest of the sea nor like the organisms that cause the sea to occasionally bloom red. And they are very diverse — much more so than their halophilic neighbors.
The article also notes that the Dead Sea’s waters are particularly caustic and difficult for divers, which, as a new diver myself, I found particularly interesting/horrifying. In addition to having to weight yourself down incredibly — on the order of 90 pounds; when I dove in Hawaii last year, I used about 12 pounds — Dead Sea water is not something you want coming into contact with your face. Ever.
Divers will also need to wear full face masks to protect their eyes and mouths. That’s because accidentally swallowing Dead Sea salt water would cause the larynx to inflate, resulting in immediate choking and suffocation.
Likewise, the intensely salty water would instantly burn and likely blind the eyes—both reasons why Dead Sea swimmers rarely fully submerge their bodies, Ionescu noted.
I well recall practicing losing, replacing, and clearing my mask of water at depth when I was getting certified. I guess in the Dead Sea, that’s more of the nuclear option in case of leak or “wardrobe malfunction”.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5232 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 12:12pm »
UAV or UFO? Exclusive New Photos of the Navy's X-47B
The U.S. Navy's new prototype aircraft looks out of this world, but it's actually a stealth UAV that will operate from aircraft carriers. PM got some exclusive new pictures of this futuristic flyer
By Joe Pappalardo
No, it's not a UFO. This is the U.S. Navy's latest unmanned strike airplane, the X-47B. The Northrop Grumman–built stealth aircraft is currently flight testing. In 2013, these prototype planes will be used to demonstrate the first carrier-based launches and recoveries by an autonomous, low-observable unmanned aircraft.
This new image of the X-47B with its landing gear raised comes courtesy of the folks at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. It was taken Sept. 30 at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5233 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 12:21pm »
Paris art theft suspect says he threw paintings in garbage bin
Picasso, Matisse and Leger works are among five the defendant says he tossed out in a panic. The art was stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern Art, whose alarm wasn't functioning, in May 2010.
By Devorah Lauter, Los Angeles Times October 9, 2011, 8:11 p.m.
Reporting from Paris— A man suspected of hiding precious artwork stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern Art last year claims that in a panic, he threw the paintings into the garbage.
Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Matisse and Leger paintings stolen in May 2010, and worth about $134 million, may have been dumped in a garbage bin on a Paris street and destroyed with the rest of that day's trash, according to testimony by one of three suspects connected to the theft. The suspect, a 34-year-old watch repairman, was identified only as Jonathan B. by the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche. The paper broke the detailed story on the investigation Sunday.
The other suspects include a 56-year-old antique shop owner, who is accused of commissioning the break-in, and a 43-year-old Serb with the nickname "Spiderman," for allegedly scaling the walls of upscale Paris apartment buildings in search of pricey artwork and other valuables.
The Serb is suspected of making off with the five paintings in the early morning of May 20, 2010. According to the Journal report, he said after being detained by police that once inside the museum he intended to take only one painting, by Fernand Leger, "Still Life With Candlestick." But the museum's alarm didn't sound when the art was removed from the wall, so he wandered around the national museum for more than an hour, helping himself to four more masterpieces, before driving away in a car parked nearby. Despite several security cameras, three night watchmen didn't notice the masked intruder.
The incident spurred French museums to reevaluate their security systems, amid an uproar after the revelation that the alarm had been out of order for more than a month before the theft.
The case started to crack when the Serb and the antique shop owner were detained by France's special police bandit brigade in May in connection with other suspected crimes. The Associated Press reported that a third suspect, Jonathan B., was also questioned, but later released.
After that brush with authorities he reportedly panicked and trashed the irreplaceable works of art, Picasso's "Dove With Green Peas," Matisse's "Pastoral," Braque's "The Olive Tree Near Estaque," Modigliani's "Woman With a Fan" and the Leger still life.
The shop owner denies ordering the theft but reportedly admitted that the stolen works were delivered to him, and that he gave them to Jonathan B., whom French reports describe as an expert Parisian watch repairman.
The three were questioned and then arrested in mid-September in connection with the museum theft. Investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the paintings may still be recovered.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #5234 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 12:36pm »
Secretive New Space Shuttle? By David Axe October 10, 2011
Image credit: NASA
The Pentagon's most mysterious spacecraft just got more intriguing. At a conference in California, Art Grantz, project manager for aerospace giant Boeing, detailed plans for an enlarged, passenger-carrying variant of the company’s X-37B robotic ‘space plane.’
The X-37B is essentially a quarter-scale version of the Space Shuttle flown by NASA between 1981 and 2011. Launched atop an Atlas V rocket, the 29-foot-long X-37B is used to carry small payloads into orbit and return them to Earth up to 270 days later, landing like an airplane.
The Air Force claims the X-37B is strictly for experimental purposes, though the flying branch has been vague on details. The craft’s versatility means it could probably be used for many other tasks. ‘You can put sensors in there, satellites in there,’ says Eric Sterner, from The Marshall Institute in Virginia.
Boeing has built two X-37Bs. The first flew its inaugural mission between April and December last year. The second X-37B launched in March. The space plane’s nominal mission endurance is nine months, but the Air Force ‘will try to extend it as circumstances allow,’ said Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre.
Meanwhile, Grantz revealed Boeing’s plans for an X-37C model, which would be nearly twice as long as the B version, with sufficient capacity for up to six astronauts. The X-37C could be controlled robotically – or by a human pilot. ‘Once qualified for human flight, these vehicles could transport a mix of astronauts and cargo to the [International Space Station] and offer a much gentler return to a runway landing for the space tourism industry,’ Grantz wrote in a report.
With the Space Shuttles headed for museums, the United States doesn’t currently possess a vehicle capable of carrying astronauts. For crew swaps aboard the International Space Station, Washington rents Russian Soyuz capsules. NASA is developing a new passenger capsule and a new, large rocket for manned missions; a number of private companies are also experimenting with manned spacecraft. If Boeing proceeds past the study phase, the X-37C could compete with these systems.
Space planes capable of landing on runways remain very much in vogue, four decades after the Space Shuttle’s development. Russia and China for their part have both reportedly experimented with small space planes similar to the X-37B.