Thursday, July 31, 2008

Exxon posts record $11.68 billion profit

Exxon Mobil once again reported the largest quarterly profit in U.S. history Thursday, posting net income of $11.68 billion on revenue of $138 billion in the second quarter. That profit works out to $1,485.55 a second. That barely beat the previous corporate record of $11.66 billion, also set by Exxon in the fourth quarter of 2007. - cnn

Exxon: Cleaning up the planet by charging too much for gas and causing people to drive less.

Topanga Canyon UFO

My boyfriend and I were on our balcony when I looked up and noticed a stationary object in the sky. We live east of Los Angeles where we have been among many to see UFO's of the San Gabriel Mountains. This is our fifth sighting this year but this is the first one we have on tape... and during the day. We noticed that it had it's own light source and was very still for a few minutes and then eventually coasted away. It is not a balloon or anything I have seen before. Red and white orbs zig zagging through the sky at night have been the what we've seen... until this. It was around 3pm and appeared to look like a sperm. ... - Frankwarren

This is a second video of the same sighting. This UFO just seems to blow around in the wind, right? I'm guessing a Chinese lantern with a tail attached:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tennis Ball Haircut

The Mysterious Stone Balls of Costa Rica

In the 1930s, tens of spherically shaped stones were discovered in the jungle of Costa Rica. The stone balls were found by workers who were clearing a jungle area for banana plantations. They did not know what the objects were and almost 80 years later we still don’t know.

The balls were found in the delta of Terraba River, near the towns of Palmar Sur and Palmar Norte. Almost immediately after their discovery, the balls were dispersed throughout Costa Rica. They were transported by train and landed up in different markets where people would buy them as lawn ornaments. A couple of them can be seen in the U.S., at the museum of the National Geographic Society in Washington and in a courtyard near the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Some stone balls have definitely been loaded in the wagons with difficulty. All present the same shape, spherical, but their sizes differ from small examples no bigger than tennis balls to some 2 meters high and weighing almost 16 tones. Their sizes are not achieved naturally; in fact there are clear clues which suggest that the stone balls were made by humans.

Scientists attributed the spherical stones to the Aguas Buenas culture which dates from 200 BC to 800 AD. Other stones found together with various gold ornaments can date after 1000 AD. They were probably made by the ancestors of the natives who populated the region at the time of the Spanish conquest, but nobody knows for sure. Of course, as many other historical mysteries, Costa Rica’s stone balls have been attributed to the civilization of Atlantis. - dailyancient

More photos here.

Man, 66, records 2 holes-in-one in same round

For somebody who'd been playing golf 50 years and never had a hole-in-one, Bob Hickey got the hang of it quickly. The 66-year-old Grayling man used a 7-iron to card his first-ever ace Thursday on the 167-yard 10th hole at Marsh Ridge in Gaylord. Then Hickey used an 8-iron to ace the 147-yard 17th hole. According to a 2000 Golf Digest article cited by the Traverse City Record-Eagle, the odds of one player making two holes-in-one during the same round are 67 million to 1.  - yahoo

Can you identify this expired animal?

found here.

Update: Elizabeth Barbeiri said her family saw it about a mile east of Gurney's Inn in Montauk, July 14. And Ryan Kelso, via iPhone, said he spotted it -- alive! -- in the Montauk dunes. "It looked about the size of an average fox, gray in color, eyes like a mole, hairless and was breathing quite heavily," he wrote - newsday

Below is not a turtle without a shell, it is a soft shelled turtle. They don't look alike and according to one person a turtle's shell is attached to its backbone so you can't remove the shell without opening all its guts.

If it is a decaying dog, why does it seem to have a beak like a bird?  Here's another photo:

UPDATE: 08/02/2008
Following this lead we looked into "eerie" Plum Island and contacted Dr. Larry Barrett, Center Director of Plum Island Animal Disease Center, who was kind enough to supply his take:

"It is impossible to accurately identify the species of animal from the photo. There is no scale from which to judge its size. Additionally, when a body has had prolonged exposure to water and predators, it can be altered or appear different from its normal form. If we had the actual body, we could tell you what it is; however, from viewing a canine tooth in the picture, we could guess it may be a cat or a raccoon. I can state categorically that it is not associated with the work performed at Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). PIADC serves as the nation's first line of defense against foreign animal diseases of livestock by identifying such diseases through diagnostic testing and by developing vaccines to protect livestock from those diseases."

The mystery thickens ... or does it? Steven T. Papa, a Senior Endangered Species/Federal Projects Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has told Plum:

“Based on these higher resolution photos, it appears to be a raccoon based on estimating overall ear length to body length ratio in the photos to measurements found in the literature, as well as lower jaw and front leg characteristics.

This is the best I could do without seeing the ‘animal.’” - hamptons

Update 10.21.2010: Emma posted this a while ago, but I just took a close look. I looked at a lot of racoon skulls and I'd buy it being a raccoon if the poor animal lost part of it's front jaw and large front teeth, resulting in the "beak" appearance.

Woman, 44, gives birth to her 18th child in Canada

A Romanian immigrant has given birth to her 18th child in British Columbia, making her the province's most prolific mother in 20 years.

Proud dad Alexandru Ionce said Saturday that his 44-year-old wife, Livia, gave birth on Tuesday. Their daughter Abigail weighed in at seven pounds, 12 ounces.

"We never planned how many children to have. We just let God guide our lives, you know, because we strongly believe life comes from God and that's the reason we did not stop the life," said Alexandru Ionce.

The couple immigrated to Canada from Romania in 1990 and now live in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Their 17 other children range in age from 20 months to 23 years old. -phy

Portrait of Woman Revealed Beneath Van Gogh Painting

A previously unknown portrait of a woman by Vincent van Gogh has been revealed in a high-tech look beneath another of his paintings, it was announced today.

Scientists used a new technique to peer beneath the paint of van Gogh's "Patch of Grass." Already it was known there was something there, likely a portrait of some sort. Van Gogh was known to paint over his work, perhaps as much as a third of the time.

Behind the painting, done mostly in greens and blues, is a portrait of a woman rendered in browns and reds.

The new technique is based on "synchrotron radiation induced X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy" and is said to be an improvement on X-ray radiography, which has been used to reveal concealed layers of other famous paintings. The new method measures chemicals in the pigments. Specifically, mercury and the element antimony were useful in revealing the woman's face.

The work was done by researchers at Delft University of Technology in the the Netherlands and the University of Antwerp in Belgium, along with help from other institutions. - yahoo

'Yeti hairs' examined

The hunt for the mysterious Yeti - otherwise known as the Abominable Snowman - has frustrated scientists for decades.

Yesterday, scientists at Oxford Brookes University joined in the hunt after being given a number of hair strands taken from what is purported to be a Yeti-like creature in India.

The Brookes boffins used high-powered microscopes to analyse the samples found in the West Garo jungle of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya.

They compared the suspected Yeti strands to samples taken from primates, bears, dogs, yaks and humans, which were provided by the Natural History Museum in Oxford.

After the microscope tests have been carried out, the hairs will be sent away to a laboratory for DNA testing.

Dr Anna Nekaris, of the university's anthropology department, said: "It's exciting to be asked to take part in this research.

"We put the hairs in clear nail varnish because that helps us to see them more clearly under the microscope.

"Hair cuticle patterns differ greatly from species to species when you look at them under a microscope. ...

The hair was discovered earlier this year by BBC reporter Alastair Lawson, who went on an expedition to find the animal after a number of reported sightings.

A forestry officer had seen the creature in the same location and gathered the hair from the area where it had been standing.

Mr Lawson brought the hair back to England to be analysed and contacted Mr Redmond, who then linked up with scientists at Oxford Brookes.

Mr Lawson said: "The forestry officer said he had seen the Yeti two days in a row and persuaded a zoologist to come with him to collect the hairs.

"I'm not convinced that the Yeti exists, but we might have come across a primate that has not been discovered before. - oxford

Our garden was buzzed by a UFO!

BOB and Christine Bird were enjoying a lazy summer evening in their garden when they claim a UFO swooped low over their bungalow.

The astonished South Molton grandparents, their daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren, had been sitting in the back garden for about an hour before they spotted the "orange blob" slowly moving towards them at around 10pm on Saturday night.

"It started to slow down above us and it wasn't that high up, at least it didn't seem like it," Christine, 57, told the Gazette.

"As it began to move over the house, my husband went indoors to get his camera. My daughter and I went to the front door and suddenly this 'thing' started to move.

"It went up at about a 40-degree angle and shot straight into the sky so fast. It was still quite light and you could actually see the orange colour getting smaller before it disappeared among the stars.

"Even now, what we all witnessed is so hard to believe that we can't stop thinking and talking about it. - ndg

Diamonds May Have Been Life's Best Friend On Primordial Earth

Diamonds may have been life's best friend. Billions of years ago, the surface of these gems may have provided just the right conditions to foster the chemical reactions believed to have given rise to life on Earth, researchers in Germany report. ... In a series of laboratory experiments, the scientists showed that after treatment with hydrogen, natural diamond forms crystalline layers of water on its surface, essential for the development of life, and involved in electrical conductivity. When primitive molecules landed on the surface of these hydrogenated diamonds in the atmosphere of early Earth, the resulting reaction may have been sufficient enough to generate more complex organic molecules that eventually gave rise to life, researchers say. - sd

Berry-pickers report sasquatch sighting in northern Ontario

Two Ontario women say they saw what might have been the legendary sasquatch in northwestern Ontario last week.

Helen Pahpasay and her mother were north of Grassy Narrows, Ont., about 230 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, to pick blueberries last Tuesday when they spotted a hulking figure from their truck at about 10 a.m. CT.

"It was black, about eight feet long and all black, and the way it walked was upright, human-like, but more — I don't know how to describe it — more of a husky walk, I guess," she told CBC News.

"It didn't look normal."

The creature seemed to spot them, then ran off into the woods, Pahpasay said. She and her mother debated chasing the creature to try to get a closer glimpse, but were so shaken they decided to abandon their berry-picking excursion and return home.

Others returned to the area later and found a large, six-toed footprint, Pahpasay said. "What do I think it was? Right now I'm not even sure what it was. But it really scared both of us," she said.

"There's been talk of Bigfoot, sasquatch. And I'm still not sure what it was, but I've never seen anything like it."

Pahpasay says she and her mother aren't the only people in the area with a sasquatch story. A couple of men from their community said they also saw the creature three years ago, she said, and a similar animal has been mentioned in old lore about the area.

"I've never believed it before, no. I'm not even quite sure what it still is today, even after what I've seen," she said.

Sasquatch, an aboriginal word meaning "hairy giant," refers to a large manlike creature some believe could be roaming woods from California up the West Coast and across Canada.

In April 2005, a ferry operator in Norway house, Man., captured on videotape three minutes of footage of what he said was a sasquatch. However, the video, which was shown on an American television network, was indistinct at best, failing to live up to its billing as "footage of the century."

In 2006, several people in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan reported seeing a sasquatch-like figure in the woods around Flin Flon, Man.

Skeptics say it's preposterous that a large mammal could have evaded detection in North America throughout history. Despite numerous alleged sightings, no one has ever produced concrete evidence such as skulls or bones, they argue, while footprints, film or photos can be manufactured. - cbc

Orangutans concoct plant-based soothing balm

Indonesian wild orangutans have demonstrated a certain degree of medicinal savvy by deploying naturally-occuring anti-inflammatory drugs to "treat aches and pains", as the New Scientist puts it.

Four of the Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) were spotted by Cambridge University primatologist Helen Morrogh-Bernard in the Sabangau Peat Swamp Forest in Central Kalimantan preparing a "soothing balm".

Back in 2005, Morrogh-Bernard watched as an adult female picked a handful of leaves from a plant, chewed them, and used saliva to produce a green-white lather. She then "scooped up some of the lather with her right hand and applied it up and down the back of her left arm, from the base of the shoulder to the wrist, just as a person would apply sunscreen".

Morrogh-Bernard noted: "She was concentrating on her arm only and was methodical in the way she was applying the soapy foam. I knew this must be some form of self-medication."

The orangutan finally ditched the leaves, which allowed Morrogh-Bernard to identify them as belonging to the genus Commelina. Significantly, orangutans don't eat these plants as part of their normal diet, and local indigenous people are also aware of their anti-inflammatory properties.

Morrogh-Bernard has since clocked three other orangutans using their home-brew balm, saying it "links apes and humans directly". While she said the former "may not have learnt how to apply the anti-inflammatory ointment from local people", the opposite may be true. - register

We still have better brain surgeons.

Celebrating the navel in Japan's "belly button"

It was belly-up for thousands of people who indulged in a weekend of navel gazing at a festival dedicated to the belly button in central Japan.

Children and adults, many of them sporting painted stomachs, took part at the annual Belly Button Festival in Shibukawa, north of Tokyo, where dancing in the streets is compulsory.

"The belly button is traditionally believed to be located in the middle of the body and the most important part. Our town, Shibukawa, is also called the belly button of Japan, and that is how this festival began," said festival organizer Kazuo Yamada.

The festival is based on a traditional Japanese form of entertainment where revelers paint a face on their torsos and stomachs and pretend it is a head.

A kimono is then wrapped around the waist and the person's real head is hidden by a large cloth hat. The belly button is traditionally painted into a mouth. - reuters

Oh man, all these years I thought some guy in my high school invented that...

Man hurt in fuel-making explosion

A man blew up his garage attempting to make biodiesel from cooking oil at his Northamptonshire home.

The victim received 20% burns when his makeshift garage factory, in Middleton Cheney, exploded on Saturday afternoon.

He was airlifted to the specialist burns unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, where he is now being treated.

Fire crews from Banbury, Oxfordshire, in breathing apparatus, sealed the area off until the chemicals were made safe.

It is understood the man regularly made fuel from used cooking oil, which he got from his local Chinese takeaway.

Soaring prices

He was using an electric drill to mix the oil with ethanol and caustic soda when a spark ignited the flames, causing the explosion.

Making your own fuel is legal - the government allows people to produce 2,500 litres of biofuel a year, tax free.

The AA has said more people are making their own supplies since the price of petrol and diesel began to soar at the pumps - with one estimate suggesting that 20,000 people across the UK are doing so.

But the organisation said while biodiesel might work in older cars, newer engines often do not react well to home-made fuel.

Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service warned that people without sufficient knowledge of how to deal with chemicals were likely to face problems.

A spokesman said: "Firefighters would like to urge members of the public to take extreme caution if undertaking such chemical mixtures in their own homes and ensure they know exactly what they are doing and the potential consequences." - bbc

Once again Europe seems to be ahead of us. Be careful out there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

5.4 Earthquake in LA, just a small sample of what is to come

The quake was 7.6 miles deep and was felt more than 100 miles away. ... As of 12:03 p.m. local time, 16 aftershocks had been recorded, ranging from 1.4 to 3.8 in magnitude, according to the USGS Web site. - bloomberg

... The jolt was felt from Los Angeles to San Diego, and slightly in Las Vegas.

Preliminary information from the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the quake at magnitude 5.8, centered 29 miles east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County. Ten aftershocks occurred in the next dozen minutes, including three estimated at 3.8.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said there were no immediate reports of damage or injury in Los Angeles. San Bernardino County fire dispatch also had no immediate reports of damage.

The quake struck at 11:42 a.m. PDT. Buildings swayed in downtown Los Angeles for several seconds.

Workers quickly evacuated some office buildings.

"It was dramatic. The whole building moved and it lasted for a while," said Los Angeles County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore, who was in the sheriff's suburban Monterey Park headquarters east of Los Angeles.

In Orange County, about 2000 detectives were attending gang conference at a Marriott hotel in Anaheim when a violent jolt shook the main conference room.

Mike Willever, who was at the hotel, said, "First we heard the ceiling shaking, then the chandelier started to shake, then there was a sudden movement of the floor." - mercurynews

The photo is from a previous quake, but as these things hit, we should keep in mind that 72,000 of our nation's 600,000 bridges are structurally deficient according to the Federal Highway Administration.
... meaning they are not unsafe but are so deteriorated that they must be closely monitored and inspected or repaired. - pwmag

It would cost $9.4 billion a year for 20 years to eliminate all bridge deficiencies in the USA, according to the latest estimate, made in 2005, by the American Society of Civil Engineers. - usatoday

With people now driving over a billion miles less per year due to high gas prices, there are fewer funds for repairs.

Currently about 37,000 people die each year from automobile accidents. If roads and bridges start falling apart, will this number go up or down?

Clean Energy Economy

Thousands of new companies, millions of new jobs, and billions in revenue generated by solutions to the climate crisis -- this is the clean energy economy we can adopt with today's technologies, resources, know-how, and leadership from our elected officials. Although our reliance on fossil fuels has created global warming, we now have the opportunity and obligation to begin a transformation towards a robust clean energy economy -- one that is supported by highly efficient industries, fueled by clean, renewable resources (like wind, solar and geothermal energy), and based on modern infrastructure and smart transportation planning.

A clean energy economy is a win for American jobs. A recent report showed that investment in a clean and efficient economy would "lead to over 3 million new green-collar jobs, stimulate $1.4 trillion in new GDP, add billions in personal income and retail sales, produce $284 billion in net energy savings, all while generating sufficient returns to the U.S. treasury to pay for itself over ten years."

Studies by leading research institutions have shown that if we invest in clean energy over fossil fuels, we will create more American jobs. A report released by the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, for example, found that thanks to the growth of wind energy, approximately 5,200 manufacturing jobs could be created in Iowa alone over the next decade. Additional studies have found that thousands more jobs could be created in other states that have suffered industry job losses and that welcome the opportunity to train workers for the new energy economy.

Even without strong U.S. leadership, clean energy is catching on around the world. Global investment in renewable energy climbed 25% in 2006 (from $80 billion to $100 billion). Three clean-energy industries—biofuels, wind, and solar photovoltaics—each surpassed $20 billion in revenue in 2007. Just last year, clean energy received $2.7 billion in US venture capital investment. -

Happy Birthday, NASA. Are Hoagland and Bara nuts?

... Few people are aware that NASA was formed as a national defense agency adjunct empowered to keep information classified and secret from the public at large. Even fewer people are aware of the hard evidence that secret brotherhoods quietly dominate NASA, with policies far more aligned with ancient religious and occult mystery schools than the fa├žade of rational science the government agency has successfully promoted to the world for almost fifty years.

Why is the Bush administration intent on returning to the Moon as quickly as possible? What are the reasons for the current “space race” with China, Russia, even India? Remarkable images reproduced within this book provided to the authors by disaffected NASA employees give clues why, including spectacular information about lunar and Martian discoveries.

Former NASA consultant and CBS News advisor Richard C. Hoagland and Boeing engineer Mike Bara offer extraordinary information regarding the secret history of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the astonishing discoveries it has suppressed for decades. Co-author Mike Bara is an engineer who has worked for Boeing and other aeronautic firms.

The Freemasonic flag seen on the cover was brought to the Moon by 32° astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and later ceremoniously presented to Scottish Rite headquarters in Washington D.C. - fhouse

Cuil not a Google killer - yet

By Yi-Wyn Yen

With hours of being launched Monday, Cuil - a new search engine created by former top Google engineers - was already being touted in the blogosphere as the next Google killer. But unless Cuil (pronounced ‘cool’) can develop an ad platform to rival Google’s, Cuil will have a difficult time challenging the search giant.

The comparisons to Google (GOOG) were inevitable. Cuil was founded by several lead engineers from Google, including Anna Patterson, chief architect of the company’sTeraGoogle search index. Cuil also claims its search algorithm scans through 120 billion web pages - three times the number that Google sifts through. And Cuil’s spare start page is reminiscent of Google’s minimalist home page.

The launch of Cuil certainly raised eyebrows at Google. Though the company would not comment on Cuil’s launch, Google’s web search team stuck it to the small search startup on Monday with a blog post that begins, “We knew the web was big…We’ve known it for a long time.” ... Both Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT) have been trying for years to make a dent in Google’s search business. Yahoo (a distant second) and Microsoft (and even more distant third) have spent billions trying to figure out how to close the gap on Google in the lucrative paid search market. Google’s paid search business made up 40% of all online search dollars in 2007, according to eMarketer. ... - more on techlandblogs

DOJ: Former aide broke law in hiring scandal

Top aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales broke the law by letting politics influence the hiring of career prosecutors and immigration judges at the Justice Department, says an internal report released Monday.

Gonzales was largely unaware of the hiring decisions by two of his most trusted aides, according to the report by Justice's Office of Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility.

But it singles out his former White House liaison, Monica Goodling, for violating federal law and Justice Department policy by discriminating against job applicants who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists.

"Goodling improperly subjected candidates for certain career positions to the same politically based evaluation she used on candidates for political positions," the report concluded.

In one instance, Justice investigators found, Goodling objected to hiring an assistant prosecutor in Washington because "judging from his resume, he appeared to be a liberal Democrat."

In another, she rejected an experienced terror prosecutor to work on counterterror issues at a Justice Department headquarters office "because of his wife's political affiliations," the report found. - ap

Monday, July 28, 2008

An Interview with Jacques Vallee

Listen to the podcast on binnallofamerica:

Episode #331: Jacques Vallee :: Alien Contact Trilogy and Messengers of Deception
Sunday, July 20, 2008 5:00 PM

Jacques Vallee was born in France, where he received a B.S. in mathematics at the Sorbonne and an M.S. in astrophysics at Lille University. Coming to the U.S. as an astronomer at the University of Texas, where he co-developed the first computer-based map of Mars for NASA, Jacques later moved to Northwestern University where he received his Ph.D. in computer science. He went on to work at SRI International and the Institute for the Future, where he directed the project to build the world's first network-based groupware system as a Principal Investigator on Arpanet, the prototype for the Internet. He is now a venture capitalist, and lives in San Francisco. He continues to research the UFO phenomenon.

His website is

The Science Behind Owning a Universe

"At the level of subatomic particles the world is governed by quantum physics. Quantum theory is the most successful scientific theory ever: more successful than Newton's laws or Einstein's relativity! The evidence that it correctly describes reality is simply overwhelming.

Yet quantum theory is very strange and goes against most of our fundamental beliefs about reality. We tend to think that at any moment things are located in one definite position. Quantum theory has proven that for sub atomic particles this is not in fact the case. They only take on a definite location when observed. Unobserved their position is described by a wave function of probabilities. In everyday English this means that when nobody is looking they simultaneously exist in all the positions they can possibly be in!

This strange quality of our fundamental reality is perfectly brought out by the example of Schroedinger’s cat. A cat is placed in a box that contains a vial of poison, which is released by the decay of a radioactive element. There is a 50/50 chance that the radioactive element will decay and release the poison, thus killing the cat. Since the decay of the radioactive element is determined by quantum theory it must simultaneously have decayed and not decayed. Only observation would fix one of the two possibilities. But this means the poison has been both released and not released! So until someone looks the cat in the box is both dead and alive!

Obviously a cat cannot be both dead and alive simultaneously. The best explanation is that two separate universes are created, one with a dead cat, one with a live cat. In fact, for every position of every sub atomic particle an alternate universe is created. While the number of universes created may not be infinite it is certainly very, very, large, unimaginably so.

We of course only inhabit one of the universes and with present technology cannot travel to others. But a breakthrough in quantum physics that allows us to travel to another universe could happen at any time. It may even be more likely than interstellar travel, which looks increasingly unlikely at any time in the near future.

Now you know that The Authority for Universe Ownership is firmly based on the most successful scientific theory ever what are you waiting for? Sign up and purchase your very own personalised universe." - your universe

In a parallel universe you already own your own universe ... without paying $9,999.00 to this joker ... but don't tell him I let the cat out of the box ... uh, bag. ;-)

Where did all the anti-matter go?

Today, physicists conducting the BaBar experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), a Department of Energy laboratory operated by Stanford University, announced exciting new results demonstrating a dramatic difference in the behavior of matter and antimatter ...

When the universe began with the big bang, matter and antimatter were present in equal amounts. But all observations indicate that we live in a universe made only of matter. What happened to the antimatter?

Subtle differences between the behavior of matter and antimatter must be responsible for the matter-antimatter imbalance that developed in our universe. -sd

“Our universe is made up almost completely of matter. While we’re entirely used to this idea, this does not agree with our ideas of how mass and energy interact. According to these theories there should not be enough mass to enable the formation of stars and hence life.”

“In our standard model of particle physics, matter and antimatter are almost identical. Accordingly as they mix in the early universe they annihilate one another leaving very little to form stars and galaxies. The model does not come close to explaining the difference between matter and antimatter we see in the nature. The imbalance is a trillion times bigger than the model predicts.”

Sevior says that this inconsistency between the model and the universe implies there is a new principle of physics that we haven’t yet discovered.

“Together with our colleagues in the Belle experiment, based at KEK in Japan, we have produced vast numbers of B mesons with the world’s most intense particle collider.”

“We then looked at how the B-mesons decay as opposed to how the anti-B-mesons decay. What we find is that there are small differences in these processes. While most of our measurements confirm predictions of the Standard Model of Particle Physics, this new result appears to be in disagreement.”

“It is a very exciting discovery because our paper provides a hint as to what the new principle of physics is that led to our Universe being able to support life.” -sd

Bizarre frog tunes ears to specific frequencies

... University of Illinois professor Albert Feng says the frog known as "Odorrana tormota" is the only known animal that actively selects what frequencies it hears. He pointed out that the frogs seem to possess an ability to tune in to specific sound frequencies as circumstances change. For instance, when the low frequency background noise makes it too difficult for them to discern the calls of potential mates or rivals, the frogs' hearing can switch to high frequency and ultrasonic hearing levels. There's a reason why people outside of frog enthusiasts and people with very weird hobbies should care. Earlier research into the mechanics of frog hearing helped Feng and his colleagues design an "intelligent hearing aid" that boosts sound signals. - cnet

Mother Ship Unveiled for $200,000 Place in Space

After years of secretive construction, Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic presented the first stage of its commercial launch platform, White Knight Two, today at the Mojave Air and Space Port. - wired

British entrepreneur and adventurer Richard Branson on Monday took the wraps off an aircraft that, for $200,000 a seat, may someday take tourists who can afford it on the first leg of regular, albeit very brief, commercial flights into space.

Amid extravagantly orchestrated publicity at a historic test airfield near Edwards Air Force Base, Branson unveiled the double-hulled "mother ship" built to carry a capsule filled with six wealthy tourists high into the stratosphere, from where the smaller ship would rocket into the blackness more than 60 miles above Earth.

The dual-fuselage, all-composite plane expands and refines the smaller version that famed aircraft designer Burt Rutan twice used four years ago to begin the journey of a piloted capsule to sub-orbital altitude, winning the X-Prize competition aimed at encouraging private spaceflight.

No one knows when Virgin Galactic will fly, but about 100 people have already paid full price for the trip, which comes to $50,000 per minute for the four minutes the travelers will spend in weightlessness. An additional 170 have put down deposits.

"It's no good saying it's just extravagant. It could lead to all kinds of things," said Evette Branson after christening the oddly shaped four-engine jet, dubbed Eve in her honor.

"If you're going to name a mother ship, you might as well name it after your mother," said her daredevil son, who nearly lost an eye when the champagne cork ricocheted off the fuselage, just below the pinup with the face of the onetime flight attendant. - link

Americans ditching the car

Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles in May compared with a year earlier, according to a report Monday from the Federal Highway Administration.

"We have seen the longest decline in vehicular miles traveled since we started collecting this data," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters in a conference call with reporters.

Peters said that in the first four months of this year, Americans traveled 40.5 billion miles less compared with the same period in 2007. She said the decline in usage means less tax revenue for highway system. Many of these commuters are flocking to trains, buses and bikes, or telecommuting from home.

Rising gas prices are to blame for the driving decline, and the use of public transportation is soaring, said Virginia Miller, spokeswoman for the American Public Transit Association, a private trade group. ... Gasoline prices soared in May, rising for 24 consecutive days in the month, and breaking the psychologically significant $4-a-gallon barrier in many states, according to data from motorist group AAA.  - cnn

In other words, oil companies have a secret plan to save the planet by charging so much for gas.  This is why praying will not help.
Two prayer services will be held at St. Louis gas stations to thank God for lower fuel prices and to ask that they continue to drop. Darrell Alexander, Midwest co-chair of the Pray at the Pump movement, says prayer gatherings will be held Monday afternoon and evening at a Mobil station west of downtown St. Louis. Participants say they plan to buy gas, pray and then sing "We Shall Overcome" with a new verse, "We'll have lower gas prices." An activist from the Washington D.C. area, Rocky Twyman, started the effort, saying if politicians couldn't lower gas prices, it was time to ask God to intervene. The group thinks the prayer is helping, saying prices are starting to fall below $4 a gallon. - newsobserver

Trees with rabbit genes accelerate cleaning of soil

This is from 2007, but still interesting. Genes of different species don't mix naturally, but they are similar enough that we can mix them in laboratories. We can even mix DNA between plants and animals with useful results.

Genetically modified plants that can break down pollutants may be an effective way to clean soil contaminated by industrial chemicals and explosives used by the military, according to scientists.

Tests on six-inch tall GM poplar cuttings which had a gene from a rabbit inserted into them showed that they could remove up to 91% of a chemical called trichloroethylene from the water used in their feed. This chemical, used as an industrial degreaser and one of the most common contaminants of ground water, was broken down by the plants into harmless byproducts more than 100 times faster than by unaltered plants.

"In view of their large size and extensive root systems, these transgenic poplars may provide the means to effectively clean sites contaminated with a variety of pollutants at much faster rates and at lower costs than can be achieved with current conventional techniques," wrote Sharon Doty, of the University of Washington, Seattle, yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The GM poplars also broke down other common environmental pollutants such as chloroform, a byproduct of the disinfection of drinking water, the solvent carbon tetrachloride, and vinyl chloride, used to make plastics.

Poplars use an enzyme called cytochrome P450 to break down contaminants. Trichloroethylene is turned into a harmless salt, water and carbon dioxide.

After Dr Doty's team inserted the gene into the tree from a rabbit they also produced P450, but at a much faster rate. Ultimately, the scientists would like to manipulate the plant's own genes to achieve the same goal - guarduk

Police: Man shot churchgoers over liberal views

An unemployed man accused of opening fire with a shotgun and killing two people at a Unitarian Universalist church apparently targeted the congregation out of hatred for its support of liberal social policies, police said Monday.

Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said a signed, four-page letter written by Jim D. Adkisson, 58, was found in his small SUV in the church parking lot after gunfire interrupted a children's performance based on the musical "Annie" Sunday morning. Seven people also were injured in the melee.

"It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that and his stated hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said at a news conference.

No children were hurt, but five people remained in serious or critical condition Monday. A burly usher who died, Greg McKendry, 60, was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. A second victim who died hours later was identified as Linda Kraeger, 61. The shooting started as about 200 people watched the show put on by 25 children. Witnesses said some of the church members wrestled the suspect to the ground after he pulled a shotgun from a guitar case and fired three times.

When the first shot rang out at the rear of the sanctuary, many church members thought it might be part of the play or a glitch in the public address system. Some laughed before turning around and seeing the shooter and his first victims covered in blood. Jamie Parkey said Monday he was crawling under the pews with his daughter and mother when the second and third shots were fired. He saw several men rush the suspect.

"I jumped up to join them thinking the best way to stop this was to stop it," he told AP Television News. "When I got there they were already wrestling with him. The gun was in the air. Somebody grabbed the gun and we just kind of dog-piled him to the floor. I knew a police suppression hold and I sat on him until police came."

Adkisson, who is charged with one count of first-degree murder, remained jailed Monday under "close observation" on $1 million bail, authorities said. More charges were expected.

Court records from neighboring Anderson County indicate Adkisson threatened violence against his spouse several years ago. In March 2000 his then-wife, Liza Alexander, obtained an order of protection against him after telling a judge that Adkisson had threatened "to blow my brains out and then blow his own brains out." The woman's written request for protection, reviewed by The Associated Press, said she was "in fear for my life and what he might do." ...

"He certainly intended to take a lot of casualties," Owen said. "He had 76 rounds with him."

Police said Adkisson carried a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun into the church in a guitar case, but it appeared no specific person was targeted. A search of his house also turned up a .38-caliber handgun, Owen added.

Owen said authorities believe the suspect had gone to the Unitarian church because of "some publicity in the recent past regarding its liberal stance on things."

Unitarians have roots in a movement that rejected Puritan orthodoxy in New England. Although individual Unitarian churches can vary dramatically in outlooks, most congregations retain a deep commitment to social justice, which has led many to embrace liberal stances on the ordination of women, civil rights and gay rights. - ap

Secretly gay, in denial about it, and hates himself? This seems not uncommon.  I suspect he'll get the chance to explore his girly side soon enough ... if he lives long enough to make it to prison.

U.S. Deficit to Reach Record $490 Billion in 2009

The U.S. budget deficit will widen to a record of about $490 billion next year, an administration official said, leaving a deep budget hole that will constrain the next president's tax and spending plans.

The projected deficit for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is higher than the $407 billion forecast by President George W. Bush in February. The bigger shortfall reflects dwindling tax receipts because of the U.S. economic slowdown, the cost of a $168 billion economic stimulus package and spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

``We've already seen a pretty sharp cooling in tax receipts, and it's just going to continue into next fiscal year,'' Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Capital Markets, said in a telephone interview.

The deficit projection will burden either Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, the presumptive presidential nominees of the major political parties, with a constricted budget that has little room for cutting taxes or increasing spending. The next president also will inherit the deepest housing recession in a generation, fears of a crisis in the banking industry, a falling dollar and high energy prices.  - continued on bloomberg

Girl in India born with two faces.

In the rural Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh, 50km north east of New Delhi, a woman gave birth to a baby girl with two faces and four eyes. - mystertopia

The parents of a baby girl born with two faces say that they have no plans to seek treatment or surgery for their daughter ... "The doctor said everything is normal when she was born. So where's the need to get medical help?" said the child's father, Vinod Kumar, 24.

"She's fed through one mouth and sucks her thumb with the other. We use whichever mouth is free to feed her," Mr Kumar said, adding she is eating and breathing normally.

WARNING: Some people will find the following photos of a two faced baby disturbing.

Saw the X-Files movie tonight

No aliens, no monsters (per say), but something super gross! No spoilers here, but the movie hinged on a supposedly real horror story that I ran across in the past on the net. There is a nice little ending scene, no words, if you stay through the credits. There was also at least one name in the movie that only very inside UFO researchers will recognize. Probably a coincidence... then again... perhaps not. I'm glad I saw it, but I do miss the aliens.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Resemblance, originally uploaded by xeno735.

The woman who cut my hair today looks like a model on a poster in the store where she works. The photo doesn't show the resemblance as much, but in person I thought it was an even closer match. Interesting, eh? No, it's not her.  Really.  Just a coincidence.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Photo: From gig on the river

You have new Picture Mail!, originally uploaded by xeno735.

Xenophilia, Live at Swabbies

Swabbie's At Metro Marina
5871 Garden Hwy
Sacramento, CA 95837
(916) 920-8088

We played about 5 PM to 6 PM, followed by the Alanis Crow Project. This was our first gig with Kendall on bass. Great place, right on the river.

Piglet with monkey's face / Holoprosencephaly / Homer's Cyclops

Curious locals flocked to the home of owner Feng Changlin after news of the piglet spread in Fengzhang village, Xiping township.

"It's hideous. No one will be willing to buy it, and it scares the family to even look at it!" Feng told Oriental Today.

He says the piglet looks just like a monkey, with two thin lips, a small nose and two big eyes. Its rear legs are also much longer than its forelegs, causing it to jump instead of walk.

Feng's wife said the monkey-faced piglet was one of five newborns of a sow which the family had raised for nine years.

"My God, it was so scary. I didn't known what it was. I was really frightened," she said.

"But our son likes to play with it, and he stopped us from getting rid of it. He even feeds it milk."

Neighbours have suggested the couple keep the piglet to see how it looks as it matures. - orange

Okay, wow. That's some mutation. Human-pig hybrid embryos have been approved in the UK. How about China?

NOTE: China is a leader in pig genetics.
Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Danish Committee of Pig Breeding and Production (DCPBP) jointly announce the public release of pig genomic sequences. The released sequence data include 3.84 million pieces of the genomes of five different domestic pig breeds from Europe and China. The data are generated from the first large scale pig genome sequencing effort, the Sino-Danish Pig Genome Project, started in 2001 on the basis of a long standing collaboration of scientists and research institutions from China and Denmark. - continues on science daily

Update: Thanks to SilviusMD for pointing out that this is the result of a neurological-facial malformation called Holoprosencephaly. "The cause is thought to be a genetic alteration, in this case probably due to environmental exposure to certain chemicals."

With some trepeidation, I did a google image search for "Holoprosencephaly" and found some Cyclops looking individuals. One startling photo showed baby with its two eyes in a central eye socket ... and no nose. So, it's not just pigs. This happens occasionally in humans too. This same developmental disorder caused the cyclops kitten you may have seen a while back.

It would be interesting to figure out which chemicals might have caused this... but keep in mind that legends of a Cyclops goes way back, so modern pollutants can't be the only cause. Yes, I think Cyclopes were real.
Hesiod describes one group of cyclopes and Homer describes another. In Hesiod's Theogony, Zeus releases three Cyclopes, the sons of Uranus and Gaia, from the dark pit of Tartarus. They provide Zeus's thunderbolt, Hades' helmet of invisibility, and Poseidon's trident, and the gods use these weapons to defeat the Titans. In a famous episode of Homer's Odyssey, the hero Odysseus encounters the Cyclops Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon and a nereid (Thoosa), who lives with his fellow Cyclopes in a distant country. The connection between the two groups has been debated in antiquity and by modern scholars.[2]

This from Science Daily:
Homer's Cyclops might be myth, but a disorder that can cause babies to be born with only one eye is very real. Scientists from Cleveland, Ohio, and Paris, France, reached an important milestone in understanding one of the molecular causes of a rare, but serious birth defect, Holoprosencephaly. ...a known mutation of the TG interacting factor (TGIF) gene, called TGIF.P63R, causes Holoprosencephaly, which affects brain and skull formation. In particular, researchers found that this mutation not only does not produce the protein necessary for healthy fetal development, but the mutant protein may actually destroy the small amounts of the normal protein that is needed. ... Holoprosencephaly occurs when the embryonic forebrain fails to divide into the two lobes that make up the cerebral hemispheres. As a result, people with this disorder have a single-lobed brain structure and severe skull and facial defects. In most cases, the disorder is so severe that fetuses die before birth. In relatively "mild" cases, babies may be born with near-normal brain development, but they usually have facial deformities affecting the eyes, nose, and/or upper lip.

Unique Habitat Found Inside Earth

Researchers studying life in the deep subsurface of our planet have discovered a unique bacterium living 1 mile (1.7 km) below the Earth's surface. The tiny bacteria live in a community of subsurface microbes inhabiting a South African platinum mine.

The deep subsurface of Earth harbors many unique microbes that are only accessible through large scale drilling projects or mining. By trekking into the ultra-deep mines of South Africa, researchers are getting a rare glimpse into this unique habitat. In the depths of South Africa's Northam Platinum mine, scientists from the University of Western Ontario and Princeton University have gained access to many previously undiscovered microbial communities.

While mining and drilling allow scientists to sample the unique environment below the Earth's soil, these activities obviously disturb the subsurface of the planet. Digging into the ground disrupts the microbial communities that live there. When people enter mines and caves, they bring with them a massive number of non-native microbes. Because of this, it's difficult to get uncontaminated samples.

The team from the recent study decided to test samples from mines in order to determine just how contaminated they really are. They collected samples from slime, or biofilm, growing on the walls of the Northam mine in South Africa. An explosion of life occurs where subsurface water leaks out of the mine walls and meets with oxygen, leading to films of microscopic organisms.

Previously, researchers overlooked these biofilms because they thought the films would be too heavily contaminated. To test this theory, the team determined whether or not their biofilms were formed by contaminant organisms from the surface, or by unique subsurface organisms.

The study, by Greg Wanger, Tullis Onstott and Gordon Southam, was published in a recent edition of the journal Geobiology.

The authors showed that the biofilms contained a number of unique organisms associated with the deep subsurface, and therefore such films might be an excellent place to search for new and unusual species of microbes. In fact, in their study the team came across one particularly strange microbe shaped like a tiny, microscopic star. - continued on yahoo

The mystery of the Chinese pyramids

The virtually unknown Chinese pyramids are historic monuments that now struggle against the ravages of time and the elements. The elaborate walls of one grand structure were accidentally discovered by U.S. pilot James Gaussman towards the end of the Second World War.  His engine failed when returning from a mission to aid the Chinese army en route to his base in Assam, India. Flying over Xi'an at a low altitude, Gaussman was astonished at the site of an enormous pyramid in the distance. The pilot did not waste this precious opportunity, and flew over, taking the photographs that would later accompany a report presented to U.S governmental authorities. In 1947, another U.S. pilot, keen to the legend of Gaussman's mysterious 'Great White' Chinese pyramid, flew close enough to the structure to catch a glimpse for himself. He estimated the ancient wonder to stand nearly 1500 ft high in comparison to Egypt's great pyramid of Giza which stands a mere 480 ft. from base to vertex. Yet this miraculous pyramid remained a closely guarded secret, kept hidden from the prying eyes of international investigation by Chinese authorities. ... In 2000, China recognized that there were some 400 pyramids in the Shanxi region, to the north of Xi'an. Smaller than the legendary 'Great White' pyramid, these ancient remains have been classified by some as burial mounds.  While some of these structures do in fact serve as tombs, others suggest the earliest Chinese pyramids served a more mysterious purpose. - mysterytopia

Here is some info on what is supposedly the largest pyramid in the world.
"Great White Pyramid" of "Xian,China" is the "Worlds Largest Pyramid". It is reported to be about 300 meters high. It is found in Tibet - located in the Qin Ling Shan mountains, about100 km southwest of the city of Xi'an, in the People's Republic of China. Life Magazine had a picture of this Tibetan Pyramid taken in 1957. The first picture to be seen here was taken from a C-54 in world war II by a pilot who flew supplies through the Himalaya Mountain terrain as a volunteer helping the Chinese. Hartwig Hausdorf, a researcher in Germany, sent over photographs from his collection, taken during his 1994 trip to the Forbidden Zone in The Shensi Province in China. Estimates for an age are 4,500 years old. Hausdorf mentions the diaries of two Australian traders who, in 1912, met an old Buddhist monk who told them these pyramids are mentioned in the 5,000 year old records of his monastery as being "very old."- 2002china

I'd love to learn if there is any writing or rooms inside this pyramid. Perhaps this one shows that Tibet was the center of a forgotten "advanced" human civilization which led to the pyramids in Egypt and elsewhere.

One theory about unexplained UFOs is that a past Earth civilization went underground and continued to progress technologically to a point where they are now superior to us. This may explain encounters with "Nordic" human looking aliens, or the "Men in Black" who seem very odd and otherworldly and who turn up in connection with some UFO and strange creature sightings (like the Mothman.)

Scientists expose mystery behind northern lights

Scientists have exposed some of the mystery behind the northern lights. On Thursday, NASA released findings that indicate magnetic explosions about one-third of the way to the moon cause the northern lights, or aurora borealis, to burst in spectacular shapes and colors, and dance across the sky. ...

A fleet of five small satellites, called Themis, observed the beginning of a geomagnetic storm in February, while ground observatories in Canada and Alaska recorded the brightening of the northern lights. The southern lights — aurora australis — also brightened and darted across the sky at the same time.

These auroral flare-ups occur every two or three days, on average.

A team led by University of California, Los Angeles, scientist Vassilis Angelopoulos confirmed that the observed storm about 80,000 miles from Earth was triggered by a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection. Every so often, the Earth's magnetic field lines are stretched like rubber bands by solar energy, snap, are thrown back to Earth and reconnect, in effect creating a short circuit.

It's this stored-up energy that powers the northern and southern lights or, in other words, causes them to dance, according to Angelopoulos.... - yahoo

Last-of-Kind Giant Galapagos Tortoise May Become Father

Lonesome George, the long-living Galapagos Islands giant tortoise thought to be the last of his subspecies, might soon be a father.

The Galapagos National Park announced Monday that a female tortoise that has accompanied George since 1993 laid three intact eggs that are being cared for in an artificial incubator.

The female belongs to the closest existing phenotype to that of George, though they are from different islands and hence different subspecies.

The eggs have appeared "after 36 years of multiple efforts ... when we thought it was impossible for the tortoise known as Lonesome George to reproduce," the park said in a statement.

Found in 1972 on Pinta island, George is estimated to be in his 70s — middle age for a giant tortoise.

It will take another 120 days to learn if the eggs are viable. - fox

Thursday, July 24, 2008

France's first lady also first in record sales

France's first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, shot to the top of the pop charts with her latest album in its first full week on sale, a music industry body reported.

The album has generated massive interest because it is the first by the Italian-born former model turned pop star since her whirlwind romance with President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom she married in February less than three months after they met.

The new record, entitled "Comme si de rien n'etait" (As if nothing had happened) and released under the first lady's maiden name, Carla Bruni, hit the shelves on July 11 in a blaze of publicity.

The SNEP, an industry group that tracks record sales, said on Wednesday that in the week starting July 13 the album knocked "Viva la Vida," the latest offering from British band Coldplay, off the top spot in the charts.

The SNEP did not, however, specify how many copies of the album had been sold.

Bruni-Sarkozy has said she wrote the lyrics of the new songs partly before she met Sarkozy and partly since they fell in love. This has prompted intense scrutiny of the lyrics by French media obsessed with the presidential love life.

"You are my drug, more lethal than heroin from Afghanistan and more dangerous than Colombian cocaine," she sings in one of the songs that caused a minor diplomatic incident between France and Colombia.

In another song, she seems to dismiss criticism from some of her left-wing friends who were bewildered by her romance with the right-leaning Sarkozy.

"It's not correct, but it's good nonetheless. Let them curse me and I don't give a damn. I couldn't care less, I take all the blame, you need to know, you need to understand, you are my lord, you are my love, you are my orgy," she sings. - reuters

Wow. Holy heck.  I love her voice.

Google Knowledge Base: Knol.

I've created my own Knol as a test.
Knol doesn’t rely on just anybody to create its collection of knowledgeable articles. You get to be the author, the buck stops here byline on a contribution, and if you write it, you kind of own it. Unlike Wikipedia, which it is compared to, Knol has a commercial bent. You get to run ads, too, and, in theory, make some money off of your expertise. It’s not a new concept, but it is a Google concept, and that’s about all it takes for the world domination theorists to come out of the woodwork. But, does it have legs?

After months of teasing and internal testing, Google officially launched its eagerly-anticipated online encyclopedia announced in December . The service dubbed Knol aims to organize the collective knowledge of Internet users into a searchable, browsable service that has been compared to Wikipedia. However, this is where similarity with world's famous online encyclopedia stops. At first glance, Knol feels more inviting and Web 2.0-like, which may attract those put off by the academic appeal of Wikipedia. But, ultimately, it will come down to content and Google thinks it got it right with Knol.

"Knols are authoritative articles about specific topics, written by people who know about those subjects," explained Knol product manager Cedric Dupont and software engineer Michael McNally in a Google blog post Wednesday. You will not have to be a rocket scientist to post a knol because everyone can become an author. And you also get a chance to earn some money on content you post, if you opt to run.

Similarly to the Facebook culture, Google will try to persuade authors to use their real names (although this will not be a requirement) and to stand behind their work, unlike Wikipedia where mostly anonymous authors post articles. Google says it will provide optional author identity confirmation via telephone or credit card verification. Verified authors will have a "verified" stamp added to their knols.

With Knol, multiple authors will be able to write about the same topic. "The key principle behind Knol is authorship. Every knol will have an author (or group of authors) who put their name behind their content. It's their knol, their voice, their opinion. “We expect that there will be multiple knols on the same subject, and we think that is good," said Google.

It remains to be seen if Knol will have more fact-checked content than stuff on Wikipedia, where entries are sometimes gamed for nefarious purposes, limiting its efficacy at times. Readers can suggest edits to a knol but its author always remains in charge able to accept, reject or modify a reader's suggestions before their contribution becomes visible. Google thinks this fact alone can mean a world of difference to the authority of its offerings. Readers will also have the opportunity to submit comments, rate or write a review of a knol. - tgdaily

Award winning economist says America has bankrupted itself with the Iraq war

... Joseph Stiglitz is one of America's leading economists and one of the most pessimistic. He recently predicted that the subprime mortgage crisis which has burst the US housing bubble and fiercely shaken the debt ridden domestic economy would result in the worst downturn since the great depression. On top of that, he says future administrations will struggle to pay off the massive burden of debt used to fund the war in Iraq. In his latest book 'The Three Trillion Dollar War' Stiglitz sets out the hidden costs of George Bush's Middle East adventure. Stiglitz won the Noble Prize in economics in 2001. Before that he was the chief economist at the World Bank and before that, the chairman of President Clinton's council of economic advisers. He's a Professor of economics at the Columbia School of Business and we caught up with him in Rome earlier this evening. ... this is now the second longest war in America's history and the second most costly. One of the reasons it's so costly is the cost per troops have gone up, soared. Previous wars, $50,000 per troop, this war is for $400,000. There are a number of factors. One is this is the first war that has been privatised to the extent that it has. We use private contractors rather than military. Private contractors are very costly. ... Modern medicine has meant that more people are surviving, but the cost of keeping them alive is very high. And the ratios are again unbelievable. Previous wars, the ratio of survivals to fatalities is 2.5 to 1. This war it's 15 to 1. ...

TONY JONES: What you're saying suggests this is without a doubt, the greatest foreign policy folly and it now is sounding like the greatest economic folly that an American administration has got itself into?

JOE STIGLITZ: I think that's right. It's an order of magnitude worse than the Vietnam War. But here we're talking about a region that was already very volatile in the Middle East. A region with one of the world's most important resources, oil. And what we did is we converted a region that was, you might say, unstable into a region that was just highly volatile, where groups that had lived together perhaps not totally in peace but lived together, the Shi'ites and the Sunnis are now fighting each other. We've let forth a set of problems the full nature of which will take I think decades to resolve. - abc

You can't pull $3 trillion out of the economy and not have an effect.

For years I've assumed they knew about the coming oil shortage and went into Iraq to prolong the magic. Someone I spoke to who understands Washington much better than I do, however, said there just isn't that much forward planning. According to him, our political leaders pretty much only really plan up to the next election. Frightening, but it rings true. Shouldn't we have 20, 50, 100 and 1000 year plans? PNAC seems to me to (somewhat) contradict the view that there is no long term planning.

Dangerous economic territory: At a certain point the declining dollar will cause oil pricing to switch away from the dollar and to start using the Euro. When that happens, when the dollar is no longer the world's reserve currency, its value can drop like a stone and foreign investors to whom we owe money could then demand re-payment. My guess is that we owe around 3 trillion of the 9.5 trillion dollar national debt to foreign investors.

When we can't pay, what happens? All Americans will all have to go work off the debt in Japan or China by washing dishes or by being sex slaves ( depending on how straight your teeth are. )? Each American citizen currently owes about $31,301.22 which is about one year's work. So after a year you could come back home and your debt would be paid off, I guess.

Ford Has $8.7 Billion Loss, Shifts Away From Trucks

Ford Motor Co., the world's third- biggest automaker, posted a record quarterly loss of $8.7 billion and accelerated a conversion to fuel-efficient vehicles to wean itself from money-losing trucks.

Ford shares fell the most in almost seven years after the company reported a second-quarter deficit of $3.88 a share compared with a profit of $750 million, or 31 cents, a year earlier. The figure included $8 billion in pretax writedowns for plant closings and the declining value of truck leases at Ford Motor Credit Co.

The automaker said it will double production of hybrid vehicles, sell more European autos such as the Fiesta in the U.S. and convert three North American truck factories to make a redesigned Focus and other small cars. The revamping is a response to record gasoline prices that have ravaged sales of large pickups and sport-utility vehicles and derailed Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally's turnaround plan. - bloomberg

These people giving up their Ford trucks are many of the same Rush Limbaugh listeners who laughed at "environmental wackos" just about two years ago.

New white whale spotted

A new white humpback has been sighted off Byron Bay on the east coast of Australia.

The newcomer, which was filmed by a television news helicopter, has excited marine scientists who think it may be related to Migaloo - to date, the only known all-white humpback whale.

Migaloo is somewhat of a celebrity down under. Why? "Because as far as we know, he is globally unique," said Professor Peter Harrison from the Whale Research Centre, Southern Cross University.

It now seems that Migaloo, (whose Aboriginal name means "white fellow") might have competition. Although predominantly white, the new whale does have some black markings near its head and tail. So who is the newcomer?

A white calf was spotted with a normal humpback mother in Byron Bay two years ago. Experts say the new whale could be the offspring of Migaloo but further tests need to be carried out.

A record number of humpbacks have been spotted off the Australian coast this year on their annual migration north to their breeding grounds. One thing scientists do agree on is that this second white whale has never been seen in these waters before. - bbc

We may all be space aliens

Genetic material from outer space found in a meteorite in Australia may well have played a key role in the origin of life on Earth, according to a study to be published Sunday. European and US scientists have proved for the first time that two bits of genetic coding, called nucleobases, contained in the meteor fragment, are truly extraterrestrial. Previous studies had suggested that the space rocks, which hit Earth some 40 years ago, might have been contaminated upon impact. Both of the molecules identified, uracil and xanthine, "are present in our DNA and RNA," said lead author Zita Martins, a researcher at Imperial College London. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is another key part of the genetic coding that makes up our bodies. These molecules would also have been essential to the still-mysterious alchemy that somehow gave rise, some four billion years ago, to life itself. "We know that meteorites very similar to the Murchison meteorite, which is the one we analysed, were delivering the building blocks of life to Earth 3.8 to 4.5 billion years ago," Martins told AFP in an interview. Competing theories suggest that nucleobases were synthesised closer to home, but Martins counters that the atmospheric conditions of early Earth would have rendered that process difficult or impossible. A team of European and US scientists showed that the two types of molecules in the Australian meteorite contained a heavy form of carbon -- carbon 13 -- which could only have been formed in space. "We believe early life may have adopted nucleobases from meteoric fragments for use in genetic coding, enabling them to pass on their successful features to subsequent generations," Martins said. - continued on mysterytopia

Mars Was Warm, Wet, May Have Hosted Life, Study Says

For millions of years, early Mars was warm and wet—a perfect host for the development of life—a new study says. Scientists used NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to take a close look at clays on the Martian surface known to be associated with water. (See pictures previously gathered by the orbiter.) - natgeo

Scholars plan to reunite ancient Bible — online

The oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, a 4th century version that had its Gospels and epistles spread across the world, is being made whole again — online.

The British Library says the full text of the Codex Sinaiticus will be available to Web users by next July, digitally reconnecting parts that are held in Britain, Russia, Germany and a monastery in Egypt's Sinai Desert.

A preview of the Codex, which also has some parts of the Old Testament, will hit the Web on Thursday — the Book of Psalms and the Gospel of Mark.

"Only a few people have ever had the opportunity to see more than a couple of pages of the (Codex)," said Scot McKendrick, the British Library's head of Western manuscripts. The Web site will give everyone access to a "unique treasure," he said.

Discovered at the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai by German Bible scholar Constantine Tischendorf in the mid-19th century, much of the Codex eventually wound up in Russia — just how exactly the British Library won't say, citing lingering sensitivity over the circumstances surrounding its removal from the monastery.

The British Library bought 347 pages from Soviet authorities in 1933. Forty-three pages are at the University Library in Leipzig, Germany, and six fragments are at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg. And in 1975, monks stumbled on 12 more pages and 40 fragments stashed in a hidden room at the monastery.

Biblical scholars are thrilled at the news that the Codex Sinaiticus — divided since Tischendorf's trip to the monastery in 1844 — is finally being put back together, albeit virtually. ...

Handwritten in Greek more than 1,600 years ago — it isn't exactly clear where — the surviving 400 or so pages carry a version of the New Testament that has a few interesting differences from the Bible used by Christians today.

The Gospel of Mark ends abruptly after Jesus' disciples discover his empty tomb, for example. Mark's last line has them leaving in fear.

"It cuts out the post-resurrection stories," said Juan Garces, curator of the Codex Sinaiticus Project. "That's a very odd way of ending a Gospel."  ...

The Codex itself is a fascinating artifact, representing the best of Western bookmaking, Garces said. The parchment was arranged in little multipage booklets called quires, which were then numbered in sequence.

"It was the cutting edge of technology in the 4th century," he said. - yahoo

Scientists Create Touch-based Illusion: Mind Trick Yields New Insights On Perception

Anyone who has seen an optical illusion can recall the quirky moment when you realize that the image being perceived is different from objective reality. Now, a team of scientists from MIT, Harvard and McGill has designed a new illusion involving the sense of touch, which is helping to glean new insights into perception and how different senses--such as touch and sight--work together. Ambiguous visual images are fascinating because it is often difficult to imagine seeing them any other way--until something flips within the brain and the alternative perception is revealed. This phenomenon, known as perceptual rivalry, is of great interest to neuroscience.  ... we wanted to see whether similar illusions can occur in the tactile domain.  - read what they found on sciencedaily

Magicians Know More Than Scientists

Magicians are way ahead of psychologists when it comes to understanding and exploiting the human mind and our perceptual quirks.

A new study, detailed in the current online issue of the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, reveals how elements of human cognition, such as awareness and perception, could be explained by the success of some techniques commonly used by magicians.

For instance, vanishing tricks rely on the idea that we are only aware of a small part of what's in our visual field.

"Although a few attempts have been made in the past to draw links between magic and human cognition, the knowledge obtained by magicians has been largely ignored by modern psychology," said researcher Ronald Rensink, who specializes in vision and cognition at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Seeing is believing?

Rensink, UBC colleague Alym Amlani and Gustav Kuhn of Durham University in England recently lifted the lid on some key techniques in the classic magician's toolbox.

One of their revealing experiments highlighted the disconnect between what participants saw with their eyes and what they were focused on with their minds.

The researchers showed 46 participants a video clip of a magical performance while measuring each subject's eye movements. In the performance, a cigarette and lighter once in the magician's hands disappear (he drops each into his lap). About 50 percent of the participants claimed to see the objects being dropped while the others didn't.

"What people actually saw was not related to where they were looking," Kuhn told LiveScience. "Several participants who were looking at the object being dropped failed to see how it was done."

Even though their eyes were focused on the objects, their attention was elsewhere, he said.

Magicians have used so-called misdirection tricks for centuries to make scarves or animals appear out of thin air or cause other objects to vanish. But it's only been in the last two decades that vision scientists have found that only a small part of the information that enters your eyes, essentially the part that has grabbed your attention, enters your conscious awareness. ... -continued on  yahoo