Friday, November 28, 2008

The Chinese motorist pulled over by police for driving with no arms

Chinese police got a surprise when they pulled over a brand new 4x4 for a routine check - the driver had no arms.

Zing Shen, 42, was steering the vehicle with his feet and was amazed when officers decided issue him with a public safety summons.

He told the traffic officers he had been driving like that for years after losing both arms below the elbows in an industrial accident.

A police spokesman in Beijing said: 'The man said that he was a very safe driver and felt he was as good as anyone else on the road, despite his disability.

'He had an automatic so did not need to worry about changing gears and said he had put a lot of practice into learning to control the steering wheel with his legs.

'He said he was actually even more careful now with driving than he had been before he lost his arms. He was surprised when we arrested him.'

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Supersonic plumes of water erupt from Saturn's moon raising hopes of micro life under surface

Huge plumes of water vapor and ice particles are spewing from Saturn's moon Enceladus at supersonic speeds, scientists report.

When the Cassini spacecraft flew through a gigantic geyser of dust and gas close to the surface of Enceladus, it collected samples of ice and gas.

Astronomers say the plumes may be erupting from an underground ocean, which would make Enceladus the third place in the solar system suspected to support life, even if only microbial organisms.
'There are only three places in the solar system we know or suspect to have liquid water near the surface - Earth, Jupiter's moon Europa and now Saturn's Enceladus,’ Joshua Colwell, one of the researchers at the University of Central Florida, said.

‘Water is a basic ingredient for life and there are certain implications there,’ he added.
Images taken by the Cassini spacecraft in 2005 revealed huge gysers shooting from fissures in the south pole of Enceladus, reminiscent of the famed Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in the United States but on a grand scale.

But the latest mission suggest that the gas and dust are spewing at more than 1,300 mph - faster than sound - making the case that Saturn is hiding a reservoir of liquid water.

Data from Cassini's Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph instrument, a high-tech imaging instrument, suggest that cracks extend below the surface and act as nozzles that channel water vapor from an underground liquid water reservoir.

Focusing the instrument at a distant flickering star also showed that the water vapours – which intermittently blocked its starlight – form narrow jets as they blast into space.

'We think liquid water is necessary for life and there is more evidence that there is liquid water there,' said lead researcher Candice Hansen of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

'You also need energy, you need nutrients, you need organics. It looks like the pieces are there. Whether or not there's actually life, of course, we can't say.'

The artistic masterpieces which look good enough to eat

We all know how good vegetables are for us, but even the most avid vegetarian would be hard pressed to argue their artistic merits.

But Chinese artist Ju Duoqi is hoping to prove just that and more by showcasing a range of colourful artworks made entirely out of vegetables.

Her works which include replicas of famous pieces including Andy Warhol's Marylin Monroe are on show during The Vegetable Museum exhibition in the Paris-Beijing photo gallery.

Miss Duoqi has used the food to recreate other famous masterpieces including Monet's self-portrait and Leonardo's Mona Lisa.

The artist said she used everyday vegetable such as tofu, cabbage, ginger, lotus roots, coriander and sweet potato, before adding a dash of digital manipulation to create the pieces.

She then uses the mediums to create the compositions representing some of the world's most famous works.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wreckage of historic slave ship that carried illegal cargo of Africans found in the Caribbean

Marine archaeologists have stumbled upon the wreck of a Spanish ship that once carried an illegal cargo of African slaves believed to be the ancestors of many of today's inhabitants of the British colonies of Turks and Caicos.

They are confident the oaken timbers submerged under 9ft of water off East Caicos island are the remains of the Spanish slave ship Trouvadore, which sank in the Atlantic archipelago south of the Bahamas in 1841.

'We have compelling circumstantial evidence that this is the Trouvadore,' Donald Keith, president of the Ships of Discovery marine archeology institute said.

The Trouvadore carried 93 African captives and was headed to Cuba where they were to be enslaved in the sugar cane fields, according to historical documents.

It went down after hitting a reef and those aboard managed to wade ashore.

The crew shot and killed one African woman but the other 92 slaves survived and were freed in the Turks and Caicos, where Britain had abolished slavery eight years earlier.

The majority were apprenticed to work in the Island's salt ponds for a year in order to pay for their rescue, and then freed.

The incident was forgotten until 1993, when Grethe Seim, the late founder of the Turks and Caicos National Museum, visited the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

He was accompanied by Donald Keith, president of the Ships of Discovery marine archeology institute. They were surprised to find a letter written by an artifact salesman on Grand Turk Island in 1878, describing the sale of two African wooden idols with glass eyes.

His letter said the dolls came from a Spanish slave ship that sank in 1841, and gave details about the shipwreck and the African passengers.

'Although the sinking of the Trouvadore was a major event on the Island, the story was lost to history over the following century and a half,' said Carrell.

'We were stunned to realize that Turks and Caicos residents had never heard of the shipwreck that brought their ancestors to the Island.'

Using historical accounts of where the Trouvadore went down, along with remote sensing and visual searches, archaeologists focused on a ship near a local landmark known as the Black Rock. Records showed the Trouvadore had sunk at Breezy Point, approximately two miles from the Black Rock Wreck location.

'But with the wind blowing constantly from the east, and a current running from that direction, the ship would have drifted,' Mr Keith said

His team used careful measurements of the hull and years of research to amass compelling circumstantial evidence that the Black Rock Wreck could only be the Trouvadore

Researchers are still hunting for the document they consider the Trouvadore's holy grail. Records show that regional authorities ordered local officials in the Turks and Caicos to send a list of the English names they had given the African survivors.

If it still exists, it could show which residents are their descendants.

Other loose ends remain. The artifact seller's glass-eyed dolls, which ended up in the Museum of Natural History in New York, turned out to be distinctive kava kava dolls produced only on Easter Island in the Pacific.

'Somehow or other, somebody on the Trouvadore had two kava kava figurines from Easter Island with them,' Mr Keith said. 'That's another mystery.'

Like their neighbors in the Bahamas and many Caribbean islands, most of the 30,000 modern residents of the Turks and Caicos are thought to be descended from African slaves. But the research suggests many could be descended from the Trouvadore passengers, who were spared enslavement by the shipwreck.

Archeologists also found a US navy ship, the Chippewa, known to have sunk near another island in the area in 1816.

The Chippewa was part of America's efforts to stop the African slave trade and piracy by patrolling the Caribbean.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beautiful Wooden Mirror

Mirror, mirror, on the wall… what if you were made of wood? Interactive artist, Danny Rozen, has done just this, creating a mirror out of 830 wood blocks - but would you put one on your wall?

The concept is simple but formidably clever: a tiny camera gathers light and shape data, before sending it to a computer that processes it and uses hundreds of tiny electric motors to shift the wood blocks into the image in front of the device. Subtle gradations of shade are achieved by both the natural grain of the wood and the angle at which they are displayed, casting shadow if necessary
The result is a sort of ghostly image, imprinted upon the wooden pixels like a haunted trace and just like a real mirror the image moves in real time - although the effect is more like some kind of spirit mimicking its subject than your average mirror. Rozen, who has created a wide variety of interactive art pieces, has experimented with other materials, although there is no news as to what surface he might attempt to use next.
Lying at the heart of this project is again a simple but deeply moving concept: the idea of everything around us acting as a mirror, or perhaps more precisely - making everything around us into a mirror onto the world. By using a naturally unreflective surface to create reflections, Rozen highlights not only the human beings incredible capacity for technical accomplishment, but the fact that every object in the world might reflect, in some sense, the image of those who have crafted, used and sold it.

The nature of reflective surfaces and reflections is what is at stake here - but what’s more, it’s a stunningly impressive piece of craftsmanship in its own right and if anything can be said to reflect the image of those that created it, then this surely reflects well on Rozen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The incredible territorial fight between two raging hippo bulls

Exploding out of the water with ferocious rage these giant male hippos cast a frightening sight as they fight over a water hole in South Africa.

Captured by professional guide and wildlife photographer Hendrik Fehsenfeld, in South Africa's Ngala Private Game Reserve in September, this amazing sequence of photographs show just why these one ton animals should never be crossed.

'This was the first time I had witnessed a hippo fight, so close and personal,' said Fehsenfeld, 40.
'I was giving a tour to some guests on the game viewing vehicle and we were in a sort of stunned disbelief.

'I approached with caution as aggression may divert towards the vehicle .

'When it became clear that these bulls were oblivious to our presence I crept in to get these amazing shots.'

'Looking at the photographs it seems that the bulls are of different ages,' he said.

'This can be seen by examining the condition of the teeth, in particular, the incisors and canines. The challenger appeared to be the younger of the two.'
Fehsenfeld, who has been a guide for seven years, explained that the violent encounter was the result of a territorial battle during the notoriously difficult dry season when water is scarce.

'There are many factors that play into the eruption of a serious fight; the two most common factors being territory and mating rights.

'Dominant hippo bulls do have territories which they will defend. This flight erupted when this younger bull arrived at the water-hole already occupied by the older bull, thus trespassing and ignoring him as the territory holder.

'This is equivalent of a direct challenge.'

For the safety of his group, Fehsenfeld only watched the encounter for a few minutes, but returned the following day to see who had claimed the territory.
'The next morning the old bull was gone. I and tracker Norman found his tracks leaving the water-hole with a blood trail,' he recalled.

'We followed it until the vegetation got very thick - it's not wise to follow an injured animal into thick vegetation.

'So maybe he recovered, maybe he found an unoccupied water-hole. Maybe he lay down in the soothing shade and drifted off. There was no increase in vulture or hyena activity in the area, so perhaps he made it!'

Friday, November 21, 2008

Star struck: Meteor blazes across the sky in police video

A spectacular and almost blindingly bright meteor sparked a flurry of emergency calls to the police after it lit up the skies over western Canada.

Onlookers across the province of Alberta watched in awe, describing a kaleidoscope of colours as the rock rapidly descended.

'At first I thought it was fireworks,' farmer Marcel Gobeil said.

'I've never seen anything like it; it was green and blue and then turned to bright red. It was pretty big.'
Emergency services across the region began receiving calls from 5.30pm on Thursday, with some also reporting hearing a distant 'boom.'

And the police had no reason to doubt the claims. A video camera on one of their local patrol cars had captured the whole dramatic episode.

As the vehicle cruises down a street the footage shows a small bright light appearing in the sky before hurtling towards the Earth disappearing in an explosion of light just five seconds later.

Shawn Mitchler was pumping petrol into his car in Radisson, when he saw the 10-second light show.

'My heart just started racing because I didn't know what it was,' he told The Windsor Star.

'It seemed like fireworks or a missile coming down,' he said.

Astronomers will assess tapes and eyewitness reports to try and discover where the meteor fell, although Edmonton scientist Alister Ling said early analysis suggests central Alberta.

Chris Herd, a professor from the University of Alberta said the descriptions suggested the meteor could in fact be a substantial meteorite weighing a few tonnes and measuring a few metres across.

More meteorites, fragments of rocks or metals that survive the fall from space to Earth, have been found in Alberta than any other Canadian province.

'The question now that remains is whether anything made it to the ground,' Professor Herd said.

'This thing was so bright it indicates that it's a pretty good-sized piece of space rock.'

Though one video viewer had his own hypothesis: 'Perhaps it was the toolbox dropped by the female astronaut recently?' he said.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The World’s Smallest Horses

A couple of years ago the UK’s Daily Mail reported on the world’s smallest horse, Thumbelina, who entered the Guinness Book of Records measuring just 17 inches tall.

Born in a farm in America where the owners specialise in breeding miniature horses, the couple realised that Thumbelina was different as soon as she was born because she weighed a mere 8lbs, the average weight of a new born human baby.

The breeders, Kay and Paul Goessling, although under scrutiny from a sceptical public who questioned their breeding practices, claimed that the tiny horse suffers from dwarfism, something they will be certain doesn’t carry through the gene pool.

Now, in Britain, another tiny trotter has hit the headlines. Four-year-old Lucy, a Shetland pony weighing around 100 Ibs and measuring 19.5 inches has claimed the title of Britain’s smallest horse. Only this time she’s a true miniature mare.
Lucy is owned by veterinary surgeon Sandra Power, who is unclear why the pony didn’t grow much bigger – she stopped growing when she reached the age of two.

Ms Power told the Telegraph newspaper: “I wasn’t expecting Lucy to be so small. She was about 15 inches when I got her at three months – that’s a normal size for a Shetland foal.”

According to her owner, Lucy is perfectly proportioned, apart from her mane and tail, which grow at an alarming rate.

Lucy lives in custom-made stables with a door that is only 21 inches high – something that would put a kid’s Wendy house to shame.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Face book

Monday, November 17, 2008

Marine 'jelly balls' found off Australian coast could combat global warming

Large numbers of 'marine 'jelly balls' that have appeared off the east coast of Australia could be part of the planet's mechanism for combating global warming, scientists have said.

The jellyfish-like animals are known as salps, and feed on small plants in the water called phytoplankton (marine algae).

The plants absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the top level of the ocean.

Dr Mark Baird of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said salps were notoriously difficult for scientists to study in the laboratory and little attention has been paid to their ecological role until recently.

Baird was part of a CSIRO and University of New South Wales marine survey carried out last month that found an abundance of salps in the waters around Sydney.

Scientists said their numbers were up to 10 times greater than when first surveyed 70 years ago.

Salps, which are transparent, barrel-shaped animals that can range from one to 10cm in length, are usually found near the ocean's surface and, as a result, can be washed up onto dry land.

Their appearance in Australian waters is seasonal but scientists believe the increased numbers are a result of a strong East Australian current, which brings more nutrients to the surface waters for the algae that the salps prefer to eat.

Different species of salp have been found in waters around the world and attention is now being paid to what effect they may have on global warming.

Salps are also of interest because in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica they are thought to be displacing krill, an important food source for many marine animals.

By eating the algae, the salps turn the algae and their carbon dioxide into faeces which drops to the ocean floor. They also take carbon to the floor with them when they die after a short two-week life cycle.

This is thought to be a natural form of carbon sequestration similar to what scientists are trying to do with carbon capture from emission sources such as power stations.

Dr Baird said Australian salps are biologically closer to vertebrates such as humans than to jellyfish because they have the rudiments of a primitive nervous system.

'They are interesting because they are the fastest reproducing multi-celled animal on the planet and can double their numbers several times a day.'

Salps had in the past been considered of little interest because they had fairly low nutrient value and were insignificant as a food source.

He said this was a concern because as the Antarctic ice melted, they were replacing krill, which is a high-nutrient food.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lava Eating Roads

If the sign won’t stop drivers in their tracks that big lump of lava in the road certainly will.
No stop sign required on this lava covered road, Hawaii

Lava flow provides platform for perfect picture poses in Oahu, Hawaii
Forboding lava flow crawls ever onwards in Pahoehoe, Hawaii
Are there any roads not covered in lava in Hawaii?
Bonito lava flow at Sunset Crater National Monument, Arizona
Massive lava beds surrounding a sturdy pine forest in Lassen, California
The perfect spot for a picnic, Leirhnj├║kur, Iceland
Lava flow being swallowed and cooled by the waves, Hawaii
Lava streaming into the ocean in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Holding the Sun in hand


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