Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
The pitcher plant is among the largest of all pitchers and is so big that it can catch rats as well as insects in its leafy trap.
During the same expedition, botanists also came across strange pink ferns and blue mushrooms they could not identify.
The botanists have named the pitcher plant after British natural history broadcaster David Attenborough.
They published details of the discovery in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society earlier this year.
Word that this new species of pitcher plant existed initially came from two Christian missionaries who in 2000 attempted to scale Mount Victoria, a rarely visited peak in central Palawan in the Philippines.
With little preparation, the missionaries attempted to climb the mountain but became lost for 13 days before being rescued from the slopes.
On their return, they described seeing a large carnivorous pitcher plant.
That pricked the interest of natural history explorer Stewart McPherson of Red Fern Natural History Productions based in Poole, Dorset, UK and independent botanist Alastair Robinson, formerly of the University of Cambridge, UK and Volker Heinrich, of Bukidnon Province, the Philippines.
All three are pitcher plant experts, having travelled to remote locations in the search for new species.
So in 2007, they set off on a two-month expedition to the Philippines, which included an attempt at scaling Mount Victoria to find this exotic new plant.
Accompanied by three guides, the team hiked through lowland forest, finding large stands of a pitcher plant known to science called Nepenthes philippinensis, as well as strange pink ferns and blue mushrooms which they could not identify.
As they closed in on the summit, the forest thinned until eventually they were walking among scrub and large boulders
"At around 1,600 metres above sea level, we suddenly saw one great pitcher plant, then a second, then many more," McPherson recounts.
"It was immediately apparent that the plant we had found was not a known species."
Pitcher plants are carnivorous. Carnivorous plants come in many forms, and are known to have independently evolved at least six separate times. While some have sticky surfaces that act like flypaper, others like the Venus fly trap are snap traps, closing their leaves around their prey.
Pitchers create tube-like leaf structures into which insects and other small animals tumble and become trapped.
The team has placed type specimens of the new species in the herbarium of the Palawan State University, and have named the plant Nepenthes attenboroughii after broadcaster and natural historian David Attenborough.
"The plant is among the largest of all carnivorous plant species and produces spectacular traps as large as other species which catch not only insects, but also rodents as large as rats," says McPherson.
The pitcher plant does not appear to grow in large numbers, but McPherson hopes the remote, inaccessible mountain-top location, which has only been climbed a handful of times, will help prevent poachers from reaching it.
During the expedition, the team also encountered another pitcher, Nepenthes deaniana, which had not been seen in the wild for 100 years. The only known existing specimens of the species were lost in a herbarium fire in 1945.
On the way down the mountain, the team also came across a striking new species of sundew, a type of sticky trap plant, which they are in the process of formally describing.
Thought to be a member of the genus Drosera, the sundew produces striking large, semi-erect leaves which form a globe of blood red foliage.
There was a Michael Phelps car accident involving the Olympian swimmer and an unidentified woman. The Michael Phelps crash occurred shortly after 9PM on Thursday evening.
Apparently Phelps’ black Cadillac Escalade and a Honda Accord collided just after 9PM on Thursday night at the intersection of East Biddle Street and West Calvert Street in Downtown Baltimore, according to Baltimore City Police officials.
As far as what caused the crash, there are no definite specifics being reported, however witnesses told TMZ that the vehicles crashed after someone ran a stoplight and then hit another car that was not moving.
Alcohol is said to be NOT a factor in this accident. Michael Phelps was uninjured and the unidentified woman had no serious injuries.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the labor union representing controllers, said in a statement that it supports a full investigation of the allegations "before there is a rush to judgment." The FAA's action came as an amateur video surfaced that captured the moment of impact between the two aircraft. The images, taken by an Italian man practicing with a new camera while on a boat tour, show the helicopter flying overhead when suddenly a single-engine plane appears behind it, apparently climbing and turning. The plane clips the helicopter's rotor blades, and a wing shears off. Debris rains down, and the plane flips. Both aircraft fall toward the water. On the video, aired Thursday on "NBC Nightly News," one or more onlookers can be heard in the background saying, "Oh, my God!" Teterboro Airport, located directly across the Hudson River from New York City near the George Washington Bridge, handles corporate and private aircraft. It is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and handles nearly 200,000 flights a year.
Gina Carano is also listed in the 100 Maxim celebrities. Gina dropped down to 141 lbs and she is looking even more attractive in her recent physique. Once she said in an interview that for Playboy, she’ll never pose nude but for the magazine, she has made an appearance. Gina will face Brazilian mauler Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos in her next fight. Cyborg is a splendid fighter and best known for brutality and aggressive style. On Showtime TV, Carano will be facing Cyborg this Saturday. It would be a wonderful fight as both the fighters are strong and competitive. If you are a fan of Gina Carano, see her Maxim Magazine pictures below and don’t forget to watch her fighting Cyborg, who is unbeaten in her last seven consecutive fights.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The moon will be at last quarter the night of Aug. 13 and it will be at a rather bright waning gibbous phase a night or two earlier, seriously hampering observation of the peak of the Perseids, predicted to occur late on the nights of Aug. 11 and 12.
Moonrise on Aug. 11 comes at around 10:20 p.m., while on Aug. 12 it's around 10:50 p.m. The moon will be hovering below and to the left of the Great Square of Pegasus these nights and not all that far from the constellation Perseus, from where the meteors will appear to emanate (hence the name "Perseid").
Perseus, does not begin to climb high up into the northeast sky until around midnight; by dawn it's nearly overhead. But bright moonlight will flood the sky through most of those two key nights and will certainly play havoc with any serious attempts to observe these meteors.
Every August the skies above the Northern Hemisphere are peppered with little bits of space debris that create the Perseid meteor shower. The debris is tiny, ancient and packs a wallop. Find out why.
Perseid meteoroids (which is what they're called while in space) are fast. They enter Earth's atmosphere (and are then called meteors) at roughly 133,200 mph (60 kilometers per second) relative to the planet. Most are the size of sand grains; a few are as big as peas or marbles. Almost none hit the ground, but if one does, it's called a meteorite.
Comet Swift-Tuttle, whose debris creates the Perseids, is the largest object known to make repeated passes near Earth. Its nucleus is about 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) across, roughly equal to the object that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Back in the early 1990s, astronomer Brian Marsden calculated that Swift-Tuttle might actually hit Earth on a future pass. More observations quickly eliminated all possibility of a collision. Marsden found, however, that the comet and Earth might experience a cosmic near miss (about a million miles) in 3044.
When a Perseid particle enters the atmosphere, it compresses the air in front of it, which heats up. The meteor, in turn, can be heated to more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,650 Celsius). The intense heat vaporizes most meteors, creating what we call shooting stars. Most become visible at around 60 miles up (97 kilometers). Some large meteors splatter, causing a brighter flash called a fireball, and sometimes an explosion that can often be heard from the ground.
Comet Swift-Tuttle has many comet kin. Most originate in the distant Oort cloud, which extends nearly halfway to the next star. The vast majority never visit the inner solar system. But a few, like Swift-Tuttle, have been gravitationally booted onto new trajectories, possibly by the gravity of a passing star long ago.
Perseid meteoroids (and if you've been following along, you know these are things in space before they hit Earth's atmosphere) are anywhere from 60 to 100 miles apart, even at the densest part of the river of debris left behind by comet Swift-Tuttle. That river, in fact, is more like many streams, each deposited during a different pass of the comet on its 130-year orbit around the Sun. The material drifts through space and, in fact, orbits the Sun on roughly the same path as the comet while also spreading out over time.
As Earth rotates, the side facing the direction of its orbit around the Sun tends to scoop up more space debris. This part of the sky is directly overhead at dawn. For this reason, the Perseids and other meteor showers (and also random shooting stars in general) are usually best viewed in the predawn hours.
Comet Swift-Tuttle was last seen in 1992, an unspectacular pass through the inner solar system that required binoculars to enjoy. Prior to that, it had last been seen in the year it was "discovered" by American astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle, 1862. Abraham Lincoln was President.
Swift-Tuttle's orbit has been traced back nearly 2,000 years and is now thought to be the same comet that was observed in 188 AD and possibly even as early as 69 BC.
Swift-Tuttle is due back in 2126 (as you know now, it won't hit us) and astronomers think it might become a spectacular naked-eye comet like Hale-Bopp. If historical calculations are correct (see Fact #9) then the 2126 appearance will mark the comet's 3rd millennium of human observation, assuming someone is in fact around to see it.
General Motors Corp. said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car should get 230 miles per gallon of gasoline in city driving, more than four times the mileage of the current champion, the Toyota Prius.
GM came up with the figure in early tests using draft guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for calculating the mileage of extended range electric vehicles, said Tony Posawatz, GM’s vehicle line director for the Volt.
If the figure is confirmed by the EPA, which does the tests for the mileage posted on new car door stickers, the Volt would be the first car to exceed triple-digit gas mileage, Posawatz said.
The Volt is powered by an electric motor and a battery pack with a 40-mile range. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity for a total range of 300 miles. The battery pack can be recharged from a standard home outlet.
Most automakers are working similar plug-in designs, but GM could be the leader with the Volt, which is due in showrooms late in 2010.
Toyota’s Prius, the most efficient car now sold in the U.S., gets 48 miles per gallon of gas. It is a gas-electric hybrid that runs on a small internal combustion engine assisted by a battery-powered electric motor to save gasoline.
The first-generation Volt is expected to cost near $40,000, making it cost-prohibitive to many people even if gasoline returns to $4 per gallon. The price is expected to drop with future generations of the Volt, but GM has said government tax credits and the savings on fuel could make it cost-effective, especially at 230 miles per gallon.
“We get a little cautious about trying to forecast what fuel prices will do,” Posawatz said. “We achieved this number and if fuel prices go up, it certainly does get more attractive even in the near-term generation,” he said.
GM was to present details of the mileage figure on Tuesday morning at an event at its technical center in the Detroit suburb of Warren.
Figures for the Volt’s highway and combined city/highway mileage have not yet been calculated, Posawatz said. The combined mileage will be in the triple digits as well, he said, but both combined and highway will be worse than city because the engine runs more on longer highway trips.
The EPA guidelines, developed with input from automakers, figure that cars like the Volt will travel more on straight electricity in the city than on the highway. If a person drives the Volt less than 40 miles, in theory they could go without using gasoline.
The mileage figure could vary as the guidelines are refined and the Volt gets further along in the manufacturing process, Posawatz said.
GM is about halfway through building about 80 Volts that will look and behave like the production model, and testing is running on schedule, Posawatz said.
Two critical areas, battery life and the electronic switching between battery and engine power, are still being refined, but the car is on schedule to reach showrooms late in 2010, he said.
GM is simulating tests to make sure the new lithium-ion batteries last 10 years, Posawatz said.
“We’re further along, but we’re still quite a ways from home,” he said. “We’re developing quite a knowledge base on all this stuff. Our confidence is growing.”
The other area of new technology, switching between battery and engine power, is proceeding well, he said, with engineers just fine-tuning the operations.
“We’re very pleased with the transition from when it’s driving EV (electric vehicle) to when the engine and generator kick in,” he said,
GM also is finishing work on the power cord, which will be durable enough that it can survive being run over by the car. The Volt, he said, will have software on board so it can be programmed to begin and end charging during off-peak electrical use hours.
Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor Co. and Daimler AG are all developing plug-ins and electric cars, and Toyota Motor Corp. is working on a plug-in version of its gas-electric hybrid system. Nissan Motor Co. announced last month that it would begin selling an electric vehicle in Japan and the U.S. next year.
One town council is taking the reports so seriously it is offering a $1m (£609,000) reward to anyone who can prove the existence of a mermaid in its waters.
Kiryat Yam municipality, near Haifa, says it has been told of dozens of sightings in the past few months.
"Many people are telling us they are sure they've seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other," council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News.
The nautical nymph is only seen in the evening at sunset, according to media reports, drawing crowds of people with cameras hoping for a glimpse.
"People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks then disappears," Mr Zilberman said.
Asked whether a dolphin or large fish could be a more rational explanation, he insisted: "They say it is a female figure, it looks like a young girl."
The council denied its offer of a reward was a publicity stunt, but said it hoped to nurture the mermaid as something which could bring in more tourists.
Capturing a mermaid is not necessary, a verifiable photograph will do, Mr Zilberman said.
Asked if the council can afford the payout, he told Sky News: "I believe, if there really is a mermaid, then so many people and tourists will come to Kiryat Yam, a lot more money will be made than a $1m.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Then there were few statements attributed to Lady Gaga, clearly claiming that she has admitted: “Yes, I was born as Hermaphrodite and yes, I have a penis too, very small though. And that I was born with both male and female genitals.”
So was it all only disinformation? Was it an attempt to demoralize someone? On the other hand, was it just mockery of the situation? Shall we believe that a hermaphrodite picture was actually a man’s picture?
Lady Gaga’s real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta and a lot has been said about her in recent past. The internet is a place where rumors have more weight than the real news and the speculations are always the offspring of these rumors. But in Lady’s case, the rumor has got some weight, a proof, the Glastonbury “Money Honey” video.
Iin a particular scene where she is wearing something like mini dress which helped the “Evil Genius” to advocate his/her point more strongly, there was some bulging object down there that caught the eyes of viewers especially when the rumor surfaced afterwards. Is it not enough proof? Have we really been praising the King of the Charts and not the Queen?
However, whatever was shown or was tried to be shown, was all imagination, as stated by Lady Gaga’s Manager.
Screams erupted from the 40-odd tourists jostling for position around Leonardo da Vinci's enigmatic painted lady when the empty terracotta mug flew over their heads and smashed into the portrait.
The Russian woman is thought to have bought it minutes earlier at the museum gift shop.
However, the Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile was unaffected by the commotion, as the mug bounced harmlessly off the bullet-proof glass shielding her and shattered on the floor, according to the team of staff paid to guard her.
"There was no damage done to the painting whatsoever," a museum official told Le Parisien.
"Naturally the Mona Lisa is a carefully watched and protected painting. It is kept in a special sealed box to protect it from vibrations, heat and humidity. It is protected by thick glass resistant to bullets and any other object hurled at it," he said.
The woman was seized by two museum security guards and handed over to central Paris police after the incident on August 2.
The remaining tourists were then left in peace to gaze at the work, viewed by 8.5 million people each year.
The Russian is being held in custody and has reportedly undergone a psychological examination.
Doctors were trying to assess whether she was suffering from Stendhal Syndrome, a rare condition in which often perfectly sane individuals momentarily lose all reason and attack a work of art.
In July last year, a 32-year-old woman wearing lipstick kissed a painting by the American artist Cy Twombly on display in Avignon, leaving left a large red smudge. She was sentenced to community work.
At the Orsay Museum in Paris the previous year, a man ripped a hole in a painting by impressionist Claude Monet.
The last attack on a work of art at the Louvre was in 1998, when a mathematics professor and calm family man suddenly attacked a statue of the Roman philosopher Seneca with a hammer.
The Mona Lisa is the only painting ever to have been stolen from the Louvre, in 1911, and then recovered.
In 1956, it was damaged when a vandal threw acid over it while it was on display at a museum in Montauban, in France.
The same year, a Bolivian man threw a rock at the painting, damaging paintwork below the Mona Lisa's left elbow.
The painting belongs to the French state.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Felicia is centered about 1,365 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula and is moving west-northwest near 12 mph.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Enrique has maximum sustained winds near 50 mph and is expected to weaken and be absorbed by Felicia. Enrique is centered about 825 miles west-southwest of Baja California and is moving west-northwest near 15 mph.