Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ten Strangest Things About Our Universe - 2008

Artist's rendition of a hypervelocity star leaving a galaxy. Image Credit: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Ten Strangest Things About Our Universe - 2008

At the end of any year, one is confronted with many bottom up lists describing the important events, people, discoveries, and etc. over the course of the past year just lived.

This exercise always allows one to pause and reflect on what has been learned and to ponder what might be useful for the New Year ahead.

WE at Oblate Spheroid, marvel at how different life and the place the Earth has in the universe becomes the more we learn about the space we occupy.

The more we look among the stars and galaxies, the weirder things seem to get.

Even space itself is puzzling, for example; Recent studies suggest that the fabric of the universe stretches more than 150 billion light-years across -- in spite of the fact that the cosmos is 13.7 billion years old.

This excerpted and edited from The Discovery Channel –

Hypervelocity stars were first theorized to exist in 1988. The theory was that binary star systems at the galaxy's center would occasionally wander too close to the massive black hole looming there, which would disrupt their orbital dance. While one of the pair was captured by the black hole, the other would be sent rocketing off at an incredible speed. Caption: MSNBC - Image Credit: ESO


By Dave Mosher for The Discovery Channel - Article originally posted October 31, 2008.

10. Hypervelocity Stars

If you've ever gazed at the night sky, you've probably wished upon a shooting star (which are really meteors).

But shooting stars do exist, and they're as rare as one in 100 million.

In 2005, astronomers discovered the first "hypervelocity" star careening out of a galaxy at nearly 530 miles per second (10 times faster than ordinary star movement).

We have ideas about what flings these rare stars into deep space, but aren't certain; anything from off-kilter supernova explosions to supermassive black holes might be responsible.

9. Black Holes

Conception of a black hole pulling gas off of a nearby star. Image Credit: ESA/NASA

Speaking of black holes, what could be stranger?

Beyond a black hole's gravitational border -- or event horizon -- neither matter nor light can escape. Astrophysicists think dying stars about three to 20 times the mass of the sun can form these strange objects. At the center of galaxies, black holes about 10,000 to 18 billion times heavier than the sun are thought to exist, enlarged by gobbling up gas, dust, stars and small black holes.

What about mid-sized types? Perhaps surprisingly, evidence is both scarce and questionable for their existence.

8. Magnetars

Artist's rendition of a magnetar with magnetic fields shown. Image Credit: NASA

The sun spins about once every 25 days, gradually deforming its magnetic field.

Well, imagine a dying star heavier than the sun collapsing into a wad of matter just a dozen miles in diameter.

Like a spinning ballerina pulling his or her arms inward, this change in size spins the neutron star -- and its magnetic field -- out of control.

Calculations show these objects possess temporary magnetic fields about one million billion times stronger than the Earth's. That's powerful enough to destroy your credit card from hundreds of thousands of miles away, and deform atoms into ultra-thin cylinders.

7. Neutrinos

Construction of the NuMI neutrino source underway. Image Credit: BNL

Pull out a dime from your pocket and hold it up for a second... guess what? About 150 billion tiny, nearly massless particles called neutrinos just passed through it as though it didn't even exist.

Scientists have found that they originate in stars (living or exploding), nuclear material and from the Big Bang. The elementary particles come in three "flavors" and, stranger still, seem to disappear on a whim.

Because neutrinos occasionally do interact with "normal" matter such as water and mineral oil, scientists hope they can use them as a revolutionary telescope to see beyond parts of the universe obscured by dust and gas.

6. Dark Matter

False-color depiction of dark matter around a star cluster. Image Credit: J.-P. Kneib/ESA/NASA

If you put all of the energy and matter of the cosmos into a pie and divvy it up, the result is shocking.

All of the galaxies, stars, planets, comets, asteroids, dust, gas and particles account for just 4 percent of the known universe. Most of what we call "matter" -- about 23 percent of the universe -- is invisible to human eyes and instruments.

For now.

Scientists can see dark matter's gravitational tug on stars and galaxies, but are searching feverishly for ways to detect it first-hand. They think particles similar to neutrinos yet far more massive could be the mysterious, unseen stuff.

5. Dark Energy

Computer simulation of dark matter filaments. Image Credit: Science Magazine

What really has everyone on the planet confused -- including scientists -- is dark energy.
To continue with the pie analogy, dark energy is a Garfield-sized portion at 73 percent of the known universe. It seems to pervade all of space and push galaxies farther and farther away from one another at increasingly faster speeds.

Some cosmologists think this expansion will leave the Milky Way galaxy as an "island universe" in a few trillion years with no other galaxies visible.

Others think the rate of expansion will become so great that it will result in a "Big Rip." In this scenario, the force of dark energy overcomes gravity to disassemble stars and planets, the forces keeping particles sticking together, the molecules in those particles, and eventually the atoms and subatomic particles. Thankfully, humankind probably won't be around to witness to cataclysm.

4. Planets

Illustration of terrestrial, extrasolar planets. Image Credit: R. Hurt/NASA/JPL-Caltech

It might sound strange because we live on one, but planets are some of the more mysterious members of the universe.

So far, no theory can fully explain how disks of gas and dust around stars form planets -- particularly rocky ones.

Not making matters easier is the fact that most of a planet is concealed beneath its surface. Advanced gadgetry can offer clues of what lies beneath, but we have heavily explored only a few planets in the solar system.

Only in 1999 was the first planet outside of our celestial neighborhood detected, and in November 2008 the first bona fide exoplanet images taken.

3. Gravity

Artist depiction of gravity waves around merging black holes. Image Credit: NASA

The force that helps stars ignite, planets stay together and objects orbit is one of the most pervasive yet weakest in the cosmos

Scientists have fine-tuned just about every equation and model to describe and predict gravity, yet its source within matter remains a complete and utter mystery.

Some think infinitesimal particles called gravitons exude the force in all matter, but whether or not they could ever be detected is questionable.

Still, a massive hunt is on for major shake-ups in the universe called gravitational waves. If detected (perhaps from a merger of black holes), Albert Einstein's concept that the universe has a "fabric" of spacetime would be on solid ground.

2. Life

E. coli bacteria. Image Credit: NIH

Matter and energy abound in the universe, but only in a few places is the roll of the cosmic dice perfect enough to result in life.

The basic ingredients and conditions necessary for this strange phenomenon are better understood than ever before, thanks to abundant access to life here on Earth.

But the exact recipe -- or recipes -- to go from the basic elements of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur to an organism is a prevailing mystery.

Scientists seek out new areas in the solar system where life could have thrived (or still may, such as below the surface of watery moons), in hopes of arriving at a compelling theory for life's origins.

1. The Universe

Illustration showing the creation and expansion of the universe. Image Credit: NASA

The source of energy, matter and the universe itself is the ultimate mystery of, well, the universe.

Based on a widespread afterglow called the cosmic microwave background (and other evidence), scientists think that the cosmos formed from a "Big Bang" -- an incomprehensible expansion of energy from an ultra-hot, ultra-dense state.

Describing time before the event, however, may be impossible.

Still, atom smasher searches for particles that formed shortly after the Big Bang could shed new light on the universe's mysterious existence -- and make it a bit less strange than it is today.
Reference Here>>

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tracking Santa The NORAD Way Christmas 2008

Illustrators’ Visions of Santa Claus - Over the years, great illustrators have created and shaped the popular vision of Santa Claus. Clockwise from top, left: Thomas Nast, who gave Santa Claus a form almost like the modern idea in the mid-1800’s, with his clay pipe and arm full of toys (including a sword). You can see some of his visions of Santa here. /// J. C. Leyendecker, who really created the modern vision of Santa, and painted a number of memorable Saturday Evening Post covers featuring the jolly elf over the years. You can find them in the SEP cover archive. /// Norman Rockwell, along with Leyendecker, provided numerous SEP covers with images of Santa, often with clever takes on the vision of his traditional role. The SEP cover archive has a section devoted to Rockwell Christmas covers. /// Haddon Sundblom was an American illustrator who became noted for his yearly portrayals of Santa Claus for the Coca-Cola company. There is a section on the Coca-Cola site, and an album of Sundblom Santas here. Image Credit: Charley Parker

Tracking Santa The NORAD Way Christmas 2008

Christmas is a time we come together to celebrate forces that are beyond our own experience. On December 25, the birth of the son of God is the source of the excuse for additional forces we know are beyond our own experience to come to life.

The one force that creates the most wonder and awe is the force of Santa Claus and his amazing journey around the world as he drives his Reindeer powered Sleigh. The Sleigh, loaded with gifts, stops at every home throughout the world where Santa knows people believe in giving and the amazing grace of God and his power.

Santa is even known to stop and leave a gift where some people are not even aware they actually believe in him and/or God’s power because he knows what resides deep in all people who wish for a better world but have not found a conscious way to its understanding.

Technology and the internet were made for times like these.

This from the How Stuff Works website -

How Santa's Sleigh Works
by John Fuller – How Stuff Works

Christmas Eve, millions of children around the world will settle uneasily into bed, hardly able to contain themselves. What vision could possibly dance through their heads, turning them into twitchy, restless insomniacs for just one night? Is it the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" or the sugarplums from Clement Clarke Moore's poem "The Night Before Christmas"? Can sugarplums really do such a thing?

Chances are the children are thinking about
toys, Santa Claus and his team of reindeer -- if the children have been nice this year, jolly old St. Nick should be landing his sleigh on their roofs sometime late in the night.

Everyone has their own traditional image of Santa's sleigh, but could there be more to it than just a sled and a team of reindeer? Although no one may ever know for sure just how Santa operates, we at HowStuffWorks have what we think are the most logical explanations for how the big guy accomplishes all that he does: science and technology.

Sure, demystifying Santa's modus operandi puts us at risk of getting nothing but
coal in our stockings this year, but it's all for the noble pursuit of yuletide knowledge. After all, have you ever wondered how Santa's sleigh flies? What about the reindeer? And how does Santa fit all of those presents into one bag? In the next section, we'll look at the possible technology behind Santa's sleigh.­

Rustic on the outside and state-of-the-art on the inside, Santa's sleigh would have to be a marvel in engineering. These are the main parts of the sleigh that would be needed to get Santa across the world in one night.

The Sleigh's Interior

The front of the sleigh's dashboard would be dominated by Santa's own GPS navigator -- the elves would map out millions of destinations before Christmas Eve, just to make sure Santa doesn't miss anyone. The device would also have a built-in Naughty-or-Nice sensor that keeps Santa updated on children's activities. This is important, as even the most minor of naughty deeds committed within the last few hours of Dec. 24 can determine whether or not a child receives a shiny lump of coal.

speedometer on the far left of the dashboard would allow Santa to monitor his flying speeds. On the far right would be a radio communicator -- Mrs. Claus sends broadcasts, and the elves update Santa with weather reports and toy inventory.

For in-flight entertainment, we'd like to the think that the elves would have installed an
iPod dock -- perhaps even a red-and-green iPod, which would come with enough memory to play Christmas songs for the entire year through. There would also be a hot cocoa dispenser in the middle of the console, and fuel for the reindeer (in the form of carrots) in a compartment located on the left side of the sleigh.

Transdimensional Present Compartment (The Bag)

Ever wonder how Santa fits all of those presents into one bag? Think of a transdimensional present compartment in the form of a traditional gift sack, which would act as a portal between the sleigh and the North Pole. However, we'd also like to think that Santa may have harnessed the power of nanotechnology and found a way to miniaturize millions of presents into one large bag. But this information remains unconfirmed.

The Stardust Antimatter Propulsion Unit

What is antimatter? Is it some kind of magical substance Santa uses to power his sleigh?

Antimatter is the opposite of regular matter -- the mirror image of normal particles that make up everything we can see or touch. The big draw to antimatter is the amount of energy it helps create. When antimatter and matter come into contact, they annihilate each other -- breaking apart into tons of smaller particles -- and 100 percent of their masses convert into energy.

Although antimatter propulsion rockets are mainly used in science-fiction shows to allow spaceships to travel at warp speed, the possibility of designing one is very real --
NASA is currently developing one that would get us to Mars within a matter of weeks. [source: NASA]
Santa's would have to be way ahead of the game, however, and we'd like to imagine that he has his own custom Stardust Antimatter Rocket. It would be small enough to install in the back of his sleigh and fast enough to deliver every present to all good children across the globe. Of course, if the rocket ever malfunctions, the reindeer would be there to back Santa up.
References Here>>

Track Santa Claus across the globe as he performs his amazing task and journey -

Santa maintains a huge list of children who have been good throughout the year. The list even includes addresses, ZIP codes and postal codes. The list, of course, gets bigger each year by virtue of the world's increasing population. This year's population right now is 6,634,570,959!

Santa has had to adapt over the years to having less and less time to deliver his toys. If one were to assume he works in the realm of standard time, as we know it, clearly he would have perhaps two to three ten-thousandths of a second to deliver his toys to each child's home he visits!

The fact that Santa Claus is more than 15 centuries old and does not appear to age is our biggest clue that he does not work within time, as we know it. His Christmas Eve trip may seem to take around 24 hours, but to Santa it could be that it lasts days, weeks or months in standard time. Santa would not want to rush the important job of bringing Christmas happiness to a child, so the only logical conclusion is that Santa somehow functions on a different time and space continuum.

We believe, based on historical data and more than 50 years of NORAD tracking information, that Santa Claus is alive and well in the hearts of children throughout the world.

Santa Claus is known by many names, but his first recorded name was Saint Nicholas. Historians claim that the history of Santa starts with the tradition of Saint Nicholas, a 4th Century Christian priest who lived in the Middle East in an area of present day Turkey.

Saint Nicholas became famous throughout the world for his kindness in giving gifts to others who were less fortunate. Typically, he placed gifts of gold down people's chimneys - sometimes into stockings. It may be that the Santa we know and love emerged from the legacy of Saint Nicholas. Clearly, Santa's basic approach to gift giving is strikingly similar to that of Saint Nicholas. What we know from history is that the tradition of Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas merged.

Could they be the same person? Only Santa Claus can tell us for sure.

Long before the Wright brothers flew the first airplane or the Montgolfier brothers flew the first hot air balloon, Santa knew he had to find a way to travel quickly from house to house at great speed. We know from our Santa Cam images that Santa's choice for quick transportation was a herd of flying reindeer. Of course, to this day, detailed information on these reindeer remains a mystery. We do know, however, that Santa somehow found a way to get the reindeer to help him with his worldwide mission of gift giving. A veil of sweet mystery hides the rest.

Virginia's letter, written in December 1897, is the most famous example of a child wanting to know about Santa.

Editor’s Response>>


We at MAXINE, Symblogogy, ... notes from The EDJE, & Oblate Spheroid wish each and everyone a "Merry Christmas To All And To All A Good Night!"

Friday, November 21, 2008

It’s Was All Relative, ‘Till Now … E=mc2 Proven

People walk past a giant sculpture featuring Albert Einstein's formula "E=mc2" in front of Berlin's Altes Museum in 2006. It's taken more than a century, but Einstein's celebrated formula e=mc2 has finally been corroborated, thanks to a heroic computational effort by French, German and Hungarian physicists. Image Credit: AFP/File/John Macdougall

It’s Was All Relative, ‘Till Now … E=mc2 Proven

The Albert Einstein Special Theory of Relativity which he hypothesized over one century ago, was suspected as being correct but was never totally proven until now.

In a study published in the US Journal Science, a brainpower consortium led by Laurent Lellouch of France's Centre for Theoretical Physics, using some of the world's mightiest supercomputers, have set down the calculations for estimating the mass of protons and neutrons, the particles at the nucleus of atoms … which proves the equation Einstein laid down back in 1903.

The Albert Einstein Memorial with its 21 foot bronze statue was dedicated in 1979. It is across the street from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Constitution Avenue. A star map at Einstein's feet is embedded with more than 2,700 metal studs representing the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars on April 22, 1979 when the memorial was dedicated. In Einstein's left hand is a paper with mathematical equations summarizing three of his most important scientific contributions including the theory of relativity. Image Credit: VisitingDC.com

This excerpted and edited from AFP -

e=mc2: 103 years later, Einstein's proven right
AFP - Thu Nov 20, 6:56 pm ET

It's taken more than a century, but Einstein's celebrated formula e=mc2 has finally been corroborated, thanks to a heroic computational effort by French, German and Hungarian physicists.
According to the conventional model of particle physics, protons and neutrons comprise smaller particles known as quarks, which in turn are bound by gluons.
The odd thing is this: the mass of gluons is zero and the mass of quarks is only five percent. Where, therefore, is the missing 95 percent?

The answer, according to the study published in the US journal Science on Thursday, comes from the energy from the movements and interactions of quarks and gluons.

In other words, energy and mass are equivalent, as Einstein proposed in his Special Theory of Relativity in 1905.
Reference Here>>

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Triboluminescence – Xrays From A Natural Property, Unnaturally

Sticky Science A finger's x-ray taken with a tape-powered device. The sticky tape setup is in the background. Image Credit: Carlos Camara, Juan Escobar and Seth Putterman - UCLA

Triboluminescence – Xrays From A Natural Property, Unnaturally

Some of the craziest discoveries are found through happenchance or just simply by accident. In an edition of the latest of these discoveries, it has been perfected that through a process as simple as peeling transparent tape (commonly known as Scotch Tape popularized by 3M) one can capture and develop an xray image on film.

This property of excited electron activity when peeling transparent tape was first noticed about fifty (50) years ago in Russia. Some Russian scientists reported evidence of X-rays from peeling sticky tape off of glass.

Fast forward to California and work done by graduate students and staff researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

The result of this process when recorded by radiographic film is a fuzzy x-ray of the finger bone of physicist Seth Putterman, who runs the lab in which it was made. This undated composite image provided by the UCLA Laboratory of Low Temperatures and Acoustics, shows an image of an x-ray made with Scotch tape superimposed on a hand on top of a vacuum chamber with a roll of Scotch tape mounted on ball bearings inside. Image Credit: AP Photo/ UCLA Laboratory of Low Temperatures and Acoustics, Carlos Camara, Juan V. Escobar and Seth J. Putterman

This excerpted and edited from Scientific American –

Science Friction: An X-Ray Machine Energized by Adhesive Tape
Researchers take an image of a finger using film and some tape
By Susannah F. Locke, Scientific American - October 22, 2008

It may sound bizarre—or like some kind of high school
science fair project, but it's not: Researchers have discovered that peeling adhesive tape ejects enough radiation to take an x-ray image. If they stick, the findings could set the stage for a less expensive x-ray machine that does not require electricity.

Lead researcher Carlos Camara, a physicist at the University of California, Los Angeles, reports in Nature today that his team captured
x-rays of a finger on film (positioned behind it) by using a simple tape-peeling device (placed in front of it).

How is that possible? It turns out that
radiation is released when tape is ripped from a surface. The reason, says Camara: electrons (negatively charged atomic particles) leap from a surface (peeling off of glass or aluminum works, too) to the adhesive side of a freshly yanked strip of tape, traveling so fast that they give off radiation, or energy, when they slam into it.
"We have high hopes that this can be a very inexpensive alternative source of x-rays good enough to take x-ray images," Camara tells ScientificAmerican.com.Conventional x-ray machines require expensive electrical components to create a beam of high-energy electrons that is aimed at a metal target.
Worried about radiation from the tape dispenser on your desk? Don't. In both a conventional and the experimental x-ray machine, electrons travel unhindered by air molecules through a vacuum chamber; that allows them to produce the higher energy needed to make x-rays.
Normal air, comprised of nitrogen and oxygen and other gases, slows the electrons to a pace that is so sluggish there is only enough energy left to produce a faintly visible, benign blue light.
Reference Here>>

Funny what God leaves for us to discover here on this Oblate Spheroid. Check out the property called triboluminescence yourself by peeling tape in the dark.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Little ‘NoHo’ Model Draws Some Attention

"Little NoHo" as shown at the NoHo Scene festival last weekend. The "Little NoHo" project was created using common objects such as Lego building blocks, bottle caps, game pieces, dominoes, mahjong tiles, jewelry and lapel pins. The model featured parks, bridges, bike paths, plazas, streetcar lines and public art. Image Credit: Mark Kellam – Daily News

Little ‘NoHo’ Model Draws Some Attention

Artist and urban planner, James Rojas, who had built model planning projects which allow for viewer interactive input for the city of Los Angeles before, came up with a 3-D model and plan for the North Hollywood arts district and surrounding neighborhoods.

The model asks people viewing it to participate in the display by adding elements and discuss the project with Rojas so that the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, the sponsor of the model display, can benefit from ideas shared through the brainstorm process of the interactivity.

Will any of the ideas placed in the Rojas ‘NoHo’ model ever see the light of day? Only time will tell; it is not known if any of the models that James Rojas has built have ever been adopted as a serious blueprint for urban development.

This excerpted and edited from the Daily News via vallynews.com -

Residents get to give input about 'Little NoHo'
Contributed by: Mark Kellam - 10/10/2008

Man-made streams along Lankershim Boulevard. More benches and a children's playground in North Hollywood Park. Improvements along Vineland Avenue.

Those were some of the changes proposed in an interactive art/urban development model that was on display at the NoHo Scene festival last weekend. Visitors also got to provide their own input.
"Little NoHo" was created by L.A. urban planner James Rojas, who was at the North Hollywood festival. He said visitors of all ages got into the act.

The feedback was varied. For example, some people said the buildings were too tall, while others said they'd like more tall buildings.

The model showed North Hollywood from Burbank Boulevard to Camarillo Street (north/south) and from Tujunga Avenue to Vineland (east/west).

He saw one woman doing something with model pieces at Camarillo and Vineland. "She said she was recreating all the traffic accidents that happen there," Rojas said, chuckling.

As part of the model, Rojas put a man-made stream running down the center of Lankershim, which got lots of positive comments.

He also created traffic roundabouts along Burbank, Tujunga and Camarillo. "There are super long streets in the Valley," Rojas said. "The roundabouts break things up and make the streets more pedestrian friendly."

Rojas made a park with a lake off Tujunga, which kids enjoyed and provided whimsical input. "They put mermaids in the lake," he said.

Rojas has done interactive models before, including a model for the L.A. River project last year and at an event in Watts a few weeks ago.

The models are sponsored by the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, but Rojas does his work on the models as a volunteer.

"This is an exercise to get people thinking about the city and urban planning and break down barriers people have about the city," Rojas said. "It gets people comfortable. It's not contentious."
Reference Here>>

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Urban Sprawl Grid Discovered In Xingu Amazonia

Newly discovered traces of ancient roads, bridges and plazas in Brazil's tropical forest may help dispel the once-popular impression of an 'untouched' Amazon before the Europeans' arrival. In southern Brazil, archeologists have found the remains of a NETWORK or urban communities that apparently hosted a population many thousands strong. Reporting their findings in the journal SCIENCE, published by AAAS, the science society, the researchers say the people who dwelled there dramatically changed their local landscape.' /// Michael Heckenberger of the University of Florida and his colleagues were 'baffled' at the discovery. 'There was this cherished image that the Amazon was pure nature...archeologists are compelled to revise their views of ancient Brazil. Image Credit: Michael Heckenberger & Jim Bailey – Science (September 18, 2003)

Urban Sprawl Grid Discovered In Xingu Amazonia

Deep in the heart of the Amazon forest, evidence of an extensive network roads, plazas, and infrastructure that suggests vast human activity has been discovered in a area once thought to be only virgin rain forest.

Image Credit: BBC NEWS

Due to the overgrowth of the forest, it is estimated that the peoples who designed and populated the region may have been wiped out with the introduction of European born diseases introduced to Brazil when Explorers from Europe fist set foot in the Americas.

The research that has been conducted over the course of the past decade, was aided with the use of satellite imagery and GPS to discover the extent of the urban sprawl associated with the network of past human development and activity.

The researchers found evidence of 28 prehistoric residential sites. Initial colonization began about 1,500 years ago, and the villages they studied were dated to between 750 and 450 years ago. The local population declined sharply after Europeans arrived. /// Villages were distinguished by surrounding ditches, with berms on the inside made from material dug from the ditch and topped with a wooden palisade wall, Heckenberger reported. Image Credit: BBC NEWS

This excerpted end edited from the BBC -

'Lost towns' discovered in Amazon
A remote area of the Amazon river basin was once home to densely populated towns, Science journal reports.
Story from BBC NEWS - Published: 2008/08/28 21:37:07 GMT

The Upper Xingu, in west Brazil, was once thought to be virgin forest, but in fact shows traces of extensive human activity.

Researchers found evidence of a grid-like pattern of settlements connected by road networks and arranged around large central plazas.

Roads and canals connected walled cities and villages. The communities were laid out around central plazas. Nearby, smaller settlements focused on agriculture and fish farming. Pictured is evidence of dams used to funnel fish into holding ponds. Image Credit: BBC NEWS

There are signs of [field] farming, wetland management, and possibly fish farms.
The ancient urban communities date back to before the first Europeans set foot in the Upper Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon in the 15th Century.

Urban planning

Professor Mike Heckenberger, from the University of Florida, in Gainesville, said: "These are not cities, but this is urbanism, built around towns."
The tell-tale traces included "dark earth" that indicated past human waste dumps or farming, and concentrations of pottery shards and earthworks.
The communities consisted of clusters of 60-hectare (150-acre) towns and smaller villages spread out over the rainforest.

Road network

Like medieval European and ancient Greek towns, those forming the Amazonian urban landscape were surrounded by large walls. These were composed of earthworks, the remains of which have survived.

Each community had an identical road, always pointing north-east to south-west, which are connected to a central plaza.

The roads were always oriented this way in keeping with the mid-year summer solstice.

Evidence was found of dams and artificial ponds - thought to have been used for fish farming - as well as open areas and large compost heaps.
Reference Here>>

The more we learn about this Oblate Spheroid we populate, the more we become amazed at the depth assumption plays in our approach to understanding, and the more, through discovery, we begin to understand the depth of what we do not know here in the 21st Century.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lack Of Drift Indicated In Forearm Fossil Find

Megaraptors found in South America now have a "cousin" that was revealed living in Australia. Image Credit: fahad.com

Lack Of Drift Indicated In Forearm Fossil Find

A Dinosaur forearm bone fossil find in Australia has startled scientists in that it may shatter theories on how the Oblate Spheroid’s continent’s were formed.

As the theory goes, the Earth had only one very large land mass. This mass broke up and large chunks drifted apart over a one-hundred million year plus timeframe.

This bone puts this theory into question because of the type of bone that it is and the age at which the continent of Australia was to be formed and drift away from its suspected origin.

Cape Otway, Victoria, Australia - Image Credit: motelmarengo.com

This excerpted and edited from The Australian via AFP -

Australian dinosaur matches South American raptor
The Australian (AFP) June 11, 2008
The 19cm bone was found in southeastern Australia but it comes from a very close cousin to Megaraptor, a flesh-ripping monster that lorded over swathes of South American some 90 million years ago.

The extraordinary similarity between the two giant theropods adds weight to a dissident view about the breakup of a super-continent, known as Gondwana, that formed the continents of the southern hemisphere, the authors say.
The standard theory is that the first continents to go were South America and Africa, which pulled away from Gondwana around 120 million years ago.

Australia remained attached to Antarctica before the two entities drifted apart around 80 million years ago, according to this theory. Australia began an insular existence that incubated flora and fauna which remain unique to this day.

The forearm bone, found near Cape Otway in Victoria, is the first link ever found between a non-flying therapod - or two-footed dinosaur - in Australia and another component of Gondwana.

The investigators, led by Nathan Smith of the University of Chicago, say the two dinosaurs are so similar the two land masses of South America and Australia could not have been separated for so many millions of years beforehand.
They speculate that land bridges must have persisted between southern South America and the Western Antarctic Archipelago "until at least the Late Eocene," a period that began some 40 million years ago.

Reference Here>>

Saturday, June 7, 2008

"Ride the Mountain" Brings Choppers Into Big Bear Lake

Ride The Mountain event comes to Snow Summit resort parking lot for two days. Image Credit: Big Bear Choppers

"Ride the Mountain" Brings Choppers Into Big Bear Lake

This weekend will see an abundance (thousands) of rolling two-wheeled pieces of art traveling throughout Big Bear Valley and the San Bernardino mountains.

Big Bear Choppers brings their 6th annual Ride the Mountain event to Snow Summit Resort and have two days of custom bikes and antique choppers on display, as well as vendors and live music.

Bikes on display at Big Bear Choppers showroom. Image Credit: BBC

Bands featured include 82 Fifty with Rob Piazza and the Mighty Flyers on Saturday afternoon and Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe following the awards show on Sunday.

Image Credit: KBHR 93.3FM

This from the Big Bear Grizzly –

BBC rides into two days of fun
By JUDI BOWERS - Wednesday, June 4, 2008 5:51 PM PDT

Six years ago, Kevin and Mona Alsop decided to branch out. Their business was growing, so why not share it. The first Ride the Mountain was born.

Ride the Mountain brought hundreds of motorcycle and chopper enthusiasts to the mountains. The first and second shows were at the Big Bear Convention Center. Big Bear Choppers grew and so did Ride the Mountain. The show moved to the Big Bear City Airport on the tarmac. Thousands of bikes rolled in, braved the summer thunderstorms and enjoyed a day riding the mountain.

Bikes on display at Big Bear Choppers showroom. Image Credit: BBC

Growth continued, and it was time to move the show again to Snow Summit Mountain Resort. Ride the Mountain took over the main parking lot and the Brownie Lane lot as well.
It’s time to grow again, but Ride the Mountain is staying put. Instead of a new location, the show expands to two days this year. Ride the Mountain is Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8.
Also on Saturday, is the Ride the Mountain Poker Run
[2007 video below].
The run takes participants around the lake and throughout Big Bear Valley. The Baker Drivetrain Bike Show is also Saturday, with awards on Sunday.
Kevin Alsop and his crew judge the show. There are three categories, Big Bear Choppers Builder, Big Bear Choppers Factory Built and Open classes. The Big Bear Choppers Builder and Factory Built classes are free to enter. The fee for the open class is $25.
Proceeds from Ride the Mountain benefit Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District’s Teen Center.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Visually Amazing Japanese Moss Phlox Flower Park

Moss pink flowers are in full bloom in Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture. Image Credit: SANKEI PHOTO

A young couple relaxes in a field of moss phlox at Hitsujiyama park in Chichibu, west of Tokyo, Friday, May 2, 2008. More than 200,000 moss phlox are now in full-bloom at the park. Image Credit: AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara

Visually Amazing Japanese Moss Phlox Flower Park

Shibazakura, or Phlox … or Thrift in English can be a really nice ground cover in small patches of a garden. They work great as a compliment to other plants, but this display at Hitsujiyama park in Chichibu, west of Tokyo, Japan has to take the cake for the Oblate Speroid’s largest display of a flowering complementary plant for landscaping.

Praise must be given to the gardeners though, who have to look after this garden for the rest of the year. Tending the garden, pest control, and the ability to maintain the consistency of the bloom has to be hard work with the amount of pests (wild and human) that lurk around Hitsujiyama park.

Visitors view a field of moss phlox at Hitsujiyama park in Chichibu, west of Tokyo, Friday, May 2, 2008. More than 200,000 moss phlox are now in full-bloom at the park. Image Credit: AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara

Visitors look at landscaped fields of Shibazakura (Moss Phlox) flowers at Hitsujiyama Park in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture April 30, 2008. Image Credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato (JAPAN)

This type of visual display reminds us here at Oblate Spheroid of what the environmental artist Christo would do with his artistic approach.

His displays were temporary and designed to be a one time only event. This park in Japan is a year round display and changes with the ebb and flow of the seasons.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hangzhou Bay Bridge - World’s Longest Span Across The Ocean

China has formally opened what it says is the world's longest sea bridge with a ceremony and fireworks. The six-lane bridge was built to address traffic congestion in the booming region, and will cut the driving time between Shanghai and Ningbo to two-and-a-half hours from four. Image Credit: BBC NEWS

Hangzhou Bay Bridge - World’s Longest Span Across The Ocean

Hangzhou Bay Bridge is an S-shaped stayed-cable bridge linking both sides of the Hangzhou Bay. It is the longest sea-crossing bridge on this Oblate Spheroid! The bridge is 22.37 Miles long; it has six lanes in both directions and shortens the distance between Shanghai and Ningbo by 74.56 Miles.

MAP - Hangzhou Bay is a gulf in the East China Sea. For the Zhejiang province this is a first class project as both ends of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge are in the province´s cities of Cixi and Zhapu. The bridge is the main project of the 5.200 kilometres national highway between Heilongjiang Province in the north toi the Hainan Province in the south. Graphic Credit: hangzhoubaybridge.com

Although the bridge is already linked and the opening ceremony was held on 26th June 2007, it opened to the public transport May 1, 2008.

First preparations for planning the bridge started a decade ago; close to 600 experts spent nine years on designing the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. Chief Commander of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge project is Mr Wang Yong.

Hangzhou Bay is known both in China and internationally for it´s fantastic tides, a natural wonder that is a major tourist attraction. . The tides are moving in a speed that can reach 30 kilometres (19 miles), sounds like thunder and the waves can be up to 8 meters (25 feet) high. One reason for the study of the project for a decade is the tide which will make the construction process complicated. Image Credit: hangzhoubaybridge.com

This excerpted from Times Online -

China opens world's longest road bridge

Jane Macartney in Beijing - Times Online - May 2, 2008

“If you want to grow rich, you must first build roads,” an old Chinese saying goes. The opening yesterday of the world’s longest road bridge over the sea should swell still further the coffers of the glittering metropolis that is Shanghai.

The £840 million [1.66 billion dollars] bridge, measuring 36km, spans Hangzhou Bay to link China’s financial hub and the port city of Ningbo to the south. It will reduce travel time between the two key cities in the Yangtze delta from four hours to two and a half.

A ceremony was held in the middle of the cable-stayed bridge to mark the official opening. The bridge has been built to withstand the typhoons that sweep in from the Pacific to batter the east coast each summer. Its steel pylons are 89m long, reaching beneath a sea as deep as 60m in some places. In addition, the sections of the bridge had to be winched into position over expanses of quicksand-like mudflats.
In a break with tradition, private firms provided almost a third of the investment needed for the project. Image Credit: hangzhoubaybridge.com

State television greeted the start of traffic on the bridge with great fanfare, devoting almost the first ten minutes of the evening news of the Labour Day holiday to the subject. Wen Jiabao, the premier, visited the southern end of the bridge in Ningbo.Private investors funded almost 30 per cent of the project, the first time that China’s private sector had been allowed to put money into a major public infrastructure work. Officials say that the capital costs should be recovered in 15 years.
Reference Here>>

Please note that the title of the Times Online article referenced here is in error, in that the longest "ROAD BRIDGE" is located in the United States. The world's longest road bridge on this Oblate Spheroid is in Louisiana: the Lake Pontchatrain Causeway near New Orleans links Metairie to Mandeville, and spans 24 miles (~40 km). It is not an engineering marvel, but it is longer by almost a couple of miles ... Sorry China.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pinball Wizard And Body Table King

Mr. Gary Stern, the last pinball machine magnate, is a wise-cracking, fast-talking 62-year-old with a shock of white hair, matching white frame glasses and a deep tan who eats jelly beans at his desk and recently hurt a rib snowboarding in Colorado. Gary says half of his company’s machines now go into homes and not a corner arcade. Image Credit: Sally Ryan - NYT

Pinball Wizard And Body Table King

There was a time in America where pinball could be played almost anywhere … corner shops, markets, bars, arcades and bowling alleys to mention a few. The game was so popular that dozens of companies popped to produce the machines and fill the demand.

Today, however, demand for new machines is down and instead of dozens of manufacturers, there is only one on this Oblate Spheroid that remains true to the goal of providing the stand-up flipper and ball game machine.

Many assume the luster is off of the rose of mechanical gaming devices like pinball machines but the problem may be more than competition from electronic alternatives provided by home computers, dedicated hand held touch-screen PDA’s, and cellphones. The problem with the demand being down might be more in having to do with footprint and the availability of spaces that were once pinball friendly.

There are pachinko machines at the museum, which the curator of the museum keeps working on, so he has always has some spare parts he doesn’t need. So: when you visit the museum, don’t forget to take home your complimentary piece of pachinko history! Or better yet, indulge your burgeoning gambling addiction with a personal pachinko machine at home. Caption and Image Credit: pingmag.jp

Pinball enthusiasts believe that the pendulum will swing back and space available will come back for these grand body table amusement devices (not to be confused with the Asian game, Pachinko) … the pinball machine.

GameSetWatch has a wonderful gallery up showing off some of the amazing pinball machines that can be found at the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas. In their second set of pictures, the site concentrates on some of the "classic" pinball machines found in the collection. The grooviest by far has got to be Bally's Tommy-themed pinballer Capt. Fantastic, though there are plenty more to see on the site. Caption and Image Credit: Brian Crecente

This excerpted from the New York Times -

For a Pinball Survivor, the Game Isn’t Over
By MONICA DAVEY - New York Times - Published: April 25, 2008

Being inside a pinball machine factory sounds exactly as you think it would. Across a 40,000-square-foot warehouse here, a cheery cacophony of flippers flip, bells ding, bumpers bump and balls click in an endless, echoing loop. The quarter never runs out.

But this place, Stern Pinball Inc., is the last of its kind in the world. A range of companies once mass produced pinball machines, especially in the Chicago area, the one-time capital of the business. Now there is only Stern. And even the dinging and flipping here has slowed: Stern, which used to crank out 27,000 pinball machines each year, is down to around 10,000.
“There are a lot of things I look at and scratch my head,” said Tim Arnold, who ran an arcade during a heyday of pinball in the 1970s and recently opened The Pinball Hall of Fame, a nonprofit museum in a Las Vegas strip mall. “Why are people playing games on their cellphones while they write e-mail? I don’t get it.”

“The thing that’s killing pinball,” Mr. Arnold added, “is not that people don’t like it. It’s that there’s nowhere to play it.”
Though pinball has roots in the 1800s game of bagatelle, these are by no means simple machines. Each one contains a half-mile of wire and 3,500 tiny components, and takes 32 hours to build — as the company’s president, Gary Stern, likes to say, longer than a Ford Taurus.
The manufacturing plant is a game geek’s fantasy job, a Willy Wonka factory of pinball.

Some designers sit in private glass offices seated across from their pinball machines.

Some workers are required to spend 15 minutes a day in the “game room” playing the latest models or risk the wrath of Mr. Stern. “You work at a pinball company,” he explained, grumpily, “you’re going to play a lot of pinball.” (On a clipboard here, the professionals must jot their critiques, which, on a recent day, included “flipper feels soft” and “stupid display.”)

Pachinko Balls - Pachinko is a game where the player floods a verticle board with hundreds of balls that bounce off of pins. Some balls find there way to accrue poins or money. Image Credit: pingmag.jp

A Box Of Pinballs - The typical machine has only six balls where the player keeps one ball in play as long as possible to accrue points for extra game plays. Image Credit: Sally Ryan - NYT

And in a testing laboratory devoted to the physics of all of this, silver balls bounce around alone in cases for hours to record how well certain kickers and flippers and bumpers hold up.
The creation of the flipper — popularized by the Humpty Dumpty game in 1947 — transformed the activity, which went on to surges in the 1950s, ’70s and early ’90s.

“Everybody thinks of it as retro, as nostalgia,” Mr. Sharpe said. “But it’s not. These are sophisticated games. Pinball is timeless.”
Jovita Maravilla uses a soldering iron to attach wires to the game board of a pinball machine. Each one contains a half-mile of wire and 3,500 tiny components, and takes 32 hours to build. Image Credit: Sally Ryan - NYT

“The whole coin-op industry is not what it once was,” Mr. Stern said.

Corner shops, pubs, arcades and bowling alleys stopped stocking pinball machines. A younger audience turned to video games. Men of a certain age, said Mr. Arnold, who is 52, became the reliable audience. (“Chicks,” he announced, “don’t get it.”)
In the United States, Mr. Stern said, half of his new machines, which cost about $5,000 and are bought through distributors, now go directly into people’s homes and not a corner arcade. He said nearly 40 percent of the machines — some designed to appeal to French, German, Italian and Spanish players — were exported, and he added that he had been working to make inroads in China, India, the Middle East and Russia.
“Look, pinball is like tennis,” said Mr. Stern, noting that a tennis court could never, for instance, be made round and that certain elements of a pinball play field are equally unchangeable and lasting. “This is a ball game. It’s a bat and ball game, O.K.?”

Reference Here>>