Friday, May 30, 2008

Alien in the window: the hoax video + a still from the "real" one.

The video below is a hoax ... but a "real" one was shown at the press conference.
Bryan Bonner, a member of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society, ... got together five members of the society Thursday night. "We started production about 8 p.m.," he said.

"We rented ourselves a 4-foot-tall foam latex alien" from a costume shop, said Bonner, who saw the Romanek video six months ago. "We were going to buy one, but I didn't want to blow the $230." "They started rolling the video and moving the puppet up, down, around and sideways. They sent the video from the camera straight into a computer, and one of the computer geeks used 3-D animation graphics to make the puppet's eyes seem to move, he said. "We gave him a couple little blinks." The result was a ghost-like creature that looks slightly more animated than the one in Romanek's video. "What they're claiming would take thousands of dollars and a lot of time ... we pulled the whole thing off for $90 and in five or six hours," he said. Bonner said, "It's so amazing that anyone would believe that video is a real space alien. And it's so frustrating to see that they want to use city time and tax dollars on this." - rmn

For higher resolution try this one where you can really see the eyes blink.

Here are two pics I captured from the higher res video. The second one shows the alien in the middle of a blink. The blinks happen very fast and look very realistic.

Realistic ALien

Pretty good. Jeff Peckman showed a different and longer supposedly real alien video filmed by Stan Romanek.

A video that purportedly shows a living, breathing space alien will be shown to the news media Friday in Denver.

Jeff Peckman, who is pushing a ballot initiative to create an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission in Denver to prepare the city for close encounters of the alien kind, said the video is authentic and convinced him that aliens exist.

"As impressive as it is, it's still one tiny portion in the context of a vast amount of peripheral evidence," he said Wednesday. "It's really the final visual confirmation of what you already know to be true having seen all the other evidence."

When Peckman went before city officials this month to discuss his proposed ET initiative, he promised to show the video. Peckman said the general public will have to wait to see it because it's being included in a documentary by Stan Romanek.

"No one will be allowed to film the segment with the extraterrestrial because there is an agreement in place limiting that kind of exposure during negotiations for the documentary," he said.

But people won't have to wait too long to see it for themselves.

"There is an open, public meeting in about a month in Colorado Springs," Peckman said. "We'll hope to do one in Denver at some point, and then in a few months, there will be the documentary that anybody can have, and it'll have the footage."

An instructor at the Colorado Film School in Denver scrutinized the video "very carefully" and determined it was authentic, Peckman said.

Peckman, 54, said the video was among the reasons he was "compelled" to launch the proposed ballot initiative, which has generated news as far as South Africa.

"It shows an extraterrestrial's head popping up outside of a window at night, looking in the window, that's visible through an infrared camera," he said. The alien is about 4 feet tall and can be seen blinking, Peckman said earlier this month.

In a statement, Peckman said "other related credible evidence" proving aliens exist will be shown at Friday's news conference, too.

In 2003, Peckman authored an off-beat ballot initiative that would have required the city to implement stress-reduction techniques. The "Safety Through Peace" initiative failed, but garnered 32 percent of the vote. - rmnews


The so-called proof that makes this video real was described by Peckman: "It starts out with a digital camera looking out across the room toward a window. There's a couple of flashes of light. After a few seconds, there is a small head clearly rising above a sill, panning the room, blinking its eyes, all slowly. The skin of the alien's oblong face, he said, is smooth, not wrinkled like the being in the popular film 'E.T.'" - ct

Yeah, okay, here is a still from the press conference:

Photo by CBS 4

A still image of the video, handed out by presenters, shows the purported space alien, peeking over the window sill in the center of the photo.

So, this is supposed to be a still of the real one. The real aliens seem to have flatter heads. I find Peckman's to be more freaky. Looks more like a reptilian alien... or perhaps a mushroom with eyes.

Fertility temple beneath Nile found

Archaeologists have discovered a portico, or covered entryway, of an ancient Egyptian fertility temple beneath the surface of the Nile River in Egypt.

According to a report in National Geographic News, a team of Egyptian archaeologist-divers found the portico in Aswan while conducting the first-ever underwater surveys of the Nile, which began earlier this year.

Speed traps -- new way to avoid them

...We're talking about the tech-driven cat-and-mouse game between law-enforcement agencies and motorists when it comes to setting and avoiding speed traps.

It all started, of course, with the radar guns used by police officers to detect speeders. Then came radar detectors used by motorists who wanted to skedaddle faster than posted speed limits.

Then police began using laser units which are more effective and more accurate than radar guns and so on and so on.

Now, the latest "upgrade" in this ongoing game of high-tech one-upmanship: Trapster. Trapster is a service developed and run by Pete Tenereillo of Carlsbad, California, and is essentially a cell-phone social network that allows motorists to hook up with one another for the purpose of issuing real-time alerts about the location of speed traps.

Trapster works like this: Go to the Web site, and sign up for a free membership. Then download the Trapster software to your cell phone or PDA. Tenereillo said that most current-generation cell phones, Blackberries and other PDA's can accommodate the Trapster software.

Then, you're ready to hit the road. And once you're tooling down the highway, if you spot a state trooper or city cop lying in wait with a radar gun or laser unit, you just need to punch in "pound one" on your cell phone -- or dial a toll-free number. Other users are then alerted on their cell phones or PDA when they approach the same speed trap ...
"One great thing about that is that it's hands-free," says Tenereillo. "You don't have to be looking at the phone or even be holding it to be notified of the speed trap -- which, of course, is safer, because you don't have to take your eyes off the road to be notified of the trap."

The more sophisticated cell phones/PDAs can also display a map that displays the exact location of the speed trap. "But obviously, people should pull over if they're going to look at the map," Tenereillo added.

Trapster was launched in April, and while Tenereillo declined to comment on the exact number of subscribers, he did say the site is booming. "We're going crazy, we've had so many people sign up that it's been hard to keep up with," he said. "We initially had some capacity issues as a result, so we had to re-do some of the architecture."

Tenereillo said one thing that surprised him is that "about half of our initial subscribers were soccer moms. But, when you think about it, that makes sense, they're in the car the most, and they take a lot of short trips, driving their kids to and from school, soccer practice, music lessons, etcetera -- so they're the ones getting the worst tickets, like for driving 53 [mph] in a 35 [mph] zone. Those are worse tickets than the ones you get out on the highway because judges show no mercy when it comes to speeding in residential neighborhoods or adjacent surface streets." - cnn

Sapphire Energy turns algae into 'green crude' for fuel

A San Diego company said Wednesday that it could turn algae into oil, producing a green-colored crude yielding ultra-clean versions of gasoline and diesel without the downsides of biofuel production.

The year-old company, called Sapphire Energy, uses algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide and non-potable water to make "green crude" that it contends is chemically equivalent to the light, sweet crude oil that has been fetching more than $130 a barrel in New York futures trading.

Chief Executive Jason Pyle said that the company's green crude could be processed in existing oil refineries and that the resulting fuels could power existing cars and trucks just as today's more polluting versions of gasoline and diesel do.

"What we're talking about is something that is radically different," Pyle said. "We really look at this as a paradigm change."

Sapphire's announcement is the latest development from companies and researchers focused on finding ways to cut harmful emissions from the nation's giant fleet of cars, trucks, trains and planes.

Beringia: Humans were here

Beringia is thought by a handful of renegade scientists to be a prehistoric homeland for aboriginal people who later spread across the Americas and the key to one of archeology's greatest Holy Grails - figuring out how humans first got to this continent. This July, Jacques Cinq-Mars, a renowned archeologist living in Longueuil, is heading to Beringia - a vast territory that once spanned the Yukon, Alaska and Siberia - in hopes of resolving a controversy he unleashed nearly 20 years ago when he chanced upon a curious-looking cave in the Yukon's Keele Mountain Range, perched on a ridge high above the Bluefish River.

Here, at a site known as the Bluefish Caves, Cinq-Mars's team discovered something that would turn archeology on its ear and has fuelled debate ever since - a chipped mammoth bone that appeared to have been fashioned into a small harpoon point. Radiocarbon dating showed the bone to be 28,000 years old. The find stunned archeologists who had long presumed the first people to enter the Americas did so 13,000 years ago via a land bridge from Siberia after the end of the last Ice Age.

Until that point, routes from Alaska down into the Americas were blocked off by glaciers up to four kilometres thick, which would have cut off any possibility of migration for thousands of years. But scientists have unearthed a growing number of ancient human sites across the continent that date back much more than 13,000 years. How did those people get here? No one knows for sure.

Cinq-Mars, a retired former curator at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, believes the answers lie in the lost land of Beringia.

Named after 18th-century Danish explorer Vitus Bering, this territory emerged from under the sea when advancing glaciers locked up seawater and caused ocean levels to fall 120 metres. The 1,000-kilometre-wide land bridge that joined the two continents was so arid it remained a glacier-free oasis of grassland steppes that teemed with life at the height of the Ice Age.

People here lived alongside giant and outlandish animals - beavers the size of today's bears, fearsome carnivorous bears that would have dwarfed today's grizzlies, sloths as big as oxen, mastodons, lions and woolly rhinos and camels. - toth

Ancient Egyptian City Unearthed in Sinai

Archaeologists exploring an old military road in the Sinai have unearthed 3,000-year-old remains from an ancient fortified city, the largest yet found in Egypt, antiquities authorities announced Wednesday.

Among the discoveries at the site was a relief of King Thutmose II (1516-1504 B.C.), thought to be the first such royal monument discovered in Sinai, said Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. It indicates that Thutmose II may have built a fort near the ancient city, located about two miles northeast of present day Qantara and known historically as Tharu.

A 550-by-275-yard mud brick fort with several 13-foot-high towers dating to King Ramses II (1304-1237 B.C.) was unearthed in the same area, he said.

Hawass said early studies suggested the fort had been Egypt's military headquarters from the New Kingdom (1569-1081 B.C.) until the Ptolemaic era, a period of about 1500 years.

The ancient military road, known as “Way of Horus,” once connected Egypt to Palestine and is close to present-day Rafah, which borders the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Archaeologist Mohammed Abdel-Maqsoud, chief of the excavation team, said the discovery was part of a joint project with the Culture Ministry that started in 1986 to find fortresses along that military road.

Abdel-Maqsoud said the mission also located the first ever New Kingdom temple to be found in northern Sinai, which earlier studies indicated was built on top of an 18th Dynasty fort (1569-1315 B.C.).

A collection of reliefs belonging to King Ramses II and King Seti I (1314-1304 B.C.) were also unearthed with rows of warehouses used by the ancient Egyptian army during the New Kingdom era to store wheat and weapons, he said.

Abdel-Maqsoud said the new discoveries corresponded to the inscriptions of the Way of Horus found on the walls of the Karnak Temple in Luxor which illustrated the features of 11 military fortresses that protected Egypt's eastern borders. Only five of them have been discovered to date. - ls

Condoleezza Rice enlists in Kiss Army fan club

Secretary of state meets Gene Simmons and bandmates in Stockholm hotel

he Kiss Army fan club has an enthusiastic new recruit: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice was in the Swedish capital Thursday for an international conference on Iraq. Kiss had a sold-out concert to play Friday.

"I was thrilled," Rice said of her late-night encounter with Kiss frontman Gene Simmons and bandmates Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the executive lounge of the Sheraton Hotel where they signed autographs and handed out backstage passes and T-shirts to her staff. "It was really fun to meet Kiss and Gene Simmons," she told reporters, noting that they seemed well-informed about current events. The band had asked if she could stop by after she finished dinner with the Swedish foreign minister and Rice readily agreed, she said.

Rice, a classically trained pianist, said she has eclectic musical tastes ranging from Beethoven to Bruce Springsteen.

Hard rockers such as Kiss are included in the mix, and Rice said her favorite Kiss tune is "Rock and Roll All Nite."

But, Rice conceded, she has never seen the band in concert. - msnbc

Ma hubbard in the cupboard

A HOMELESS woman who sneaked into a man’s house and lived undetected in his wardrobe for a year was arrested in Japan yesterday.

The woman was only rumbled after the man became suspicious about food mysteriously disappearing from his kitchen.

Police found the 58-year-old woman hiding in the top compartment of the man’s wardrobe and arrested her for trespassing, police spokesman Hiroki Itakura said today.

The man had installed security cameras that transmitted images to his mobile phone after becoming puzzled by food disappearing from his kitchen.

One of the cameras captured someone moving inside his home after he had left, and he called police believing it was a burglar.

However, when they arrived they found the door locked and all the windows closed.

"We searched the house ... checking everywhere someone could possibly hide," Itakura said.

"When we slid open the shelf closet, there she was, nervously curled up on her side."

The woman told police she had nowhere to live and first sneaked into the man’s house about a year ago when he left it unlocked.

She had moved a mattress into the small closet space and even took showers, Itakura said, calling the woman "neat and clean." - sun

Monkeys control a robot arm with thoughts

Two monkeys with tiny sensors in their brains have learned to control a mechanical arm with just their thoughts, using it to reach for and grab food and even to adjust for the size and stickiness of morsels when necessary, scientists reported on Wednesday.

The report, released online by the journal Nature, is the most striking demonstration to date of brain-machine interface technology. Scientists expect that technology will eventually allow people with spinal cord injuries and other paralyzing conditions to gain more control over their lives.

The findings suggest that brain-controlled prosthetics, while not practical, are at least technically within reach.

In previous studies, researchers showed that humans who had been paralyzed for years could learn to control a cursor on a computer screen with their brain waves and that nonhuman primates could use their thoughts to move a mechanical arm, a robotic hand, a robot on a treadmill or a small vehicle.

The new experiment goes a step further. In it, the monkeys' brains seem to have adopted the mechanical appendage as their own, refining its movement as it interacted with real objects in real time. The monkeys had their own arms gently restrained while they learned to use the added one. - iht

The (smiley) face of a killer?

Could a national gang of killers that leaves smiley-face calling cards be getting away with murdering dozens of male college students by making all the deaths look like accidents?

That’s what two retired New York police detectives think, after spending their own money to link as many as 40 drowning deaths of otherwise healthy young men, many of them athletes.

“This is a nationwide organization that revels in killing young men," Prof. D. Lee Gilbertson of St. Cloud State University said in a report filed Tuesday for TODAY by NBC’s Lee Cowan.


Two New York detectives and a professor have been investigating whether a nationwide string of murders of college-age men could have been committed by a single gang, linked by a smiley face. NBC's Lee Cowan reports.


Most of what the detectives are calling murders occurred in the Midwest during the winter months. Almost all involved popular athletes with good grades. Most had been drinking before they disappeared and their bodies subsequently found in near-frozen bodies of water.

The link they think they’ve found is a smiley-face symbol drawn near where many of the drowning victims’ bodies have been discovered. - ms

CNN News of the Absurd - Ghosts in a bottle + other stories

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Flying reptiles ate dinosaurs for lunch

A group of flying reptiles called Quetzalcoatlus may have strolled along a fern prairie eating baby dinosaurs for lunch. With a name like T. rex, you'd expect to be safe from even the fiercest paleo-bullies. Turns out, ancient flying reptiles could have snacked on Tyrannosaurus rex babies and other landlubbing runts of the dinosaur world.

Stonehenge may have been royal cemetery

Stonehenge may have been a burial ground for an ancient royal family, British researchers said on Thursday.

New radiocarbon dates of human remains excavated from the ancient stone monument in southwest England suggest it was used as a cemetery from its inception just after 3000 BC until well after the larger circle of stones went up around 2500 BC.

Isolated tribe spotted in Brazil

One of South America's few remaining uncontacted indigenous tribes has been spotted and photographed on the border between Brazil and Peru.

The Brazilian government says it took the images to prove the tribe exists and help protect its land.

The pictures, taken from an aeroplane, show red-painted tribe members brandishing bows and arrows.

More than half the world's 100 uncontacted tribes live in Brazil or Peru, Survival International says.

Stephen Corry, the director of the group - which supports tribal people around the world - said such tribes would "soon be made extinct" if their land was not protected.

'Monumental crime'

Survival International says that although this particular group is increasing in number, others in the area are at risk from illegal logging.

The photos were taken during several flights over one of the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil's Acre region.

They show tribe members outside thatched huts, surrounded by the dense jungle, pointing bows and arrows up at the camera.

"We did the overflight to show their houses, to show they are there, to show they exist," the group quoted Jose Carlos dos Reis Meirelles Junior, an official in the Brazilian government's Indian affairs department, as saying.

"This is very important because there are some who doubt their existence."

He described the threats to such tribes and their land as "a monumental crime against the natural world" and "further testimony to the complete irrationality with which we, the 'civilised' ones, treat the world".

"These images are all from a later pass by the plane. The men, painted red, brandished weapons and fired off some arrows at the aircraft. The person in black may be a woman."

Disease is also a risk, as members of tribal groups that have been contacted in the past have died of illnesses that they have no defence against, ranging from chicken pox to the common cold. - bbc

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Iceland shaken by magnitude 6.2 earthquake

I wonder what else the Earth is going to hit us with in the next few months. First nearly 70,000 die from a quake in China, now this...
A strong earthquake shook southern Iceland on Thursday, injuring at least 15 people as it rocked buildings in the capital, touched off landslides and forced evacuations in outlying towns, officials and local media said.

Government officials reported that 15 to 30 people were injured, none of the seriously, when the quake hit near Selfoss, 30 miles southeast of the capital of Reykjavik. They were taken to a local health center for treatment.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 6.2 and hit at 3:46 p.m.

Sharp aftershocks were feared over the next few hours in the southwest of the country, and police traveled around the nearby town of Hveragerdi, 28 miles east of Reykjavik, with a bullhorn, advising residents to stay outdoors.

An Associated Press Television News cameraman in Hveragerdi reported at least two aftershocks, and said residents were beginning to pitch tents outside because they were not allowed to return home.

"It was a horrific experience. Everything inside my house is ruined," Sveinn Ingvason, a 51-year-old construction worker, told Iceland's Channel 2 from the town.

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more about "Strong earthquake rocks Iceland", posted with vodpod

I hate unreadable Captchas.

The term "CAPTCHA" was coined in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper (all of Carnegie Mellon University), and John Langford (then of IBM). It is a contrived acronym for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart", trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University.

A CAPTCHA is sometimes described as a reverse Turing test, because it is administered by a machine and targeted to a human, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is typically administered by a human and targeted to a machine.

Lately on web sites were I have to validate I'm getting captchas like this:

Sometimes I get three or four in a row which are unreadable. Would it just be better to hire a few network police and have public humiliation for anyone caught defrauding a web site with spam? These things are really just another way spammers abuse us.

This is what i see now

This i what i see now, originally uploaded by xeno735.

You have new Picture Mail!

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

You have new Picture Mail!

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

Photo essay

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

A Facelift Pill That Makes 80-Year-Olds Look 20?

It may be a long time before humans can extend their lifespans to hundreds of years, but the technology to make humans look sixty years younger than their actual age is right around the corner. A group of scientists at the University of Michigan have done an exhaustive study of what gives people the appearance of age — wrinkled, saggy, or broken skin — and figured out a quick fix that may keep skin looking taut and young even though the person inside it has grown very old. The key lies with collagen, a spongy layer of tissue beneath the skin that is gradually dissolved as people grow older.

Scientists say that aging bodies release an enzyme called collagenase that literally eats away at collagen, which in turn makes the skin weak and thin. It sags and becomes easier to bruise or tear. If collagenase could be removed from the body, or the collagen itself rejuvenated, people's skin would stay firm and healthy. There are several possible substances already available that could promote collagen regrowth (you can see one, Restylane, plumping up collagen in the image above).

According to Eurekalert:
The U-M researchers base their conclusions on past studies in which they have explored why certain anti-aging treatments are effective. A 2007 study looked at Restylane, marketed as a dermal filler, and found that injections of the product caused fibroblasts to stretch, promoting new collagen, and also limited the breakdown of collagen.In another 2007 study, the U-M team tested lotions containing retinol, a form of Vitamin A found in many skin-care products, and found it significantly reduced wrinkles and skin roughness in elderly skin by promoting new collagen. Other U-M studies have shown why some laser treatments work and some less powerful ones do not. Carbon dioxide laser resurfacing is effective because it removes the aging dermis; in the three-week regrowth process, new, young collagen is produced.

Voorhees and his colleagues say they provide needed, independent research on the effectiveness of available and future treatments to counteract skin aging. They have no ties to the manufacturers of products they study.

It sounds like the early twenty-first century may be the first time in human history when you might have no idea how old the person is that you're talking to. With collagen replacement, you might think that you're dating a 25-year-old until she suddenly drops dead of old age.

Why Some Treatments Rescue Aging Skin [Eurekalert] - io9

Actual rejuvenation of cells would be great, but I'm skeptical about this. Read some reviews from people who have tried Restylane.

Extreme life found at record seafloor depth

Scientists have found life about twice as far below the seafloor as has ever been documented before. A coring sample off the coast of Newfoundland turned up single-celled microbes living in searing temperatures about a mile (1,626 meters) below the seafloor.

"These are probably not only the deepest, but the hottest organisms found in deep marine sediments," said R. John Parkes, a geobiologist at Cardiff University in Wales. "I was hoping we would find them this deep, so we were very excited that we actually did confirm they were present. It's fascinating to know what proportion of our planet actually has living organisms in it."

While life has been known to exist at even greater depths beneath land — such as bacteria found nearly two miles underground in a gold mine in South Africa — life under the sea had previously only been detected to depths of about half a mile (842 meters) below the seafloor. Parkes and his colleagues analyzed core samples returned from the Ocean Drilling Program. They found evidence for prokaryotic cells, which lack a central nucleus, that appear to be from the archaea family, a sister domain to bacteria.

The newly-discovered life likely gets its energy from methane. It thrives in 111 million–year-old rocks, enduring temperatures between 140 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to 100 degrees Celsius). In this extreme environment, life is relatively sparse.

"There's no light around, there's no oxygen around," Parkes told LiveScience. "It's basically just rocks, but there is still some space for water, which the organisms need."

This discovery of some of Earth's most extreme living creatures may shed light on the search for extraterrestrial life. "Until we know what's there on Earth, were not going to have a clue what's possible on other planets ," Parkes said. "I think people have taken the message from this type of work that it's no longer sufficient to take a scoop of Martian soil from the surface and say there's no life. If life on Earth can go as deep as several kilometers, there's no reason why that wouldn't be true under similar conditions on another planet." - msnbc

The photo is a Dumbo Octopus from the Sable Gully MPA, no an extreme prokaryotic cell... but the archaea family just doesn't look as cool as the Dumbo Octopus.

Vietnam reports "UFO" explosion

HANOI (Reuters) - An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.

The Vietnam News Agency said residents of Phu Quoc island, 10 km (6 miles) off the coast of the Cambodian province of Kampot, found shards of grey metal, including one 1.5 meters (1.5 yards) long.

"The explosion happened at about 8 km (5 miles) above the ground, and perhaps it was a plane, but authorities could not identify whether it was a civil or military aircraft," VNA said in a report headlined "UFO explodes over Phu Quoc Island."

Soldiers were sent out to look for wreckage and survivors, and local authorities contacted airlines in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, but received no reports of missing aircraft, the official state news agency added.

Villagers in Kampot said Tuesday that they had heard a loud explosion. Wednesday they told Reuters they had found small chunks of metal near the coastline.

Kung Mony, deputy commander of Cambodia's Air Force, said Tuesday he had been told of a foreign plane crashing in Kampot province, but later backed off his claims of an aircraft accident.

(Writing by Grant McCool and Ed Cropley in Bangkok; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Rare Elizabeth I portrait found

A rare portrait of Queen Elizabeth I as a young princess has been discovered in a private collection at a stately home in Northamptonshire.

The portrait, dating from 1650 to 1680, was found in the Duke of Buccleuch's collection at Boughton House. It shows Elizabeth with siblings Edward VI and Mary I, father Henry VIII and his jester, Will Somers.

It is a copy of an original panel painting, which is thought to date back to the early 1550s.  The portrait was examined by historians Alison Weir and Tracy Borman after they were told of its existence by the director of Boughton House.

It will now be put on display at the stately home, and historians hope to trace the original through publicising the discovery. Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I before her accession to the throne are extremely rare, with only two other proven portraits known - one at Hampton Court and the other at Windsor Castle.


Tracy Borman said that when she was first sent a picture of the portrait she realised it had never been seen before. "The more we found out, the more obvious it was that nobody had come across this," she said. "It's clearly a copy of a lost original and it's that mystery that we started to try to solve.

"It's also a very different look to Elizabeth and comparing it to other portraits it helps us to solve the identity of other portraits - for example one always known as the Unknown Lady in the National Portrait Gallery." Charles Lister, house manager at Boughton House, said the picture was to go on public display when the house opens in August.

He said: "The portrait is normally in a private area of the house with a number of other Tudor portraits. When we had a meeting with Tracy it came under discussion and it sort of all went from there.  We knew it was important because it's a picture of Henry VIII and his family but we did not realise it in the context of Elizabeth as princess."

The finding is reported in the latest edition of the BBC History Magazine. - bbc

Woman Wakes Up After Family Says Goodbye, Tubes Pulled

A West Virginia woman is at the Cleveland Clinic after walking the line between life and death.

Doctors are calling Val Thomas a medical miracle. They said they can't explain how she is alive. They said Thomas suffered two heart attacks and had no brain waves for more than 17 hours. At about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, her heart stopped and she had no pulse. A respiratory machine kept her breathing and rigor mortis had set in, doctors said. "Her skin had already started to harden and her fingers curled. Death had set in," said son Jim Thomas. They rushed her to a West Virginia hospital. Doctors put Thomas on a special machine which induces hypothermia. The treatment involves lowering the body temperature for up to 24 hours before warming a patient up.After that procedure, her heart stopped again. "She had no neurological function," said Dr. Kevin Eggleston. Her family said goodbye and doctors removed all the tubes. However, Thomas was kept on a ventilator a little while longer as an organ donor issue was discussed. Ten minutes later the woman woke up and started talking."She (nurse) said, 'I'm so sorry Mrs. Thomas.' And mom said, 'That's OK honey. That's OK," Jim Thomas said. Val Thomas and her family strongly believe that the Lord granted them their miracle and they want everyone to know. "I know God has something in store for me, another purpose. I don't know what it is but I'm sure he'll tell me," she said. She was taken to the Cleveland Clinic for specialist to check her out. Doctors said amazingly she has no blockage and will be fine. - nn5

Childhood 'toy' revealed as ancient Persian relic

An ancient gold cup mysteriously acquired by an English scrap metal dealer is expected to fetch close to a million dollars at auction after languishing for years in a shoe box under its current owner's bed.

Owner John Webber says his grandfather gave him the 5.5-inch (14-centimetre) high mug to play with when he was a child, back in 1945.

He assumed the golden cup, which is decorated with the heads of two women facing in opposite directions, their foreheads garlanded with two knotted snakes, was made from brass.

But he decided to get it valued when he was moving house last year and was told it was actually a rare piece of ancient Persian treasure, beaten out of a single sheet of gold hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Experts said the method of manufacture and the composition of the gold was "consistent with Achaemenid gold and gold smithing" dating back to the third or fourth century BC.

The Achaemenid empire, the first of the Persian empires to rule over significant portions of Greater Iran, was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330 BC.

Auction house Duke's, in Dorchester, south-west England, will put the cup under the hammer on June 5, with an estimate of 500,000 pounds (630,000-euro, 988,000-dollars).

Webber, 70, told The Guardian newspaper that his grandfather had a "good eye" for antiques and picked up "all sorts" as he plied his trade in the town of Taunton in south-west England.

"Heaven knows where he got this, he never said," he added, revealing that as a child, he used the cup for target practice with his air gun. - yahoo

From s-bend to YouTube: a possum's tale

When it comes to toilets, there's a simple directional rule: everything goes downstream. When things move against the tide, then you have problems.

So as Tim Fraser was doing some laundry in his bathroom last Friday night, he became a wee bit disturbed when his toilet started spontaneously gurgling.

"I could see bubbles coming up and I thought 'what the the hell is happening?'" he said, recalling that evening. Then he caught sight of a grey, furry head with a pair of pointy ears and saucepan eyes emerging on this side of the s-bend. Moments later there was a half-drowned possum sitting in his Fowler toilet bowl.

"It was like the toilet had given birth," he said.

It's not clear who was more startled, man or marsupial. But Fraser was first to react. He darted to the next room and collected his digital camera. As he began filming, he dialled a plumber friend who lived nearby and asked him to come over and lend a hand in the rescue. Fraser, 39, lives just north of the Brisbane CBD in an area near a large colony of the creatures. So he's used to crossing paths with possums, but never quite like this before.

It quickly dawned on him that the only way the critter could have climbed in was through a 100mm-wide breather pipe for the toilet line.

This runs from the roof of his house, down the back wall before joining the sewage pipe at basement level and turning back up to the toilet - a distance of over 10 metres. The final leg of the possum's fantastic voyage would have involved wriggling through the s-bend - a set-up that creates a water-filled seal between flushings.

"He was close to death and lucky that no one had used the toilet recently," Fraser said, adding that he let the possum settle and catch its breath before helping it out of the bowl. Once clear of its porcelain prison, the possum made a dash for freedom. Hissing and snarling at its rescuers, it eventually bolted through an open door and back into its suburban habitat.

Fraser, who likes to tinker with computers and knows his way around the internet, then uploaded four short clips of the possum on to YouTube so he could share it with the world.

It's more evidence that what used to known as a Kodak moment has now become a YouTube one.  Surprisingly, the videos - Possum Climbs up through Pipe to Toilet - have not taken off, each only collecting a few hundred views. But with the internet being the echo chamber it is, everything is eventually noticed by someone, somewhere.

Arjun Ramachandran writes: According to Nigel Williamson, from Nigel's Animal Rescue, possums have a habit of getting themselves into trouble.

"Every day of the week I pull a possum out of someone's chimney - they wander around the roof trying to get inside and fall down the chimney,'' said Mr Williamson, who has been rescuing animals for 23 years. "I've seen it all and done over 30,000 rescues in that time.''

In February, EnergyAustralia had to "wildlife-proof'' up to a dozen sub-stations after a possum knocked out power at a substation in Avalon and left 15,000 homes without power. The possums had been using overhead powerlines as highways to safety from cats and foxes. - smh

Scientists find strange ring circling dead star

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists have found a bizarre ring of material around the magnetic remains of a star that blasted to smithereens, NASA reported Wednesday.

The stellar corpse, called SGR 1900+14, belongs to a class of objects known as magnetars. These are the cores of massive stars that blew up in supernova explosions, but unlike other dead stars, they slowly pulsate with X-rays and have tremendously strong magnetic fields.

"I was flipping through archived Spitzer data of the object, and that's when I noticed it was surrounded by a ring we'd never seen before," said Stefanie Wachter of NASA's Spitzer Science Center, who found the ring serendipitously. Wachter is lead author of a paper about the findings in this week's Nature.

Wachter and her colleagues think that the ring, which is unlike anything ever seen before, formed in 1998 when the magnetar erupted in a giant flare. They believe the crusty surface of the magnetar cracked, sending out a flare, or blast of energy, that excavated a nearby cloud of dust, leaving an outer, dusty ring.

This ring is oblong, with dimensions of about seven by three light-years. It appears to be flat, or two-dimensional, but the scientists said they can't rule out the possibility of a three-dimensional shell.

The discovery could help scientists figure out if a star's mass influences whether it becomes a magnetar when it dies. Though scientists know that stars above a certain mass will "go supernova," they do not know if mass plays a role in determining whether the star becomes a magnetar or a run-of-the-mill dead star.

According to the science team, the ring demonstrates that SGR 1900+14 belongs to a nearby cluster of young, massive stars. By studying the masses of these nearby stars, the scientists might learn the approximate mass of the original star that exploded and became SGR 1900+14. - io9

test, Blog entry from cell phone

Wilderness Survival- How to Make Fire From Ice

Now for the magic!

By taking a tube, and rubbing it over the surface of the rough sphere, we start to cut/polish away at any irregularities.

As Nelson pointed out, with this technique, "you can't go wrong."  If you use a true random motion in the polishing, then you have no choice but to make a perfect sphere!

The biggest problem with ice lenses so far has been the ability to make a lens that has a tight enough focal point to light tinder.  There was always the trade-off between the quality of the lens and the size of the lens.  To compound this problem, if we needed to make a big lens, then we needed a big piece of ice.  As described in the first fire-by-ice articles, getting clear ice isn't very easy.
With this tube-polishing technique a number of new avenues have been opened:

1) We only need a small piece of clear ice - which is much easier to find and/or create.  In the above photos, where the smallest sphere was made, the starting point was something that looked a lot like an icicle.  Very often, icicles are perfectly clear - and they're easy-pickin in the winter.  The icicles are already in an almost cylindrical shape - so much of the work is already done!  An icicle provides: clear material, a hand-hold, is partially preformed, and is on display.  Wow, what a starting point!

2) Since this tube-polishing technique guarantees a perfect sphere - we have removed much of the skill element to this technique.  The better the original roughed-out sphere, the less polishing  required.  A very poor original sphere will still end up being perfect, one just needs to polish longer.

There is still exploration that can go into sources for the tube.  A longer tube is nice, since it is easy to hold.  I also tried various sized "rings" and they also worked well.  One could also use a sheet of material with a circular hole in it.  Other natural materials might include: coconut shells, sea shells, nut shells etc.
The cutting edge on the tools can also be optimized.  Maybe a serrated edge for the rough polishing, and then the hook-edge/burnish for the final polish.  In a survival situation, one could use cans, jars, lids, pieces of pipe, rings, bracelets etc. - wildwoodsurvival

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Signal From Mars Is Restored

A satellite radio that carries signals and commands to the Mars Phoenix lander restarted last night, ending a one-day delay in the robotic explorer’s deployment on the Martian surface.

The UHF radio on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite shut down on Tuesday, blocking communications between mission controllers and the newly arrived spacecraft. In a statement posted to the Web site of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration late on Tuesday, the balky orbiter “successfully received information from the Phoenix lander and relayed the information to Earth. The relayed transmission included images and other data collected by Phoenix during the mission’s second day after landing on Mars.”

The cause of the glitch is undetermined, according to the NASA statement. During the radio silence, the lander carried out instructions that had been sent on Monday.

In a press conference on Tuesday, mission officials displayed startlingly clear photos taken by the orbiter of the lander on the Martian surface, its solar panels shining a brilliant bluish against the red soil. Other images showed the heat shield and parachute, along with the mark they

made after crashing into the soil. A photograph from the lander showed the parachute and shield in the distance.

The lander’s Canadian-made weather monitoring station is also up and running, and in the Tuesday press conference included a slide of a mock weather report that showed the skies “sunny and clear,” with dust storm activity to the west and temperatures that ranged from minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 112 degrees.

Another image from the craft displayed a DVD that bears the names of 250,000 supporters of the project, along with a collection of books on the theme of Mars and a message, “Astronauts, please take this DVD with you,” said Peter Smith, principal investigator for the lander, from the University of Arizona. It won’t happen soon, he admitted: “Maybe in the next century, we hope, maybe 5,000 years from now, maybe 100,000 years from now. But some day, somebody will come and take that DVD and be able to read the books in our little library.”

Mission officials said that they expected to begin unlimbering the robotic arm today, and to begin digging in the soil within days. The shoveling craft will search for ice under the surface and cook soil in a special oven designed to determine the chemical composition of the sampled materials. Scientists hope to find the kinds of organic compounds that would suggest that life has existed, or could exist, on Mars. - nyt