Supermoon Brings Doomsday Theorists Out of Hiding…Briefly

Supermoon Brings Doomsday Theorists Out of Hiding…BrieflyDoomsday theorists are always looking for excuses to tell us why the end is nigh and why we should be repenting our sins while we have the chance. Some of these excuses are however more believable than others and a prime example is heading our way later this weekend – the almost annual arrival of the supermoon.

We’re in for a pretty impressive show that only comes along once in every 14 months, when the moon will be noticeably larger in size then usual when viewed form our privileged vantage point on Earth. But while most of us will be letting out a collective gasp of amazement, a slightly smaller contingency will be battening down all their hatches and getting ready to ride out the end of the world.

For centuries there have been myths that these supermoons have the kind of power to wreak havoc on the world, playing with the tides of the seas to create floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and pretty much the whole list of disasters Mother Nature can inflict upon us. Myths that are as interesting as any out there, but with decidedly too little evidence to have most of us heading for the hills.

Whichever side of the fence it is you decide to be on, the next supermoon takes place on the 23rd which means you don’t have long left to prepare yourself and your family – or at least get your camera ready for some rare snaps. On this day, the moon will be a paltry 221,824 miles from the surface of the Earth which will result in it looking a little bigger and brighter than you’re used to – it’s quite a sight to behold!

Well, unless it scare you half to death of course – different strokes and all that.

Every year like clockwork we hear the same warnings and theories about how our days are numbered. Nevertheless, NASA has looked into the idea from top to bottom and there’s literally zero evidence that a supermoon could ever cause anything of even the slightest threat whatsoever. Sure the moon has an effect on the tides, but even during a supermoon there’s little reason to even think about moving the spot where you usually sunbathe on the beach.

The fact that the 2013 supermoon coincides with the monthly full-moon means it’s going to be quite the treat for those still on solid ground staring at the heavens. And if we turn out to be wrong and the end was more nigh than we thought, you’ll have to wait until the next lifetime for our apology!

No Room Out Back? Grow Veg On Mars with NASA

No Room Out Back? Grow Veg On Mars with NASAIf you’re among the millions of Earthlings that would love to have your own vegetable patch out-back but never seem to have the room, NASA might just have the answer for you.

Well, if not you then maybe your great, great grandchildren at least.

Yes, it’s been reported that those wild and wacky souls at the space agency are looking into the idea of growing food on Mars. This would of course involve people having to actually travel to Mars in the first place and then figure out a way to land and get to work on the thing, which makes us thing that the 2030 estimate we’ve heard about may be a little on the optimistic side.

The theory is that in order for Mars to be transformed into a planet that can sustain human life, it will have to be tweaked and played with enough to yield crop growth. They’d have to go about a process of tiling the surface with some kind of plant friendly media and then look into the small matter of Mars only soaking up 50% of the sunlight as we get on Earth. To say that one or two artificial bulbs here and there might be needed would be a bit of an understatement.

Not an easy task considering that this is something of a dry, unforgiving and desert-covered planet we’re talking about here, but then again these are the kinds of challenges NASA boffins get paid a hell of a lot of money to tackle.

Admittedly NASA still hasn’t come to any solid conclusions as to whether or not the idea of human life on Mars will ever become a reality, but it’s still fun to know that these kinds of discussions are going on while the rest of us are torn between two brands of corn flakes!

Food for thought if nothing else.

Irish Twins Enter Record Books by Arriving 87 Days Apart

Irish Twins Enter Record Books by Arriving 87 Days ApartIt isn’t unheard of for twins to be born at separate times, at least when we’re talking in the region of a few minutes or a couple of hours. But in the case of one Irish mum, doctors were once again forced to reconsider what is and isn’t possible when twins born 87 days apart pretty much tore up the rule book and burned the pages.

Already being recognised as the first time it has ever happened in the history of Ireland, Maria Jones-Elliott went into labor prematurely and delivered her first baby a full four-months before her due date. Amy Jones-Elliott weighed little more than 1lb when she was born and the prognosis was bleak.

However, after the birth of little Amy her mother’s contractions ceased and the second of the twins remained inside her womb. As such, she remained in the maternity ward of the hospital to await the birth of the second baby.

Little did anyone realise that Katie Jones-Elliott wouldn’t arrive for another 87 days!

Miraculously, baby Amy survived and was on hand to welcome her twin sister when she finally decided to make an appearance. The hospital twice attempted to make the mum’s contractions continue to avoid any ensuing health complications, but it was eventually decided to let nature take its course and await a natural delivery.

As existing medical records suggest that the previous longest time between the birth of twins was 84 days, the Jones-Elliott sisters could be making their way to the Guinness Book of World Records – assuming of course the book features such things!

Ground Breaking Dog Cancer Study Begins in Colorado

Golden Retriever, Wikimedia Commons

DENVER, CO:   A new study is being conducted in Colorado and it’s being hailed as the first of its kind in the United States.  With cancer as the leading cause of death in all dogs, the well-known Morris Animal Foundation (MAF), is beginning a long-term study to hopefully change the lives and health of dogs for generations to come.  The Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University is assisting in the study.

This is great news for pet owners who have lost a dog to cancer.  The study, however, will take 10-14 years to determine what role genetics and environmental conditions play in a dog’s life.  Current dog owners may not benefit from this new study, however, future dog owners will.

The study is called The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study as golden retrievers will be the major focus.  Golden retrievers have a very high cancer risk rate as more than half of them die from cancer.  The MAF currently has about 300 golden retrievers enrolled in the study, and their goal is to have 3,000 participants from the contiguous United States.

The Study Needs More Participants

If you own a golden retriever that’s under two years of age and would like to participate in this study, please visit this link at the Morris Animal Foundation.  Your dog’s health will be tracked throughout its lifetime.  Veterinarians interested in participating in this study, should also follow the link to sign up.

Dog cancer has unfortunately become so common with our pets, that the FDA approved the first drug for treating canine cancer in June of 2009.  The treatment of cancer in dogs uses many of the same methods available for human cancers, such as radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and hypothermia.

According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University, cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over two years of age.  Many breeds are at high risk for cancer including golden retrievers, boxers, Bernese Mountain dogs, and flat-coated retrievers.  There are some breeds that are more prone to certain types of cancers.

Statistics on Canine Cancer

Current statistics are not promising for dog owners, and that’s the reason for this study.  If today’s dogs can give researchers some insight into this disease, future dogs may have a better chance of surviving or preventing cancer.  Currently, VPI Pet Insurance shows the following statistics on canine cancer:

  • Dogs are four times more likely to develop breast cancer than humans
  • Dogs are eight times more likely to develop bone cancer than humans
  • Dogs are thirty-five times more likely to develop skin cancer than humans
  • Mouth cancer is the fourth leading cause of deaths in dogs

At Rainbow’sBridge.com, you’ll find a special chat room for pet owners who have pets with cancer.  Many countries can participate in the chat room, including the US, UK, Central Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.  The chat room is open once a week at specific times.  The US can visit on Wednesday evenings, while Tuesday’s are for all other countries.  For more information, please visit Rainbow’sBridge.

Morris Animal Foundation

The Morris Animal Foundation is a global leader in animal health science.  They are a nonprofit based in Denver, Colorado.  Their vision is simple:  A healthier tomorrow for animals.  Researchers at MAF are committed to finding breakthrough veterinary medicines, treatments, and diagnostics for pets, horses, and wildlife.  Many animal studies are conducted here, and they’ve had many breakthrough results in animal care.  If you’d like to know more on the Morris Animal Foundation, just visit the link.

If you’d like to give a donation to the study, you can follow the above link to donate.

References: Morris Animal Foundation

9News in Denver

Rainbow’s Bridge

 

 

 

Bio-Fuel Plant Attracts Big Name Investors

Bio-Fuel Plant Attracts Big Name Investors

The soaring prices of fuel don’t just affect the consumer who winces each time gas stations change their prices.  It also affects industries, whose fuel consumption reflects the costs of their services and products.  Cool Planet Energy systems says it has a solution for providing cheap energy, and has lined up a list of big name investors to build the first commercial processing plant to prove it’s as good as its word.  The investors include BP, NRG, Conoco Phillips and Google Ventures.

Unlike many other plants that depend on large-scale corn production to produce their bio-fuel, Cool Planet uses compressed wood chips, crop wastes and other feedstock products, pressurizing them at high heat in an oxygen free environment.  The process creates a vapor, which is then converted into fuel.  Then waste product, bio-char, after being compressed again to produce more vapor, leaves a residue that can be used for fertilizer, water filters and even a substitute for wood pellets.  The company is currently searching for bio-char buyers as they predict ten million gallons of fuel will produce 10,000 tons of bio-char.  Unlike chemical fertilizers, the carbon will remain in the soil instead of being released into the atmosphere.  As a result, Cool Planet claims their entire fuel production reduces carbon emissions by a significant amount.

Google Ventures has been conducting a field trial on the new fuel, blending it with conventional gasoline for vehicle test runs.  After logging 2,940 miles in their test vehicle, the company stated the biofuel passed five smog tests and its emissions were “virtually identical” to the gasoline-only car.

Cool Planet is hoping to raise $100 for the first ten million gallon facility, along with covering the expenses for production and other corporate considerations.  According to Howard Janzen, CEO of Cool Planet, the first plant would have a capital cost of $50 million, making its production less than the costs of crude oil.

Cool Planet currently has a pilot plant that can produce 50,000 gallons of bio-fuel per year, and is building another plant nearby that will produce 400,000 gallons yearly.  If the ten million gallon facility goes into operation by 2014, it will be able to create bio-fuel at a cost as little as $1.50 a gallon.

Several US States Under Siege…From Squirrels

Several US States Under Siege…From SquirrelsDon’t be fooled by a cute and cuddly exterior – squirrels are becoming quite the menace in the US.

Following 2010’s warm winter and an unexpectedly generous crop of nuts and seeds, squirrel numbers in certain areas of the US have exploded to record-highs. Sadly, while their bushy tails and bright eyes might capture the hearts of some, fruit farmers are seeing their crops laid to waste, drivers are having constant near-misses trying to avoid the things and domestic pest-controllers have never been busier.

Southern Vermont has been particularly badly affected by overpopulation of squirrels, with farmers having stated that an “infestation” on the current level is truly unprecedented. Squirrels by the hundred are waiting out of sight for apple crops to near perfection, then swarming to orchards and in some cases destroying and entire tree’s fruit in the space of a single afternoon.

And as if to rub salt in the wounds, many are taking only single bites from one apple before moving onto the next, rendering dozens worthless in a matter of seconds. Along with destroying the crops the farmers depend on for their income, squirrels are also known to chew bark away from the trunks of the trees, eventually casing them to die.

Farmers across the country are united in their expectations to face hardships on an annual basis, though none expected this year’s to be a plague of red squirrels.

In one area of South Carolina alone, grey squirrels are known to have killed at least 100 mature trees over recent years.

Biologists expect squirrel populations to occasionally spike at a result of various conditions leading to an abundance of food, but this year’s explosion is on a scale the likes of which none saw coming. Plans to capture and inject squirrels with birth control chemicals are now being considered and in some parts implemented, while other towns have begun using bait laced with chemicals to achieve the same effect.

The prospect of a cull has mercifully been left out of the equation so far.

The abundance of food supplies is also known to be contributing toward a boom in the populations of other rodents, including mice.

Most areas are however being advised that the infestation is likely to come to an end over the coming months, after this year’s acorn and beechnut yield was significantly lower than average. This could represent the very reason why so many squirrels have taken to gathering food from other sources, including the crops of farmers.

This is however of little consolation to the farmers that are seeing their income swallowed up or destroyed right before their very eyes.

Problems are not only being reported by farmers, as motorists in record-numbers are reporting near-misses resulting from efforts to try and avoid flattening dozens of squirrels darting across busy roads. In residential areas, homeowners in growing numbers are also reporting squirrels nesting in their attics and roofs, causing damage to the structure and depositing urine and feces all over the place.

Gas Fracking Shakes up Texas

Gas Fracking Shakes up Texas

Texas has always enjoyed the spot of being America’s number one energy producer.  While oil has historically been its number one game, in recent years, it’s led the way in natural gas.  Texas contains approximately twenty-three percent of the natural gas in the Continental United States, but the gas is in shale deposits and the method used for extracting it is gas fracking.  While enthusiasts believe development of natural gas could give the Texas economy a much needed booster shot, opponents believe the price to pay is too high.

It is estimated that production in the Eagle Ford development could bring as much as $25 billion in revenue and create nearly 50,000 jobs.  It is also suspected that the method of injecting waste water into the ground is triggering a number of small earthquakes.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science announced recently that a series of 59 small earthquakes surrounding the Barnett Shale region of Texas, ranging from 1.4 to 2.5 in magnitude, had been documented but not reported to the US National Earthquake Information Center.  Researchers from the University of Texas responded that the earthquakes could have been triggered from drilling in an area that already had a fracture zone.

Tremors have been gaining in frequency throughout areas where gas fracking is practiced, according to the US Geological Survey report.  It was noted that tremors had occurred throughout the Midwest wherever the injection of wastewater into disposable wells was practiced.  An Ohio agency concluded that deep well wastewater injection was responsible for a dozen small earthquakes in Youngstown over the past year.

Tremors aren’t the only concern of Texas residents.  Environmentalists are worried that wastewater spill-over will contaminate the fresh water aquifer, while inhabitants debate whether there’s enough water to go around.  Currently, Eagle Ford uses 13 million gallons per well in the process known as fracking.  Fresh water is injected into the shale gas wells, forcing methane to rise to the surface.  Texas is not a water-rich state, and though the prospect of renewed prosperity is tempting, inhabitants express their concern over the effect on agriculture.

Natural gas companies state there is very little to worry about as the tremors are too small to be widely felt on the surface, and that there is no evidence that injecting the waste waters back into the ground has harmed fresh water supplies.  However, a report, delivered by Professor Charles Groat in February of this year, is now under question by the University of Texas, Austin.  The University revealed that at the time of the presentation, Professor Groat, who led the study, which declared there was no proof gas fracturing contaminated ground water, was serving on the board of Plains Exploration and Production, a company devoted to gas drilling.  The University provost and executive vice-president, Steven Leslie, states he does not anticipate any conflict with the report, as he was confident it met the University standards, but that it was important to allow a team of outside experts to conduct their own study.

The report might meet the University standards, but some residents feel the accepted standards are not enough.  In 1980, oil field waste was exempted from the guidelines of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  Many citizens see this as a loophole allowing hydraulic fracturing fluids to go unregulated by natural gas and oil companies.  A single fact remains clear.  Gas fracking uses fresh water, combined with chemicals to force methane gas to the surface, then injects the waste water back into the ground.  The displacement not only triggers earthquakes, but also without some serious attention paid to the problem, Texas may soon run out of fresh water.

Curiosity Touches Down on Mars and the Landing is Perfect

Curiosity Touches Down on Mars and the Landing is Perfect

 

It was a tense weekend for the aerospace program as the science exploration rover, Curiosity, approached the thin atmosphere of Mars.  The Red Planet often seems to be jinxed.  Historically, there have been more failures than success stories in attempting to land capsules on Mars, with 24 failed attempts and 15 successful ones, but the space agency was optimistic.  Out of eight attempted American landings, only two had failed.

On the fourth of August, the robotic rover reached its destination, piercing through an icy sky, and beginning its harrowing descent.  The moment of truth had arrived, and all eyes remained on the control panels as they waited for the verdict.  They did not have to wait long.  Amid cheers and cries, it was announced that Curiosity had touched down and the landing had been a success.

Curiosity began its 352 million mile journey in November, traveling at 13,000 miles per hour before piercing the atmosphere of Mars.  Its mission is to examine the terrain in search of evidence that the planet had once supported life.  For two years, the rover will be busy exploring the Gale Crater, analyzing samples of soil, rocks and the atmosphere for clues as to the planet’s capacity for supporting the microbial building blocks for life in the past or in the present.

Curiosity’s performance has been exemplary.  Both the time of arrival and location for touch down in the giant crater with a three-mile high mountain were precise.  As soon as it landed, it began transmitting back to earth photographs showing its wheels resting comfortably on the planet’s surface.

Weighing in at over a ton, the robotic vehicle was not able to land in the traditional method used by previous rovers, with air bags to ease its descent.  Its fall was cushioned by a super-sonic parachute, as well as rockets to slow its entrance into Mars gravity, and a set of tethers to help it land in its last few feet.  The innovative landing gear had never been tried before, making the touch down with Mars, Curiosity’s first field trip.

It will be several weeks before the rover can actually begin work.  Mission control must first go over Curiosity’s highly sophisticated mechanical and electronic equipment to ensure there was no damage during its long flight and descent.  The ten foot long vehicle, also known as the Mars science laboratory, could almost be called a living thing.  Curiosity has a brain, a body, an arm, wheels for legs, an ability to “see” for communications, a battery for a life support system and ears for listening.  It is the most advanced robotic rover yet built by the aeronautics program, and the largest vehicle to land on Mars.

It was a moment of victory for NASA, which recently faced severe budget cuts for its shuttle program with the International Space Station.  For the past year, astronauts have had to depend on Russian transportation to arrive at and leave the space station.

President Obama declared Curiosity’s triumph “was an unprecedented feat in technology, that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future.”  For the men and women who worked at Cape Canaveral, it was proof that America still has something it can be proud of , and that much can be accomplished through will and determination.

US Heat Wave’s Relentless Assault Continues – Death Toll Tops 30

US Heat Wave’s Relentless Assault Continues – Death Toll Tops 30Americans themselves in public fountains, spent all day in movie theaters and rode subway trains for hours on end this Saturday – just to escape the stifling heat for as long as possible. So far, the relentless heat-wave has wreaked untold damage across the country and cost no less than 30 lives.

Mercury shot up well beyond the 100 degree mark in several major cities over the weekend, which included 106 in St. Louis, 104 in Indianapolis and a record-high of 105 in Washington. Highways buckled under the heat and trains were sent from their weakened tracks – all before another deluge of summer storms was forecast.

All essential daily activities were transferred to either dawn or dust, but even in the early hours of the morning the heat was borderline unbearable.

So far, upwards of 30 deaths have been attributed to the excessive heat plaguing the US, which include 10 in Chicago and nine across Maryland – most of which were elderly citizens. In Ohio, three elderly citizens with heart disease were found dead in their homes, though the cause of death was attributed to the power-outages caused by the heat.

Two further deaths were reported in Tennessee, three in Wisconsin and three in Pennsylvania.

State official said that extreme temperatures had led to Wisconsin and Illinois highways buckling, while Maryland investigators are looking into the derailing of a subway train caused by the heat of the tracks. The 55 passengers on board were evacuated without injury.

Power outages continue to affect the lives of thousands of mid-Atlantic residents, where many have already been without electricity for over a week. At least 120,000 in West Virginia are still without power and a further 8,000 in Baltimore, leading to calls from Pepco for conservative use of electricity while the system struggles to cope.

While sudden and excessive spikes in temperature are not uncommon across the US, authorities have stated that the severe danger of this particular heat-wave its size and duration.

The country’s museums, galleries and movie theatres are becoming overcrowded sanctuaries for cool-air seekers from the moment they open their doors. What’s more, several local authorities have urged those without adequate cooling systems to consider riding out the heat-wave at local libraries and shopping malls – in some instances personally visiting elderly residents to warn them of the dangers.

In New York City, dozens of citizens have admitted to taking to the subway system and riding the trains for hours on end, just to get away from the sun.

Those living in close proximity to rivers and lakes however are being urged to exercise extreme caution, as the enthusiasm to plunge into any available source of cooling has already led to at least one death when an individual was swept away by whitewater in Maryland.

India Successfully Launches Test Missile Capable of Striking China

India Successfully Launches Test Missile Capable of Striking China India released a statement this Thursday confirming the successful test launch of a new missile capable of delivering a nuclear payload. If true, this would represent the first time the country has been able to launch a nuclear attack on Chinese cities including Shanghai and Beijing.

According to the Indian government, the new Agni-V missile has a range of over 5,000 kilometers and represents a massive boost to the countries countermeasures against China’s growing dominance. India’s head of defense stated that the missile had been successfully launched off Wheeler Island at 8:07am. He went on to say that the rocket reached its planned altitude of 370 miles, while all payload deliver systems functioned appropriately.

“India has emerged from this launch as a major missile power,” he informed the world.

Indian authorities had originally planned to launch the test missile on Wednesday, though this was summarily postponed due to adverse weather conditions.

“We have achieved exactly what we wanted to achieve in this mission,” according to mission director Avinash Chandra speaking to Times Now.

At a cost of approximately 25 billion rupees, the 18-meter Agni-V is said to be capable of carrying a 1.5 ton nuclear warhead or launching satellites into orbit. According to Indian military, a further four or five trials will be carried out before the new rocket can be officially added to the country’s arsenal – expected to happen in 2015.

China is currently strides ahead of Indian in terms of missile capabilities – already having several technologies capable of striking any part of India. At present, India’s most advance Agni-III rocket had a maximum range of 3,500 kilometers, falling short of any of China’s major cities.

The Indian government hailed the successful test this week as a step closer toward the country becoming a recognized world power.

“India has today become a nation with the capability to develop, produce, build long-range ballistic missiles and today we are among the six countries who have this capability,” an official statement read.

China and India were embroiled in war as recently as 1962 – the scars and border disputes of which remain inescapable. India also continues to voice its concerns over China’s apparent efforts to extend its power and authority across the surrounding Indian Ocean region.

“While China doesn’t really consider India any kind of a threat or any kind of a rival, India definitely doesn’t think in the same way,” according to India defense analyst Rahul Bedi.

India has long had the technology required to launch an attack on any city in its sworn-enemy Pakistan, but recent years have seen massive spending diverted to efforts intended to counteract an apparent threat from China. The country’s navy took over a nuclear submarine from Russia this year, while a Soviet-built aircraft carrier is also expected for imminent delivery.

Government officials have however reassured the public that the test launch of the missile should not be viewed as a threat or an act of hostility.

 

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