Climate change threatens NASA

NASA’s decision to put its facilities on oceanfront property is proving foolhardy in this era of Climate Change.

Dolphins chatter is really language

Fantastic World

We’ve known for years that dolphins are pretty smart. People regard them as intelligent as monkeys, but they move in a deep silent world where we can’t make out their language or understand the many ways they use their sonar projections.

Well, Holli Eskelinen of Dolphins Plus, a research institute in Florida, plus some co-workers from the University of Southern Mississippi have discovered that dolphins not only can work together to solve a problem, but they talk to each other while they are doing it. At the research institute, dolphins were present with a locked canister filled with food. The canister could only be opened by one dolphin pulling one loop and the other doing the same with the other loop.

While dolphins are pretty smart they aren’t often presented with puzzles in the wild, so several of the six porpoises waved off the experiment. However, one pair of dolphins worked together to open 20 of the canisters in as little as 30 seconds. In four other trials, a single dolphin opened the canister on his own, but it involved a  much tricker set of maneuvers  and took longer to execute.

It wasn’t just the fact that the dolphins worked together to get their food that wowed the researchers, it was the fact that they were chattering with each other quite rapidly during the tests. Dolphins tend to make sounds while they are off on their own, but when they are with another dolphin, they tend to make a chattering sound, which is still quite randomly used.

When doing the test, the dolphins who worked together highly increased the amount of chatter and seemed to be directed at the issue of canister opening. The dolphin who opened the canister on his own didn’t chatter.

“This is the first  time that we can say conclusively that dolphin vocalizations were used to solve a cooperative task,” Eskelinen told New Scientist magazine.

“The study clearly shows that dolphins using vocal communication to jointly solve problems, said Leigh Torres, a marine ecologist from Oregon State University. “The results point toward the possibility of a dolphin language that enables team problem solving.

But then we already knew that didn’t we? Flipper wasn’t chattering at his owners tor no reason at all. Too bad we still can’t understand dolphin language. But the day will come, I’m quite sure.

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Dino dinners were dead or alive

Fantastic World

Quick! When you think about a Tyrannosaurus rex, what comes to mind? Gaping jaws, jagged teeth, and the ability to run you down for a speedy snack.

Well, some of them were predatory like that—certainly they were kings of the dinosaur world—but scientists are saying that many in the tyrannosaur class, including juvenile tyrannosaurus rexes and velociraptor, got by by scavenging. Scientists from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, used such unusual tools as “Sims”-like computer games to gauge how often the dinos went after their prey or ate the carcass of a previous kill.

Rather than being like the fierce, voracious dinosaurs in “Jurassic Park,” the new research shows that many of the tyrannosaur class were more like scaly, featured hyenas. Irish and Scottish researchers  have shown that scavenging would have been a rewarding strategy for carnivorous dinosaurs.

dinosaur-1114628__340Lots of today’s predators rely on scavenging to supplement their caught dinners. Lions scavenge nearly 50% of their food in some populations.

The scientists say that direct hunting uses up vast amounts of energy and scavenging is nearly food for free. Dino’s who mostly scavenged were dilophosaurus and Utahraptor.

“In effect, these species occupied a Goldilocks zone,” Dr. Kevin Healy of Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences told
EurekaAlert, a science website. “They were big enough to search large areas in order to find carcasses and defend them, but not so large that simply moving became too energetically costly.”

But the scientists agree that the dinosaurs could not have lived by scavenging alone. “Practically all species (ing this class) would have likely shown predatory behavior,” Healy said.

So, it’s still not safe, if they clone a t-rex, to go near it for a pet.

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You gotta do what moves ya!

The Writer’s World

There’s something about moving (as in moving all your belongings) that doesn’t sit well with the writing process.

First, the muse (If you have one) decides things are way too messy to be around and goes on a holiday. Ideas? Poof! Out the window. Meanwhile those ugly old boxes lurk in your office (and living room and dining room and, well, everywhere) making you feel that you are decidedly out of place. (“What does she do?” “She writes.” Guffaws all around cardboard mountains.)

I have an odd way of getting going on a new book. I write the first draft by hand. I feel closer to the creative process that way. But all those notebooks cause  clutter, so they were consigned to a box that said “Open me first!). Now I’m just going freeform on the computer screen. I should like the freedom but I don’t. I feel naked and exposed. I like my old habits.

There’s also the usual allotment of time the author gives him or herself for writing a day. Some writers insist on 1,000 words a day. Not me! I’m much more free-form. If I find that I can do a 2,000-word chapter in a day and the take some time off for new ideas that works. Other times I do 500-word bites at a time. I’m not a slave to word-count rules. Other writers get to know their characters by writing little vignettes where they go out for coffee together. Not me! Wasted verbiage! If it’s good enough to put on the page, you can work it into your story, ice cream and all. Others get up at dawn to draw on their newly awakened mind for inspiration. The only inspiration I can even begin to find early in the a.m.  is in the New York Times over an overamped cup of tea. Mornings, who needs ‘em? And what’s worse is that the older I get, the less I can stay in blessed dreamland. Is this some kind of joke?

But now that this little moving bit of disarray is creeping into my day, I find myself much more likely to pitch in and pack rather than face a blank page. Manana, Manana. I have started to do some character interviews (on this blog) just to get the creative process going. I pay more attention to my dreams now and imagine my characters in them. And I’ll stay up late writing (or thinking about the next writing turn, which is just as important). But no mornings yet. Heck, that’s why I quit the day job.

This thing isn’t going to be over soon, either. We close early next month—and then my darling spouse goes on a two-week business trip. I’ll have to keep the new house going and check on the old one, all while worrying about getting what I need for the laundry room, bathroom towels, etc. Then the movers will show up and whole hell will break loose.

Are my characters sharing in this experience? Well, let’s just say that by the second chapter I have a character unpacking books at her new high-rise condo. I should have lots for her to do by the time the chapter ends.

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Another Character Breakout!

My characters are quite aggressive. They often argue with me long after a writing session is over, and, at least on one occasion, took over my blog. Well, here comes another character who feels a need to speak out. I’m only going to interrupt her with a few questions:

I’m Veronica Stevens and, so far anyway, Lynn’s leading female character. I’ve got a lot of things on my mind and I can’t seem to get Lynn to put all my concerns on the page.

For one thing, I’m a recent widow. My beloved husband Matt succumbed to cancer about three months ago. No, I know the date, it was EXACTLY three months ago. After clearing out the bills, dealing with the will, and getting the funeral taken care of, I was just

a rag with no motivation at all. Someone suggested that I move somewhere more exciting to put my copy editing career into high gear. (Matt had always subsidized my job, which didn’t pull in a living wage.) So I went through all my business cards and saw that most of my clients were from the Chicago area. And those who weren’t, well, the Internet makes that not a problem I decided that a short hop from my old home in Milwaukee to a high-rise in Chicago’s Loop would definitely change my life—and I hoped in a positive way.

Well, now I’m in my classy South Loop apartment and was shelving books. I started getting sad become some of the volumes were ones that Matt and I loved to read together. Now he was no longer there to listen to my vision of “The Lord of the Ring’s” Rivendell or hear a sweet re-reading of parts of “The Princess Bride.”  To keep from crying I bent over to pick up an extremely boring physics book to reshelf  and out of it fell an x-ray and medical report. It showed that Matt was dealing with more than cancer. There was another condition that could kill him. When he went into remission, he insisted on taking things slow and easy, and now I see why. Because Matt was on the road to recovery near the end. The chemo had done wonders and all the numbers were going in the right direction. Then, almost in a flash, they were summoning me to his bedside. We had about ten seconds to hold hands and say “I love you,” Then he was gone.

My friends back in Milwaukee think I should show this report and ask them if this other medical condition caused Matt’s demise, And then, I think, what does it matter? He’s still gone.

LYNN: Veronica, what do you want to do to get one with your life? Do you have any hobbies?

You know, someone at a Starbucks asked me about that when we were chatting, and I said I was going to miss Milwaukee because I couldn’t garden here. A girl behind the counter jumped up and said, “No, that’s not true. Chicago has community gardens.” I found out that by going out of my congested neighborhood to an area with park land, I could rent a plot where I could grow anything I would like. This really has me excited and I’m going to go to the Park District offices right away and find out about a plot of my own.

LYNN: You better just call, the Park District office is too intimidating in person. Veronica, what about making friends? What do you plan to do about being alone in the city?

Well, it’s daunting, but I thought I’d try to sign up for some of those field trips the park district offers. And dance lessons! There have to be some people who like to dance and be chatty too.

I’m not looking for men, mind you. I’m much too raw for that.

Although I had a disturbing dream in Milwaukee that I was an Egyptian priestess and a lower-ranked priest came up to talk to me. The attraction was instant and I felt I had met my soul mate. When I woke up, I felt a little guilty this happened so close to Matt’s death. But, damn, I’d like to meet that Egyptian man.

LYNN: Would you know him if you saw him—in this life?

Of course. And he’d be attracted to me. I’m taller than I was in my dream. I’m actually 5-foot-7, and I’m a pretty young-looking 35. I think I’d have no trouble attracting him.

LYNN: So, you are thinking about meeting men!

I’d be a liar if I didn’t say yes. Let’s just say I’m not looking too hard.

LYNN: What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?


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Unearthing Cambodia’s Treasure

Fantastic World

Using lidor, a sophisticated remote sensing technology that is similar to radar, an international team of archeologist headed by the University of Sydney’s Dr. Damian Evans, uncovered a hidden city around the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat. In what is now a dense jungle, the lidor (which they used by flying over the area in helicopters) uncovered roads, temples and even a hydraulic water system that once sustained a city that was the greatest medieval complex in the world.

At its peak in the 12th century, the city of Angkor covered 1,000 square kilometers. London only reached that size 700 years later.
Angkor was the capital of the Khmer empire, which encompassed all of present-day Cambodia and much of Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. The city of Angkor had about a million residents.

_77664683_angkorwat624.jpg      The largest structure of Angkor is Angkor Wat, which is still uncovered and attracts millions of visitors a year. Angkor Wat covers an area four times larger than the Vatican.

The hydraulic water system, which emerged as the most staggering achievement of this ancient culture, harness monsoon waters in  complex network of canals and reservoirs. The harvested water provided food security for the residents of the city, and made the city’s noble class fabulously wealthy. They used this wealth to build some of the most amazing temples on earth. One temple contained so much gold that its value to day would have been $3.3 billion.

Disaster struck for the Khmer empire when they paid more attention to building temples than to maintaining the hydraulic network. And just like in some modern cities, when the infrastructure crumbled, the populace suffered. Eventually, large climate shifts across southeast Asia brought the city down. Tree ring samples recorded sudden fluctuations between dry and wet conditions. Lidar maps show a huge flood that must have overcome the city’s water network.

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Old-time fairy tales older than you think

Fantastic World

Do you think that “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Rumpelstiltskin” are relatively recent fairy tales—going back maybe a couple hundred years?

Some anthropologists and linguists think otherwise. They say that the origins of these and other tales go back some thousands of years, with one—“The Smith and the Devil—going back to the Bronze Age.

“These stories are far older than the first literary evidence for them,” Durham University anthropologist Jamie Tehran told Science News. He explained that when linguists study a language’s evolution, they are tracing grammatical and phonetical structure though time.

Tehrani and Sara Graca da Silva of the New University of Lisbon in Portugal studied 275 magic-based stories. Taking statistical analyses of the relationship between folktales and language left them with 76 stories that they thought could help estimate folktale age.

Four stories had a high probability of being associated with Proto-Indo-European language, the precursor language of Germanic and Romance languages.

Beside being quite sure of the ancient date of “The Smith and the Devil,” the team also found early versions of “Rumpelstiltskin” (then called “The Name of the Supernatural Helper”) and “Beauty and the Beast.” The language-story pairings say the stories originated 3,000 or 4,000 years ago.

“We don’t invent culture anew every generation,” Tehran said. “We inherit a lot of our culture.”


“Rumpelstiltskin” (left) and “Beauty and the Beast.”

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On the search for E.T.s

Fantastic World

Many of the people think “the truth is out there” about extra-terrestrials and alien spacecraft (and I consider myself on the fence on this issue). They are deciding to do something about the long history of government denials and possible cover-ups. They plan to build an E.T.-catcher of sorts—a satellite that will capture information and images that suggest alien spaceship behavior. The CubeSat for Disclosure, which is still awaiting crowdfunding for its $50,000 budget, will beam information to local citizens and bypass government bodies.

Dave Cote, the prime mover behind the CubeSat project, is a Canadian who is sick of listening to government denials of E.T.s that have been reported by various believable sources.

“We have former astronauts, military personnel, police officers, and the former defense minister of Canada come forward stating that extraterrestrial UFOs are real, and that we are being visited,” Cote said in a press release. “How can this be ignored or brushed off as nonsense?”
video of CubeSat (warning, this is long)
He says the CubeSat will be put into low orbit and use infrared, electromagnetic and radiation sensors, as well as two cameras set to photograph at 360 degrees.

“Maybe we’ll get data readings and pictures of solar-flared-caused auroras; maybe we’ll capture images of some very interesting meteors; and maybe, we’ll actually capture a verifiable craft,” Cote said. “All we can do is try, and by doing this our way, we can open-source the data to you, the individuals.”

The nano-satellite will have an orbital lifespan of about three months before it burns up on reentry, so Cote better get a lot of data in a short amount of time.

The government of any country will not be able to hide the data, he told the Huffington Post.

“This is all ours,” he told the news service.

It’s certainly worth a try because the U.S. government has been notorious in refusing to release information on cited UFOs, leading to such cult groups as believers in the recently revived “The X-Files.” The authorites can’t say everyone who’s seen an odd craft in the sky is crazy. Whether they’ve seen evidence of extraterrestrial life is another, arguable subject.

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Dino Disaster


Most of us know what killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. It was a giant comet that smashed down somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving strange conical-shaped depressions all along the seabed near South Carolina. These were where the trailing comet embers buried themselves in the sea at tremendous velocity. (There are other proofs of the comet’s crash, but that’s the easiest one to remember.)

That’s all well and good, but why did the earth get hit by a comet, when this sort of even is rare in the planet’s history? Sure there was that recent asteroid in Russia, but it was tiny. Their was a large cometlike explosion in Siberia in the early part of the 20th century, cutting down swaths of forest. But, not much else is known about giant space bodies hitting the earth.

Now, a researcher named Lisa Randall says that dark matter is the cause of a sudden influx of comet activity in the prehistoric age. She claims that dark matter (which makes up much more than the regular matter that you and I can see), could have come sweeping by the Milky Way causing “a tiny perturbation in space, amounting to a flicker in the gravitational force that can knock comets out of the solar system’s Kuiper belt or the Öort cloud just outside and send them towards the Earth, according to Phys.Org news.

But would dark matter do this? Scientists are discussing whether dark matter could congregate into a disk at all, much less kicking out comets from the Milky Way. Not much is known about dark matter, but many skeptics say that dark matter would group together into a halo-like array rather than forming a disc similar to the Milky Way. To get around this argument, Randall says there are different kinds of dark matter that behave in different ways. And that’s where the discussion goes off into the, um, stratosphere for me.

However, Randall is a world-renowned cosmologist, and a great number of astrophysicists are saying her viewpoint is certainly credible.

I would be a bit more intrigued by this subject if it would predict what’s around the corner for us concerning future comets and asteroids. I rencently reported that writer Graham Hancock is convinced we are due for a big one, and that a comet probably sank the world into a deep freeze starting the great Ice Age. However, here Randal is mum on anything that is any closer than 65 million years ago.

Still, I’m looking for that comet deflector or asteroid sheild that NASA is supposedly working on. Never too soon guys, or we’ll be as extinct as a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Read more here’






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Mars as Planet B?

Source: Mars as Planet B?

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When cats were gods in Egypt

Cats have pretty much taken over the Internet. Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn’t send me a cat video or I don’t get streams of cat photos on Facebook. So, why not take a look at a time when cats were really popular—when they were worshipped as animal representations of gods in Ancient Egypt.


Historians figure that cats basically domesticated themselves when poking around human habitats and finding tasty goodies, mice and rats,  in the granaries of great civilizations. Humans, when they found that cats dispensed with vermin, became friendly with the animals and tolerated, if not encouraged, their presence. This happened in about 2,000 BC (or earlier)  and some say the Persians were the first to take in cats and the brought them to Egypt.

Egypt had an incredibly complex religious system with most of the gods taking on animal shape, or quasi-human shape (with animal heads and human bodies). These were not to be taken literally, and though the sacred animals in Egypt were treated better than many humans, Egyptians always knew that the animals were simply symbols of the mighty gods who ran their lives.

The Egyptians took to the cat with a vengeance (other sacred animals were bulls, ibises, jackals, hippopotomi, some snakes, and falcons). Although there are not many artistic representations of cats until about 2400 B.C., although there is a tomb relief from as early as the 6th Dynasty (2250 BC) that shows a marsh scene with a cat climbing a papyrus stalk to rob bird’s nests. (Always into trouble, even millennia ago.)

Cats usually didn’t show up in tomb art early on, but in the New Kingdom, after 1550 BC, cats became common in depictions of domestic scenes. Cats were often shown under the chair of a noble couple. Children were often shown in the same position, obviously drawn smaller than in life.

Official priestly observances of Egyptian religion didn’t always show what the populace believed, and it seemed to take until the New Kingdom for references to the Great Cat (Bast or Bastet, depending on what authority you consult), who was first lauded for its ability to kill snakes, and thus thwart the evil serpent Apophisis, who attacked the sun-god Ra on his nightly journey to the underworld.

There were two sides to the cat in Egypt, one, Sekhmet, honoring the lioness side of the feline, and Bastet, who represented the home-loving and gentle cat. Bastet also was well regarded for her superb mothering skills.

However, no town was as involved with cat worship as Bubastis, which boasted a large cattery, a cult devoted to cats, and mummification and royal burial of deceased cats.

Mummifying animals became important in the Egyptian civilization’s Late Period, and there are whole cemeteries of bulls, baboons, crocodiles, and dogs. Cat coffins were made in the shape of a cat and often had bronze heads. Large cemeteries of cat mummies were found in Beni Hasen, Bubastis, and Saqqara. People also donated bronze statuettes of cats to local temples to make sure they stayed on the good side of the goddess Bastet.

There is some disturbing evidence that not all the cats in the kitty coffins died a natural death. Most put this down to overpopulation in the catteries. Then, as now, cats can multiply like rabbits.

Still, there is no doubt that Egyptians loved their little furballs, probably more than modern cat owners do. There is a great deal of cat statuary that shows them draped with jewelry and with pierced ears for earrings.

How many Internet pictures have you seen with cats sporting earrings?




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