Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for April 10th, 2008

Super Efficient Plasma Lightbulb Burns Brighter Than A Streetlight

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

Silicon Valley’s Luxim has developed a lightbulb the size of a Tic Tac that gives off as much light as a streetlight. CNET News.com’s Michael Kanellos talks to the company about its technology and its plans to expand into various markets. – cnet

6000º Kelvin. That’s the temperature at the surface of the Sun. It’s also the temperature inside the new hyper efficient plasma lightbulb from Luxim, which puts out 140 lumens per watt. That’s double the efficiency of an LED and almost ten times better than an incandescent bulb.

Video here.

The little pod sits inside a ring of “dielectric material”, which concentrates an electrical field into the bulb. The contents of the bulb vaporize and the plasma glows. A single of these tiny bulbs is brighter than a streetlight.

Back to that temperature. 6000 K is close to the color temperature of daylight (5500K), so the Luxim bulb doesn’t suffer from a “cold” light like some energy saving solutions. Right now Luxim is pushing its tech at the entertainment industries: projectors and light displays. As costs fall, though, this could end up everywhere, except perhaps a mood-lit bachelor pad.

Posted in Technology | 3 Comments »

Visiting Mars, Again and Again

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

Model of the Mars Phoenix lander. The lander’s robotic arm will scrape away
surface dirt and ice on Mars, searching for organic molecules.
Photo Credit: University of Arizona.

There are several new missions set to explore the planet Mars over the next decade. Astrobiology Magazine recently discussed these missions with Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, and Luann Becker, a geochemist who is developing an instrument for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission.

Mars is preparing for an invasion from Earth. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still traveling across the surface of the Red Planet, but NASA and the European Space Agency are planning to send more missions over the next few years.

First up is the Mars Phoenix lander. Launched last year, this mission is due to arrive near the Martian north pole on May 25. The lander won’t be able to move around like the rovers — instead, it will stay in one place, scraping away at water ice just beneath the surface in a search for the organic compounds that are thought to be necessary for life.

NASA’s next rover mission is the Mars Science Laboratory, or MSL. A much larger rover than the ones currently on Mars, MSL will collect soil and rock samples and analyze them for organics. The planned launch for MSL is Fall of 2009, with an expected arrival in October 2010.

The European Space Agency also has plans for a rover. Called ExoMars, the projected launch date for this mission is 2013, with arrival in 2014. The ExoMars rover will have a drill that can dig deep into the subsurface, allowing scientists to search for evidence of water and organics. – ab

A layer of water ice coats the rocks and soil at the
Viking Lander 2 landing site, Utopia Planitia.
Image Credit: NASA.

Posted in Space, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Lunar robot can drive or walk

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

Posted in Space, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Like boys’ toys? Blame your genes

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

Johnny may be hardwired to play with toy guns and dump trucks after all. As for his little sister’s preference for Barbie, chalk it up to DNA, scientists say.

The notion that children’s taste in toys might somehow be genetically determined has long been disparaged by psychologists, dismissed as unscientific, sexist or both.

But now a study of rhesus monkeys by U.S. researchers has added new fuel to the nature versus nurture debate.

Published in the journal Hormones and Behaviour, the findings suggest that when it comes to choosing between trucks and cuddly stuffed animals, chromosomes might come into play.

Child’s play

There have been hundreds of studies that sought to distinguish acquired from innate behaviour patterns in small children.

But by the time kids are old enough to choose and play with toys, they have also been socialised – picking up cues from their parents, peers and television shows – on how little girls and boys should behave, making it impossible to tease the two influences apart.

So a team of scientists led by Kim Wallen, a psychologist at the Yerkes national Primate Research Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, decided to offer typical “male” and “female” toys to rhesus monkeys to see if preferences aligned with sex.

Boys’ toys?

Much to their surprise, they did. The 11 male monkeys headed straight for the wheeled toys, such as dump trucks, leaving the plush toys more-or-less unmolested. The 23 females were more curious, and played with both.

Most of the animals studied were juvenile – aged between one and four years. “They are not subject to advertising. They are not subject to parental encouragement, they are not subject to peer chastisement,” said Wallen.

The results support an earlier study by scientists at Texas A&M University, USA. They found that male green vervet monkeys also showed a distinct preference for “masculine” playthings. But Wallen cautions against over-interpreting the results.

He points out that while plush and wheeled categories serve as proxies for feminine and masculine, other toy characteristics, such as size or colour might explain the observed behaviour. – cos

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »

In Egypt, An Escalating Bread Crisis

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

The line started forming before dawn, as soon as the day’s first call to prayer had faded from the trash-strewn streets of the Egyptian capital’s Zelzal neighborhood. Men began pounding on the green metal shutters of the district’s sole bakery.

“Aish! Aish!” – Bread! Bread! – the stubble-faced men yelled, shouting through the grillwork at bakers laboring over a dented, gas-fired oven. Cursing and pushing, the men thrust crumpled currency through the spaces in the grille.

“Have mercy! Have mercy on us!” a woman in a dusty black head scarf and abaya yelled.

Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world’s most populous country. President Hosni Mubarak  has ordered Egypt’s army to bake bread for the public, following the deaths of at least six people since March 17 – some succumbing to exhaustion during the long waits, others stabbed in vicious struggles for places in line. – fip

Posted in Money | Leave a Comment »

Olympic torch’s chaotic visit to U.S. ends without formal farewell

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

The Olympic torch played hide and seek with thousands of demonstrators and spectators crowding the city’s waterfront Wednesday before being spirited away without even a formal goodbye on its symbolic stop in the United States.

After its parade was rerouted and shortened to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters, the planned closing ceremony at the waterfront was canceled and moved to San Francisco International Airport. The flame was put directly on a plane and was not displayed.

The last-minute changes to the route and the site of the closing ceremony were made amid security concerns following chaotic protests in London and Paris of China’s human rights record in Tibet and elsewhere, but they effectively prevented many spectators who wanted to see the flame from witnessing the historic moment.

As it made its way through the streets of San Francisco, the flame traveled in switchbacks and left the crowds confused and waiting for a parade that never arrived. Protesters also hurriedly changed plans and chased the rerouted flame.

Mayor Gavin Newsom told The Associated Press that the well-choreographed switch of the site of the closing ceremony was prompted by the size and behavior of the crowds massing outside AT&T Park, where the opening ceremony took place. – espn

China needs to stop its human rights abuses, but also the games should be an event that brings the world together. The US, for that matter, should stop killing people in Iraq, should stop imprisoning men, women and children for years without charges, should stop domestic spying, should stop torture, etc.

Posted in Politics, Sports | Leave a Comment »

Abigail and Brittany Hensel: My favorite conjoined twins.

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

The Hensel Twins turned 18 this year. If you know who owns the photos below, let me know and I’ll add the proper photo credit. Video here.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2006/12/henseltwins3112_228x589.jpgA set of twins who share the same body have celebrated their 18th birthday in the United States. Abigail and Brittany Hensel from Minnesota …  have two hearts, and two spinal chords, but share the same torso have lived their lives side by side.

The teens who enjoy swimming, playing the piano and recently got their drivers’ licenses said they had no intention of being separated.

The girls have beaten the odds and doctors’ expectations to reach their milestone. It is believed there are only four sets of twins who share the same torso and have survived into adulthood. And they are on track to graduate from university, and hope to have a family of their own one day.

“We want to be mums, but haven’t thought how it would work,” Abigail said. The girls passed their driving exams with two separate licenses and two separate tests. Abigail worked the pedals, and Brittany used the indicators and they both held the steering wheel.

Their parents, nurse Patty, and carpenter Mike 48, decided not to have the twins separated at birth despite the risks. “From the first time we saw them we thought they were beautiful,” she told the Sunday Mirror. -telegraph

Like many twins they have very different personalities and tastes – even more so now they are teenagers. Abigail, the feisty, stubborn one, likes orange juice for breakfast while Brittany, the joker of the family, will touch only milk.

Abigail loves pink and all things girly but Brittany prefers purple, multi-coloured hair and wearing unusual hats, and now they have turned 16 they love to experiment with makeup and clothes and giggle about which boys they like.

But that is where the similarity with other teenage twins end. For Abigail and Brittany Hensel are conjoined, sharing one body fused at the torso. Each controls just one side of the body, and yet remarkably this has not prevented them leading a full, active and happy life.

Displaying an astonishing co- ordination which has stunned doctors, they play the piano -with Abigail taking the right-hand parts and Brittany the left – and enjoy sports such as bowling, volleyball, cycling, softball and swimming.

And on their 16th birthday they passed their driving test; a mind-boggling feat of teamwork with each twin using one arm to control the steering wheel. Brittany explains: ‘Abby does the pedals and the gear shifter. I take over the blinkers and the lights. But she likes driving faster than me.’ – dailymail

Two headed conjoined twins Abigail Loraine Hensel and Britanny Lee Hensel had a short documentary about their lives on The Learning Channel. It is not easy to be born sharing a single body with your other twin and they are incredible that they had tried their best in leading a normal life. Here are some photos of the Hensel twins which peers into some of the moments in their lives.

Photo source here. Photographer unknown.

But the girls are more than curiosities. Their smiling faces and apparent good health seem a rebuke to the current medical trend of trying to separate, via surgery, ever more complexly conjoined twins–a trend that often means sacrificing one child so the other can live “normally.” And their tale of lives unpunctuated by solitude has much to teach all of us about the real meaning of individuality and the limitless power of human cooperation.

Conjoined twins are a rare event in the world’s delivery rooms. They occur about once in every 50,000 births, but 40% are stillborn, and, curiously, 70% are female. Conjoined twins are always identical: the product of a single egg that for some unknown reason failed to divide fully into separate twins during the first three weeks of gestation. In the U.S. there are perhaps 40 live cases each year; ordinary identical twins are 400 times as common. – time

hensel twins 5 life photo at the pool


I ran into them recently in Grand Marais, MN. It was the most amazing. They bounced out of their van with several other kids, laughing, bouncing, talking, and just having a ball. They were obviously accepted as [one] of the group. They must have outstanding parents. I feel honored to have witnessed their lives.

Posted by: Dick Moore on May 17, 2004

Posted in Biology, Strange | 380 Comments »

Time travelers in UFOs?

Posted by Anonymous on April 10, 2008

… [Luis Burgos] recalled that some 8 years ago, in the vicinity of Estancia La Esperanza, Gobernador Galvez, Province of Buenos Aires a young woman witnessed one of these cases: two alleged teenagers, dressed in early 20th century farming clothes, crossed her path in an empty field.

Carolina, the protagonist of this story, gave FAO a detailed account when researchers delved into the case. She explained that the two teenagers – a male and a female – whom she was seeing for the first time, greeted her by name. When she turned around to ask where they knew her from, they had already vanished.

“There are many cases in ufology that involved contacts with humanlike entities clothed in archaic dress, as though they belonged to another time,” explains Burgos, not dismissing the possibility that this situation could be the result of a “breach in time.” The specialist does not dismiss the possibility of a “dimensional doorway”, but adds that the known cases of “oddball humans” always occur within the framework of UFO manifestations. Therefore, it is “very feasible” that the current UFO flap will yield some of these experiences. – more on inexplic

Interesting but not very useful unless you have a reliable witness and hard evidence.

Posted in UFOs | Leave a Comment »


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