Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for June 7th, 2010

Gambler Phil Laak Breaks Record for the Longest Consecutive Amount of Time Playing Poker

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

Phil Laak is seeking the world record for the longest consecutive amount of time playing poker.In the end, it may not have been the yoga or the low-fat diet or the frequent visits from his movie-star girlfriend that helped Phil Laak barrel past every known record for the longest consecutive amount of time playing poker.

After more than 100 hours at the table at Bellagio, Laak says his saving grace was, uh, talcum powder.

“About every four or five hours, when I take a bathroom break, I do a quick submarine shower, change my T-shirt and powder my butt and the underside of my legs,” Laak said to AOL News. “Any place where my body mass is pressing against the chair, I put powder on. Otherwise, it adds up.”These are the sorts of things that maybe you don’t consider before you set out to play No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em nonstop for three or four days, but it made a difference to Laak as he tried to make it into the Guinness World Records.

The authorities for Guinness won’t certify Laak’s effort for months, but the poker world clearly embraced this attempt as a legitimate effort to eclipse both the Guinness record of 72 hours, 2 minutes set in 2004 by Larry Olmsted as well as an unofficial one of 78 hour, 45 minute set last year by London pro Paul Zimbler. Laak’s staff video-recorded the entire effort, which was live-streamed online for fans around the world. Laak also was writing on Twitter and on his blog about the endeavor.

After passing Zimbler’s mark around 7 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, Laak said he planned to try to set the new record at 90 hours. By midday Sunday, he had blown past that mark and kept at it — with no end in sight except that he has said he hopes to play to a prime number. “100 in reach — pacing things — I am having stellar time,” he tweeted at Hour No. 94. …

via Gambler Phil Laak Breaks Record for the Longest Consecutive Amount of Time Playing Poker – AOL News.

Posted in Sports | 1 Comment »

Radio ghost mystery at former RAF station

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

Radio ghost mystery at former RAF stationA 70-year-old radio at a Scottish heritage centre has been picking up vintage broadcasts featuring Winston Churchill and the music of Glen Miller.

The Pye valve wireless at Montrose Air Station, a heritage centre that tells the story of the men and women who served there, has no power and is not connected to any source of electricity.

The aerodrome has been a source of paranormal sightings and sounds for almost a century, with reports of ghostly figures, eerie footsteps and door handles turning, but the mysterious wireless broadcasts have had even the most sceptical staff at the station searching for a rational explanation.

The vintage radio set is kept in a recreation of a 940s room. Several people have heard Second World War era broadcasts including the big band sound of the Glenn Miller orchestra and speeches by Winston Churchill. The broadcasts come on at random and can last for up to half an hour.

Technicians who examined it removed the back, but found “nothing but cobwebs and spiders”.

Bob Sutherland, a trustee of the air station heritage centre and its treasurer, said: “I have heard it playing Glenn Miller and recognised the song as At Last.

“The volume was very low but the music was quite identifiable.

“Graham Phillip, another volunteer, has heard what he was sure was Winston Churchill and others, including centre curator Dan Paton and his wife, have heard it.

“I was a wireless operator with the RAF and know a bit about them. We have also had our resident radio expert, Ewan Cameron, look at it.

“If we had a powerful transmitter in the area the radio might pick up something, but we don’t.

“It is an old Pye radio which would probably explode if it was switched on.” …

via Radio ghost mystery at former RAF station | Dundee and Tayside | STV News.

Send in the Amazing Randy.

Posted in Paranormal | 1 Comment »

Climate change forces major vegetation shifts

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

Climate change linked to major vegetation shifts worldwideVegetation around the world is on the move, and climate change is the culprit, according to a new analysis of global vegetation shifts led by a University of California, Berkeley, ecologist in collaboration with researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

In a paper published today (June 4) in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, researchers present evidence that over the past century, vegetation has been gradually moving toward the poles and up mountain slopes, where temperatures are cooler, as well as toward the equator, where rainfall is greater.

Moreover, an estimated one-tenth to one-half of the land mass on Earth will be highly vulnerable to climate-related vegetation shifts by the end of this century, depending upon how effectively humans are able to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to the study.

The results came from a meta-analysis of hundreds of field studies and a spatial analysis of observed 20th century climate and projected 21st century vegetation.

The meta-analysis identified field studies that examined long-term vegetation shifts in which climate, rather than impacts from local human activity such as deforestation, was the dominant influence. The researchers found 15 cases of biome shifts since the 18th century that are attributable to changes in temperature and precipitation.

“This is the first global view of observed biome shifts due to climate change,” said the study’s lead author Patrick Gonzalez, a visiting scholar at the Center for Forestry at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources. “It’s not just a case of one or two plant species moving to another area. To change the biome of an ecosystem, a whole suite of plants must change.”

The researchers calculated that from 1901 to 2002, mean temperatures significantly increased on 76 percent of global land, with the greatest warming in boreal, or subarctic, regions. The most substantial biome shifts occurred where temperature or precipitation changed by one-half to two standard deviations from 20th century mean values.

Some examples of biome shifts that occurred include woodlands giving way to grasslands in the African Sahel, and shrublands encroaching onto tundra in the Arctic.

“The dieback of trees and shrubs in the Sahel leaves less wood for houses and cooking, while the contraction of Arctic tundra reduces habitat for caribou and other wildlife,” said Gonzalez, who has served as a lead author on reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Globally, vegetation shifts are disrupting ecosystems, reducing habitat for endangered species and altering the forests that supply water and other services to many people.”

via Climate change forces major vegetation shifts.

Posted in Earth | Leave a Comment »

Dental X-ray link to thyroid cancer

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

Dental X-ray: Dental X-ray link to thyroid cancerThe thyroid gland, in the neck, is sensitive to ionising radiation, especially in children, but the potential risk posed by dental radiography is often ignored, researchers said.

In a study of 313 cancer patients, scientists from Brighton, Cambridge and Kuwait found the chances of developing cancer rose with increasing numbers of dental X-rays.

The researchers said the idea that dental radiography is absolutely safe merits further examination due to their findings.

They argued that their study drew attention to concerns that dental X-rays should only be prescribed to cater for a specific clinical need, rather than as part of a routine check-up.

About 1,900 new cases of thyroid cancer are diagnosed each year in Britain and the figures more than doubled between 1975 and 2006.

The researchers, led by Dr Anjum Memon, of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said the increasing use of sensitive diagnostic techniques does not necessarily account for the entire increase and that other causes warrant investigation.

They said the results of their work should be treated with caution because the data was based on self-reporting by the participants and comprehensive historical dental X-ray records were not available from the clinics.

Dr Memon said the findings were consistent with previous reports of increased risk of thyroid cancer in dentists, dental assistants and X-ray workers, suggesting that frequent low-dose exposures in adults may be significant.

Dental X-rays have also been linked with an increased risk of brain and salivary gland tumours, he added.

He said: “The public health and clinical implications of these findings are particularly relevant in the light of increases in the incidence of thyroid cancer in many countries over the past 30 years.”

The research was funded by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) and was administered by the Kuwait University Research Grant Administration.

via Dental X-ray link to thyroid cancer – Telegraph.

Posted in Health, Radiation | 1 Comment »


Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

SupercentenariansBeing a woman clearly appears to be advantageous for living an exceptionally long life. Ninety-percent of those reaching the age of 115 were female. Image: Max Planck Society

The quest for the modern day Methuselah. A team of researchers tracked down the oldest of the old – people living beyond their 110th birthday.

An international research team has for the first time gathered a database of the oldest people in the world – those who lived beyond their 110th birthday. While searching for these “supercentenarians” and trying to find accurate documentation of their age, the researchers not only collected data for scientific purposes, but also documented the personal histories and wisdom of those who lived more than a century. They have now published their findings and the stories of many of their subjects in the book “Supercentenarians,” which was coordinated by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock/Germany.

How long can humans live? It’s a natural question, but age researchers agree that it is now obsolete; there is no upper limit to life expectancy in sight. Scientific data shows that records are being broken every year. Today there is not only a dramatically increasing number of centenarians, but also more and more men and women who live to 110 years old or older – the supercentenarians.

“Investigating very old age has always been difficult for demographers,” says Heiner Maier from the MPIDR. “Science has been plagued by myths and fairy tales.” Most claims of modern day Methuselahs appear promising at first glance, but usually turn out to be unverifiable. Entries in the Guinness Book of World Records aren’t reliable either; their validation is often based solely on documents provided by the families of those who reached an advanced age and are not independently confirmed by scientists.

Now, in an ambitious international effort, researchers in 15 nations have spent the last ten years searching their countries for people who reached the age of 110 or more. Together they found over 600 supercentenarians (in the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the United Kingdom and in the Nordic countries). Of the 600, nearly 20 lived beyond 115.

The new data was used to create the International Database on Longevity (IDL), http://www.supercentenarians.org/ . “The IDL is the first reliable record of scientifically verified data about supercentenarians on an international scope”, says Heiner Maier from the MPIDR. “It is the best existing account of mortality beyond the age of 110.”

via Supercentenarians.

Posted in Biology, Survival | Leave a Comment »

Do aliens live on a Saturn moon?

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

Saturn's moon, Titan, pictured using ultraviolet and infrared cameras on board the space probe Cassini. Scientists now believe that the moon could harbour lifeScientists have found evidence that there is life on Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan.

They have discovered clues that primitive aliens are breathing in Titan’s atmosphere and feeding on fuel at the surface.

The startling discoveries, made using an orbiting spacecraft, are revealed in two separate reports.

Data from Nasa’s Cassini probe has analysed the complex chemistry on the surface of Titan – the only moon known to have a dense atmosphere.

Its surface is covered with mountains, lakes and rivers which has led astronomers to call it the most Earthlike world in the solar system.

Organic chemicals had already been detected on the 3,200-mile wide planet. But the liquid on Titan is not water but methane and the scientists expect life there to be methane-based.

The first paper, in the journal Icarus, shows that hydrogen gas flowing down through Titan’s atmosphere disappears at the surface, suggesting it could be being breathed by alien bugs.

The second paper, in the Journal of Geophysical Research, reports there is a lack of a certain chemical on the surface, leading scientists to believe it may be being consumed by life.

Scientists had expected sunlight interacting with chemicals in the atmosphere to produce acetylene that falls down to coat Titan’s surface. But Cassini detected no acetylene there.

Experts warn that there could be other explanations for the results.

But taken together, they fulfil two important conditions necessary for methane-based life to exist.

Nasa astrobiologist Chris McKay said: ‘If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth.’

Scientists believe that when the Sun swells up, swallowing Earth, conditions could be ideal on a warmer Titan.

Professor John Zarnecki, of the Open University, said: ‘We believe the chemistry is there for life to form. It just needs heat and warmth to kick-start the process.

‘In four billion years’ time, when the Sun swells into a red giant, it could be paradise on Titan.’

via Do aliens live on a Saturn moon? | Mail Online.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

58,000-year-old glue and paint factory found in Africa

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

58,000-year-old glue and paint factory found in Africa58,000-year-old glue and paint  factory found in AfricaIt seems that entrepreneurialism has ancient roots among humans. At a site in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, archaeologists have discovered a small, 58 thousand-year-old “factory” where people were producing large batches of sticky, colorful ochre for trade with neighboring groups.

The lead scientist on this particular study, Lyn Wadley, explained that ochre served many uses during the Stone Age. The substance is derived from mineral-rich clay, and comes in many shades: yellow, red, brown, orange, and shades in between. By heating the ochre, or adding animal fat, early humans could tweak the color or make it into a sticky adhesive. There is evidence that humans were using ochre for everything from glue for weapons, to cosmetics and decoration on leather clothing.

According to Discovery News:

Wadley analyzed the ochre “factory” at the large Sibudu rock shelter north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The site consisted of four cemented hearths containing the ochre powder. The cement workstations could have held grindstones and/or served as storage receptacles for the powder, according to Wadley, who also excavated about 8,000 pieces of ochre in the area.

She believes the natural material was collected just over a half a mile away from the site, where it would have been heated and ground or just ground directly onto coarse rocks.

Another archaeologist familiar with the project, Francesco d’Errico, suggested that the site was probably intended to produce a great deal of red ochre in a short time. In other words, this wasn’t just a place where people were making their own ochre – it was a factory that would produce a large batch of material and ship it out to other groups. Just the way small businesses do today.

via 58,000-year-old glue and paint factory found in Africa.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

Eating Crocodile Helped Boost Early Human Brains?

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2010

Close-up of a Euthecodon (prehistoric crocodile) skull, its slender snout simil ar in shape to a modern Asian crocodile.The real-life caveman diet included crocodiles, and eating the reptiles’ fatty flesh may have helped early humans evolve bigger brains, a new study suggests.

The work is based on bones and artifacts from a prehistoric “kitchen” that make up the earliest evidence that humans ate aquatic animals.

Stone tools and the butchered bones of turtles, crocodiles, and fish were found at the 1.95-million-year-old site in northern Kenya. No human bones were found, but the combination of remains suggests early humans used the site specifically to prepare meals.

According to the study authors, the addition of water-based prey into early-human diets may have been what boosted brain size in certain hominins—humans plus human ancestral species and their close evolutionary relatives.

That’s because reptiles and fish are particularly rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Some experts think this so-called good fat was “part of the package” of human brain evolution, said study leader David Braun, an archaeologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Discovering evidence for “brain food” in the late Pliocene about 3 to 1.8 million years ago may explain how bigger brains—for instance in our likely direct ancestor Homo erectus—arose in humans and their relatives about 1.8 million years ago, Braun said.

via Eating Crocodile Helped Boost Early Human Brains?.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »


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