Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for January 8th, 2013

‘Superman’ spotted flying near the Pacific Coast Highway (Video)

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

Superman lives! Kind of. An RC enthusiast created a life-sized, remote-controlled version of the Man of Steel and has been flying it over the dunes straddling the Pacific Coast Highway near Carlsbad, Calif.

Stunned spectators have been stopped in their tracks, but, luckily, one cyclist had the presence of mind to whip out his iPhone and make a video.

According to the LA Times blog, published on Jan. 3, Kyle Gough was cycling along the PCH with a buddy when suddenly they were shocked to see Superman soaring overhead.

“We stopped, got off our bikes just in time to watch him land. After a quick battery change, I grabbed the only thing I had on me (my cellphone, sorry for the quality) and took some video of what is EASILY the coolest custom RC plane I’ve ever seen.”

Superman flies over Carlsbad

RC – Superman!

via ‘Superman’ spotted flying near the Pacific Coast Highway (Video) – Allentown Culture | Examiner.com.

Here’s a similar thing…

Posted in - Video, Strange | Leave a Comment »

Black iceberg photo goes viral on Reddit

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013


A black iceberg has made a ton of fans today after a photo of it was posted on Reddit, despite the fact icebergs seem to spend an awful lot of time sinking luxury steam liners at the most inopportune moments, much to the despair of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The darker ice is formed by a higher density of bubble-free ice with a greater amount of rock detritus from the base of the “parent glacier.” It’s also full to bursting with the darkest magic of Neptune, ruler of all waters. Just kidding! But whatever you think it’s full of, you can’t deny it’s one magnificent sight. [Source]

via Black iceberg photo goes viral on Reddit.

Posted in Strange | Leave a Comment »

Judge restricts more materials in 9/11 case

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

http://houraney.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/GitmoJudge.pngThe military judge overseeing the trial for alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others has ruled that lawyers cannot make public even unclassified materials.

The ruling by the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, follows an order on Dec. 6 in which he directed that any evidence or discussion about harsh interrogation techniques used against the five men also be kept secret. He issued the ruling despite accusations by human rights groups that the government was trying to hide the fact the men were tortured.

The latest decision, issued Dec. 20 but just released, marks the second time the judge has sided with government prosecutors at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in what will probably be the only trial involving alleged participants in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Pohl also ordered the names of the jurors be kept secret.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Crime, History, human rights, Politics, War | Leave a Comment »

Freezing antimatter could allow scientists to study it

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

A Canadian scientist at the forefront of research on antimatter has proposed a novel way to solve one of the field’s most daunting problems — what to keep it in.

For experimental physicists, antimatter is an elusive quarry because it will vanish in a flash of light upon contact with anything made of regular matter. But a paper published Sunday points the way to a potential solution, in which lasers will literally freeze atoms of anti-hydrogen in place so they can be studied and compared to regular atoms.

The proposal by Makoto Fujiwara, a research scientist at Canada’s particle physics lab TRIUMF and an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary, has not been tested in reality, but computer simulations he devised with an American co-author indicate that a laser-based technique called Doppler cooling could chill anti-hydrogen to just a whisker above absolute zero.

At that point, he writes in the Journal of Physics B, it might be possible for scientists to determine the precise colour and weight of the strangest stuff in existence.

Much progress has recently been made in this effort, notably by Canadians working at the ALPHA project at CERN in Geneva, including Mr. Fujiwara, who in 2011 used magnets to hold particles of anti-hydrogen stable for as long as 15 minutes, and last year made the first ever direct measurement of antimatter’s energy.

And just last month, Mr. Fujiwara’s colleagues in B.C. started to test a prototype of his laser cooling system. But antimatter remains one of the great mysteries in science, predicted in theory in 1930, discovered three years later, and still as baffling as anything in science.

Antimatter is just as it sounds, the opposite of matter, and when a particle meets its antiparticle, they both vanish in a flash of light. The big question is why there is so little antimatter around, and a surplus of regular matter.

Theory says both were created in equal parts during the Big Bang, and indeed the lingering flash of their mutual annihilation can still be detected in the universe. But for some reason regular matter eventually won out, and today antimatter is exceedingly rare. Other than in radioactive decay or cosmic ray collisions, it is not naturally produced, and man-made production is still small scale, although it is widely used in medicine for PET (positron emission tomography) scanning.

We want anti-hydrogen atoms as cold as possible in our trap, and by cold I mean not moving

Discovering any difference between hydrogen and antihydrogen, therefore, might mean discovering the reason why there is any stuff at all, and why the universe is not just a big flash of light with nothing left over. On the other hand, proving that antihydrogen really is the exact opposite of the regular kind would be an important foundation on which to build future experiments.

And so, with this latest theoretical proof of the laser cooling concept, the effort turns to actually building a machine that can do it.

Already, the ALPHA apparatus at CERN in Geneva is capable of trapping a cloud of antihydrogen inside a cucumber-sized cylinder surrounded by superconducting magnets and silicon detectors. The next step is to cool it.

“We want anti-hydrogen atoms as cold as possible in our trap, and by cold I mean not moving. In particular, to measure the gravitational properties, antihydrogen in our trap is still moving way too fast. So this paper has shown that the technique called laser cooling can be applied in our experimental set-up,” Mr. Fujiwara said. …

via Freezing antimatter could allow scientists to study it: Makoto Fujiwara | Canada | News | National Post.

We still don’t know if gravity attracts or repels antimatter. In other words, it might fall up! And that may explain some things we don’t understand about the shape of the universe.

While the overwhelming consensus among physicists is that antimatter will attract both matter and antimatter at the same rate that matter attracts matter, there is a strong desire to confirm this experimentally, since the hypothesis is still open to falsification. – wiki

I’d love it if antimatter provided some real anti-gravity. Inventing anti-gravity has been one of my life goals.

For now, you might want to enjoy an this fake magnetic anti-gravity platform:

Perhaps I’ll get a Fascinations Levitron Globe World Stage for my birthday tomorrow… instead of a Tesla Model S. ;-)

Posted in Physics | Leave a Comment »

Compact fluorescent blubs may be harmful

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

(CBS4)Energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, are a popular choice for homeowners and businesses looking for ways to reduce their electricity bills.

But researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have discovered CFLs have a darker side, too: The lamps emit surprisingly high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can damage skin cells and, at high exposure levels, cause cancer, according to CBS Miami.

To test the safety of the light bulbs, researchers exposed healthy human skin cells to light from the CFLs, and compared that to the effect that older-style incandescent light bulbs had on the same skin cells.

Their analysis showed that skin cells exposed to the CFLs experienced significant damage. “The results were that you could actually initiate cell death,” Marcia Simon, professor of dermatology at Stony Brook University, told CBS Miami. (Skin cells exposed to the incandescent bulbs suffered no significant damage.)

Researchers also believe they know the cause of the UV damage: tiny cracks in the coating inside the CFL bulbs allowed UV radiation to leak out, CBS Miami reports.

CFL manufacturers refute the Stony Brook researchers’ finding, issuing a statement claiming that “the levels of UV radiation emitted are acceptably low,” and the light bulbs are safe for normal use, according to CBS Miami.

CFL light bulbs also contain small amounts of mercury, a toxic element that’s been linked to nerve damage, birth defects and other health risks. So despite their energy-efficiency, CFL lamps’ green credentials are in question, making long-lasting, energy-saving LED lights a brighter option for many consumers.

via CFL Lamps Might Cause Skin Damage | UV Radiation CFLs | LiveScience.

very time you turn on the lights, you may be putting yourself at risk, according to a disturbing new study.

Energy efficient bulbs are eco-friendly and can save you big bucks, but experts say that some could also have a dark side.

“When there is something in your house, you don’t perceive any danger, you wouldn’t get that close to an x-ray in a doctor’s office,” explained Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science at Stony Brook University in New York.

Money saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs emit high levels of ultra violet radiation, according to a new study. Research at Long Island’s Stony Brook found that the bulbs emit rays so strong that they can actually burn skin and skin cells.

“The results were that you could actually initiate cell death,” said Marcia Simon, a Professor of Dermatology.

Exposure to the bulbs could lead to premature aging and skin cancer, according to doctors.

“It can also cause skin cancer in the deadliest for, and that’s melanoma,” said Dr. Rebecca Tung.

In every bulb that researchers tested they found that the protective coating around the light creating ‘phosphor’ was cracked, allowing dangerous ultraviolet rays to escape.

Homeowners expressed concern over the effect that the bulbs could have on children.

“That’s very unfortunate because the kids are getting exposed to so many different things at a younger age,” said Vicky Cobb.

As the federal government phases out the old incandescent bulbs in favor of more efficient bulbs like compact fluorescents, CFCs are among the choices of which bulb they use.

“Now that you’re telling me there’s a health risk, I really don’t think it’s fair that they would not sell the other kind of light bulbs,” said Cobb.

The compact fluorescent industry claims that the bulbs are safe, but admitted that they emit ultraviolet rays. The industry released a statement that said “the levels of UV radiation emitted are acceptably low,” and that they are safe under normal use.

via CBS

I had some but decided there was something I didn’t like about the light from them. Now I know what. I replaced mind a while ago with full spectrum bulbs… but I suppose I should test those for UV. Some full spec bulbs do not emit UV according to this:

All UltraLux light therapy products use “NON UV” full spectrum bulbs. You do not need UV for light therapy. Many companies that only manufacture light therapy devices tell you that all full spectrum fluorescent lights produce UV. This is not a true statement. We are lighting experts and we manufacture eight different lines of full spectrum lighting products. We also manufacture full spectrum UV lamps for the reptile industry. These lamps require special UV phosphors to produce any measurable amounts of UV. We do not put these phosphors in any of our light therapy products. – link

Perhaps with a UV513AB Digital UVAB Meter for Ultraviolet Light Measurement.

Posted in Health | Leave a Comment »

Thirteen little galaxies found to be moving mysteriously

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

Thirteen little galaxies all in a row: Configuration deviates from the expected chaotic behaviour of such celestial bodies

A string of 13 dwarf galaxies in orbit around the massive galaxy Andromeda are not behaving as they should.

The galaxies are spread across a flat plane more than one million light years wide and only 30,000 light years thick, moving in synchronicity with one another, according to University of Victoria astronomer Julio Navarro, one of the co-authors of an article on the phenomenon in the latest edition of the journal Nature.

The view from Earth is of the thin edge of the plane, so the galaxies all appear to be moving in a line, Navarro said. Their behaviour is so different from the usual chaotic orbits of galaxies around each other that the researchers believe they have revealed a huge hole in science’s understanding of galaxy formation.

“It’s a very unusual, unexpected configuration,” Navarro said. “It suggests our thinking about how galaxies form is totally wrong.”

Computer models suggest that galaxies — collections of stars formed from dust and gas spread across the vastness of space — should orbit independently, almost randomly.

“[Galaxies] are like bees in a beehive,” he said. “We had thought that galaxies collect stars one by one from different directions and different orbits.”

But the structure of the synchronous galaxies orbiting Andromeda is much more like a mature solar system.

In solar systems, planets are created from debris and come to move in a plane-like formation over the course of hundreds of millions of orbits around a star. The same process led to the rings of rubble around Saturn.

But the dwarf galaxies of Andromeda are spread across a distance so vast that they haven’t completed a single orbit.

“Somehow they have a plane-like structure similar to a solar system, but with a completely different origin and we don’t know what that origin is,” Navarro said. …

via Thirteen little galaxies all in a row: Configuration deviates from the expected chaotic behaviour of such celestial bodies.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

The Spectacular Thefts of Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

In magic circles, Robbins is regarded as a kind of legend. Psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and the military study his methods for what they reveal about the nature of human attention. Photograph by Martin Schoeller.

A few years ago, at a Las Vegas convention for magicians, Penn Jillette, of the act Penn and Teller, was introduced to a soft-spoken young man named Apollo Robbins, who has a reputation as a pickpocket of almost supernatural ability. Jillette, who ranks pickpockets, he says, “a few notches below hypnotists on the show-biz totem pole,” was holding court at a table of colleagues, and he asked Robbins for a demonstration, ready to be unimpressed. Robbins demurred, claiming that he felt uncomfortable working in front of other magicians. He pointed out that, since Jillette was wearing only shorts and a sports shirt, he wouldn’t have much to work with.

“Come on,” Jillette said. “Steal something from me.”

Again, Robbins begged off, but he offered to do a trick instead. He instructed Jillette to place a ring that he was wearing on a piece of paper and trace its outline with a pen. By now, a small crowd had gathered. Jillette removed his ring, put it down on the paper, unclipped a pen from his shirt, and leaned forward, preparing to draw. After a moment, he froze and looked up. His face was pale.

“Fuck. You,” he said, and slumped into a chair.

Robbins held up a thin, cylindrical object: the cartridge from Jillette’s pen.

Robbins, who is thirty-eight and lives in Las Vegas, is a peculiar variety-arts hybrid, known in the trade as a theatrical pickpocket. Among his peers, he is widely considered the best in the world at what he does, which is taking things from people’s jackets, pants, purses, wrists, fingers, and necks, then returning them in amusing and mind-boggling ways. Robbins works smoothly and invisibly, with a diffident charm that belies his talent for larceny. One senses that he would prosper on the other side of the law. “You have to ask yourself one question,” he often says as he holds up a wallet or a watch that he has just swiped. “Am I being paid enough to give it back?”

In more than a decade as a full-time entertainer, Robbins has taken (and returned) a lot of stuff, including items from well-known figures in the worlds of entertainment (Jennifer Garner, actress: engagement ring); sports (Charles Barkley, former N.B.A. star: wad of cash); and business (Ace Greenberg, former chairman of Bear Stearns: Patek Philippe watch). He is probably best known for an encounter with Jimmy Carter’s Secret Service detail in 2001. While Carter was at dinner, Robbins struck up a conversation with several of his Secret Service men. Within a few minutes, he had emptied the agents’ pockets of pretty much everything but their guns. Robbins brandished a copy of Carter’s itinerary, and when an agent snatched it back he said, “You don’t have the authorization to see that!” When the agent felt for his badge, Robbins produced it and handed it back. Then he turned to the head of the detail and handed him his watch, his badge, and the keys to the Carter motorcade.

In magic circles, Robbins is regarded as a kind of legend, though he largely remains, as the magician Paul Harris told me, “the best-kept secret in town.” His talent, however, has started gaining notice further afield. Recently, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and the military have studied his methods for what they reveal about the nature of human attention. Teller, a good friend of Robbins’s, believes that widespread recognition is only a matter of time. “The popularity of crime as a sort of romantic thing in America is profoundly significant, and Apollo is tapping into that,” he told me. “If you think about it, magic itself has many of the hallmarks of criminal activity: You lie, you cheat, you try not to get caught—but it’s on a stage, it has a proscenium around it. When Apollo walks onstage, there’s a sense that he might have one foot outside the proscenium. He takes a low crime and turns it into an art form.” …

read the rest:  Adam Green: The Spectacular Thefts of Apollo Robbins, Pickpocket : The New Yorker.

Posted in Crime, Humor, Mind | Leave a Comment »

Mt. Vesuvius from space: Photo of volcano from space station.

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

This was the view out the International Space Station’s cupola on Jan. 1, 2013, around 09:37 UTC, looking nearly straight down the gullet of Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Just a little more than 1,900 years ago, it blew its top in the most famous volcanic eruption in recorded history. About 16,000 people lost their lives that day due to pyroclastic flow—searing hot ash blasting outward from the stratovolcano’s maw.

The volcano has erupted many times since then, including in the 20th century. Got that? It’s still active. Now take another look at that photo, and let the volcano’s surroundings settle in to your mind. It sits just a few kilometers from Naples, and more than half a million people live in the volcano’s red zone—where destruction from a big eruption would be swift and brutal.

That’s why volcanologists consider it the world’s most dangerous volcano. Given all we’ve learned about volcanoes in the past few decades, I hope scientists would be able to give people a few days’ warning about an eruption. Science, after all, saves lives. …

via Mt. Vesuvius from space: Photo of volcano from space station..

Posted in Earth, Survival | Leave a Comment »

Papyri Point to Practice of Voluntary Temple Slavery in Ancient Egypt

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

slavecontractegyptAbout one hundred of 2,200-year-old papyrus slave contracts have revealed that ancient Egyptians voluntarily entered into slave contracts with a local temple in the Egyptian city Tebtunis for all eternity, and even paid a monthly fee for the privilege.

“I am your servant from this day onwards, and I shall pay 2,5 copper-pieces every month as my slave-fee before Soknebtunis, the great god,” say the papyri from the temple city of Tebtunis, as translated by egyptologist Dr Kim Ryholt of the University of Copenhagen.

Dr Ryholt, who reports the discovery in his article in the forthcoming publication Lotus and Laurel – Studies on Egyptian Language and Religion, said: “90 per cent of the people who entered into these slave contracts were unable to name their fathers, although this was normally required. They were presumably children of prostitutes. This is a clear indication that they belonged to the lower classes which the king could subject to forced labor, for example digging canals, if he so desired. However, we know from other contemporary records that temple slaves were exempt from forced labor.”

“Many therefore chose to live as temple slaves because it was the only way of avoiding the harsh and possibly even deadly alternative; the temple was simply the lesser of two evils for these people. And for the temples, this was a lucrative practice that gave them extra resources and money.”

According to Kim Ryholt, the practice of avoiding forced labor by entering into slave contracts with temples was limited to a 60-year-period – from roughly 190 BC to 130 BC. There is no indication that the practice existed in any other period in ancient Egypt; probably because the royal family could not, in the long run, afford to yield that many resources to the temples.

The papyrus slave contracts were found in a rubbish dump next to the Tebtunis temple during excavations and were subsequently scattered across Egypt, Europe and the United States. So it has taken Dr Ryholt years to collect and analyze the contracts.

via Papyri Point to Practice of Voluntary Temple Slavery in Ancient Egypt | Archaeology | Sci-News.com.

Posted in Archaeology, History | Leave a Comment »

Coal mine fossils: Paleontology shows us past climate change + the giant snake Titanoboa

Posted by Anonymous on January 8, 2013

http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/articles/health_and_science/coal/2012/11/coal_mine_fossils_paleontology_shows_us_past_climate_change/141775355.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large.jpghttp://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/files/2012/03/titanoboa.jpegFor scientists interested in what the world looked and felt like millions of years ago, coal mines are as good as it gets. While coal may be a major culprit in global warming, there is no place like a coal mine for studying climate change in the past and its likely effects on our own world. Mining companies know this, and for whatever reason, be it good citizenship or simply good public relations, they frequently lend paleontologists a hand.

Consider, for example, Cerrejón, an immense set of open pit coal mines in northern Colombia near the Caribbean coast. The pits are huge, circular, moonscape scars in the earth with shaley slopes that dump runoff water into green crater lakes where no plant dares grow and no bird dares swim. Once in a while, dynamite collapses part of the surrounding wall, and enormous cranes collect the coal while methane fires belch from fissures in the cliffs high above.

But there’s something else. The shale slopes at Cerrejón have preserved the fossil record of an entire tropical ecosystem as it existed 58 million years ago. By looking at the fossils, paleontologists can tell what the ancient climate at Cerrejón was like hotter and wetter than it is today and what the foliage was like very lush and similar to today’s Amazon jungle. The animals were huge. Cerrejón had river turtles with shells the size of kitchen tables that could seat six, and at the top of the food chain was Titanoboa cerrejonensis, a 45-foot, 2,500-pound serpent. Titanoboa was a true river monster—the largest snake ever known to have existed, and about five times the size of the Amazon anaconda, the biggest snake alive today.

via Coal mine fossils: Paleontology shows us past climate change. – Slate Magazine.

Posted in Archaeology, Biology | Leave a Comment »


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