Monday, December 27, 2010

New Zealand releases UFO government files

New Zealand's military has released hundreds of documents detailing claims of sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs).

The files, dating from 1954 to 2009, include drawings of flying saucers and alleged samples of alien writing. The files include details of New Zealand's most famous UFO sighting when strange lights were filmed off the South Island town of Kaikoura in 1978. An official report from the time said natural phenomenon could explain it.

Although the incident made international headlines at the time, the military report suggested it could be lights from boats reflected in clouds or an unusual view of the planet Venus.

Following the release of the files, New Zealand Air Force spokesman Kavae Tamariki said the military did not have the resources to investigate UFO sightings and would not be commenting on the documents' contents.

"We have just been a collection point for the information. We don't investigate or make reports, we haven't substantiated anything in them," he told the Dominion Post newspaper.

The reports have been released under freedom of information laws after officials removed names and other identifying material. The files - which run to about 2,000 pages - include accounts by members of the public, military personnel and commercial airline pilots describing close encounters, mostly involving moving lights in the sky. All the original documents on which the reports were based are to remain sealed in the national archive.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Megafauna Part II

Continues by Megafauna  Part I.....

6. Sarcosuchus imperator - The Super Croc

Sarcosuchus imperator, or “flesh crocodile emperor,” lived roughly 110 million years ago, when rivers coursed over what is now sub-Saharan Africa. Sarcosuchus prowled the rivers’ banks, crushing fish—and other creatures—in its massive jaws. The giant creature, which lived during the Middle Cretaceous, grew as long as 40 feet (12 meters) and weighed as much as eight metric tons (17,500 pounds). Growth lines were found in cross-sections of the armor plates--one line was laid down each year. A plate from an individual 80% grown had over 40 lines, so we suspect that a fully-grown individual would be at least 50-60 years old - about twice the longevity of living crocs. Its jaws alone were nearly six feet (1.8 meters) long and its more than 100 teeth so powerful that the colossal creature probably consumed small dinosaurs as well as fish, the researchers say.

7. C.Megalodon

Carcharocles megalodon (abbreviated to C.megalodon) was a huge prehistoric shark that lived between 25 and 1.5 million years ago (the Miocene and Pliocene epochs). It is now extinct but no one is sure when C.megalodon died out.
Two teeth of great white shark (white) compared to a single tooth of Megalodon (black). A coin 23 mm in width shows the scale.

We will probably never know for sure why Megalodon became extinct. But we can probably be grateful that it did: a 52-foot (16-metre) version of the White Shark with jaws large enough to engulf a rhino would almost certainly make recreational swimming or pleasure boating a LOT less enjoyable.

8. American lion

The American lion, also known as the North American or American cave lion, is an extinct feline known from fossils. It is comparable in size to the Eurasian cave lion, considered to be the second largest species of lion to have ever existed (after the cave lion), and was about 25% larger than the modern African lion.

The American lion averaged 3.5 m (11.5 ft) in length, with a typical male weighing about 235 kg (520 lb), and a typical female weighing about 175 kg (385 lb). It was comparable in size to its close relative the Eurasian cave lion, the modern Amur tiger and the hybrid liger, which is a hybrid that probably never occurs without human interference . They were still smaller than their contemporary, the short-faced bear, which is the largest carnivore of their era.

8. Toxodon
Toxodon was about 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) in body length, and about 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) high at the shoulder and resembled a heavy rhinoceros, with a hippopotamus-like head. Because of the position of its nasal openings, it is believed that Toxodon had a well developed snout. It had a massive skeleton, which suggests that it supported a large muscular body. It had short stout legs with three functional toes, with most of the body weight being borne by the central toe.
The vertebrae were equipped with high apophyses, which most likely supported the massive weight and muscles as well as its powerful head. Toxodon had broad jaws which were filled with bow shaped teeth and incisors. These teeth would have allowed the animal to tear through and bite off the plants and leaves.

9. Andrewsarchus mongoliensis
Andrewsarchus was a predatory ungulate (hoofed mammal) that lived during the late Eocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era. This group constituted the only segment of the ungulates that was carnivorous, and the largest, andrewsarchus mongoliensis was the largest mammalian predator ever to walk on land. Oddly enough, andrewsarchus was most closely related to hippos and pigs rather than to more familiar groups of predators like big cats or dogs. Fossils of this giant have been uncovered in Central Asia, primarily Mongolia.

Extrapolating from the body proportions of similar mesonychids, such as Mesonyx, Andrewsarchus was probably about 4 metres (13 feet) long and may have stood nearly 2 metres (6 feet) at the shoulders. The cranium is about twice the length of an Alaskan brown bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), but much narrower, and about triple the length of an Rocky Mountain wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis). Since the average brown bear weighs less than 1,000 pounds, and only an extreme specimen of a wolf weighs up to 77 kg (170 lb), we can only suggest, proportionately extrapolating body sizes, that Andrewsarchus probably weighed somewhere between 400 to 1,000 pounds at the most. But since we have only the skull, and no other fossil evidence, this is pure speculation.

10. Smilodon
Smilodon was the largest saber-toothed cat (or saber-toothed tiger). It was a fierce predator about 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 m) long and 3 feet (0.9 m) tall. It weighed about 440 lbs (200 kg). It was a bit smaller than a modern-day lion (Panthera leo), but much heavier.

It had relatively short legs and a short, bobbed tail. Its front legs were especially powerful. Its body was adapted for springing onto prey, but it was not a very fast runner. Its 12-inch-long (30 cm) skull had 2 huge canine teeth. These saber-like teeth were serrated, oval in cross-section, and up to 7 inches (18 cm) long. Many Smilodon fossils have been found with broken canines; a fossil wolf was found with a Smilodon tooth fragment embedded in its skull. Smilodon had powerful jaws that opened to an angle of about 120°. Today's lions can only open their jaws 65°. Smilodon also had very strong jaw and neck muscles that let it stab prey with its deadly teeth.
Smilodon first appeared about 1.6 million years ago. This ferocious cat went extinct about 11,000 years ago. It lived during the last Ice Age, in which the Earth got much colder than it is now. Ice sheets and glaciers covered much of the land and sea levels fell as sea water froze into polar ice and glaciers. It lived during the Pleistocene Epoch (the early part of the Quaternary Period)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Megafauna Part I

When we are talking about largest living things ever step foot on Earth, we will think about dinosaurs. This is mostly correct but not totally true. Most of us don't even notice the exist of megafauna, or large animal. These large animals are not dinosaurs.  They are mammals, reptiles and even insects, their sizes can go to amazing big or long. Most of them are already extinct
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna (Ancient Greek megas "large" + New Latin fauna "animal") are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. Their original and most common definition is 100 lb, often rounded in the metric system to 40 or 45 kg.

Here I would like to introduce to you some of mega fauna that already extinct.
1. Jaekelopterus rhenaniae

November 2007, a fearsome fossil claw discovered in Germany belonged to the biggest bug ever known. Jaekelopterus rhenaniae measured some 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) long, scientists estimate, based on the length of its 18-inch (46-centimeter), spiked claw. The newfound fossil creature is estimated to be at least one and a half feet (46 centimeters) longer than any previously known prehistoric sea scorpion, a group called eurypterids. Jaekelopterus lived approximately 390 million years ago. Although called a "sea scorpion", it is speculated to have lived in fresh water rivers and lakes, rather than in saltwater seas.

2. Palorchestes azael

Palorchestes was a ground dwelling marsupial that lived in a woodland habitat. It possessed powerful forelimbs and razor sharp claws, and was capable of ripping through tough vegetation such as bark on tree trunks in order to obtain food. The strong, high-crowned teeth provide further evidence that its diet consisted largely of abrasive vegetation.

3. Rat as big as a Bull

A 4-million-year-old rat skull found at a coastal site in Uruguay set a new world record in the giant rodent category. The 21-inch-long skull is likely to have belonged to a creature as large as a bull and as heavy as a small car, according to researchers’ estimates. The previous record holder was a 1,500-pound, 8-million-year-old guinea pig discovered in Venezuela a few years ago.

4. Indricotherium - largest mammal ever live

Indricotherium is an extinct early relative of modern rhinos that lived during the late Oligocene and early Miocene Epochs of the Cenozoic Era. It was also the largest land mammal ever to live on land, at about 25 feet long, 17 feet tall, and weighing nearly 18 tons. In terms of weight, it was four times larger than a modern day bull elephant and rivaled the size of large sauropod dinosaurs that lived during the Mesozoic. Fossils of indricotherium have been unearthed in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan.

5. Haast’s Eagle - Man-eating Eagle

In New Zealand, both the fossil record and Maori legend tell us of a giant raptor known as Haast’s Eagle (Harpagomis moorei) that was once the largest predator in New Zealand. The giant Haast’s Eagle, it is believed, attacked and killed the 300-pound moa, a flightless bird reminiscent of an ostrich or emu though much larger, as one of its main food sources. Both the Haast’s eagle and the moa are now extinct. The oral legends of the Maori people, however, recall the Haast’s eagle, called pouakia or kokioi in their language, as a flying beast of fearful hunting prowess, and, if they are to be believed, the giant Haast’s eagle may have been hunting and killing human beings around the same time as Columbus was discovering America.

End of part I, hope you enjoy. Read Part II now....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Science Explains Why Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, knows all about love. She has observed the brain regions associated with romantic love light up as a man gazes at his inamorata, both in new relationships and in decades-long marriages. Fisher seems to have become a bit jaded by years of Hallmark moments, however. “Who cares about people who are happily in love?” she wants to know. “It’s when you’ve been rejected that you turn into a menace.” So she has started exploring the science of heartbreak instead.

In a study published in May, Fisher and her colleagues asked 15 people who had recently been dumped but were still in love to consider two pictures—one of the former partner and one of a neutral acquaintance—while an MRI scanner measured their brain activity. When looking at their exes, the spurned lovers showed activity in parts of the brain’s reward system, just as happy lovers do. But the neural pathways associated with cravings and addictions were activated too, as was a brain region associated with the distress that accompanies physical pain.

Rejected lovers also showed increased neural response in regions involved in assessing behavior and controlling emotions. “These people were working on the problem, thinking, what did I do, what should I do next, what did I learn from this,” Fisher says. And the longer ago the breakup was, the weaker the activity in the attachment-linked region. In other words: Love hurts, but time heals.

Out-of-place artifact (OOPArt) Part 1

One of the unsolved mysterious that can't be explain by sciences is Out-of-place artifact (OOPArt).
Out-of-place artifact (OOPArt) is a term coined by American naturalist and cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson for an object of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in a very unusual or seemingly impossible context that could challenge conventional historical chronology.

An out-of-place artefact is an object that exists in a place in which it is impossible for it to exist. OOPArts are often of interest to creationists and others who seek evidence that may refute the theory of evolution; they are also used to support religious descriptions of pre-history, ancient astronaut theories, or the notion of vanished civilizations that possessed knowledge or technology more advanced than our own.

Here are few famous OOPArt:
1. Dendera Light
The Dendera light comprises three stone reliefs (one single and a double representation) in the Hathor temple at the Dendera Temple complex located in Egypt. The images are interpreted by traditional Egyptologists to depicting lotus flowers spawning a snake, representing aspects of Egyptian mythology. Controversy arose when the main object in the images was interpreted by some as electric lamps based on comparison to modern devices. These individuals believe the object may be electric lamps. Engineers have constructed a working model based on the reliefs and some authors (such as Peter Krassa and Reinhard Habeck) have produced a basic theory of the device’s operation.
2. Antikythera Mechanism
The Antikythera Mechanism is believed to be an ancient mechanical calculator (also described as a “mechanical computer”) designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was discovered in the Antikythera wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera, between Kythera and Crete, and has been dated to about 150-100 BC. It is especially notable for being a technological artifact with no known predecessor or successor; other machines using technology of such complexity would not appear until the 18th century. While a century of research is finally answering the question of what the mechanism did, we are actually no nearer to answering the question what it was for.

3. Baghdad Battery
The Baghdad Battery was discovered in the village of Khuyut Rabbou’a (near Baghdad, Iraq) in 1936. These artifacts came to wider attention in 1938, when Wilhelm König, the German director of the National Museum of Iraq, found the objects in the museum’s collections, and in 1940 (having returned to Berlin due to illness) published a paper speculating that they may have been galvanic cells, perhaps used for electroplating gold onto silver objects. The artifacts consist of ~130mm (~5 inch) tall terracotta jars (with a one and a half inch mouth) containing a copper cylinder made of a rolled-up copper sheet, which houses a single iron rod. At the top, the iron rod is isolated from the copper by asphalt plugs or stoppers, and both rod and cylinder fit snugly inside the opening of the jar which bulges outward towards the middle (reverse hourglass shape). On MythBusters’ 29th episode (which aired on March 23, 2005), the Baghdad battery myth was put to the test. Ten hand-made terracotta jars were fitted to act as batteries. Lemon juice was chosen as the electrolyte to activate the electrochemical reaction between the copper and iron. (Oddly enough, it was discovered that a single lemon produced more voltage than one of the batteries). When all of the batteries were linked together in series, they produced upwards of 4 volts. Then, the major question was, “What were these ancient batteries used for?”

4. Crystal Skull
 The crystal skulls are a number of human skull hardstone carvings made of clear or milky quartz rock, known in art history as "rock crystal", claimed to be pre-Columbian Mesoamerican artifacts by their alleged finders. However, none of the specimens made available for scientific study have been authenticated as pre-Columbian in origin. The results of these studies demonstrated that those examined were manufactured in the mid-19th century or later, almost certainly in Europe.

5.  Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines a series of geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert, a high arid plateau that stretches 53 miles or more than 80 kilometers between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana in Peru. They were created by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and 700 AD. There are hundreds of individual figures, ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, and lizards. The Nazca lines cannot be recognized as coherent figures except from the air. Since it is presumed the Nazca people could never have seen their work from this vantage point, there has been much speculation on the builders' abilities and motivations.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Left-handed' coiling snails survive more snake attacks

Snails with shells that coil anti-clockwise are less likely to fall prey to snakes than their clockwise-coiling cousins, scientists have discovered.

The arrangement of the snakes' teeth makes it difficult for the reptiles to grasp these "left-handed" snails.

The effect of this advantage on the survival of Satsuma snails is so great, say the researchers, that they could separate into a distinct species. Biologists in Japan report the finding in the journal Nature Communications.

Angle of attack

Satsuma snails come in two forms: those which have shells that coil anti-clockwise, considered sinistral or "left-handed" and those that coil clockwise, considered "right-handed".

Land snails copulate face-to-face, and a snail with a reverse-coiled shell has its whole body reversed - including the position of its genitals. This means that oppositely coiled individuals are anatomically incompatible when it comes to mating, so the scientists were puzzled as to why "reverse-coiled" snails continued to survive and evolve.

See the Snake Attack Video on BBC

To investigate, the team, led by Masaki Hoso from Tohoku University in Sendai, set up "predation experiments". They observed snail-eater snakes' (Pareas iwasaki) as they attempted to eat the snails. To consume the soft-bodied molluscs, the predators had to extract them from their shells.

"When attacking, the snake always tilts the head leftward," Dr Hoso told BBC News. The "right-handedness" of this sequence of movements, Dr Hoso explained, means that the snake "cannot grasp [left-handed] or sinistral snails well". The scientists wrote: "This study illustrates how a single gene for reproductive incompatibility could generate a new species by natural selection."

Bizarre hairy fly is rediscovered

Scientists have rediscovered a bizarre insect in Kenya, collecting the first Terrible Hairy Fly specimen since 1948.

Scientists are unsure how the insect is related to other flies

Since then, at least half a dozen expeditions have visited its only known habitat - a rock cleft in an area east of Nairobi - in search of the fly.

Two insect specialists recently spotted the 1cm-long insect, known as Mormotomyia hirsuta, living on the 20m-high rock. They point out that it looks more like a spider with hairy legs.

The fly was found by Dr Robert Copeland and Dr Ashley Kirk-Spriggs during an expedition led by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

"The rediscovery of the species, which has been collected on only two occasions before, in 1933 and 1948, has caused excitement in insect museums world-wide," the team members said in a statement.

Unable to fly and partial to breeding in bat faeces, the fly is thought to live only in the dank, bat-filled cleft of the isolated rock in Kenya's Ukazi Hills.

The insect - found in only one location in Kenya - is covered in yellow hairs

It also has non-functional wings that resemble miniature belt-straps, and tiny eyes.

Dr Copeland of the Nairobi-based ICIPE said the fly's physical appearance had left scientists bamboozled about where exactly it belonged in the entire order of Diptera, or "true flies".

"We have collected fresh specimens for molecular analysis to see where exactly the Terrible Hairy Fly fits into the evolutionary process," Robert Copeland told Reuters news agency.

"The fly has no obvious adaptations for clinging onto other animals for transfer from one place to another. With its long legs, it could perhaps wrap itself around a bat and get a ride... but it's never been found elsewhere."

But he added: "Since Mormotomyia cannot fly, there is a strong possibility that it is really restricted to this tiny habitat."

Total Eclipse of the Moon: 2010 December 21

The December 2010 lunar eclipse occurred from 5:27 to 11:06 UTC on December 21, coinciding with the date of the December solstice. It was visible in its entirety as a total lunar eclipse in North and South America.

Animation showing the moon's passage through the earth's partial and full shadows in relation to Universal time. Based on information from NASA.

The picture below shows global visibility of this lunar eclipse:
The eclipse of December 2010 was the first total lunar eclipse in almost three years, since the February 2008 lunar eclipse. It is the second of two lunar eclipses in 2010. The first was a partial lunar eclipse on June 26, 2010.The eclipse was the first total lunar eclipse to occur on the day of the Northern Winter Solstice (Southern Summer Solstice) since 1638, and only the second in the Common Era.

Here some picture of it.
Sequence from Toronto, Ontario

Progression from Raleigh, North Carolina

Progression from Sao Paulo,Brazil
Progression from Anchorage, Alaska

From Jacksonville, Florida, 8:29 UTC - 10:06 UTC

From Easton, Pennsylvania

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chinese Woman Adopts 1,500 Stray Dogs

Ha Wenjin of Tangquan County, Nanjing, China, is a Good Samaritan beyond any definition of the word. She has relinquished her job, her home, her jewelry and her car to adopt more than 1,500 stray dogs.

She used the funds she got from the sale of her worldly goods to establish an unofficial dog rescue center.
“At first I did this in my spare time, but as I gathered more and more abandoned pets, I had to work full time for them,” said Ms. Wenjin.

In her efforts to run the center effectively, she hired 10 people to help her look after the dogs and two others to tend to the needs of some 200 cats at a nearby shelter she also set up with her own funds.

Her efforts were almost all for naught when local government officials who were indifferent to her humanitarian work reclaimed the land for redevelopment.

“I had to find a new place which was deserted and not close to any human habitat, as 1,500 dogs are not quiet. And the place had to be very cheap to rent, as most of our income comes from donations,” Ms. Wenjin told the press.

Ms. Wenjin eventually found a new location for the shelter, in Houyu village, Pukou County, but she is desperate for financial aid in setting up the new rescue center. She partly relies on the many animal loving volunteers who visit during the day and bring hundreds of “pork buns” to feed the dogs.

She moved the dogs to the new place on December 4th.
Kudos to you, Ms. Wenjin, for caring for these unwanted animals and giving them a new chance at what may turn out to be a dog’s life worth living after all.

Houses on the Cliff

It is amazing that human are capable of adapting the environment and survive until today. Not even the cliff could stop human being from building their home up there. Let us see some of these amazing scenery of human architecture. 

1. El Tajo Gorge, Ronda, Spain

Located at Spain. Ronda is a beautiful town build 750km upon the cliff. The El Tajo gorge is bridged in two locations, the new bridge “Puente Nuevo” being the most spectacular and you can look down to see the River Guadalevín below. A truly spectacular view. This leads round the hotel, Parador de Ronda to the Mirador which is a beautiful park which is surrounded by flower beds and scenic views of the surrounding plato.
This place is the origin of Spain bull fight, it has the oldest bullring.

2. Bonifacio Corsica France 

Set on Corsica’s southernmost point, Bonifacio owes its charm to medieval houses built on dazzling limestone cliffs. Built by the Genoese, Bonifacio’s Old Town is a fascinating maze of narrow streets, where you can wander around for hours. More Italian than French, the town has strong Renaissance influences and an old dialect from the times of the Genoese is still spoken to this today. Bonifacio’s natural harbour has been transformed into a chic marina, where tens of yachts from the Mediterranean come to drop anchor. You will find a vibrant display of trendy bars, restaurants and hotels, with a landscape of superb unspoilt beaches and rugged mountains. This all results in high prices and large crowds all through the summer months.

3. Castellfollit de la Roca, Spain

This small village in Girona, Catalonia is set on a steep cliff overlooking the Fluvià river. The basalt cliff the village is on is a result of two lava flows that took place thousands of years ago. Due to its unique location, Castellfollit de la Roca is illuminated after nightfall until midnight for 6 months throughout the year. The village was built during medieval times with dark, narrow streets and houses made from volcanic rock. Apart from its spectacular location, Castellfollit is a gateway to the Natural Park of the Volcanic Area of the Garrotxa, where you can admire beautiful volcanic scenery.

4. Santorini, Greece

The Aegean Sea gem of Santorini is part of the Cyclades volcanic archipelago. A good deal of the the island’s architecture, from Santorini hotels to private villas, is built on high cliffs. As a result this island of natural white, black and red beaches offers remarkable views.

5. Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre is composed of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, five small villages built on a precarious stretch of rocky Liguria coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the car-free area is accessible by train, eco-friendly electrical bus, ferry, bike and of course, on foot. Each town has its own quaint charm: Riomaggiore is home to many artists and great beaches; Vernazza is a natural harbour overlooked by a ruined castle; Monterosso has gorgeous sandy beaches and excellent seafood; Corniglia sits on a hilltop, attracting many hikers and Manarola offers remote rocks for private sunbathing. Visitors will have to pay a small entrance fee to help preserve Cinque Terre’s beauty, but it is definitely worth it. 

They are all so beautiful, which one do you like the most?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nertherlands Orange Festival

The Queen's official birthday (Queen's Day, koninginnedag) in the Netherlands is celebrated each year with parties, street markets, concerts and special events for the royal family on April 30 or on April 29 if the 30th is a Sunday.

This is not really a Netherlands festival. It is, in fact, from the south of France where they actually grow citrus. These pictures are from the French Festival Citrusov.

Oranges, anyone?

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