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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.


Monday, January 21, 2013

The Daily Drift

 I feel like a hug ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Quezon City, Philippines
Puchong, Malaysia
Kuwait, Kuwait
Cape Town, South Africa
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Kajang, Malaysia
Slivnitsa. Bulgaria
Batu Pahat, Malaysia
Lahore, Paistan
Paka, Malaysia
Ankara, Turkey
Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Potsdam, Germany
Butterworth, Malaysia
San Jose, Costa Rca
Jakarta, Indonesia
Vancouver, Canada
Amman, Jordan
T, Philippines
Plymouth, England
Kingston, Jamaica
Panevezys, Lithuania
Al Jizah, Egypt
Karachi, Pakistan
Nicosia, Cyprus
Kaunas, Lithuania
Sofia, Bulgaria
Kiev, Ukraine
Makati, Philippines
Caracas, Venezuela
Albertslund, Denmark
Monterrey, Mexico
Tunis, Tunisia
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Haifa, Israel
Bogota, Colombia
Islamabad, Pakistan

Today is National Hugging Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1189 Philip Augustus, Henry II of England and Frederick Barbarossa assemble the troops for the Third Crusade.
1648 In Maryland, the first woman lawyer in the colonies, Margaret Brent, is denied a vote in the Maryland Assembly.
1785 Chippewa, Delaware, Ottawa and Wyandot Indians sign the treaty of Fort McIntosh, ceding present-day Ohio to the United States.
1790 Joseph Guillotine proposes a new, more humane method of execution: a machine designed to cut off the condemned person's head as painlessly as possible.
1793 The French King Louis XVI is guillotined for treason.
1910 Japan rejects the American proposal to neutralize ownership of the Manchurian Railway.
1919 The German Krupp plant begins producing guns under the U.S. armistice terms.
1921 J.D. Rockefeller pledges $1 million for the relief of Europe's destitute.
1930 An international arms control meeting opens in London.
1933 The League of Nations rejects Japanese terms for settlement with China.
1941 The United States lifts the ban on arms to the Soviet Union.
1942 In North Africa, German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel launches a drive to push the British eastward. While the British benefited from radio-intercept-derived Ultra information, the Germans enjoyed an even speedier intelligence source.
1943 A Nazi daylight air raid kills 34 in a London school. When the anticipated invasion of Britain failed to materialize in 1940, Londoners relaxed, but soon they faced a frightening new threat.
1951 Communist troops force the UN army out of Inchon, Korea after a 12-hour attack.
1958 The Soviet Union calls for a ban on nuclear arms in Baghdad Pact countries.
1964 Carl T. Rowan is named the director of the United States Information Agency (USIA).
1968 In Vietnam, the Siege of Khe Sanh begins as North Vietnamese units surround U.S. Marines based on the hilltop headquarters.
1974 The U.S. Supreme Court decides that pregnant teachers can no longer be forced to take long leaves of absence.
1976 Leonid Brezhnev and Henry Kissinger meet to discuss Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT).
1977 President Carter urges 65 degrees as the maximum heat in homes to ease the energy crisis.
1993 Congressman Mike Espy of Mississippi is confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.

Non Sequitur

http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/ucomics.com/nq130121.gif

President for a Day


President Obama took the oath of office for his second presidential term this afternoon, even though Inauguration Day with all its festivities is tomorrow. Why? The 20th Amendment to the Constitution says that a president's term ends on January 20th. This date falls on a Sunday every once in a while. Obama will be sworn in again tomorrow for the public, which will be his fourth swearing-in.
Of course, what would happen if the President, perhaps due to religious convictions, refused to take the oath on a Sunday. Well it happened before, perhaps. Outgoing President James Polk’s term ended on Sunday, March 4, 1849. His successor, Zachary Taylor, refused to be sworn in on a Sunday. Same for incoming VP Millard Filmore.

So who was the President on Sunday, March 4, 1849?

Under the Presidential Succession statute at the time (the Presidential Succession Act of 1792), after the Vice President, the Senatore Pro Tempore was in line. Under this theory, Senator David Atchison of Missouri would have been the President for the Day. However, Atchinson, was the President Pro Temp during the Thirtieth Congress. This position expired when that Congress adjourned on March 4.

Athcinson was in fact sworn in as President Pro Tempore on Monday before either Taylor or Dallas took the oath, so in theory, he was President for a few minutes.
Find out how Atchison spent his day as president at Josh Blackman's Blog. And that wasn't the only time such an anomaly has happened. Blackman has some other odd details of presidential succession and some discussion on the Sunday exception in the Constitution. More

The Biggest Threat to America is the repugican cabal’s Domestic Wingnut Right Wing Extremists

Right Wing Extremists
It is a secular humanist’s dream to live in a world where no country on Earth required a military to protect its citizens from invasion, but like most Utopian fantasies, such a world will never exist. As the leader of the free world, America has built up a huge military to protect the nation’s interests, its allies, and its way of life for its people. After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, despite the senseless invasion of two Islamic countries, the nation is still engaged in a war to combat global terrorism to prevent Islamic extremists from planning and launching attacks on Americans at home and the nation’s interests abroad. The war on terror focuses on groups loosely affiliated with the Al Qaeda terrorist network, but it turns out that Islamic extremists do not pose the greatest threat to America according to a 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security. The biggest threat to America, its people, and government is from domestic right-wing extremist groups that fall under the purview of the repugican cabal that gives unwavering legislative support to their affiliates in religious, racist, and anti-government extremist movements.
The 2009 Homeland Security report cited the repugican Great Recession and resulting economic climate, along with the election of an African American man as President, as the primary drivers fueling the resurgence of domestic anti-American terror groups. At the time, the DHS-commissioned report drew special attention to the fact that “extremist right-wing groups posed more of a threat than Islamic extremists,” and repugicans objected loudly prompting Secretary Janet Napolitano to withdraw that report because as Americans have come to realize, repugicans cannot handle the truth. However, a new study from West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center evaluates the risks from domestic terror groups titled “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right,” that isolated three categories that represent the John Birch iteration and anti-American sentiment inherent in the repugican cabal.
The report identified and examined the background ideologies and methods of the Racist White Supremacy Movement,christian Fundamentalist Movement, and Anti-Federal Government Movement Americans have learned make up the core of the repugican cabal’s legislative agenda that, as the report points out, poses an existential risk to the United States. What the report discovered was that each of the groups will use violence against their targets to emphasize their ideologies regardless if it is racial minorities, abortion clinics, or government agencies, and the past two years reveal their agenda and ideology is synonymous with the repugican cabal.
One need look no farther than the recent repugican campaign leading up to the general election to identify the terror groups’ deep-seated ideology founded in racism, religious extremism, and anti-government agenda, and why the result of the election increased the spectre of violence and calls for race war, violence against the federal government, and attempts to impose christianity on all facets of government and the people. It is tempting to cite the recent gun control measures as the reason for increased calls for violent intervention to transform America into a collection of theocratic Aryan states, but it is more likely the result of the American electorate rejecting the racist, extremist christian, and anti-government agenda promised by repugican candidates from Willard Romney down to state and local level representatives identified as repugicans or teabaggers.
During the repugican presidential primary and leading right up to the general election, candidates decried President Obama’s practice of stealing money from white Americans to give to African Americans “who just want more free stuff.” Romney, particularly, utilized a Ku Klux Klan slogan and portrayed President Obama as a foreigner who did not understand what it meant to be an American, and claimed the President pacified muslim’s and degraded christians and their favorite nation, Israel. Nearly all repugican candidates diligently pushed extremist christian agendas against women and gays by promising to repeal Roe v. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, ban contraception, and criminalize same-sex marriage that are part and parcel of the fundamentalist christian agenda. All repugicans campaigned to weaken and defund all aspects of the federal government except defense, and promised to give states sovereignty over the federal government regardless the Supremacy clause in the U.S. Constitution.
The West Point report examined the three terror groups, racists, fundamentalist christians, and anti-federal government advocates as individual threats in their own right, but combined, they represent everything the repugican cabal promised to impose on the nation if they prevailed in the general election. It is impossible to segregate the right-wing extremists into separate groups when their combined ideologies fall under the aegis of repugican dogma, and the government cannot address any of the groups’ threats without first addressing why, and where, they got the idea their extremist agenda would garner legislative support, without which they will resort to violence.
The repugicans began pushing the extremists’ agenda on the first day of the 112th  Congress, and if one examines every proposal and piece of legislation proposed by repugicans in Congress and state legislatures over the past two years, they will find some ideological aspect of the three extremist groups’ cited in the West Point report, and since their chance at imposing their radical agenda through repugican legislation failed in the general election, as the study clearly stated, they will use violence to achieve their aims.
The repugicans cannot possibly deny their, and the three violent extremist groups, agenda are nearly identical, and to shift attention away from the repugican cabal’s culpability, one repugican said the Combating Terrorism Center was guilty of “perpetuating the left’s myth that right-wingers are terrorists,” but since repugicans promote racial bigotry, christian fundamentalism, and anti-federal government rhetoric and legislation, the myth is the repugican cabal is not promoting domestic terrorism. The uncontestable proof is that besides pushing legislation supported by the three extremist terror groups, not one repugican has denounced calls for violence against racial minorities, women, gays, or the government because the right-wing extremists and repugican ideology are one and the same.

Did you know ...

That 5 people accidentally shot at 3 gun shows on gun appreciation day

That corporations spread the flu


The truth be told


Montreal computer science student reports massive bug, is expelled and threatened with arrest for checking to see if it had been fixed

Ahmed Al-Khabaz was a 20-year-old computer science student at Dawson College in Montreal, until he discovered a big, glaring bug in Omnivox, software widely used by Quebec's junior college system. The bug exposed the personal information (social insurance number, home address, class schedule) of its users. When Al-Khabaz reported the bug to Fran├žois Paradis, his college's Director of Information Services and Technology, he was congratulated. But when he checked a few days later to see if the bug had been fixed, he was threatened with arrest and made to sign a secret gag-order whose existence he wasn't allowed to disclose. Then, he was expelled:
“I was called into a meeting with the co–ordinator of my program, Ken Fogel, and the dean, Dianne Gauvin,” says Mr. Al-Khabaz. “They asked a lot of questions, mostly about who knew about the problems and who I had told. I got the sense that their primary concern was covering up the problem.”
Following this meeting, the fifteen professors in the computer science department were asked to vote on whether to expel Mr. Al-Khabaz, and fourteen voted in favour. Mr. Al-Khabaz argues that the process was flawed because he was never given a chance to explain his side of the story to the faculty. He appealed his expulsion to the academic dean and even director-general Richard Filion. Both denied the appeal, leaving him in academic limbo.
“I was acing all of my classes, but now I have zeros across the board. I can’t get into any other college because of these grades, and my permanent record shows that I was expelled for unprofessional conduct. I really want this degree, and now I won’t be able to get it. My academic career is completely ruined. In the wrong hands, this breach could have caused a disaster. Students could have been stalked, had their identities stolen, their lockers opened and who knows what else. I found a serious problem, and tried to help fix it. For that I was expelled.”
The thing that gets me, as a member of a computer science faculty, is how gutless his instructors were in their treatment of this promising student. They're sending a clear signal that you're better off publicly disclosing bugs without talking to faculty or IT than going through channels, because "responsible disclosure" means that bugs go unpatched, students go unprotected, and your own teachers will never, ever have your back.
Shame on them.

Snow in Russia

So, you think you have snow ...
Moscow got a snowstorm that left a ten-inch-thick blanket of snow. They have 12,000 snow removal trucks, but they couldn't keep up with the tons of snow in the big city. Meanwhile, Norilsk, the northernmost city in the world (of at least 100,000 people), is digging out from under ten feet of snow! Yes, there are more pictures. More 

Nature's Flu Shots


Daily Comic Relief


A happy note: Finding A 10 tops new simple pleasures test

Men were most affected by finding money, while other joyful experiences include playing with puppies and pictures of smiling babies The scale also permitted scores down to minus 100 for nasty experiences, with badly played violin music reckoned one of the worst, on minus 56.
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Guerrilla indie feature film shot at Walt Disney World

"Escape From Tomorrow" is an indie movie screening at Sundance that was shot, seemingly without permission, at Walt Disney World. The film sounds pretty good, though the reviewer who saw it thinks it'll never get wide release, due to the risk-aversion of distributors and exhibitors:
See, the entire film is set inside the property at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and a fair amount of the film appears to have been actually shot on the property, during business hours, without anyone's permission. It is largely stolen feature film, and while they were careful to change all the music so they're not playing anything in the film that they could get sued over, they are still including tons and tons of familiar Disney iconography. Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck… all the costumed characters appear. We see huge chunks of the "Snow White" ride, portions of the "Winnie The Pooh" ride, material shot inside the Haunted Mansion. There's an entire sequence built around waiting in line for the Buzz Lightyear ride. They go to Epcot, and Spaceship Earth is prominently featured and even blown up at one point. It feels like someone saw "Eraserhead" and said, "Hey, why don't we get that guy to shoot an infomercial for the Magic Kingdom to get more families to come?" and this is the oh-so-not-what-they-wanted result. It is a magnificent, impossible nightmare.
It is not possible that this film exists. It is not possible that they shot long scripted sequences on the actual rides. It is not possible that I just saw a film in which it is suggested and then shown that the various Disney princesses all work as high-priced hookers who sell their wares to wealthy Asian businessmen. It simply cannot be true.
I grew up in Florida, and I have been going to Walt Disney World my entire life. I worked at that park. I've been there as a child, as a teenager, as an employee, and as a parent. I've done Disney sitting on my father's shoulders, and I've done the Disney parks with my kids sitting on my shoulders. It is a huge part of my DNA, and I can tell you that there is no way Randy Moore pulled off what I saw tonight. It is a film that should not exist by any rational definition.

Postal Children

collectivehistory:

After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service with stamps attached to their clothing. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail. (Smithsonian Institution)
After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service with stamps attached to their clothing. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail.

An ancient riverbed - on Mars

London, Jan 18: New astonishing pictures by the European Space Agency have revealed a 1500 km long and 7 kilometre wide river that once ran across Mars... The agency’s Mars Express imaged the striking upper part of the remnants of Reull Vallis river on Mars with its high-resolution stereo camera...

This sinuous structure, which stretches for almost 1500 km across the martian landscape, is flanked by numerous tributaries, one of which can be clearly seen cutting in to the main valley towards the upper (north) side.

The new Mars Express images show a region of Reull Vallis at a point where the channel is almost 7 km wide and 300 m deep. The sides of Reull Vallis are particularly sharp and steep, with parallel longitudinal features covering the floor of the channel itself.

These structures are believed to be caused by the passage of loose debris and ice during the “Amazonian” period – which continues to this day – due to glacial flow along the channel. The structures were formed long after it was originally carved by liquid water during the Hesperian period, which is believed to have ended between 3.5 billion and 1.8 billion years ago.

Martian Underground Could Contain Clues to Life’s Origins


Minerals found in the subsurface of Mars, a zone of more than three miles below ground, make for the strongest ...
Continue Reading 

The "Orion bullets'

An Astronomy Picture of the Day, from NASA, explained as follows:
Cosmic bullets pierce the outskirts of the Orion Nebula some 1500 light-years distant in this sharp infrared close-up. Blasted out by energetic massive star formation the bullets, relatively dense, hot gas clouds about ten times the size of Pluto's orbit, are blue in the false color image. Glowing with the light of ionized iron atoms they travel at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second, their passage traced by yellowish trails of the nebula's shock-heated hydrogen gas. The cone-shaped wakes are up to a fifth of a light-year long

'Cosmic bang' hit Medieval Earth

An artist’s impression of the merger of two neutron stars'Cosmic bang' hit Medieval Earth

A gamma-ray burst - the most powerful explosion known in the Universe - may have hit the Earth in the 8th Century, a study suggests.

Tractor Beams 'Pull' Tiny Particles Backward


Tractor Beams 'Pull' Tiny Particles Backward

//
A laser moves tiny spheres of polystyrene floating in water.
In space opera, it's not uncommon for the hero's ship to be snagged by a tractor beam that pulls him towards the enemy -- think of the famous scene in Star Wars where Darth Vader's Death Star captures Hans Solo's spaceship, the Millennium Falcon in an invisible grasp. Scientists have now made a real tractor beam, that while not capable of snaring spacecraft yet, is able to tug on tiny particles.
Pavel Zemanek and his colleagues at the Institute of Scientific Instruments of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic built a laser that moves tiny spheres of polystyrene floating in water. Changing the way the light is polarized changes the direction the spheres move. They also found that at certain sizes, the spheres arrange themselves into neat rows as they move, bound by the light itself.
"We used a relatively simple setup easily adaptable to any optical microscope and found that it works!" Zemanek told Discovery News via email. In fact Zemanek said it was so simple, one could build the tractor beam setup. All you'd need is a good microscope, a laser, tiny styrofoam balls and distilled water.
This kind of 'tractor beam' can't be scaled up to spaceships – the laser power needed to do that would end up vaporizing the intended target. But the beam could be used to assemble parts in very small robots, move around tiny particles in laboratory experiments and advance medical diagnostics.
"NASA also is actively investigating possible uses of optical tractor beams for sampling comet tails and planet surfaces. What the present paper makes clear is that tractor-beam technology also opens new avenues for lab-on-a-chip material processing that could be very useful for medical diagnostics and related applications," said David Grier, a professor of physics at New York University. Grier wasn't involved in this study.
Scientists have known for a century that light exerts pressure. About a decade ago, theoretical calculations showed that a particle could move against the direction of a light beam, but no one had demonstrated it in the real world without using a complex arrangement of lenses and mirrors.
Zemanek and his team got it to work using laser beams and a simple setup.
Two laser beams intersect and their photons kick back tiny spheres, moving the spheres up toward the light source.
They fired a laser through a lens, which then went to a mirror that bounced the beam back. The reflected beam interfered with the incoming beam. Meanwhile, the scientists suspended polystyrene spheres in water directly in the path of the laser beams. The beams held the spheres in place vertically, and any pulling or pushing force moved the spheres to the left or to the right.
The effect worked because the particles were small enough to scatter photons of light. The photons got pushed ahead of the particles and since the photons had momentum, the particles got a slight kick backwards.
Grier, who has himself experimented with tractor beams (http://physics.nyu.edu/grierlab/conveyor7c/) , noted that this is the first time anyone has shown that the pulling force was due to the scattering and that you could use it to manipulate objects this way. "It's just a beautifully clear demonstration," he said.
By changing the polarization of the light beam, the scientists could move objects in any direction. Zemanek's team found something else, though: the particles sorted themselves by size, with larger ones going to the left and smaller ones going to the right.
The sorting happens because how the light scattered by the particle depends on its size. At a given wavelength small particles will scatter light more than large ones. The light scatters in several directions, and at certain specific particle sizes, Zemanek said the tiny spheres acted like lenses, with some of the light making a kind of focus on one side.
The areas of focused light created a zone where the light's potential energy was at a minimum. This was a "well" where nearby particles would tend to fall. "It's like the cups for eggs in a carton." Zemanek said. A sphere would fall into the well, and as one was pulled along, it drags another behind it. Meanwhile other spheres fell in line, provided they were the same size.
Zemanek noted that if one were assembling a tiny robot, this would be a good way to move the parts around to where they are needed. Since the movement is done with light, it doesn't mater if the particles are metallic or not, or if they are susceptible to electric fields.
Grier said that the future work should focus on extending the range of the tractor beams to more than the micrometer scales. He noted that right now it seems that the object to be moved has to be smaller than the diameter of the beam. "Whether or not that's right, or how stringent a limit it sets, remains to be seen," he said.
The work was published in the Jan. 20 issue of Nature Photonics.

The Lincoln Futura

chailatteplease:

theniftyfifties:

The Futura Concept Car, 1954.

Via Wiki: “The Lincoln Futura was a concept car designed by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company. It was built by Ghia entirely by hand in Italy at a cost of $250,000 and displayed on the auto show circuit in 1955. In 1966 the car was modified by George Barris into the Batmobile, for the 1966 TV series Batman.”
The Futura Concept Car, 1954.
Via Wiki: “The Lincoln Futura was a concept car designed by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company. It was built by Ghia entirely by hand in Italy at a cost of $250,000 and displayed on the auto show circuit in 1955. In 1966 the car was modified by George Barris into the Batmobile, for the 1966 TV series Batman.”

Quadruple DNA Helix

'Quadruple helix' DNA in humansA representation of the four-stranded DNA structure

Cambridge University scientists say they have seen four-stranded DNA at work in human cells for the first time and wonder if it might provide a target for the development of novel anti-cancer treatments.

Sometimes the double helix likes to mix it up! Scientists at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, have found that DNA at the end of chromosomes actually have a very different structure: instead of double-stranded, they have four strands.
Balasubramanian's group has been pursuing a four-stranded version of the molecule that scientists have produced in the test tube now for a number of years.
It is called the G-quadruplex. The "G" refers to guanine, one of the four chemical groups, or "bases", that hold DNA together and which encode our genetic information (the others being adenine, cytosine, and thymine).
The G-quadruplex seems to form in DNA where guanine exists in substantial quantities.
Jonathan Amos of BBC has the post: Here.

Random Photo

ms-curves:

This is way more girly than I would normally post on here… but it appeals to my mood today. A bit over the top, but I think the panties are especially pretty.
(Apparently it’s by Axami Lingerie of Poland, but I can’t find this in their current catalogue. They do have some other nice options… as well as some overly racy ones.)

Darwin's Neon Orange Golf Balls

If you're wondering what in the world are those neon orange balls growing on a beech tree, you're in good company. See, it was Charles Darwin himself who first encountered the strange balls when he landed in Tierra del Fuego during his voyage on the HMS Beagle.
Turns out, the neon-colored balls known as "beech orange" are actually a fungus named Cyttaria darwini (yes, named after the biologist in his honor). But that's not the strangest thing about the fungus. Turns out, you can make an alcoholic drink out of them!
Darwin himself noted they made up a substantial portion of the diet of the natives of Terra del Fuego and grew “in vast numbers on the beech trees”. He observed that the women and children collected their beech oranges when “tough and mature”, and that they had a “mucilaginous, slightly sweet taste, with a faint smell like that of a mushroom.”
Another South American group — the Araucans of Chile — discovered and capitalized upon the happy fact that Cyttaria harioti contains up to 15% fermentable sugars and that, like grapes, come naturally coated with the yeast Saccharomyces. This would be the same Saccharomyces that has made the fortunes of Fleischman’s, Budweiser, and half of France.
After drying, grinding, and mixing beech oranges with warm water and allowing nature to take its course, the Araucans enjoy an alcoholic beverage called chicha del llau-llau made from the ripe fruiting bodies, according to Bryce Kendrick’s The Fifth Kingdom.
Jennifer Frazer of Scientific American's The Artful Amoeba blog has the post: Here.
The Southern Hemisphere's collection of alternate-universe creatures is not limited to emus, echidnas, and monkey-puzzle trees. There are also crazy down-under fungi. And one of them was first encountered and collected for science by none other than Charles Darwin.

Darwin was on his course-of-western-history-altering Beagle cruise when he was probably captivated by the odd appearance of Cyttaria darwini, the 'beech orange,' in Tierra del Fuego. This fungus grows in association with the southern hemisphere genus Nothofagus, the 'southern beeches,' and it is not subtle in going about it.

Awesome Pictures

kevinruss:

Lower Yosemite falls (Taken with Instagram at Yosemite National Park)

The evolution of white fur and an animal sex scandal

Up north — in Canada and other places where snowy winters are reliable (and reliably heavy) — you find more animals whose fur comes in various shades of white. This is true even for species that are brown or black further south. The difference is obvious. But how does it happen? Carl Zimmer presents two possible paths to paleness — random mutation, and fortuitous cross-species mating. In related news: Golden retrievers are probably getting it on with Canadian coyotes.

The Merfolk?

Grandpa Fish: Another possibility is that Merfolk were inspired by fish with roughly human-looking faces. This little fish, for instance. As for what this fish is, I don't know. I couldn't even find the origin of the image. It's just one of those floating around the Internet. Could even be a photoshopped hoax for all I know. But it makes a certain point: Some fish can look humanoid. That would be enough to get superstitious sailors started.


Woman hurt after dead horse falls on top of her

A woman is in the hospital after a horse died and fell on top of her at a park in Bucks County.
More

The First Known Solar-Powered Vertebrate

spotted vertebrate
Some animals, such as particular sponge and coral species, use photosynthesis to produce energy. But only recently have scientists confirmed that a vertebrate--an animal with a backbone--does so as well. When spotted salamanders lay eggs, algae colonize the egg clusters and provide the means for photosynthesis:
A close examination of the eggs revealed that some of the algae were living within the embryos themselves, and in some cases were actually inside embryonic cells. That suggested the embryos weren't just taking oxygen from the algae: they might be taking glucose too. In other words, the algae were acting as internal power stations, generating fuel for the salamanders.
To find out if that was happening, Erin Graham of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and colleagues incubated salamander eggs in water containing radioactive carbon-14. Algae take up the isotope in the form of carbon dioxide, producing radioactive glucose.
Graham found that the embryos became mildly radioactive – unless kept in the dark. That showed that the embryos could only take in the carbon-14 via photosynthesis in the algae.
The algae do not seem to be essential to the embryos, but they are very helpful: embryos deprived of algae struggle. "Their survival rate is much lower and their growth is slowed," says Graham.

The Tortoise Beetle

Amazing Metallic Arthropods
They look almost manufactured. Many tortoise beetles have transparent cuticles, the tough but flexible outer covering which gives the insect family its name protects the delicate creature within.

The living tissue is often metallic in color and can in some species even change color. The combination is as diverse as it is extraordinary - many look like tiny robots assembled to infiltrate, the ultimate bug. Take a look in at the amazing variations of tortoise beetle our world holds.

Animal Pictures

emuwren:

Brown Bear and cub - Ursus arctos. Northern Eurasia and North America.