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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.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Daily Drift

Small minds are everywhere ...!
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Today in History

1630 The town of Boston is founded by John Winthrop as an extension of the colony at Salem. It is named after the town of the same name in Lincolnshire, England.
1787 The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approves the constitution for the United States of America.
1796 President George Washington delivers his "Farewell Address" to Congress before concluding his second term in office.
1862 The Battle of Antietam in Maryland, the bloodiest day in U.S. history, commences. Fighting in the corn field, Bloody Lane and Burnside's Bridge rages all day as the Union and Confederate armies suffer a combined 26,293 casualties.
1868 The Battle of Beecher's Island begins, in which Major George "Sandy" Forsyth and 50 volunteers hold off 500 Sioux and Cheyenne in eastern Colorado.
1902 U.S. troops are sent to Panama to keep train lines open over the isthmus as Panamanian nationals struggle for independence from Colombia.
1903 Turks destroy the town of Kastoria in Bulgaria, killing 10,000 civilians.
1916 Germany's "Red Baron," Manfred von Richthofen, wins his first aerial combat.
1917 The German Army recaptures the Russian Port of Riga from Russian forces.
1939 With the German army already attacking western Poland, the Soviet Union launches an invasion of eastern Poland.
1942 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill meets with Soviet Premier Josef Stalin in Moscow as the German Army rams into Stalingrad.
1944 British airborne troops parachute into Holland to capture the Arnhem bridge as part of Operation Market-Garden. The plan called for the airborne troops to be relieved by British troops, but they were left stranded and eventually surrendered to the Germans.
1947 James Forestall is sworn in as first the U.S. Secretary of Defense.
1957 The Thai army seizes power in Bangkok.
1959 The X-15 rocket plane makes its first flight.
1962 The first federal suit to end public school segregation is filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
1976 The Space Shuttle is unveiled to the public.
1978 Egypt and Israel sign the Camp David Accords.
1980 Nationwide independent trade union Solidarity established in Poland.
1983 Vanessa Williams becomes the first black Miss America; relinquished crown early after scandal over nude photos.
2001 The New York Stock Exchange reopens for the first time since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers; longest period of closure since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
2006 Alaska's Fourpeaked Mountain erupts for the first time in at least 10,000 years.
2011 Occupy Wall Street movement calling for greater social and economic equality begins in New York City's Zuccotti Park, coining the phrase "We are the 99%."

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

You want some fresh eggs? Why not rent-a-chicken

You need to support the living wage bill

That children who are read to are less violent

U.S. poverty rates higher than in peer countries

That a computer program uses twitter to map the 'mood' of the nation

This library book overdue for 59 years

Why The Founding Fathers Would Have Despised Today’s “tea party”

Every 4th of July, without fail, I’ll see a few nutjobs come out with their “America, love it or leave it” or “This is America, speak English” stickers and such. Despite the ridiculous irony that their stickers, t-shirts and flags are made in China or a Bangladeshi sweatshop, there’s something else they’re entirely unaware of. The fact is, the Founding Fathers would have hated the tea party – misspelled signs and all.
Yes, you heard that right, they would have despised the ammo-hoarding sycophants of AM Hate-talk radio for a number of reasons, and would have likely lined them up in front of a firing squad or fitted them for a noose if this was the 18th century.
First of all, the original Tea Party was a protest of being forced to pay taxes on imported goods for which there was no competition. The East India Trading Company had the cozy relationship with the British government that allowed them to have a monopoly on tea and other items. Imagine Walmart being the only store from which you could buy and they dictated both cost and taxes on everything. The real Tea Party wasn’t about mentally unstable rants about oppressive government and imagined muslim takeovers, it was about actual oppressive government in which there was no representation for the colonists.
In the modern United States, we do have representation and theoretically, everyone can vote. The American Revolution used bullets because ballots weren’t available and the East India Tea Company had too much power in government. Now we have ballots and so-called “patriots” are trying to take away voting rights, talking about using bullets if they don’t get what they want, and supporting corporate power in government via Citizens United. You know, the opposite of what the Founding Fathers and the real Tea Party were all about.
Still don’t believe the Founding Fathers would have brought out the army against the tea party? Consider this. In the 1790′s, some settlers in the western portion of Pennsylvania didn’t want to pay taxes on whiskey they produced and destroyed the home of a tax official in protest. In response, George Washington sent out the state militia (you know, that “well-regulated militia” in the 2nd Amendment) to put down what is now known as The Whiskey Rebellion. This set the precedent for states enforcing the laws set by the Federal government, not the states making laws like Arizona has done in violation of Federal statutes and then complaining when the Supreme Court strikes them down. The main participants on the rebel side were arrested and tried for treason, not given celebrity status on Faux News.
So, to people like Ted Nugent and all the other “I’m gonna overthrow the government but I was too chickenshit to fight in Vietnam” people who like to wrap themselves in Chinese-made American flags, stop pretending the Founding Fathers would have liked you and supported your corporate-funded “grassroots” cause. They would have tarred and feathered you before running you out of town on a rail – if you were lucky.

Bob Woodward Says repugicans Are Using Extortion and Blackmail to Defund The Affordable Health Care Act

In a rare lucid moment, Bob Woodward has accused the repugican cabal of trying to blackmail and extort Obama into defunding the Affordable Health Care Act,

Woodward said, “This is really serious. Back in 2011, when the crisis visited them, the Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner was running around and saying if we don’t fix this, we could trigger a depression worse than the 1930s. And when I talked to Obama about this, he said, it was the most intense three weeks of his presidency. More than Osama Bin Laden and so forth. so — and the repugicans are out here, a group of them in the House essentially using extortion and blackmail methods to say, if we don’t defund the Affordable Health Care Act we’re not going to do the routine things of government.”
If even a blind squirrel finds a nut, then I guess this is visually impaired squirrel, meet nut. When even noted Sean Handjob fan boy Bob Woodward can see that repugicans are using blackmail and extortion in their attempt to defund the Affordable Health Care Act, things are really going badly for the repugican cabal.
The same Bob Woodward who was a fixture on Faux News when he had an anti-Obama book to sell has changed his tune a bit now that he is not trying to convince the brainwashed, Republican voting, white haired masses to plop down a bit of their Social Security checks on his latest book.
The shocking thing is that Woodward is correct. The repugicans are using blackmail and extortion in their attempt to defund the Affordable Health Care Act. The repugicans can try to dodge this description, but when a group of repugicans are running around threatening to wreck the economy if the Affordable Health Care Act isn’t defunded, it is virtually impossible for the repugican cabal to claim that they aren’t trying to blackmail the president into taking away healthcare for 30 million Americans.

If the death panel lie fits, wear it.

Just when I thought that all hope was lost, Bob Woodward had a rare lucid moment. It is sad to see how far one half of the team that will always be remembered for setting the modern high mark in journalism has fallen. Woodward will likely continue to pander to the wingnuts, because the only thing that the man seems to care about is selling his books. But when even Bob Woodward calls the efforts to defund the Affordable Health Care Act extortion and blackmail, the repugican cabal is seriously screwed.

McCain Says He Will Write Op-ed for Pravda – Pravda Says, Say What?

Photograph: Mike Theiler/Reuters
Senator John McCain was not happy about Vladimir Putin’s op-ed Wednesday in the New York Times. He said the other day he was “offended” by Russia, and he was not happy about Putin’s plan for Syria.
He told Jake Tapper on The Lead that he hoped negotiations between the U.S. and Russia succeeded, but now that they have, he’s upset that they did. He and Lindsey Graham (r-SC) say the deal is an “act of provocative weakness on America’s part.”
Hell, even China gave the OK to the U.S.-Russia deal.
So what’s McCain’s problem? Sure he’s grumpy, and he seems to have nearly as many positions as Rand Paul. And while he presents President Obama as being confused and weak, he seems rather confused himself.
Take his attempt to write an op-ed for Pravda in a sort of revenge stroke for Putin’s op-ed. But the New York Times is an independent American newspaper. It is not owned or operated by the government, the repugican cabal, or the Democratic Party. Pravda, on the other hand, is the official organ of the Communist Party, established in 1912 even before the October Revolution put the Communists in power in 1917.
One problem is that McCain forgot to tell Pravda anything about his plans.
The other is that on Friday his spokesperson, Brian Rogers, said McCain had accepted an offer from Pravda to write an op-ed response to Putin’s. Time Magazine and Politico both were taken in and carried the announcement on Friday.
But Pravda made no such offer.
Pravda knew nothing about it. Boris Komotsky, Pravda’s editor, took to the party’s website to answer, in a piece titled Sen. John McCain wants to answer? saying, “There is only one Pravda in Russia, it is the organ of the Communist Party, and we have heard nothing about the intentions of the repugican senator.”
Oh dear.
First Secretary of the Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov opined via the party’s website in a piece titled, GA Zyuganov – John McCain: “If you support the position of the Communist Party on Syria, then publish your article that “it is surprising that McCain did not bother to inform either the leadership of the party or the editors of Pravda.”
Zyuganov stressed, that neither Pravda nor the Communist Party was in negotiations with McCain to publish an op-ed to answer Putin.
Oh, oh dear.
It turns out that The Cable, Foreign Policy’s website, in its attempt to set up the deal, did not contact Pravda. They contacted pravda.ru, a website which has nothing to do with Pravda or with the Communist Party (Joshua Keating at The Slate calls it “whose content is a kind of cross between WorldNetDaily and the National Enquirer”) instead of gazeta-pravda.ru, which is where you will find THE Pravda.
McCain, who is so up-in-arms over Obama supposedly making the U.S. appear weak and foolish, has done just that with his Pravda faux pas.
Zyuganov says, sure McCain can write something for Pravda. But he has to follow the party line to do so.
Our answer to McCain is this: if you support the position of the Russian Communist Party on Syria, then we will publish your article.
But the Communist view is that Syria is Russia’s ally and that the U.S. is “trying to destroy our last ally in the Middle East, Syria. And one of the most rapacious hawks calling for direct aggression is Senator John McCain.”
John McCain, Zyuganov says, is a “russophobe.”
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
Well, that’s only fair. It’s true. And John McCain is an Obamaphobe who wanted to do some grandstanding of his own.
Unfortunately for McCain – or as McCain would put it – for the United States, McCain’s attempt to get some petty revenge on Putin has backfired.
The Russians can laugh, the Communists no doubt have laughed, and even we liberals can laugh. But that doesn’t change the fact that people like McCain occupy positions of power and authority in our national government, and that it is precisely these sorts of schoolboy antics that got us into two wars that lasted a decade apiece the last time the repugicans were in charge.
Be afraid world. Be very afraid.

The truth be told

After the Meltdown

Tracking the fortunes reaped by the bankers who tanked the economy

The Center for Public Integrity's After the Meltdown series documents the fate of the regulators, executives, and firms that were most directly responsible for the subprime meltdown, and demonstrates that the top bankers for firms like Lehman got unbelievably rich due to their failures, and are still in business with lucrative consulting firms (for example, Lehman CEO Richard Fuld walked away with several hundred million in cash and now has homes in three states and a personal consulting outfit). Consumerist's Chris Morran has done a great job of summarizing the findings:
Former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne isn’t working as hard as Fuld, though he did make around $376 million before “retiring” after Bear Stearns lost billions on toxic mortgages. Don’t expect to run into this guy at your parents’ assisted living facility, as he’s holed up in the Plaza Hotel with Heloise, playing in online bridge tournaments. The horror. Merrill Lynch lost $8 billion under the leadership of Stanley O’Neal, but unlike Cayne he hasn’t taken to living like a wealthy retiree. Instead, he took his $165 million golden parachute and traded it for aluminum, landing a seat on the board of Alcoa.
Ken Lewis’ hubris and desire to lead the world’s largest bank resulted in Bank of America snatching up Countrywide and Merrill Lynch as they swooned. Except he didn’t really do his due diligence, or he would have seen that these two acquisitions would result in penalties, settlements, adjustments, and other costs totaling more than $40 billion. That doesn’t even factor in how BofA went from being viewed as a beloved outsider to becoming maybe the most-reviled bank in the nation in just a few years.
And yet, he walked away with around a quarter of a billion dollars. He did recently sell his home near the BofA HQ in Charlotte, NC. We can only assume it’s because current CEO Brian Moynihan kept egging Lewis’ car and writing nasty notes in shaving cream on the windshield.

AT&T threatens to disconnect users accused of copyright infringement

AT&T has started sending letters to some of its customers, threatening to disconnect them because they've been accused (without trial or a chance to rebut the evidence) of copyright infringement. AT&T is doing this voluntarily. There is no law or regulation requiring them to do this. It's part of the controversial Copyright Alert System, whose overseeing body had its company status revoked last May.
We are sending you this alert as part of our participation in the Copyright Alert Program — an industry-wide initiative intended to help users understand their rights and responsibilities in the distribution of copyrighted content online.
Digital content owners routinely monitor file-sharing networks to determine if copyrighted movies and music are being distributed illegally over the Internet. Through the Copyright Alert System, we’ve recently received a notice from a movie studio, record company, television studio or other company that owns copyrighted material that your AT&T Internet account was used in connection with possible infringement of their copyright protected materials.
Your account was identified by its IP address. However, in keeping with the AT&T Privacy Policy, we have not released your name or personal information, and we will not do so except as required by a lawful request for records. But at the request of the content owner, we are sending this alert — which applies to all users of your account — so that the issue may be resolved without further action.
A copy of the original notice can be found at att.com/copyright-infringement, but summary information is available at the end of this email.

Charter schools - a failed experiment

87 Percent of Ohio's Charter Schools Fail To Meet Minimum Standards

Success Academy suspends students to force performance grades higher - Democracy Now

For all of the ballyhoo over charter schools, no one is actually dealing with the fact that they're failing, not only in Philadelphia but across the country. When do our elected officials get a clue?
Via the Education Opportunity Network, a stunning statistic:

... repugican state legislators enacted a law in 1997 allowing charter schools to locate exclusively within the boundaries of the “Big 8” systems.

Sixteen years later, charters statewide performed almost exactly the same on most measures of student achievement as the urban schools they were meant to reform, results released under a revamped Ohio report-card system show. And when it comes to graduating seniors after four years of high school, the Big 8 performed better.
But what started as an experiment in fixing urban education through free-market innovation is now a large part of the problem. Almost 84,000 Ohio students — 87 percent of the state’s charter-school students — attend a charter ranking D or F in meeting state performance standards.
Eighty-six percent of charters rated in this category scored D or F, compared with 90 percent of Big 8 schools. Just over 17 percent of Big 8 high schools ranked A or B in graduating students in four years, compared with about 7 percent of charters.
Pennsylvania is pouring $729 million into their charter schools. That's $729 million that isn't going to regular public schools. Even with that funding loss, public schools are somehow managing to perform as well or better than charters. The same is true in Ohio, and indeed, is a trend nationwide.

Random Celebrity Photos



A very young Ava Gardner, 1941.

age 19
A very young Ava Gardner, 1941. Age 19

Are women less corrupt?

Women are more likely than men to disapprove of — and less likely to participate in — political corruption, but only in countries where corruption is stigmatized ...

Esteem and how people put their best Facebook forward

How social media users create and monitor their online personas may hint at their feelings of self-esteem and self-determination, according to an international team of researchers. “The types of actions ...

A Scientific Guide To Effectively Saying No

Learning how to say no is one of the most useful skills you can develop, especially when it comes to living a more productive and healthy life. Saying no to unnecessary commitments can give you the time you need to recover and rejuvenate. And saying no to temptation can help you stay on track and achieve your health goals.

But how do we actually get past the urgencies of everyday life and avoid distraction, so that we can focus the things that are really important to us? Research is starting to show that even small changes can make a significant impact for a better way of saying no.


Five Stories Of People Delivered As Cargo

You hear about cases of smugglers who traffic in slaves or illegal immigrants as cargo, often with horrific outcomes. But there are a few stories of people who shipped themselves by mail or cargo carrier which turned out relatively happily. It's not so easy to do that with today's regulations.

This Woman's Name Is So Long That It Can't Fit on a Driver's License

The standard driver's license in Hawaii has space for 35 characters for the driver's last name. It's not enough:
Janice "Lokelani" Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele is in the midst of a fight with state and local officials to ensure that her full name gets listed on a license or ID card. Her name is pronounced: KAY'-ee-hah-nah-EE'-coo-COW'-ah-KAH'-hee-HOO'-lee-heh-eh-KAH'-how-NAH-eh-leh.
The documents only have room for 35 characters. Her name has 35 letters plus a mark used in the Hawaiian alphabet, called an okina.
So Hawaii County instead issued her driver's license and her state ID with the last letter of her name chopped off. And it omitted her first name.
Ms. Keihanaikukauakahihuliheekahaunaele is offended that her full name does not appear. But the Hawaiian government is working on a solution: by the end of the year, driver's license cards will have space for 40 characters.

Toilets on trains transformed into an inspirational space with a view

Toilets on Chiltern Railways trains are being transformed into something a little more inspirational. The company has installed floor to ceiling vinyl images in the toilets of its Birmingham to London trains.

The first toilet has been designed to resemble Compton Verney, an eighteenth century country mansion turned art gallery in Warwickshire.
It depicts a Rococo Revival chimneypiece from the mid-eighteenth century, a pier table from southern Italy and a painting of Compton Verney as it is today. Thomas Ableman, Chiltern Railways director, said: “We’re always looking at ways to create a memorable experience for our passengers.

“Toilets are traditionally a place to avoid so we have transformed them into an inspirational space with a view. Our only concern is that they’ll be so popular we’ll have people queuing up for the best seat on the train.”

Believe it or not

Seriously dude, don't drink the water

And, no, not in Mexico ....in Louisiana.

Yet another reason to avoid getting fresh water up your nose — even if you aren’t at a water park: Louisiana health officials have confirmed that tests conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a local parish has brain-eating amoebae in its drinking water.

Finding The Ocean Inside An Opal

Opal is a hydrated amorphous form of silica. Because of its amorphous character it is classed as a mineraloid, unlike the other crystalline forms of silica which are classed as minerals.

The internal structure of precious opal makes it diffract light; depending on the conditions in which it formed it can take on many colors. Sometimes, when the light hits an opal, it looks like an underwater scene from the ocean.

Awesome Pictures

Ancient ancestor of tulip tree line identified

The modern-day tulip tree, state tree of Indiana as well as Kentucky and Tennessee, can trace its lineage back to the time of the dinosaurs, according to newly published research by an Indiana University paleobotanist and a Russian botanist.
Ancient ancestor of tulip tree line identified
This is an artist's reconstruction of Archaeanthus from fossils
[Credit: David Dilcher]
The tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipfera, has been considered part of the magnolia family. But David Dilcher of Indiana University Bloomington and Mikhail S. Romanov of the N.V. Tsitsin Main Botanical Garden in Moscow show that it is closely related to fossil plant specimens from the Lower Cretaceous period.

Their findings suggest the tulip tree line diverged from magnolias more than 100 million years ago and constitutes an independent family, Liriodendraceae, with two living species: one in the Eastern United States and the other in Eastern China. The article, "Fruit structure in Magnoliaceae s.l. and Archaeanthus and their relationships," appears in the most recent issue of the American Journal of Botany.

The tulip tree, sometimes called tulip poplar or yellow poplar, is one of the largest trees of Eastern North America, sometimes reaching more than 150 feet in height. It is native from southern New England westward to Michigan and south to Louisiana and Florida.

Dilcher, an IU professor emeritus of geological sciences and biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, discovered fossil flowers and fruits resembling those of magnolias and tulip trees in 1975 in Kansas. Dilcher and Peter Crane, now the dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, published information about the fossils and named the plant Archaeanthus.

But the relationship between the fossils and any living plant species remained a mystery until Dilcher met and began working with Romanov, who specializes in study of the magnolia family and its relatives. The researchers used advanced technologies of light, scanning electron and polarizing microscopy to develop a more detailed picture of the Archaeanthus flowers, fruits and seeds and compare them with the flowers, fruits and seeds of contemporary plants.

"We discovered features of the fruits and seeds, not previously detailed, that were more similar to those of the tulip tree line of evolution than to the magnolias," Dilcher said. "Thus the beautiful tulip tree has a lineage that extends back to the age of the dinosaurs. It has a long, independent history separate from the magnolias and should be recognized as its own flowering plant family."

While the paper provides new insight into the evolution of the tulip tree line, questions remain, Dilcher said. Scientists don't know how widespread and various the early members of the tulip tree line may have been, for example. Fossils similar to Archaeanthus have been found in the Southeastern United States. Were there other similar plants, and where did they develop?

Further, the fact that the tulip tree family has survived and evolved for more than 100 million years -- albeit in limited and widely divergent ranges -- is relevant to understanding how species have developed in the past and how they might fare in the future given changing climate and other factors.

Darwin's dilemma resolved

Biologists measure evolution's Big Bang

A new study led by Adelaide researchers has estimated, for the first time, the rates of evolution during the "Cambrian explosion" when most modern animal groups appeared between 540 and 520 million years ago.
Darwin's dilemma resolved: Biologists measure evolution's Big Bang
This image depicts marine life during the Cambrian explosion (~520 million years ago). A giant Anomalocaris investigates a trilobite, while Opabinia looks on from the right, and the "walking cactus" Diania crawls underneath. All these creatures are related to living arthropods (creatures with exoskeletons and jointed appendages, such as insects, arachnids and crustaceans) [Credit: Katrina Kenny & Nobumichi Tamura]
The findings, published online today in the journal Current Biology, resolve "Darwin's dilemma": the sudden appearance of a plethora of modern animal groups in the fossil record during the early Cambrian period.

"The abrupt appearance of dozens of animal groups during this time is arguably the most important evolutionary event after the origin of life," says lead author Associate Professor Michael Lee of the University of Adelaide's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the South Australian Museum.

"These seemingly impossibly fast rates of evolution implied by this Cambrian explosion have long been exploited by opponents of evolution. Darwin himself famously considered that this was at odds with the normal evolutionary processes.

"However, because of the notorious imperfection of the ancient fossil record, no-one has been able to accurately measure rates of evolution during this critical interval, often called evolution's Big Bang.
Darwin's dilemma resolved: Biologists measure evolution's Big Bang
A living arthropod (centipede Cormocephalus) crawls over its 515-million-year-old relative which lived during the Cambrian explosion (trilobite Estaingia). A study of arthropods reveals that their anatomy and genes evolved five times faster during evolution's Big Bang, compared to all subsequent periods -- fast, but totally compatible with Darwin's theory. Both the centipede and trilobite are found on what is now Kangaroo Island, Australia [Credit: Michael Lee]
"In this study we've estimated that rates of both morphological and genetic evolution during the Cambrian explosion were five times faster than today -- quite rapid, but perfectly consistent with Darwin's theory of evolution."

The team, including researchers from the Natural History Museum in London, quantified the anatomical and genetic differences between living animals, and established a timeframe over which those differences accumulated with the help of the fossil record and intricate mathematical models. Their modelling showed that moderately accelerated evolution was sufficient to explain the seemingly sudden appearance of many groups of advanced animals in the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion.

The research focused on arthropods (insects, crustaceans, arachnids and their relatives), which are the most diverse animal group in both the Cambrian period and present day.

"It was during this Cambrian period that many of the most familiar traits associated with this group of animals evolved, like a hard exoskeleton, jointed legs, and compound (multi-faceted) eyes that are shared by all arthropods. We even find the first appearance in the fossil record of the antenna that insects, millipedes and lobsters all have, and the earliest biting jaws." says co-author Dr Greg Edgecombe of the Natural History Museum.

Could life have survived a fall to Earth?

It sounds like science fiction, but the theory of panspermia, in which life can naturally transfer between planets, is considered a serious hypothesis by planetary scientists. The suggestion that life did not originate on Earth but came from elsewhere in the universe (for instance, Mars), is one possible variant of panspermia. Planets and moons were heavily bombarded by meteorites when the Solar System was young, throwing lots of material back into space. Meteorites made of Mars rock are occasionally found on Earth to this day, so it is quite plausible that simple life forms like yeasts or bacteria could have been carried on them.
Could life have survived a fall to Earth?
Asteroid impacting Earth's oceans [Credit: NASA/Don Davis]
Yet serious questions remain for supporters of this theory. Would even the hardiest life forms be able to survive an impact which ejects the rock into space? Could they live through the freezing temperatures and deadly radiation of space? And could they enter the atmosphere and hit the surface of Earth without being killed?

New research presented at the European Planetary Science Congress at UCL aims to answer the final question, of whether entry and impact is survivable for simple organisms. Using frozen samples of Nannochloropsis oculata, a type of single-celled ocean-dwelling algae, Dina Pasini (University of Kent) set out to test the conditions which early life would have had to survive if it did indeed travel through space.

Using a two-stage light gas gun, which can accelerate objects up to very high speeds, Pasini fired frozen pellets of Nannochloropsis into water, and tested the samples to see if any had survived.

"As you might expect, increasing the speed of impact does increase the proportion of algae that die," Pasini explains, "but even at 6.93 kilometers per second, a small proportion survived. This sort of impact velocity would be what you would expect if a meteorite hit a planet similar to the Earth."

As well as surviving freezing and impacts, like those experienced when rocks are ejected from planets or hit them, there are good reasons to think that the other problems faced by panspermia are not insurmountable either. Ice and rocks can provide protection against radiation, especially if the organism is deeply embedded inside. What is more, heating caused by entry into the atmosphere is unlikely to heat anything more than a thin layer around the outside of rocks, forming what is known as a 'fusion crust'.

This research suggests that panspermia, while certainly not proven, is not impossible either.

"Our research raises several questions," Pasini says. "If we find life on another planet, will it be truly alien or will it be related to us? And if so, did it spawn us or did we spawn it? We cannot answer these questions just now, but the questions are not as farfetched as one might assume."

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Incredible Mechanical Lion

In the year 1515, Giuliano de’ Medici presented the newly crowned King of France, Francois I, with a mechanical lion that walked on it own. The automata was designed by Leonardo Da Vinci, but all that is left of it is the diagrams. However, from those plans the lion was reconstructed in 2009. Watch it move, and imagine seeing this almost 500 years ago! Read more about the lion at Dangerous Minds.

Hero dog nearly died after being bitten on nose by deadly snake while protecting family

A dog in Australia's Gold Coast is being hailed a hero after he saved a family from a deadly brown snake. One-year-old Staffordshire Terrier Jeff came close to death after being bitten on the nose. Now the Moskwa family is praising him after he alerted them about the dangerous reptile in their vegetable garden. When Jeff wouldn't stop barking on Wednesday morning, Tamara Moskwa said she knew something was wrong.
"I heard him barking like crazy," said the Willow Vale resident. "I kept calling him but he would always bolt back to the garden. But when I went to see what was happening, at first I didn't even see the snake." Mrs Moskwa was soon greeted by a sight of horror. "It was like he was trying to tell us something, so I went back," she said. "He bolted one last time to the garden and that's when I saw what had happened. He was just lying next to a big 2m brown snake." The mother-of-three realized the staffy had been bitten by the snake.
It was now a race against time. "It was horrible and scary to see it in our garden, right where the kids play every day," said Mrs Moskwa. "My husband Michael took a photo of the dead snake and rushed off to the vet. When we got to the vet we had a choice - we could try to save him, even with very low survival chance, or we put him down." The Moskwa family decided to spend the $2,550 required, to save their beloved pet's life. "We almost decided to let him go because of the cost, but then we thought `one of our kids could have been bitten instead of the dog'," said Mrs Moskwa.

"The least we could do was to try and save his. We felt really lucky, we feel like he's meant to be here to be our protector." The vegetable garden is where eight-year-old Mackenzie and his younger brothers Nate and Billy often play before breakfast. Snake catcher Tony Harrison says the eastern brown snakes are one of the most deadly in the world, and are renowned for having a bad temper. "One drop of venom has enough power to take out 16 healthy adults, so one bite can take out 100 people,” he said.

Five-day-old elephant saved from muddy pond

Filmed last November, this video shows the Kenya Wildlife Service and Amboseli Trust for Elephants rescuing a five-day-old elephant calf which was stuck in a muddy pond where there used to be a swamp.

The calf's mother was close-by and the team were soon able to re-unite them.

Animal Pictures


Lola our German Shorthaired Pointer and Ollie our Dalmatian guarding the stairs.
by Lobos82