Thursday, July 31, 2008
For those located in Eastern Canada, the last partial solar eclipse visible was 9 years ago, 1999 August 11, and it also occurred at sunrise. There was a more recent solar eclipse on Christmas Day 2000, but clouds and snow hid it. After tomorrow, the next partial solar eclipse visible from this area will happen on November 3, 2013.
To see tomorrow's unusual sunrise, be ready for an early wake up, as the period of total eclipse, or totality, will occur from 7:08am to 7:10am EDT. You will need a proper solar filter to avoid damaging your eyes, or use a pinhole mirror projector. But if you sleep through the alarm, fear not, NASA has you covered. They will be providing a live feed of the event. The coverage, originating in China and reliant on good weather, runs from 6:00am to 8:15am EDT. Follow this link to see it happen!
Friday, July 25, 2008
Two large tornado-like waterspouts were spotted over Montreal on June 23rd as a result of an approaching severe thunderstorm. Environment Canada confirmed that the first waterspout formed in Montreal's east end at 1:15 pm ET in the St. Lawrence River. Simultaneously, a second waterspout formed about 70 km northeast of the city.
This "waterspout" is a spinning funnel column of water and vapour that forms between a cloud and the earth. Generally they are weaker than a tornado, and usually occur in tropical regions. They are frequently reported in areas like Florida, off the coast of Key West.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Scientists estimate that 30 to 40 of the lemurs live in the swampy region, where bamboo is plentiful. These wrinkly faced creatures are known for cracking open giant bamboo with their industrial-strength jaws. Perhaps a pocket population strayed south to escape habitat destruction from illegal logging, which is common in the north.
Monday, July 21, 2008
The picture above shows an overjoyed snail named Heikki, the 2008 World Champion, who won in a time of 3 minutes, 2 seconds. The trainer? 13 year old Georgie Brown. The World record still remains at a speedy 2 minutes flat, set in 1995 by the legendary snail Archie.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
By exposing the vocal muscle fibers to electrical stimulation, scientists clocked how fast the muscles expanded and contracted. Both female and male starlings moved at about 3.2 milliseconds per expansion or contraction. In zebra finches, females moved at 7.1 milliseconds, while males twitched at 3.7.
There are some competitors elsewhere in the natural world. Rattlesnakes come in a close second with the twitching muscles on both sides of their rattler. The muscles in swim bladders of certain fish also move strikingly fast.
"We had no idea muscles could work at these superfast rates," said Daniel Margoliash, a biologist at the University of Chicago. "That they can and do is just amazing."
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The US Apollo missions in the late 1960s and early 1970s successfully collected lunar volcanic glasses, pebble-like beads. Since then scientists have been determining the nature of the chemical elements in the glasses.
Using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) technology, the team from Brown University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Case Western Reserve University, were able to detect extremely tiny amounts of water in glasses and minerals.
"We were really surprised to find a whole lot more in these tiny glass beads, up to 46 parts per million," said Erik Hauri, from the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC.They think that the water was contained in magma which erupted via "fire fountains" on the lunar surface more than 3 billion years ago. The eruptions themselves would have evaporated 95% of the water, but also leave some behind. Since the Moon's gravity is too weak to have an atmosphere, speculations indicate that some of the water vapour was likely forced into space. But some might have drifted towards the cold poles of the Moon, where ice may exists in constantly shadowed craters.
Friday, July 4, 2008
“Sterilization is not a requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my reproductive rights,” he writes. “Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire but a human desire.”
As expected, this whole ordeal has garnered much attention. Mr. Beatie announced his pregnancy in April on the Oprah Winfrey show. He also plans to write a book about the entire experience. A hospital source said that the baby is healthy and the mother/father has been permitted to leave the hospital.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
So just how good is this fuel efficiency? Lets compare it with the top selling cars in the US during January of this year: Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Toyota Camry will squeeze out 35 MPG on the highway, while the Accord maxes out at 29 MPG.
So how do they do it? The 1 Liter car weighs only 660 pounds, and is made from a body of carbon composites. Due to its slippery shape, it has a coefficient drag of only 0.16 (the average car is about 0.30). The prototype was powered by a 1-cylinder diesel engine, but the soon to be released model should be equipped with a 2-cylinder, and perhaps a stop-start anti-idling feature.
Until we can produce a completely new method, we might as well improve on the one that's around now. It might not be available to the masses yet, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
In more detail... The fungus spores first attach themselves to the surface of the ant, where they germinate. They then invade the ant's body through the tracheae, allowing for fine fungal filaments called mycelia to start growing. When the fungus is ready to sporulate, the mycelia grow into the ant's brain, and produce chemicals which act on the brain to alter their perception of pheromones. This makes the ant climb a plant and, after reaching the peak, to clamp its mandibles around a leaf or leaf stem. This becomes the ant's final resting place.
The fungus eats through the brain, killing the host. The fungal fruiting bodies sprout from the ant's head, through gaps in the joints of the exoskeleton. When mature, the fruiting bodies burst and release capsules into the air. These explode on their way down, effectively spreading airborne spores over the area below. These spores infect other ants, completing the fungal life cycle. Depending on the type of fungus and the number of infecting spores, death of an infected insect takes 4 to 10 days.
This video is a clip taken from the BBC Planet Earth documentary: