Thursday, November 08, 2007

Whale Songs May Actually Be Sounds Of 'Conversation'

A simply fascinating story :

Thousands of hours of humpback whale sounds have been recorded off the coast of Queensland and analysed to reveal a secret and ancient language of the deep sea.

Over three years, researchers identified at least 34 recurring sounds - some lasting less than one second and others stretching for more than 10 - that can be linked to specific, different social settings.

"I've found that they have this massive repertoire," University of Queensland researcher Dr Rebecca Dunlop said.

"I think their communication system is a lot more complicated than we gave them credit for," she said.

From high-pitched squeaks, shrieks and cries to purrs, groans and low yaps, Dr Dunlop mapped the repeated sounds for a paper published this month in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

Some noises represent aggression and competition, others affection and concern.

....higher-frequency signals are used when males are competing for the affections of a female.

"These high-frequency cries and screams (are also heard) when they're having a bit of a row," she said.

Dr Dunlop describes the male "purring" sound as a "C'mon baby" call to females, used as a mating signal.

You can hear the sounds of whales 'having a chat' by clicking here

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Elephants On Acid - This Is Science?

More examples of the incredibly cruelty that some inflict on animals, and their fellow man, in the name of research. Or should that be using up their research grants before asking for another?

One Friday in August 1962 Warren Thomas, director of Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City, raised his rifle and took aim at Tusko the elephant. With a squeeze of the trigger he scored a direct hit on the animal's rump, firing a cartridge full of the hallucinogenic drug LSD into the animal's bloodstream.

The dose was 3,000 times what a human might take for recreational purposes, and the results were extraordinary. Tusko charged around and trumpeted loudly for a few minutes before keeling over dead.

Thomas and his colleagues maintained the mishap was the result of a scientific experiment to investigate whether LSD brought on an unusual condition in which elephants become aggressive and secrete a sticky fluid from their glands. In a report of the incident submitted to the US journal Science four months later, the team concluded: "It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD."

Who would have guessed that?

New Scientist magazine has a 'top ten' of the 'most bizarre experiments' ever carried out. Elephant On Acid is just one of the truly weird experiments under discussion :

One experiment in the 1960s saw 10 soldiers board an aircraft for what they believed was a routine training mission from Fort Hunter Liggett airbase in California. After climbing to around 5,000 feet the plane suddenly lurched to one side and began to fall. Over the intercom, the pilot announced: "We have an emergency. An engine has stalled and the landing gear is not functioning. I'm going to attempt to ditch in the ocean."

While the soldiers faced almost certain death, a steward handed out insurance forms and asked the men to complete them, explaining it was necessary for the army to be covered if they died.

Little did the soldiers know they were completely safe. It was merely an experiment to find out how extreme stress affects cognitive ability, the forms serving as the test. Once the final soldier had completed his form the pilot announced: "Just kidding about that emergency folks!"

A later attempt to repeat the experiment with a new group of unwitting volunteers was ruined by one of the previous soldiers, who had penned a warning on a sickbag.

One of the most gruesome experiments to make New Scientist's list was performed by the Soviet surgeon Vladimir Demikhov. In 1954 he unveiled a two-headed dog, created in the lab by grafting the head, shoulders and front legs of a puppy on to the neck of a German shepherd dog. Journalists brought in to examine the creature noted how milk dribbled from the stump of the puppy's head when it attempted to lap milk. Occasionally, the two would fight, with the German shepherd trying to shake the puppy off, and the puppy retaliating by biting back.

The unfortunate creation lived for six days, though Dr Demikhov repeated the experiment 19 more times over the next 15 years, with the longest-lived lasting a month. Although the work was dismissed as a publicity stunt outside the Soviet Union, Dr Demikhov was credited with developing intricate surgical techniques that paved the way for the first human heart transplant.

Predictably, sex also appears on the magazine's list of bizarre experiments. When investigating the sexual arousal of male turkeys researchers at Penn State University were impressed to see that the birds would attempt to mate with lookalike dummies. Piece by piece they removed parts of the dummy and found that the males were still highly aroused when presented with no more than a head on a stick.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Attack Of The 'Killer' Monkeys

More than 10,000 monkeys roam the streets and back alleys of India's crowded capital, Delhi. They steal food, break into homes, spread disease, fight with cats and dogs for scraps and occasionally attack the human population.

The deputy mayor of Delhi, SS Bajwa, is believed to have been fighting off a horde of monkeys when he fell from his apartment balcony and was killed.

The mayor of Delhi has admitted defeat in the battle between the authorities and the monkeys.

"We have neither the expertise nor the infrastructure to deal with the situation," said Delhi's mayor Aarti Mehra, amid a barrage of criticism.

Culling is unacceptable to Hindus who revere the monkeys as a living link to the deity Hanuman, a monkey god who symbolises strength.

The animals routinely invade parliament, ministries, courts and government offices.

In May, federal lawmakers demanded protection from the marauding simians, which have even broken into the complex that houses Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office.

Activist Kartick Satyanarayanan, who heads Wildlife SOS, said the problem was due to the "constant erosion" of the animal's natural habitat.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Brazil Overrun By Invasion Of Giant Snails

A report from National Geographic on the B-grade horror movie plot, but very real environmental disaster, of giant African snails "thriving in nearly every state" of Brazil.

The giant mollusks, which can grow to 20cm long and weigh up to half a kilogram, were first introduced as a gourmet delicacy, but have now adapted to Brazil's climate so well that experts think they will be impossible to eradicate :
There is no record of when the species was first imported, but an agribusiness fair in southern Brazil in 1988 was probably pivotal in sparking the invasion.

At the fair, people sold kits with snails and brochures detailing how to raise them.

At first the African snails seemed promising for food: They had more meat, grew faster, and were more resistant to disease than the garden snail. The African snail was also cheaper to keep.

Brazilians countrywide began growing the giant snail in their backyards, planning to sell the mollusks to fancy restaurants.

Yet eating escargot is unusual in Brazil, and the few diners who would pay to eat the delicacy were not willing to substitute it for a new species with different texture and taste—and suspicious origin. This resulted in thousands of frustrated people with unwanted snails slithering through their backyards.

Most of the snails were then released in the wild, where they rapidly grew in number.
The snails are believed to be responsible for infecting people with meningitis.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Water : $US100 A Litre

It's water, but not as you know it. Well, it's wet, it's clear, it's water, but it's not water, it's water.

Boutique water to be exact. Water from rare springs, water with a low mineral content making for a "smooth" taste, water from glaciers and icebergs, 'fresh' water sucked from the bottom of salty seas where it has swirled for thousands of years.

More here :
...purveyors are given advice on which water is best suited to what occasion.
Occasion? Like thirst? You don't get it, do you? Fine water is the new wine, according to the boutique water store in a flash London hotel :
Finé artesian water from Japan is said to be "a perfect companion" to sushi, sashimi and caviar, while Waiwera Mineral Water from the Waiwera Thermal Resort in New Zealand has a low mineral content which goes well with grilled and fried meat.

For those suffering from exhaustion or trying to get over jet lag, OGO spring water from Tilburg in the Netherlands contains 35 times more oxygen than regular water to revitalise the drinker.

The most expensive on the menu is 420 Volcanic, spring water from Tai Tapu in New Zealand, which can be bought for £21 for 42 cl - the equivalent of £50 per litre.

Its low mineral content and "smooth sensation on the palate" comes from its journey from the source at the bottom of an extinct volcano through 200 metres of volcanic rock.

Included on the list is 10 Thousand BC, water that comes from the melted ice of the Hat Mountain Glacier and is more than 10,000 years old...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mexican Horror Writer Embraces 'The Method'

When police entered the home of an aspiring Mexican horror writer, they found the manuscript of a novel called 'Cannibalistic Instincts'.

Then they found his girlfriend's leg in the refrigerator, bones in a bowl and the remains of her torso stuff into a closet.

Writers are often told to "write about what you know" and do "lots of research".

Clearly these rules should not apply when you're writing a novel about cannibalism :

Jose Luis Calva told police he had boiled some of his girlfriend's flesh but that he hadn't eaten it, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the case.

Investigators were trying to determine if chunks of fried meat found in a pan in the apartment were human, the spokesman said.

Police came to Calva's apartment Monday after neighbors reported a fetid smell.

The family of Galeana, a 30-year-old pharmacy clerk, reported her missing on Friday and told police of her relationship with Calva, the official said.

Calva is being investigated in the killings of two other women, including an ex-girlfriend, also a pharmacy worker, whose dismembered body was found in 2004, and an unidentified prostitute who was killed earlier this year.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Thinking Baboon's Baboon

There's really no valid reason, other than religion-guided education, why most people today don't already know that man's closest relatives think and feel many of the same basic thoughts and emotions as we do.

Science, however, is still filling in those reality gaps, and bringing us closer to the truth about what really separates man from the apes - not much at all.

From the New York Times :

...baboons’ minds are specialized for social interaction, for understanding the structure of their complex society and for navigating their way within it.

The shaper of a baboon’s mind is natural selection. Those with the best social skills leave the most offspring.

“Monkey society is governed by the same two general rules that governed the behavior of women in so many 19th-century novels,” Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth write. “Stay loyal to your relatives (though perhaps at a distance, if they are an impediment), but also try to ingratiate yourself with the members of high-ranking families.”

Baboon society revolves around mother-daughter lines of descent. Eight or nine matrilines are in a troop, each with a rank order. This hierarchy can remain stable for generations.

By contrast, the male hierarchy, which consists mostly of baboons born in other troops, is always changing as males fight among themselves and with new arrivals.

Rank among female baboons is hereditary, with a daughter assuming her mother’s rank.

Baboons live with danger on every side. Many fall prey to lions, leopards, pythons and the crocodiles that in the wet season stalk the fords where baboons cross from one island to another. Baboon watchers are subject to the same hazards. Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth say their rules are not to work alone or to wade into water deeper than knee high. They often find themselves sitting in a tree with baboons waiting out a lion below. But going into New York is more petrifying, they contend, than dodging Botswana’s predators.

The baboons will bark to warn of lions and leopards, but pay no attention to some other species dangerous to humans like buffalo and elephant. On two occasions, baboons have attacked animals, a leopard and a honey badger, that threatened their human companions. “We haven’t lost any post-docs,” Dr. Seyfarth said.

For female baboons, another constant worry besides predation is infanticide. Their babies are put in peril at each of the frequent upheavals in the male hierarchy. The reason is that new alpha males enjoy brief reigns, seven to eight months on average, and find at first that the droits de seigneur they had anticipated are distinctly unpromising. Most of the females are not sexually receptive because they are pregnant or nurturing unweaned children.

An unpleasant fact of baboon life is that the alpha male can make mothers re-enter their reproductive cycles, and boost his prospects of fatherhood, by killing their infants. The mothers can secure some protection for their babies by forming close bonds with other females and with male friends, particularly those who were alpha when their children were conceived and who may be the father. Still, more than half of all deaths among baby baboons are from infanticide.

So important are these social skills that it is females with the best social networks, not those most senior in the hierarchy, who leave the most offspring.

Although the baboon and human lines of descent split apart some 30 million years ago, the species have much in common. Both are primates whose ancestors came down from the trees and learned to survive on the ground in large social groups. The baboon mind may therefore shed considerable light on the early stages of the evolution of the human mind.

Baboons may be good at perceiving and thinking in a combinative way, but their vocal output consists of single sounds that are never combined, like greeting grunts, the females’ sexual whoop and the males’ competitive “wahoo!” cry. Why did language, expressed in combinations of sounds, evolve in humans but not in baboons?

A possible key to the puzzle lies in what animal psychologists call theory of mind, the ability to infer what another animal does or does not know. Baboons seem to have a very feeble theory of mind. When they cross from one island to another, ever fearful of crocodiles, the adults will often go first, leaving the juveniles fretting at the water’s edge. However much the young baboons call, their mothers never come back to help, as if unable to divine their children’s predicament.

But people have a very strong ability to recognize the mental states of others, and this could have prompted a desire to communicate that drove the evolution of language. “If I know you don’t know something, I am highly motivated to communicate it,” Dr. Seyfarth said.

It is far from clear why humans acquired a strong theory of mind faculty and baboons did not.

But both chimps and humans use tools. Possibly social life drove the evolution of the primate brain to a certain point, and the stimulus of tool use then took over. Use of tools would have spurred communication, as the owner of a tool explained to others how to use it. But that requires a theory of mind, and Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth are skeptical of claims that chimpanzees have a theory of mind, in part because the experiments supporting that position have been conducted on captive chimps. “It’s bewildering to us that none of the people who study ape cognition have been motivated to study wild chimpanzees,” Dr. Cheney said.

“Baboons provide you with an example of what sort of social and cognitive complexity is possible in the absence of language and a theory of mind,” she said. “The selective forces that gave rise to our large brains and our full-blown theory of mind remain mysterious, at least to us.”

One interesting thought spawned of reading this story is this : why do we immediately assume that our evolutionary track was for the better of our species? Baboons may be perfectly happy where they are on the evolutionary ladder.

Humans evolved fast, compared to the slow progress of many other species. Some species have barely evolved at all for tens of millions of years.

Maybe we should not be asking what makes baboons similar to humans, but what it is that makes humans similar to baboons.

Perhaps baboons don't have this 'theory of mind' because they don't need it. Maybe they began to develop it, before we built cities, and decided it was more trouble than it was worth.

But the story raises another interesting question : why are we so fascinated by our hairy relatives, but they pay no more than the scantest interest in us?
World's Biggest Living Organism? Fungus

The world's biggest living organism is not the 220 ton Blue Whale. It's a fungus in Oregon, and not only is it the biggest living organism in the world, it may also be the oldest :

Next time you purchase white button mushrooms at the grocery store, just remember, they may be cute and bite-size but they have a relative out west that occupies some 2,384 acres (965 hectares) of soil in Oregon's Blue Mountains. Put another way, this humongous fungus would encompass 1,665 football fields, or nearly four square miles (10 square kilometers) of turf.

The discovery of this giant Armillaria ostoyae in 1998 heralded a new record holder for the title of the world's largest known organism, believed by most to be the 110-foot- (33.5-meter-) long, 200-ton blue whale. Based on its current growth rate, the fungus is estimated to be 2,400 years old but could be as ancient as 8,650 years, which would earn it a place among the oldest living organisms as well.

Armillaria has the unique ability to extend rhizomorphs, flat shoestringlike structures, that bridge gaps between food sources and expand the fungus's sweeping perimeter ever more.

A combination of good genes and a stable environment has allowed this particularly ginormous fungus to continue its creeping existence over the past millennia.

...humongous may be in the nature of things for a fungus. "We think that these things are not very rare," Volk says. "We think that they're in fact normal."

Pssst, Lookout! - Plants 'Chatter' To Warn Each Other Of Danger

If you've ever had one of those strange, passing thoughts about whether or not a carrot screams when it is ripped out of the ground, maybe you shouldn't read this story :

Plants chatter amongst themselves to spread information, a lot like humans and other animals, new research suggests.

A unique internal network apparently allows greens to warn each other against predators and potential enemies.

Many herbal plants such as strawberry, clover, reed and ground elder naturally form a set of connections to share information with each other through channels known as runners—horizontal stems that physically bond the plants like tubes or cables along the soil surface and underground. Though connected to vertical stems, runners eventually form new buds at the tips and ultimately form a network of plants.

“Network-like plants do not usually produce vertical stems but their stems lie flat on the ground and can hence be used as network infrastructure,” said researcher Josef Stuefer from the Radboud University in the Netherlands.

Here is how it works: If one of the network plants is attacked by caterpillars, the other members of the network are warned via an internal signal to upgrade their chemical and mechanical resistance—making their leaves hard to chew on and less desirable. This system works to spread the information amongst the plants and to ward off caterpillars.

“This is an early warning system, very much like in military defense, but then more effective: each member of the network can receive the external signal of impending herbivore danger and transmit it to the other members of the network,” Stuefer said. The attacked leaf is lost. However, the remaining leaves are protected against predators.

Weird, but fascinating.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Attack Of The RoboBugs And Cyborg Moths

It's a surveillance freak's dream : an Army of fly-sized robot spy cameras, that can wing their way into the midst of a peace protest, zoom through a terrorist training camp gathering visual data, or hide in the corner of a room while foreign diplomats are holding secretive meetings relaying conversations by mini-microphone.

But how close are we to a world where tiny robotic insects are swarming through our cities and towns?

Closer than you might think.

This fascinating, and disturbing, story from the Washington Post details where various military, university and private surveillance companies are at on bringing micro-robo-bugs into reality (excerpts) :

No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. Some federally funded teams are even growing live insects with computer chips in them, with the goal of mounting spyware on their bodies and controlling their flight muscles remotely.

The robobugs could follow suspects, guide missiles to targets or navigate the crannies of collapsed buildings to find survivors.

The technical challenges of creating robotic insects are daunting, and most experts doubt that fully working models exist yet.

...the CIA secretly developed a simple dragonfly snooper as long ago as the 1970s. And given recent advances, even skeptics say there is always a chance that some agency has quietly managed to make something operational.

Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have increased enormously. Defense Department documents describe nearly 100 different models in use today, some as tiny as birds, and some the size of small planes.

All told, the nation's fleet of flying robots logged more than 160,000 flight hours last year -- a more than fourfold increase since 2003. A recent report by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College warned that if traffic rules are not clarified soon, the glut of unmanned vehicles "could render military airspace chaotic and potentially dangerous."

But getting from bird size to bug size is not a simple matter of making everything smaller.

"You can't make a conventional robot of metal and ball bearings and just shrink the design down," said Ronald Fearing, a roboticist at the University of California at Berkeley. For one thing, the rules of aerodynamics change at very tiny scales and require wings that flap in precise ways -- a huge engineering challenge.

In one approach, researchers funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are inserting computer chips into moth pupae -- the intermediate stage between a caterpillar and a flying adult -- and hatching them into healthy "cyborg moths."

The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems project aims to create literal shutterbugs -- camera-toting insects whose nerves have grown into their internal silicon chip so that wranglers can control their activities. DARPA researchers are also raising cyborg beetles with power for various instruments to be generated by their muscles.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have made a "microbat ornithopter" that flies freely and fits in the palm of one's hand. A Vanderbilt University team has made a similar device.

With their sail-like wings, neither of those would be mistaken for insects. In July, however, a Harvard University team got a truly fly-like robot airborne, its synthetic wings buzzing at 120 beats per second.

"It showed that we can manufacture the articulated, high-speed structures that you need to re-create the complex wing motions that insects produce," said team leader Robert Wood.

The fly's vanishingly thin materials were machined with lasers, then folded into three-dimensional form "like a micro-origami," he said. Alternating electric fields make the wings flap. The whole thing weighs just 65 milligrams, or a little more than the plastic head of a push pin.

Still, it can fly only while attached to a threadlike tether that supplies power, evidence that significant hurdles remain.

In August, at the International Symposium on Flying Insects and Robots, held in Switzerland, Japanese researchers introduced radio-controlled fliers with four-inch wingspans that resemble hawk moths. Those who watch them fly, its creator wrote in the program, "feel something of 'living souls.' "

Others, taking a tip from the CIA, are making fliers that run on chemical fuels instead of batteries. The "entomopter," in early stages of development at the Georgia Institute of Technology and resembling a toy plane more than a bug, converts liquid fuel into a hot gas, which powers four flapping wings and ancillary equipment.

The whole story is worth a read.
Biggest Pumpkin...Ever

At more than 1500 pounds, this is an absolutely huge pumpkin. Interesting, if you're into this sort of thing.

Hell, it'll kill a couple of minutes at worst, and make you think about having pumpkin soup for lunch.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Ancient Bacteria Of The Antarctic Comes Out Of Its Ice Age

For millions of years, prehistoric bacteria and organisms have been locked under the ice of the Antarctic. But now the ice is melting. The UK Independent asks if the world will see the return of some unimaginable 'prehistoric plague' :

Now, a little more than a hundred years on from Scott's exhibition, US scientists have discovered that the icy landscapes may not be so barren after all. Microbiologists from New Jersey have chanced upon tiny frozen organisms that have remained alive for millions of years, embedded in some of the oldest ice on the planet.

Dr Kay Bidle of Rutgers University, who was part of the research team, extracted DNA and bacteria from ice found barely metres beneath the surface of a Dry Valleys glacier, and, remarkably, claims to have grown the bacteria in a lab. "This is by far the oldest ice in which we have found encased microbes, cultured them and formed a growth," he says.

The discovery of such ancient viable genetic material has far-reaching implications, not least the possibility that global warming could melt Antarctic ice to such an extent that an army of invidious pathogens will be released to wreak havoc on humans. But a more realistic outcome is that the experiment will aid our understanding of evolution, and how life could survive on other planets. Not bad for organisms that are eight million years old, originating four million years before humans first got up and strolled about on two legs. "The study is interesting because it extends understanding of the period of time over which organisms remain viable," adds Dr Bidle, who published his research earlier this month.

The scientific community has heralded the discovery as "significant", but the team's conclusions might disappoint science-fiction buffs. There will be no global pandemic – or at least there shouldn't be. The scientists say that while extremely old bacteria will be released into the world's oceans as a result of global warming, it is not a "cause for concern". Dr Bidle says that marine bacteria and viruses are less harmful to human health than those found on land. "Clearly this melting has happened many times over the Earth's history," he says. "We didn't find any pathogens. What we found were organisms closely related to common environmental bacteria."

The experts are keen to point out that even if ancient pathogens were released, they would not be very good at making people ill. In order to be effective they would have had to evolve in tandem with their original "target" – impossible for organisms that have been cut off for millenia.

Whenever the ice caps melt they inject a huge amount of genetic material into the oceans. Bacteria can incorporate external DNA into their own genetic material – through a process known as "lateral transmission"– and if they are good genes they can help the bugs survive. If they are not, they won't. "[Lateral transmission] can be advantageous or it can be deleterious. This is one of main ways in which microbes get new data," Bidle says. "It's up to natural selection to sort that out." In other words, the thawing of Antarctic ice could fast-track the microbes' evolution.

Antarctica's Dry Valleys are among the most desolate places on the planet. Here, no plants cling to the slopes, no small mammals scurry among the scree. The freeze-dried landscapes, with their rocks chiselled by the wind, seem utterly lifeless. When Captain Scott first chanced upon their craggy peaks and troughs in 1905, he labelled them the "valleys of the dead".
Ice Cap Melt Causes Increase Of Earthquakes

The effects of rapid climate change are showing just how interconnected so many natural events of this planet actually are.

From the UK Guardian :

The Greenland ice cap is melting so quickly that it is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off.

Scientists monitoring events this summer say the acceleration could be catastrophic in terms of sea-level rise and make predictions this February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change far too low.

The glacier at Ilulissat, which supposedly spawned the iceberg that sank the Titantic, is now flowing three times faster into the sea than it was 10 years ago.

Robert Corell, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, said in Ilulissat yesterday: "We have seen a massive acceleration of the speed with which these glaciers are moving into the sea. The ice is moving at 2 metres an hour on a front 5km [3 miles] long and 1,500 metres deep. That means that this one glacier puts enough fresh water into the sea in one year to provide drinking water for a city the size of London for a year."

He is visiting Greenland as part of a symposium of religious, scientific, and political leaders to look at the problems of the island, which has an ice cap 3km thick containing enough water to raise worldwide sea levels by seven metres.

Dr Corell, director of the global change programme at the Heinz Centre in Washington, said the estimates of sea level rise in the IPCC report were based on data two years old. The predicted rise this century was 20-60cm (about 8-24ins) , but it would be at the upper end of this range at a minimum, he said, and some believed it could be two metres. This would be catastrophic for European coastlines.

He had flown over the Ilulissat glacier and "seen gigantic holes in it through which swirling masses of melt water were falling. I first looked at this glacier in the 1960s and there were no holes. These so-called moulins, 10 to 15 metres across, have opened up all over the place. There are hundreds of them."

This melt water was pouring through to the bottom of the glacier creating a lake 500 metres deep which was causing the glacier "to float on land. These melt-water rivers are lubricating the glacier, like applying oil to a surface and causing it to slide into the sea. It is causing a massive acceleration which could be catastrophic."

The glacier is now moving at 15km a year into the sea although in surges it moves even faster. He measured one surge at 5km in 90 minutes - an extraordinary event.

Veli Kallio, a Finnish scientist, said the quakes were triggered because ice had broken away after being fused to the rock for hundreds of years. The quakes were not vast - on a magnitude of 1 to 3 - but had never happened before in north-west Greenland and showed potential for the entire ice sheet to collapse.

Dr Corell said: "These earthquakes are not dangerous in themselves but the fact that they are happening shows that events are happening far faster than we ever anticipated."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tom Cruise Builds Multi-Million Dollar Bunker 'To Protect Against Attacks By Aliens'

Who cares if this tabloid story is a complete fabrication? What a great headline!

From This Is London :

Hollywood star Tom Cruise is planning to build a bunker at his Colorado home to protect his family in the event of an intergalactic alien attack, according to new reports.

The Mission Impossible actor, who is a dedicated follower of Scientology, is reportedly fearful that deposed galactic ruler 'Xenu' is plotting an evil revenge attack on Earth.

According to American magazine Star, a source said: "Tom is planning to build a US$10 million bunker under his Telluride estate."

"It's a self-contained underground shelter with a high tech air purifying shelter."

The facility is said to have enough room for ten people - including wife Katie Holmes, 17-month-old daughter Suri and his adopted children Isabella, 14, and Connor, 12

A spokesperson for the actor has denied the reports, saying: "This is completely untrue. He is not building on his property at all."
Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? Presumably Tom is building his 'alien attack bunker' with room enough for the spokesperson.

You can only pray that Cruise gets pissed off enough about this story to sue.

Can't wait for the court case.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Look Up In The Sky...It's Only A Cloud, But It's Beautiful

(image credit: Ulrich Brieger)

Why don't people look up more? It's a question that cloud lovers always wonder.

If you're a cloud lover and you've tried to enthuse on your sky passions to friends or family, most often you will get strange looks, or the fast nod.

Why don't people turn their eyes to the sky and enjoy the show more often? Why do they ignore the cathedrals of clouds that so often unroll above our heads in a sky-wide exhibit of spectacular and jaw-dropping beauty?

We are told that those who stare off into the sky are day dreamers, meaning they are time wasters.

Can't think of a better way to waste some time than to see imagery like this :

There's a glorious selection of spectacular cloud photograph over at Dark Roasted Blend.

Go Here For That

Or, if you want to come into others who share your passion, consider a visit to :

The Cloud Appreciation Society

Where you can find pages like this :

Clouds That Really Do Look Like Things

And yes, they really do.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The 'War On Terror' Becomes The War To Control Your Mind

'Psychotronics' is one of those weird Cold War-era Russian mind control conspiracies. Except it isn't.

There is a growing, multi-billion dollar industry taking root across the world focused singularly on finding ways to 'read' the human mind, from a distance, and, at the same time, to control the mind, to direct it, to influence human behaviour in a non-physical way. Naturally, the United States' involvement in pscyhotronic research is all to do with the 'War on Terror'. They're spending millions on R & D into mind control to stop terrorism. The 'Fight Against Terror' has become the greatest excuse of modern times for breaking through the final wall of human privacy - the right to think whatever you like, free of surveillance, or intrusion.

That right of free thought is now going up in smoke.

It's probably best you read this story for yourself.

Science fiction writer Philip K Dick used to believe in the early 1970s that Russian scientists were possibly bouncing energy beams off satellites to send information directly into his brain. It sounded ridiculous. This story makes PKD's theory sound, well, not so nuts. And that's a disturbing thought. I just hope it's my own :

The future of U.S. anti-terrorism technology could lie near the end of a Moscow subway line in a circular dungeon-like room with a single door and no windows. Here, at the Psychotechnology Research Institute, human subjects submit to experiments aimed at manipulating their subconscious minds.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has gone to many strange places in its search for ways to identify terrorists before they attack, but perhaps none stranger than this lab on the outskirts of Russia's capital. The institute has for years served as the center of an obscure field of human behavior study -- dubbed psychoecology -- that traces it roots back to Soviet-era mind control research.

What's gotten DHS' attention is the institute's work on a system called Semantic Stimuli Response Measurements Technology, or SSRM Tek, a software-based mind reader that supposedly tests a subject's involuntary response to subliminal messages.

SSRM Tek is presented to a subject as an innocent computer game that flashes subliminal images across the screen -- like pictures of Osama bin Laden or the World Trade Center. The "player" -- a traveler at an airport screening line, for example -- presses a button in response to the images, without consciously registering what he or she is looking at. The terrorist's response to the scrambled image involuntarily differs from the innocent person's, according to the theory.

Marketed in North America as SSRM Tek, the technology will soon be tested for airport screening by a U.S. company under contract to the Department of Homeland Security.

"If it's a clean result, the passengers are allowed through," said Rusalkina, during a reporter's visit last year. "If there's something there, that person will need to go through extra checks."

This May, DHS announced plans to award a sole-source contract to conduct the first U.S.-government sponsored testing of SSRM Tek.

Igor Smirnov (was) a controversial Russian scientist whose incredible tales of mind control attracted frequent press attention before his death several years ago. called the father of "psychotronic weapons," the Russian term for mind control weapons. Bearded and confident, Smirnov in the video explains how subliminal sounds could alter a person's behavior. To the untrained ear, the demonstration sounds like squealing pigs.

In the United States, talk of mind control typically evokes visions of tinfoil hats. But the idea of psychotronic weapons enjoys some respectability in Russia. In the late 1990s, Vladimir Lopatin, then a member of the Duma, Russia's parliament, pushed to restrict mind control weapons, a move that was taken seriously in Russia but elicited some curious mentions in the Western press. In an interview in Moscow, Lopatin, who has since left the Duma, cited Smirnov's work as proof that such weaponry is real.

"It's financed and used not only by the medical community, but also by individual and criminal groups," Lopatin said. Terrorists might also get hold of such weapons, he added.

The slow migration of Smirnov's technology to the United States began in 1991, at a KGB-sponsored conference in Moscow intended to market once-secret Soviet technology to the world. Smirnov's claims of mind control piqued the interest of Chris and Janet Morris -- former science-fiction writers turned Pentagon consultants who are now widely credited as founders of the Pentagon's "non-lethal" weapons concept.

Smirnov died in November 2004, leaving the widowed Rusalkina -- his long-time collaborator -- to run the institute.

Despite Smirnov's death, Rusalkina predicts an "arms race" in psychotronic weapons. Such weapons, she asserts, are far more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

She pointed, for example, to a spate of Russian news reports about "zombies" -- innocent people whose memories had been allegedly wiped out by mind control weapons.

The U.S. war on terror and the millions of dollars set aside for homeland security research is offering Smirnov a chance at posthumous respectability in the West.

Smirnov's technology reappeared on the U.S. government's radar screen through Northam Psychotechnologies, a Canadian company that serves as North American distributor for the Psychotechnology Research Institute. About three years ago, Northam Psychotechnologies began seeking out U.S. partners to help it crack the DHS market. For companies claiming innovative technologies, the past few years have provided bountiful opportunities. In fiscal year 2007, DHS allocated $973 million for science and technology and recently announced Project Hostile Intent, which is designed to develop technologies to detect people with malicious intentions.

Larry Orloskie, a spokesman for DHS, declined to comment on the contract announcement. "It has not been awarded yet," he replied in an e-mail.

"It would be premature to discuss any details about the pending contract with DHS and I will be happy to do an interview once the contract is in place," Ioffe, of Northam Psychotechnologies, wrote in an e-mail.

Mark Root, a spokesman for ManTech, deferred questions to DHS, noting, "They are the customer."

Philip K Dick has long been written off as something of a wacko, by the uneducated and unenlightened, for some of the claims he made during the 1970s, in particular that Russian scientists were testing psychotronic weapons on innocent Americans.

Maybe he was speaking the truth, after all.

The 'War on Terror' is morphing into a war to control our minds and thoughts. It doesn't mean 'psychoecology' will actually work, but the Department of Homeland Security is interested enough to be spending money investigating the possibilities. That in itself should be a cause for concern.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Greed, Hangings, Murder, Debauchery : History Doesn't Have To Be Boring

Ian Crofton has put together a fabulous book called History Without The Boring Bits. From what we've seen, it certainly lives up to its name.

Here's a few excerpts from the the book, as published in the UK Independent :


16 August – Henry III of England pardoned one Inetta de Balsham, who had been condemned to death for harbouring thieves. She had been hanged, but reportedly survived after three days swinging on the end of the rope.


Attacking the neighbouring Aztec city of Tlatelolco, the army of Axayacatl of Tenochtitlan was surprised to be met by an army of naked women, who sought to distract their enemies by spraying them with milk from their breasts. However, this ruse did not save Tlatelolco, which was sacked, and many of its people sacrificed.


A 12-year-old black boy called Clayton Bates lost his left leg after it was mangled by a conveyor belt in a cotton mill in his native South Carolina. Undeterred, "Peg Leg" Bates had, by the age of 15, become " the undisputed king of one-legged dancers" (according to the Tap Dance Hall of Fame), bringing new life to such steps as the Suzy Q by exploiting the contrast between the metallic tap of his right shoe and the wooden note of his peg leg. He was still pursuing a successful career in vaudeville in the 1960s, and died in 1998. "Life means do the best with what you've got," he used to say.


The Bournemouth Evening Echo carried the following story: "Mrs Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled. 'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out Heil Hitler.'"

Go Here For More From History Without The Boring Bits

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"The Pornography Of Cruelty" - Cannibal's Home Video Of Slaughter Feast Makes Judge Vomit

You don't need to see the home video shot by 'the Cannibal of Rotenburg' as he encourages his willing victim to mutilate himself. Just reading about it is bad enough.

The video has been described as the "bite-by-bite chronicle of how he amputated, cooked, ate and froze the limbs and organs of a software engineer."

And it gets much much worse. The pathologist, Professor Risse, who examined the remains of the willing victim, describes what he saw in a new book and interviews :

“There was the foot, for example. Meiwes had placed it on a plate, stuck it with a knife and a fork, poured sauce over it and photographed it with the intention of putting the picture on the internet. Then there was the skull, bones, chunks of skeleton and soft organs as well as about 30 sealed packets of meat waiting to be eaten. Other inscriptions were like those you find in a supermarket, you know – mincemeat with sauce.”

It was the home movie that disturbed Professor Risse the most. “A shiver went down my spine, my palms were moist,” he said. “I have been doing this job 20 years, have carried out 5,000 autopsies, seen maybe 30,000 corpses but the cannibal’s film was the most repulsive experience.”

The film was so shocking that one of the judges vomited after she saw it in a closed showing, while the jury was shown only 19 minutes. In one sequence Brandes urges Meiwes to cut off his penis so that they can fry it. At one point, while bleeding heavily, he jokes: “If I’m still alive in the morning, we can eat my balls for breakfast.”

The film shows Brandes on the butcher’s table. It was the pathologist’s task to determine whether he was still alive then. “A decisive question in the trial was whether the victim was still alive when Meiwes applied the final slash to his throat. He was. His heart must have been beating because blood started to bubble strongly out of his throat.”

He added: “The extraordinary thing about this film is that . . . one can follow the suffering and death of the victim step by step. You can see directly how Mr Brandes is responding to the pain of his destruction, you can see when he loses consciousness and how long he clings on to life.”

You couldn't make up something so horrific.
American Senator Sues God : 'The Ultimate Terrorist'

God, the defendant

You can sue anyone for just about anything in the courts of the United States. Or you can sue anything for just about everything.

An American state senator wants to prove that point by suing God for unleashing hell on Earth :
(Senator) Chambers lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in Douglas County Court, seeks a permanent injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.

The lawsuit admits God goes by all sorts of alias, names, titles and designations and it also recognizes the fact that the defendant is omnipresent.

The lawsuit accuses God "of making and continuing to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons, including constituents of Plaintiff who Plaintiff has the duty to represent."

It says God has caused "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like."

The suit also says God has caused "calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction."

Chambers also says God "has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that defendant will laugh" when calamity comes.

Chambers asks for the court to grant him a summary judgment. He said as an alternative, he wants the judge to set a date for a hearing as expeditiously as possible and enter a permanent injunction enjoining God from engaging in the types of deleterious actions and the making of terroristic threats described in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit makes some very valid points. Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre and killed just under 3000. God, allegedly, either created or allowed the Asian Tsunami of 2005, which killed more than 200,000 people.

Who's the bigger terrorist?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Monkey Loves Pigeon

Sure, nature can be cruel. But it also has moments of transcendent beauty. What is love?

This is :
They're an odd couple in every sense but a monkey and a pigeon have become inseparable at an animal sanctuary in China.

The 12-week-old macaque - who was abandoned by his mother - was close to death when it was rescued on Neilingding Island, in Goangdong Province.

After being taken to an animal hospital his health began to improve but he seemed spiritless - until he developed a friendship with a white pigeon.

The blossoming relationship helped to revive the macaque who has developed a new lease of life, say staff at the sanctuary.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chihuahua Adopts Baby Squirrels

In the animal world, mothers are mothers, it seems, and it doesn't matter what infant creature needs a feed, and some life-saving warmth, even ones from other species :

At first glance, the scene appears normal: a Chihuahua mother appearing to cuddle with her pups as they nurse. A closer look at the days-old babies reveals they aren't canines, but four tiny squirrels...

A Columbia County family said its dog's maternal instinct kicked in when 10-year-old Mimi laid eyes on the baby squirrels.

Mimi took the motherless squirrels in as if they were her own, making for one mix-and-match family.

Their eyes are still closed, but their tails are a dead giveaway that Mimi's babies are squirrels -- three females and one male.

Derek Varnes, who works for a tree-cutting company, said he found the squirrels' nest last week on a downed limb. "I didn't know what to think. They looked like rats at first," Varnes said. "I wasn't going to leave them. They say after they're out of the nest or the tree, the momma won't mess with them anymore. I wasn't going to let them die."

He gave the squirrels to his fiancee's mother, Jeanette Young."My 10-year-old Chihuahua would come and watch me and start whining and carrying on," Young said. "I thought she was going to eat them. She said that when she eventually put the squirrels down, Mimi started licking them to clean them and then began nursing them. Young said although Mimi's last litter was born four years ago, the dog is still able to make enough milk to keep the baby squirrels full. Mimi doesn't venture far from her new little ones."

"...she seems like it was just meant for her to have them and take care of them," Young said.

She said a veterinarian told her as long Mimi is able to feed the squirrels, the babies would continue to grow and be healthy.
But will the squirrels grow up thinking they're dogs? And how will Mimi be able to follow them up the trees when the natural instinct kicks in?
Dog Blocks Traffic To Stand Guard Over Dead 'Companion' - Future Uncertain

The story of what will happen to a dog found standing guard over the corpse of his dead 'companion', in the middle of a busy road, is riveting the readers of the Rocky Mountain News. Will he find a new home, or will he have to be put down, for being 'un-adoptable'?

A male chow mix lay down in the middle of a busy street Tuesday morning to keep watch over its companion, a female German shepherd mix, after it was hit and killed by a car on Chambers Road near East 52nd Avenue.

The dogs lacked any identifying tags and had been reported running loose together for the past two days, according to Doug Kelley, director of Denver Animal Care & Control.

"When a companion animal is hit, they'll stand vigil. It's sad," Kelley said. "It's kind of uncommon to see it in the middle of the road."

He speculated the two dogs, neither of which had been spayed, had been involved in a "romance."

Denver police were called to the scene just after 6:30 a.m. to help direct traffic until animal control could respond, police said.

Patrolman Bill Tyler said two "good Samaritans" helped out at the scene.

One driver blocked the lane with a car and turned on the vehicle's flashing lights after a couple of cars narrowly missed hitting the chow.

Another person was able to get the surviving dog onto the median between the northbound and southbound lanes of Chambers, Tyler said.

"The chow didn't want me to get anywhere close to the dead dog," Tyler said. "I guess you could say (the dog was upset)."

The male dog wore no collar; the shepherd had a blue nylon collar.

Animal control had received a call about the dogs Monday because they were on the loose in the area, but officers were unable to find them when they responded.

The chow was not happy and was taken back to a local animal shelter.

A few days later, the newspaper supplied an update to the story :
The dog who kept watch over his dead female companion earlier this week began to show improvement in his behavior toward people, making it possible for the animal shelter to work with him today to determine whether he can be adopted.

"He wasn't growling anymore," Doug Kelley, director of Denver Animal Care & Control said today. "He's actually kind of bonded with me."

The department received several phone calls from people offering to adopt the dog, regardless of any issues he has with people. But despite rolling onto his back, taking some treats and letting a stranger hold his leash for a walk today, the dog still wouldn't be able to pass a behavioral test required for adoption.

The chow did make "some very small steps forward now that he's around people," said Ellen Dumm, spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Environmental Health. "We're going to wait for a few days to see if he improves."

It seems unlikely the dog will be put down now. At worst, it may be moved to a shelter where it can live out the rest of its life. But you get the feeling someone will give it a new home.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Beautiful, But Rare, Pink Dolphin

Spotted and photographed off the coast of Louisiana.

More wonderful pink dolphin photos here.

More on the boto - or rare pink dolphin. They're basically albino dolphins, and they can turn a bright pink colour when excited. Almost as though they are blushing.
Madonna On A Garage Door?

It's been a few months since we've run a post on a mysterious image of Jesus or the Madonna appearing like a vision before incredulous evangelical Americans.

If Jesus and Mary have been making unscheduled appearances across the US of recent, we haven't heard about them.

But we've found another one.

400 or so people who gather in front of a garage door in Pennslyvannia to watch a sunbeam cast a somewhat vague image of Madonna think they are witnessing something special, perhaps even miraculous :
To some, it's an image of the Virgin Mary that has appeared at 6 p.m. each day since Aug. 15 -- the day of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. To others, it's just a reflection of light from the setting sun.

The crowd in the street grew as 6 p.m. neared -- young and old, children and the elderly, believers and skeptics.

''Yeah, we're waiting for Jesus,'' Evan Ponter, an 11th-grader at Minersville High School, told someone who had called him on his cell phone.

Dozens lined the sidewalk facing the garage where the image is said to appear, others packed balconies and rested on lawn chairs. Hundreds more stood in the street, closing it to traffic while drivers on side streets slowed down to try to figure out was going on.

''There she is!'' shouted Tim Heckman, founder of the Coal Region Ghost Hunters, who's doing his first investigation in Minersville.

He said he detected spikes in electromagnetic fields and energy that spirits use to manifest themselves. He said the coal region is a hot spot of paranormal activity because of the tragedies that befell coal miners decades ago.

''There has to be a reason,'' said Yolanda Demcher of Minersville, who was surprised to see so many young people in the crowd. ''There has to be a reason.''

She speculated that the purpose of the appearance might be to draw young people back to their faith, to church and to prayer.

Nine-year-old Adrian Datte of Pottsville, who had bought a video camera with his Holy Communion money, gently touched the bright and blurry image.

''It's like, like it's weird that it's here,'' he said. ''Like it's really interesting to see. I think it's something like a ghost or a spirit or Jesus.''
You see what you want to see. Or what you need to see.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Smack Addict Elephant Goes Bezerk During Cold Turkey

Good Christ. Can you even begin to imagine what sort of horrors a heroin-addicted elephant could unleash when it's forced to go through cold turkey withdrawals?

Incredible :
A once drug-addled elephant fed heroin-laced bananas by illegal traders will soon return to the wild after being weaned off his addiction through methadone and round-the-clock care.

"Big Brother", a bull elephant that once "lived peacefully" with his herd near the China-Myanmar border in Yunnan province, was caught by traders in 2005, the China Daily said on Thursday.

"To control it so that it could lead the herd to where they wanted, the traders kept feeding it bananas laced with drugs," the paper said.

...Big Brother had developed a raging heroin addiction and posed a danger to people if denied its fix, the paper said, citing police.

A drooling and twitching Big Brother had to be transported to a special park in the neighbouring island province of Hainan for treatment, after cold turkey proved so tortuous at a local centre that "even its iron chain could not contain it", the paper said.

It took a year to slowly wean the elephant off its favourite drug. That process apparently involved lots of bathing, massage and methadone. The elephant is now being returned to the wild. Wiser for a less than wonderful encounter with humanity.

Good thing they sorted out this junkie when they did, before he started trying to climb through windows to steal DVD players.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Planet Friendly Hard Time

Norway has opened the world's first prison based around 'rehabilitating' inmates to live an ecologically friendly life, behind bars and also when they're set free.

Hopefully the new eco-friendly lifestyle will mean reformed killers will also stop killing humans, along with the planet :

The Bastoey Island low security prison uses solar panels for energy, produces most of its own food, recycles everything it can and tries to reduce its carbon footprint.

Justice Minister Knut Storberget said the most important idea behind the "ecologically driven prison" is to develop a sense of responsibility in inmates and prepare them for life outside its non-existent walls.

The prison gained international media attention a few years ago for its living conditions, resembling a summer camp with activities like tennis, horse riding, and even swimming in the summer, when the North Sea waters warm up.

Assistant prison manager Per Eirik Lund said running costs were lower at Bastoey than at more traditional prisons.

Lund said Bastoey tapped grants from environmental bodies to help it produce high-quality food. "Most of the food is used in the kitchen here, but we also sell to other prisons or elsewhere," he said.

Surrounded by beaches and green fields, the prison grounds extend into a nature reserve and are popular with the inmates.

"We are given full freedom within a limited area," Erik, an inmate and hobby carpenter who helped install solar panels, told Reuters. The solar panels cut the prison's electricity needs by up to 70 percent, he said.

Bastoey prison says on its website that its philosophy comes from an old Indian saying: "We don't own nature. We borrow and manage it in our lives, thinking about our descendants."

Whatever works.

100 years, 170,000 cigarettes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Mutant Mouse Factory

The Jackson Laboratory, in Maine, USA, has been breeding mice for genetic research for almost 75 years.

Mutant mice. Mice with tweaked genes, or severely inbred, so they have the tendency to develop cancer, or diabetes, or hypertension, Alzheimers, osteoporosis. The list is long, and sometimes horrifying. Today, this weird but fascinating story explains, the lab offers researchers some 3000 strains of 'altered' mice.

The history of humankind's discovery of its own building blocks, its DNA, would have been impossible without these mice. But the future of this kind of research, the future of these sometimes miracle mice, holds the key to the evolution of humanity, where the humans, not nature, are responsible for the dramatic changes in the historical span of our own species.

And it also means the development of a 'new' and supposedly 'better' mouse. In fact, an entire new species of the fabulous little rodent :

In most cases, these traits (and hundreds more) arose through chance mutations in single animals. They caught the eye of a scientist, who in turn "captured" the trait by mating the animal with its siblings, and then those offspring with one another. After 25 generations, such animals are all identical and -- if things go as planned -- all carry the gene or genes responsible for the trait of interest.

The usefulness of these animals is hard to overstate. They help biologists understand basic physiology. They help identify genetic defects that lead to disease. The benefits or risks of experimental drugs are often easier to detect when tried on animals that are the same.

Mice became workhorses of medical research in the decades after World War I. They were cheap and easy to raise, prolific, reached maturity quickly and were all around more practical than larger animals such as dogs.

At the time, the mouse's genetic malleability was well known and the source of popular entertainment.

Clubs of "mouse fanciers" in the early years of the 20th century bred animals to have exotic coat colors and strange behaviors. (A type of "waltzing mice" from that period turned out to have an inner ear defect.) This briefly fueled even a fashion fad. Full-length mouse coats, made of 400 skins, sold for about $350 in the 1930s.

Through much of the 20th century, scientists collected mice from around the world (including places as remote as the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic) for breeding stock. The idea was to ensure genetic diversity in the mix of animals used to create inbred strains.

How successful this effort was -- or was not -- became clear only this summer.

A paper published in July in the journal Nature Genetics analyzed the DNA sequences of 15 strains of mice. Eleven were "classical" inbred strains used in laboratories for years. Four were strains derived from animals caught in the wild more recently, including one from the sewers of Prague.

To the researchers' surprise, the older strains had much less genetic diversity than anyone assumed.

About 92 percent of all those strains' genomes derive from the Mus musculus domesticus subspecies native to Western Europe. There was relatively little contribution from subspecies of Central Asia or Southeast Asia, or from a hybrid of the two found in Japan.

This told mouse geneticists there were many more variations of DNA in the mouse universe that could potentially go into making new strains of the animals.

"Only one-quarter of the total diversity in the 15 strains is present in the classical laboratory strains," said Churchill, a biostatistician at the Jackson Lab.

This diversity takes the form of single-letter variations that individuals or inbred strains have by chance in their DNA chains. The chains, comprising an ordered sequence of four chemical letters (called nucleotides and designated A, T, C and G) otherwise differ very little from one strain to the next.

Most of the single-letter variations are in stretches of the 3-billion-letter chain where there is no decipherable message. (Most of the mouse's genome -- and people's, too -- is this non-coding DNA, whose function is just starting to be discovered). But a few are in message-carrying stretches: the genes. There, a substitution of one letter -- say, an A where a C normally is -- can affect an animal's appearance, behavior or functioning.

Regardless of where they occur, these variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, are extremely important in genetic research.

They function as mile markers on the nearly endless DNA highway, although sprinkled along the road with less regularity. They allow scientists to know where they're working when they create, through selective breeding or genetic engineering, strains of mice with particular characteristics.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Former US Military Major Claims 'Elites' Are Hiding ET Truth

As I've said before regarding the existence of aliens, and the possibility of visitations to our planet, the words of Carl Sagan always apply : "Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence."

But this is very interesting, and makes for a fascinating read :

Command Sergeant Major Robert Dean worked at NATO’s Supreme Headquarters from 1963-1967, and during this time was stationed in the Operations Center with a Cosmic Top Secret clearance.

"He claims to have viewed a secret NATO study that was commissioned to analyze the threat posed by UFOs to NATO operations in Eastern Europe", reports Dr. Michael Salla, who is a scholarly researcher on Extraterrestrial life and Earthbound human political implications, in the article entitled "Extraterrestrials among Us", Exopolitics Journal, Vol 1:4 (October 2006): 284-300.

The classified report was titled: “An Assessment: An Evaluation of a Possible Military threat to Allied Forces in Europe.” It focused on the dangers of UFOs being mistakenly identified as an incoming ballistic missile attack from the Soviet Union. Dean claimed that the NATO study identified four different extraterrestrial civilizations visiting the Earth.

Dr. Salla elaborates that former U.S. Military commander Dean said that "what really worried the NATO top brass was that some of the visitors looked so much like us that they were virtually indistinguishable. Dean says that NATO generals were paranoid over the possibility that some of the extraterrestrial visitors could be walking in the corridors of NATO or the Pentagon, or even the White House itself."

Dr. Michael Salla further reports in an interview documented by Bob Hieronimus, “Transcript of Interview with Bob Dean, March 24, 1996 that Major Dean said:

"There was a human group that looked so much like us that that really drove the admirals and the generals crazy because they determined that these people, and they had seen them repeatedly, they had had contact with them…. These people looked so much like us they could sit next to you on a plane or in a restaurant and you'd never know the difference. And being military and being primarily paranoid, that bothered the generals and the admirals a little bit. That the fact that these intelligent entities could be involved with us, walking up and down the corridors of SHAPE [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe], walking down the corridors of the Pentagon. My God, it even dawned on a couple of them that these guys could even be in the White House! Of course, as I said, being paranoid in those years it really shook things up a little bit."

"Dean’s testimony is a vital key in unlocking the truth of extraterrestrials living among the human population. His testimony conclusively demonstrates that official military and government agencies are aware of this possibility, and in fact would undoubtedly have been developing strategies for such a contingency", says Dr. Salla.

"While NATO viewed extraterrestrials living among us in the context of a classified Study assessing UFOs as a potential security threat, based on contactee testimonies, it appears that the extraterrestrial visitors are blending in to learn about the human population," elaborates Dr. Salla.

Dean also reported that government insiders feel that we are dealing with hundreds of ET civilizations, some intergalactic, some interdimensional. He noted that over 10 years ago, NASA set up a scientific committee, which came to the conclusion that there are an estimated 10 billion planets with intelligent life.

"Sgt.-Major Dean has assembled 20 astronauts, former intelligence officers, servicemen who participated in crashed UFO retrieval operations, generals, admirals, and even cosmonauts, who are willing to testify to a Congressional Committee about what they know about UFOs, provided that they are released from their National Security oaths. The videotaped depositions of sworn key witnesses have been taken by a prestigious Washington, D.C. law firm, and stored in its safe, awaiting public hearings," documents Dr. Richard J. Boylan in "UFO Reality is Breaking Through".

Former U.S. Military Commander Dean had began working with CSETI's [Committee for the Study of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence], Dr. Steven Greer, in concert with former astronaut Gordon Cooper, other astronauts, another high-ranking military officer, and a General, to plan the release of UFO information to which they are privy.

"Dr. Greer and Sgt. Major Dean are part of a Coalition of Starlight and Stargate Projects, which have been putting together the best evidence of UFO/ET reality. The evidence includes not only military and intelligence officers who participated in UFO crash retrievals and autopsies on ET corpses, but also fighter pilots, generals, astronauts and cosmonauts who have witnessed UFOs close-up, as well as UFO and ET tissue samples," further documents Dr. Boylan.

"The Coalition's plan is to take their Briefing Document and evidence to world leaders, the U.N., scientific academies, and religious leaders for a pre-briefing. Then the Coalition will make a Public Disclosure before mid-1997. Dr. Greer reports that the White House, the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, and the United Nations are being enlisted to assist, and no one has said that this cannot come out."

On August 17, 1995, Sgt.-Major Robert Dean had announced the beginning of a citizen campaign to compel Congress to grant Congressional immunity to astronauts and military and intelligence witnesses, who are ready to testify at Congressional UFO Hearings. "Washington Post journalist Ruth Montgomery related how she had received multiple reports about UFO reality from various military officers with whom she had spoken", further documents Dr. Boylan.

Read The Rest Of The Story Here

Friday, August 24, 2007

Russians Shooting It Out With Aliens...Or Not

We enjoy a good UFO-alien yarn, and this is one of the more creative. Particularly like the extensive use of code words and the glossary of terms in the 'official' report to give it the appearance of some kind of credibility.

You don't have to believe it, to have some fun reading it :

A UFO and alien occupants were shot at by Russian special military forces in a confrontation northwest of Ceremchova ICBM site 62 (Saskylach-Kovo)on the 12th January 1985, according to a remarkable report leaked from one of the USG 'Deep Insiders' known as 'Request Anonymous'.

This ground-breaking disclosure - codeworde: 'SEVEN PRINCE - SUMMARY OF INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES / REPORT OF CONTACT - STATION: RA-49 - SOURCE: CAC-049-0031' - was put into the public domain on 21st August 2007, apparently as part of an ongoing multi-billion dollar operation initiating full public (until now exempt from) disclosure of Extraterrestrial contact during the last 50+ years.

Recently, we had the disclosures coming from ex-Area 51 Special Ops staff who were involved in the shooting of an Alien 'guest' at Area 51 - which culminated in the death of one security gate guard. The incident has become known as the 'Gate 3 Incident'.

These seemingly incredible disclosures fit into the pattern of 'nods' and 'whispers' taking place from the elder statesmen of the intelligence community. This group has become known by those researching these disclosures as the 'DIA 6'. It has been suggested that an 'Official' sanctioned disclosure is being heralded by this vanguard of 'old timers' (DIA 6) - who are perhaps being cut some 'slack' from the 'Handlers' in order to allow these ex-soldiers and 'spooks' a Requiem of sorts - an acknowledgement that such Dark Secrets do not go the grave and in recognition of their brave services in a unique period of human history.

From the alleged investigation report :

Soviet military personnel challenged the occupants to stop. Three (3) of the four (4) occupants stopped. The fourth occupant continued to advance towards the fence. One Soviet Military Security official fired several rounds from an AK-47a rifle, hitting the occupant. The occupant fell to the ground.

The three (3) other occupants advanced towards the injured occupant and retrieved the body. The four (4) returned to the craft. Approximately 2 minutes later, an opening appeared on the side of the craft.

A BLUISH-GREEN BEAM OF LIGHT came out of the craft and struck an unoccupied jeep, COMPLETELY VAPORIZING IT. As the author of the report being read by CAC stated, the JEEP JUST DISAPPEARED.

An armored vehicle moved up towards the craft and fired a volley of 12.7mm rounds at the craft. The craft was struck near the undercarriage.

Damn aliens with their jeep-vaporizing light beams.

Read The Claimed Report On The Alien Vs Russians Shootout Here

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Breathtaking. A recent view of the Earth and the International Space Station as seen from the space shuttle Endeavour

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

900 Went Into The Ocean, Only 316 Survived

The Worst Shark Attack In History

If you've seen the movie 'Jaws' then you're probably familiar with the story of what happened to the crew of the USS Indianapolis, when it sank beneath the waves of the Pacific in the closing days of World War 2.

But you've probably never heard what happened to all those men, lost in the ocean for four days and five nights, fighting to survive in unimaginable conditions, in such graphic detail as this story provides.

The first sharks were attracted by the noise and activity of the sinking warship. The next wave of sharks were drawn in by the blood, urine and vomit from the men being torn apart.

Is there some kind of terrible irony to be found in the fact that USS Indianapolis had just finished transporting pieces of Little Boy, the atom bomb that would soon be dropped on Hiroshima, killing more than 100,000 civilians, when the flag ship of the US Fifth Fleet was hit by Japanese torpedoes?

The story of what happened in the waters of the Pacific is absolutely horrifying :
There were fins all around, the killer sharks just circling, waiting, assessing their prey in their usual silent, sinister way.

For the men strung out in the oil-streaked water, clinging to the sides of flimsy rafts or floating in sodden life-jackets, the sight was terrifying and the underwater brush of leathery skin against a submerged leg, or the nudge of a snout, was gut-wrenching.

"There were hundreds of them," recalled survivor Woody James. "You'd hear somebody scream, and you'd know the sharks had got him."

Seaman First Class Loel Cox lost one of his friends in a flurry of bloody mayhem just a few feet away: "I was that close, the shark's tail struck me."

"They were upon us every three or four hours," said another survivor, counting himself lucky to be alive.

Bugler First Class Donald Mack would never forget those screams and the realisation "that there was one less man to be rescued".

James and the others - though they didn't know it - were in the middle of what has gone down as the largest recorded encounter ever between men and sharks. Only 316 men came out of the water alive. More than 500 perished.

James was with about 150 other men bobbing about in the swell, lifejackets tied together. Groups of differing sizes - one as big as 300, others just a handful clinging to each other - dotted vast acres of ocean.

Ensign Twible knew the men he was leading had to stick together to have any chance at all. "We had four rafts and I ordered the men swimming to tie themselves to them. But some cut themselves loose and drifted away, and when the sharks first arrived at daybreak on the second day, these were the ones they took first.

"I set up a shark watch. As soon as anyone saw one they were to shout out and then we would all kick and scream, make a commotion and try and chase them off."

As no rescue ships appeared and hopes of survival began to fade, many went mad, overwhelmed by thirst and the sheer helplessness of their predicament. In desperation they drank the salt water around them and died in agony within hours.

There were mass hallucinations. Men shouted out that they could see the Indianapolis beneath the waves, intact and inviting.

It took great strength to remain sane and alive through the freezing nights and the scorching days. "At night, the water was so cold, we prayed for the sun, and in the day the sun so hot we prayed for darkness," said another of the men, Loel Cox.

The doctor, Lewis Haynes, was, as he said himself, by now little more than a coroner, struggling from one unconscious body to another. "I'd just paddle over and look into his eyes and if his pupil was dilated and he didn't blink I'd declare him dead. Then we would take off his life-jacket because we needed every damned one we could get our hands on."

But by now, even the life-jackets were giving up. Their buoyancy limit was 48 hours and that had long since gone. They were waterlogged, and dragged many a wearer beneath the surface.

One survivor recalled being woken by the pain of teeth crunching his hand. He fought back - the men were discovering that if you poked a shark firmly in the eye it would retreat, unused to retaliation.

He dragged his mangled hand back, but then faced a different sort of savagery: his raft-mates saw the blood and tried to push him away, afraid he might provoke another attack.


More than 60 years on, the whole episode remains a serious blot on the record of the U.S. Navy. In popular terms, too, it is also a blot on the reputation of sharks.

But, as shark experts explain, they were only doing what millennia of evolution have honed them to do - to attack and eat voraciously whatever helpless creatures they find in the water.

Survivor Michael Kuryla agreed. "They came around and did their thing. We were in their territory, and that's where a shark belongs, not us.

The whole story is remarkable and worth a full read.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

British Crop Circles Increase In Complexity, And Beauty

Frankly, I no longer care whether it's aliens, time travelers, mini-cyclones, hoaxers or anonymous public artists who are responsible for the crop circles that appear with increasingly regularity in grain fields in the Britain.

It's time to stop arguing about who or what makes crop circles and time to start appreciating the magnificent beauty of their art.

There's a whole heap of crop circle images to be found here. It's up to you whether or not you want to believe the explanations offered.

But I do wonder why, if crop circles are created by hoaxers trying to trick gullible alien visitor believers, why they don't post videos of their creations as they are being made on YouTube. Yes, there are some 'Here's how it's done' videos of crop circle creation on YouTube, but only for the most basic designs.

If you had the talent to pull off the creation of a design like the one above, wouldn't you want to claim credit for it? Even if under a fake name or avatar?

Crop Circle Connector

Friday, August 17, 2007

Weird, Wacky Laws

Pass Me Your Helmet Mr Policeman, I'm Pregnant And I Need To Pee

It's a toss up whether the United States of the United Kingdom has the most bizarre, and centuries old, array of weird and wacky laws still on the books.

Then again, France has some pretty strange laws as well. For instance, did you know that in France it is illegal to name your pet pig 'Napoleon'?

Here's some of our favourites :
In the UK, it's still an act of treason to adhere a stamp bearing the monarch's head to an envelope upside down.

In Ohio, you can't get a fish drunk without breaking the law.

In the City of London, you can't transport corpses or rabid dogs in a cab.

If you're pregnant and you happen to in the UK when the urge to pee becomes overwhelming, and there's not a toilet to be seen, you are legally allowed to relieve yourself anywhere you please. Even, if one happens to be around, inside a policeman's hat.

You can still be decapitated for masturbating in Indonesia. Better make it a good one.

In the United Kingdom, resident males over 14 are required by law to practice their longbow shooting two hours every day.

Unmarried women who parachute on Sundays can be arrested, in Florida.

If you're inside the old city walls of York, in the UK, and you don't like the look of a Scotsman, and he happens to be carrying a bow and arrow, feel free to murder him. It's perfectly legal.

Plenty more weird, wacky laws here.