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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

NASA captures first images of frozen water on Mercury

The Kandinsky crater, near Mercury's north pole, may have hosted water ice. NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft's Wide Angle Camera broadband image appears at left, outlined in yellow and superimposed on an MDIS polar mosaic. The view on the right shows the same image but with the brightness and contrast adjusted to show details of the crater's shadowed floor. Image released Oct. 15, 2014. NASA/JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LABORATORY/CARNEGIE INSTITUTION OF WASHINGTON

The first-ever photos of water ice near Mercury's north pole have come down to Earth, and they have quite a story to tell.

The images, taken by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft (short for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), suggest that the ice lurking within Mercury's polar craters was delivered recently, and may even be topped up by processes that continue today, researchers said.

More than 20 years ago, Earth-based radar imaging first spotted signs of water ice near Mercury's north and south poles -- a surprise, perhaps, given that temperatures on the solar system's innermost planet can top 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius).

In late 2012, MESSENGER confirmed those observations from orbit around Mercury, discovering ice in permanently shadowed craters near the planet's north pole. MESSENGER scientists announced the find after integrating results from thermal modeling studies with data gathered by the probe's hydrogen-hunting neutron spectrometer and its laser altimeter, which measured the reflectance of the deposits.

And now the MESSENGER team has captured optical-light images of the ice for the first time, by taking advantage of small amounts of sunlight scattered off the craters' walls.



Drunken Zombie Santa Bursts Into Minnesota Home, Terrifies Teenage Residents

A drunken college student dressed as a zombie Santa barged into a Minnesota home late Saturday, causing a boy to flee the home, while a teenage girl locked herself in a bathroom, police report.

Brock Quinn Johnson, 21, was arrested for trespassing at the Minneapolis residence, which is a few blocks from the University of St. Thomas, which Johnson attends. Johnson apparently participated Saturday in the tenth annual Zombie Pub Crawl across Minneapolis.

Johnson, pictured above, entered the home around 9:45 PM through an unlocked front door and encountered the boy, who screamed and ran out a rear exit. The girl locked herself in an upstairs bedroom and called her parents, who rushed home.

Cops found Johnson--who had vomited--passed out in the home. When awoken, the collegian was disoriented and unaware of his location. He was cited for trespassing and brought to a detoxification center to sober up.


Charles P Pierce- Fan Dance

Ah, well, this morning's headlines:

Florida Man Loses Mind At Debate

And, for the tabloids,

Batshit Batboy!

In case you missed it, Rick Scott, by the grace of god and his millions and the Medicaid program, the governor of Florida, declined to come out of his corner at the beginning of last night's debate against newly minted Democratic challenger Charlie Crist. The immediate casus belli was the fact that Crist had rigged up an electric fan under his podium to keep him cool under the hot TV lights. Scott claimed this violated the ground rules that had been set for the debate which specified that no electronic devices were permitted, and the argument hinges, I kid you not, on whether or not a fan is an "electric" device or an "electronic" one. In any case, when the cameras came on, Crist was the only one onstage, and the baffled panel of three journalists tried to keep order, which apparently included telling Crist to dummy up until such time as Scott joined him. (Fairness, after all.) So there now exists copious photographic and video evidence of Charlie Crist, alone on the stage, while Rick Scott is having a snit in the green room. It is now the conventional wisdom that Scott blew up his campaign with this stunt.

If you put your faith in optics, and believe that politics is primarily stagecraft, then that may be true. The visual was quite simply the most bizarre image to come out of a debate since Ned Coll waved a rubber rat at Edmund Muskie in 1972. Whoever convinced Scott to try this stunt should be fed to the Everglades pythons immediately. But, if you hung around and watched the rest of the debate, you fully understand now why the people of Florida are gagging on having to make a choice between either one of these jamokes. Once he arrived, Scott was rattled and jittery. He chattered away like a guy trying to talk his way out of a DUI rap on Biscayne Boulevard. (And he kept bringing up the fact that his mother divorced an abusive husband into almost every answer. It is an admirable piece of biographical detail, but it doesn't have much to do with the death of Trayvon Martin.) But, through all of that, he did a fairly good job of making Crist look like the too-slick-by-half opportunist that he is. He made Crist, the Democratic candidate, own his previous record as a Republican governor.

Meanwhile, Crist was focused and sharply prepared; he spun one question all the way around to pointing out that Scott's company had paid the largest Medicaid fraud judgment in history and that, in the process, Scott had taken the Fifth Amendment 75 times. He came out forcefully for marriage equality, for fixing the state's Wild West "Stand Your Ground" law, and he shook Scott on why the latter has opposed taking the FREE MONEY (!) available to Florida under the Affordable Care Act. (No governor who has chosen to reject the money has a leg to stand on, but Scott had even less.) But Crist also danced around a number of issues in such a way as to leave the impression that his political life began all over again on the morning after Marco Rubio beat him out for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate and Crist awoke to discover that he'd become a Democrat while he slept. So Crist was incredibly slick and Scott was incredibly weird, and I think Zombie Reubin Askew is polling at 38 percent and climbing this morning.


Charles P Pierce- The Real Contagion

As anyone who has known me for more than 11 seconds will tell you, I am far from an expert on time management. Nevertheless, I have to believe that, at this moment in time, when Shep Smith of Fox News and that Dr. Van Tulleken guy on CNN are the only people on TV making sense about the Ebola virus, which has killed one person here in America, that the head of the Centers for Disease Control and the head of the National Institute for Allergy And Infectious Disease ought to have better things to do today than appear before the geniuses of the House of Representatives so that they can be either dogs or ponies in an election year. (Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner, fresh off getting beaten like a drum by debate moderators in Colorado, is coming all the way back to Washington to explain why the Ebola virus is actually a Person.) But that's just me.

Before the President spoke about stepped up procedures, Pennsylvania Republican Rep Tim Murphy, who chairs the panel convening Thursday's hearing, indicated that he was concerned the plans in place to date were insufficient. "So far, traveler self-reported screening procedures and hospital infection control measures have been demonstrated failures. The public is anxious for the Administration to execute a domestic plan that covers all aspects of public health protection, and we stand ready to assist in accomplishing this critical goal," Murphy said in a written statement. Another Pennsylvania House Republican, Rep Tom Marino, called on Frieden to step down as CDC Director on Wednesday. Marino said the Ebola situation is "spiraling out of control" and added that "the information provided to the public has been cryptic and in some cases misleading. This has provided a false sense of security to many of our citizens."

(Tom is an old friend of the blog, as he was once a strong contender to replace Michele Bachmann as Royal Regent Of The Crazy People under the reign of Padishah Emperor For Life Louie Gohmert. So the person who wants the head of the CDC to resign over the response to a disease that began in Africa is a guy who once was unsure that Libya was even a part of Africa. Jesus, these people.)

In case you joined American democracy already in progress, this is the way it is going to work. The private, for-profit hospital in Texas completely screws the pooch. (They sent the tubes containing blood from the late Thomas Duncan through the hospital's general delivery system? This is moronic.) The CDC comes in -- admittedly, after it should have, but there are regulations, beloved of our private-sector fetishists, that got in the way -- and the privatizers and anti-government types set up the CDC to take the fall for the hospital.

much more

Toon: News from the mideast

Ancient fossils of bizarre figure-eight water creatures confirmed among our strangest distant cousin

A 500-million-year-old fossil used by Australian researchers to make their discovery about vetulicolians. These marine creatures had a rod through their tail similar to a backbone, which places them as distant cousins of vertebrate animals.

More than 100 years since they were first discovered, some of the world's most bizarre fossils have been identified as distant relatives of humans, thanks to the work of University of Adelaide researchers.

The fossils belong to 500-million-year-old blind water creatures, known to scientists as "vetulicolians" (pronounced: ve-TOO-lee-coal-ee-ans).

Alien-like in appearance, these marine creatures were "filter-feeders" shaped like a figure eight. Their strange anatomy has meant that no one has been able to place them accurately on the tree of life, until now.

In a new paper published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, researchers at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Museum argue for a change in the way these creatures are viewed, placing them with the same group that includes vertebrate animals, such as humans.




Don’t worry, gays are still horrible sinners

By Mark Morford

Just to be clear, just to make sure you don’t get the wrong idea and think that somehow the Catholic church might, just might be shifting ever so slightly in the direction of love and tolerance toward gays, toward supporting alternative family structures, toward progress and light and allowing sexually active heathen liberal sluts (like you!) to walk around the place free of shame and guilt, here is a throng of old, curdled bishops to set you straight.

Hear this now: The church ain’t budging, all right? Time’s Elizabeth Dias and the Religion News Service both report (and the AP backs it up) that many of the more conservative bishops currently attending the “Synod on the Family,” a two-year drudge-fest in which a 200-thick gaggle of very grumpy old men who never have sex traipse around in heavy cloaks, debating aspects of modern love and life they know almost nothing about – many of these bishops were none too happy with recent reports that the church, given Pope Francis’ hey-now, heal-the-world vibe, might be shifting tone toward a more accepting stance on gays.

In the words of the church’s angry resident God: “As if.”

The document that caused all the furor, called a Relatio post disceptationem, which I believe translates as “sit down and shut up, you pervert heathens” (my Latin might be a little rusty) was merely meant as a conversation starter. A tentative idea. What’s more, the “Welcoming homosexual persons” section of the relatio was just a tiny hunk, one of 58 sections. It doesn’t mean much.

Got that? Not doctrine. Not proscriptive. Just a meager thought. And, according to many of the more conservative bishops, a lousy one, at that.



ZAP! Spacecraft discovers Saturn’s moon Hyperion is charged

Cassini spacecraft received the equivalent of a 200 volt electric shock from the electrostatically charged surface of Saturn’s moon, Hyperion, confirming that objects in the outer Solar System can have charged surfaces, according to UCL research.


The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, reports that Cassini was briefly magnetically connected to the surface of Hyperion, allowing it to be caught by a beam of electrons coming from the moon’s surface. Static electricity is known to play an important role on Earth’s airless, dusty Moon, but evidence of surface charging on other objects in the Solar System has been elusive until now.

The finding supports predictions that many different bodies including asteroids, moons and the surface of comets may be charged, which has wide-ranging implications, say the team. For example, astronauts may be at risk from strong electrostatic discharges when exploring planetary objects without atmospheres, like Earth’s Moon.

Hyperion is an irregularly shaped outer moon of Saturn, about 133 km wide, with a bizarre, sponge-like appearance owing to its unusually porous interior. The team believe it becomes charged when exposed to UV light from the Sun and plasma, which contains charged particles, in Saturn’s magnetosphere – the invisible, movable bubble generated by the planet’s internal magnetic field.


Cellar slave girl: Salford couple must pay victim £100,000

A deaf girl from Pakistan kept as a slave for nine years by a millionaire couple from Salford is to receive £100,000 in compensation.

Ilyas and Tallat Ashar were jailed last October after the girl was found in their cellar in 2009.

The victim was repeatedly raped and forced to work as a servant at the family's properties as a child.

Manchester Crown Court ruled the couple must also repay £42,000 of benefits falsely claimed in her name.

The Ashars must also pay £321,000 towards the cost of their trials.



Thursday TOON Roundup 3- The Rest

Middle East


Police Violence






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