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Figures & Facts
The Science of Snowflakes, as an art form - some of the basics behind these miniature miracles of nature
Caltech physics professor Kenneth G. Libbrecht has turned his passion for the study of ice crystals into an art form. In his books and website, snowcrystals.com, he breaks down some of the basics behind these miniature miracles of nature
These common snowflakes (above) are thin, plate-like crystals with six broad arms that form a star-like shape. Shapes like these form around 28 degrees Fahrenheit, while columns and slender needles appear near 23 degrees. Plates and stars again form near 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Snowflakes are not frozen raindrops (that is better known as sleet). They form when water vapor condenses directly into ice, which happens in the clouds. In their most basic form, snow crystals are hexagonal prisms like the sample, above, but other, more complex forms are famously possible.
The simplest sectored plates are hexagonal crystals that are divided into six equal pieces, like the slices of a pie. More complex specimens show prominent ridges on broad, flat branches.
A year after its worst television ratings, the Academy Awards ceremony has been reinvented with a fresh, vibrant yet intimate atmosphere, a welcome change of pace that suited this year's runaway success, Slumdog Millionaire. The Indian rags-to-riches story was snubbed initially by the Hollywood studios but has captured the imagination of the world's cinema-going public, and yesterday it swept an astonishing eight Oscars, including the best picture and best director.
Slumdog's Oscar-winning scriptwriter, Simon Beaufoy, said the award had come at an interesting time in international affairs. "The financial markets are crashing around the world and a film comes out (that) is ostensibly about being a millionaire, (but) it's a film that says there's more important things than money: love, faith and family, and that struck a chord with people," he said.
Bolivia's first indigenous President enacts new constitution, empowers indigenous majority, allows for land reform
Bolivia's President Evo Morales has enacted a new constitution that aims to empower the country's indigenous majority and allows for land reform. Mr. Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president.
On January 25th, Bolivia held a referendum to adopt a new national constitution, one that dramatically shifts the country, reversing discriminatory practices and granting many rights and self-determination to the 36 indigenous nations within Bolivia. After a lengthy count, officials announced that the referendum passed with over 60% of the vote.
Much political and legal work remains to implement the changes, but soon most of the country's natural resources will be state-owned, land ownership will be capped at 12,000 acres, and Morales will be able to run for a second term. President Evo Morales welcomed the constitutional win by saying "Here begins the new Bolivia", claiming the changes would work to "decolonize" Bolivia. read more »
Rescue flight - Operation Migration team's ultralight plane guides young whooping cranes to winter nesting grounds
It was the first Friday in December, 23 degrees at dawn and nearly windless. Everyone was looking up. Operation Migration’s four ultralight planes floated into view over some oak and maple trees, then passed over the small, white chapel. An ultralight is powered by a massive rear propeller. In the sky, it looks like a scaled-down Formula 1 car dangling under the wing of a hang glider. Because the little planes taxi on three wheels, pilots call them trikes.
At 200 feet, the first pilot, Chris Gullikson, was perfectly visible in his trike’s open cockpit. He was wearing his whooping-crane costume, a white hooded helmet and white gown that looked like a cross between a beekeeping suit and a Ku Klux Klan get-up. Gullikson and the other trike pilots were going to pick up the 14 juvenile whooping cranes that they were, little by little, leading south for the winter. Traditionally, and for many millenniums, cranes learned to migrate by following other cranes. But traditions have changed. Outside the church, a plucky, silver-haired woman named Liz Condie was explaining to the spectators why, exactly, her team has had to dress up and step in.
A new life: decommissioned 747 jet is the world's first aircraft to be converted into a hotel - the 'Jumbo Hostel'
World's first guesthouse on a plane opens in Stockholm, Sweden
Up close, a Boeing 747-200 is an impressive sight. Visitors to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport can now get a real, close-up view of a mighty bird - in the form of a decommissioned jumbo jet that has been converted into a hostel, opened in mid-January.
The decommissioned jumbo jet was built in 1976 and has been operated by carriers including Singapore Airlines and Pan American World Airways, better known as PanAm. It was taken out of service in 2002, and has featured at Arlanda for some time.
25 Best Blogs '09 according to TIME: Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, MetaFilter, Good2BeGreen...
Journalist Josh Marshall began publishing Talking Points Memo in November 2000, during the Florida recount. More than eight years later, the winner of the recount is clearing brush in Texas, while Talking Points has become the prototype of what a successful Web-based news organization is likely to be in the future. Last February, Marshall's blog won a George Polk Award for its coverage of the firing of eight United States attorneys, the first blog ever to win a major journalism award. Talking Points makes good use of crowdsourcing, soliciting news tips from readers and even giving them assignments to sift through government documents. The biggest difference between Talking Points and most traditional news organizations is that Marshall assumes some of his readers might actually know more than he does, which makes him very smart indeed.
The junk in low Earth orbit: satellite collision highlights space pollution and rising hazard from debris
The military tracks about 18,000 pieces of orbital debris. On Tuesday, the census of space-garbage suddenly jumped by 600, the initial estimate of the number of fragments from a stunning collision of two satellites high above Siberia.
Space is now polluted with the flotsam of a satellite-dependent civilization. The debris is increasingly a hazard for astronauts and has put crafts such as the Hubble Space Telescope and communications satellites at risk of being struck by an object moving at high speed.
The military's radar can spot objects about four inches in diameter - roughly the size of a baseball - or larger. This collision, however, may have produced many thousands of small, undetectable pieces of debris that would still carry enough kinetic punch at orbital velocities to damage or destroy a spacecraft. read more »
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