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The Science of Snowflakes, as an art form - some of the basics behind these miniature miracles of nature

science of snowflakes: stellar plates

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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

Stellar Plates
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.

science of snowflakes: simple prisms

Simple Prisms
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.

science of snowflakes: sectored plates

Sectored Plates
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.

science of snowflakes: stellar dendrites  read more »

Song & dance, euphoria & sobriety, and a few moving moments at the 81st annual Academy Awards

crowds watched the fashion spectacle as stars walked the red carpets before the 81st Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles

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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.

Hugh Jackman hosted the 81st annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood

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.

razzle dazzle ... Oscar host Hugh Jackman performs with Beyonce during the 81st Academy Awards  read more »

Bolivia's first indigenous President enacts new constitution, empowers indigenous majority, allows for land reform

supporters of Bolivia's President Evo Morales march towards La Paz, in the village of San Antonio, Bolivia, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008

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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.

President Evo Morales hands out copies of the new Constitution during a demonstration outside the governmental palace and after the congress passed the law to call a referendum on it, on October 21, 2008 in La Paz

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

This Way Survival: An ultralight plane piloted by an Operation Migration team member guiding whooping cranes from Wisconsin to their winter nesting grounds in Florida

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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.

2007 batch of baby Whooping Cranes takes off, led by Operation Migration’s plane  read more »

A new life: decommissioned 747 jet is the world's first aircraft to be converted into a hotel - the 'Jumbo Hostel'

the world's first built guesthouse onboard a real Boeing 747-200 has touched down at Stockholm Arlanda Airport

World's first guesthouse on a plane opens in Stockholm, Sweden

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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 hostel features a reception and lounge area, complete with candlelit tables and a retro company logo

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.

’It's just fantastic and unbelievably exciting to finally be able to show something so unique and special for the rest of the world,’ says Gisela Olsson, Site Manager at the Jumbo Hostel  read more »

25 Best Blogs '09 according to TIME: Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, MetaFilter, Good2BeGreen...

Talking Points Memo

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Talking Points Memo

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 Huffington Post

The Huffington Post  read more »

The junk in low Earth orbit: satellite collision highlights space pollution and rising hazard from debris

more than 6000 satellites have been launched; half of all trackable objects are due to in-orbit explosions (200) or collisions (less than 10)

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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 satellite collision involved an Iridium commercial satellite, which was launched in 1997, and a Russian satellite launched in 1993

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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