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Red Bull Air Race - world's largest spectator sporting event: next race begins this weekend in Perth, Australia

British pilot Steve Jones climbs skyward, above the Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament Building, during a qualifying run of the Red Bull Air Race World Series in Budapest August 19, 2008

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The Red Bull Air Race, started in 2003, is a series of air races, held all over the world, where pilots fly specialized aerobatic planes (with top speeds of over 250 mph / 400 kph) through a series of gates, racing the clock, accumulating points toward the championship title. Pilots must also perform specific maneuvers while passing through the gates. The photos shown here are from the most recent two races, in Budapest, Hungary, and Porto, Portugal. The next race in the series is scheduled for November 1st, in Perth, Australia, and video of the event will also be streamed over the web. Last year's Red Bull Air Race World Championship final in Perth attracted 340,000 spectators.

Hungarian pilot Peter Besenyei (bottom), Britain's Nigel Lamb and Paul Bonhomme (top) fly over Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian pilot Peter Besenyei (bottom), Britain's Nigel Lamb and Paul Bonhomme (top) fly over Budapest, Hungary on August 17, 2008 during their "recon flight" prior to the seventh stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Series. Picture taken August 17, 2008.  read more »

37th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta marks 225th anniversary of first manned balloon flight

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

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Launched in 1972, the Albuquerque balloon festival draws enthusiasts from all over the world. This year marks the 225th anniversary of hot air balloon flights, with participants representing 42 states and 24 countries. Ballooning has come a long way from the first "flying machines" in France in 1783, which flew a duck, a rooster and a lamb in a smoke-filled balloon. The first human passengers were carried 3,000 feet on November 21, 1783.

Dawn Patrol at Albuquerque balloon festival

Amongst the most popular events is a mass ascension, in which all participants rise into the sky in two waves. During the Dawn Patrol, above, pilots take off before sunrise and appraise wind conditions for the others. The festival lasts nine days. This year it runs from October 4 through October 12. Albuquerque has a long association with ballooning, going back more than a century.

local wind phenomenon known as the Albuquerque Box

Because of a local wind phenomenon known as the "Albuquerque Box," the area is ideally suited to a balloon festival. In October of every year, the wind follows a predictable pattern, blowing northerly at higher altitudes and southerly at lower altitudes, allowing for a smooth navigation.

smiley  read more »

Work of legendary portraitist Yousuf Karsh celebrated at Boston exhibit - Churchill, Hepburn, Picasso, and more

portrait photo of Audrey Hepburn taken by Yousuf Karsh

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The work of the legendary portraitist is celebrated at a centenary exhibit at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Among the portraits -

Audrey Hepburn, 1956
"The French novelist Colette picked her out of a ballet lineup to play Gigi on stage, and her career was launched. When I photographed her in Hollywood and commented on her quality of sophisticated vulnerability, she told me of her harrowing experiences during the Second World War. Years later, in the Kremlin, Chairman Brezhnev agreed to sit for me only if I made him as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn."

portrait photo of Winston Churchill taken by Yousuf Karsh

Winston Churchill, 1941  read more »

Revival of the electric car: against industry’s gloomy forecast, hybrid & electric cars light up Paris Auto Show

Paris motor show 2008

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Against a backdrop of generally gloomy sales forecasts and belt-tightening, a chorus of optimism rose from automakers at the Paris show as the technical hurdles of hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicle development -- primarily involving the cost and capacity of advanced-chemistry batteries -- are gradually being overcome. "Two years ago nobody said an electric vehicle was even possible," said Pitt Moos, marketing manager for Smart USA. "Today everybody is saying, 'We're going to make one.' "

Smart speaks publicly for the first time about ED: Electric Drive - a first for the quirky microcar

At the show, Smart -- the maker of those tiny two-seat city cars -- announced plans to build all-electric vehicles for Europe by the end of the decade. But it hasn't said what its intentions are for the U.S. market. "The challenge has always been the battery," Moos said. Compact, energy-dense lithium chemistry batteries for automotive applications are expensive and can be hazardous. "We have just in the past couple of months become comfortable about a method of making lithium batteries for cars," Moos said. "Now some people are starting to quote Obama: Yes, we can."

Peugeot's RC HYmotion4 concept car at 2008 Paris Auto Show  read more »

Independent US presidential candidate Nader & running mate Gonzalez banned from debates, on ballot in 45 states

Independent U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader

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While millions of people around the world watched Barack Obama and fellow U.S. presidential candidate John McCain debate each other, another man running for the high office was ignored. Independent Ralph Nader is not allowed to debate McCain and Obama because officials say he doesn't qualify. However, Nader's influence on the tight election may be greater than he's being given credit for.

Ralph Nader’s vice presidential running mate Matt Gonzalez

Ralph Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez are on the ballot in 45 states. In his fifth run for office Nader is polling roughly five percent nationwide. His move to cement a third party system can very well swing the election - each voter Nader gains is a vote McCain or Obama lose. In 2000 Nader received nearly three million votes. Some argue it cost Al Gore from beating George W. Bush. The memory is causing some supporters to abandon him on the election day. “I'm voting for Obama only because I just don't feel Nader can win. Although I like Nader, it's just more, I'd rather not McCain win,” a voter says.

Most opinion polls list him as the third most popular in the race. But you would not think so watching the mainstream U.S. news channels. As Americans are inundated daily with wall to wall coverage of the two major party candidates one may find Ralph Nader giving a press conference inside a university classroom with two television cameras and around ten reporters in attendance.  read more »

Large Hadron Collider hibernates after wrong sort of big bang caused by hellion leak, to re-awaken in Spring'09

world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet

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Two weeks ago, the most powerful atom smasher to be built had been switched on to global acclaim and scientists were ready to begin experiments that could unlock many of the enduring mysteries of the Universe. They are going to have to wait a little longer. On Friday the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) created the wrong sort of big bang - a fault so serious that CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced last night that the particle accelerator would have to be shut down until next spring for repairs.

ATLAS collision event showing a microscopic-black-hole being produced in the collision of two protons

Preliminary investigations into the incident, in which a huge quantity of helium leaked from the LHC’s cooling system, have suggested that it was caused by a faulty electrical connection between two of its superconducting magnets. The fault affected a part of the accelerator that is kept chilled to within 1.9C of absolute zero, and it will have to be warmed up to room temperature before the problem can be understood fully and resolved. It will take at least three to four weeks to warm the affected sector and then to open the damaged magnets for inspection, and then another month to re-chill them to their operating temperature.  read more »

"The Simpsons" wins 10th best cartoon Emmy Award - US television's highest honor for a prime-time cartoon

The Simpsons: Bart, Lisa, Marge, Maggie, Homer

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"The Simpsons" once again claimed U.S. television's highest honor for a prime-time cartoon on Saturday at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, extending the show's record winning streak. It marked the 10th time that "The Simpsons," airing on the Fox network for 19 seasons, as the longest-running comedy series in prime time, was named best half-hour animated show. The latest accolade for the hit cartoon came during a 3 1/2-hour presentation of the 60th annual Creative Arts Emmy Awards, mostly honoring achievements in categories like makeup, costumes, sound editing and art direction.

The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom which was created by Matt Groening, a satirical parody of the middle class American lifestyle epitomized by its titular family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield, and it lampoons many aspects of the human condition, as well as American culture, society as a whole, and television itself.

The Simpsons  read more »

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