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It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense.

— Robert Green Ingersoll

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

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

(quote)

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 »

Getting worse: half of mammals in decline, 1 in 4 faces extinction; conservation can bring species back

the Caspian seal population has dropped by about 90 percent over the past hundred years

(quote)

BARCELONA, Spain, October 6, 2008 (ENS) - The world's mammals are in the grip of an extinction crisis, with almost one in four at risk of vanishing forever, according to the latest scientific assessment revealed at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Conservation Congress, which opened Sunday in Barcelona.

The new study conducted for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for the first time assessed all of the 5,487 mammals on Earth and found that at least 1,141 of them are known to be threatened with extinction. At least 76 mammals have become extinct since the year 1500.

Pere David's deer, native to China, is among the species listed as ‘extinct in the wild’ on the 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species

The real situation could be much worse as 836 mammals are listed as Data Deficient. With better information, scientists may classify even more species as being in danger of extinction. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN director general.  read more »

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

Paris motor show 2008

(quote)

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 »

Queen Elizabeth II buys world largest wind turbine - towers over Big Ben, to light up thousands of British homes

Elizabeth II, The Queen of England

(quote)

It's been a century or so since Britain ruled the waves, but Queen Elizabeth II will soon reign over the wind. Earlier this year the Crown Estate, which manages royal property worth $14 billion and controls the seas up to 14 miles off the British coast, agreed to purchase - for an undisclosed sum - the world's largest wind turbine.

the Queen of England is buying the world's largest wind turbine, which towers over Big Ben and will light up thousands of British homes

It's a 7.5-megawatt monster to be built by Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria, Calif. Now the Royal Turbine is getting even bigger: Clipper has revealed to Fortune that Her Majesty's windmill has been super-sized to ten megawatts, producing five times the power generated by typical big turbines currently in commercial operation. The giant's wingspan stretches the length of two soccer fields. At 574 feet, the turbine soars over Big Ben and roughly equals 111 Queen Elizabeths (the actual queen) plus one corgi stacked on top of one another.

Her Majesty The Queen at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants with ACCA President John Brace  read more »

World's most exclusive club: Russia, US, now China have technology to allow their astronauts to walk in space

Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang conducts China's first spacewalk outside the Shenzhou VII spacecraft

(quote)

China left its mark in space history Saturday, successfully turbocharging its space program into an orbit that could see a Chinese man walk on the moon before the U.S. has a chance to get back there in 2020.

Ed White backs away from the Gemini spacecraft over the Pacific Ocean northeast of Hawaii

Shenzhou Vll has been successfully orbiting 343 kilometres above Earth every 90 minutes since it blasted off from the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest Gansu province on Thursday night. It was in its 29th orbit when Zhai made his historic walk. China sent its first man into space in 2003. Two more went up in 2005 and the trio this year are on the country's third manned mission.

Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station’s Canadarm2

When Zhai stepped out of the capsule, he confirmed China's membership in the world's most exclusive club: only Russia and the United States have the technology to allow their astronauts to walk in space.

Russia: Alexey Leonov, the pioneer (March, 1965)  read more »

Historical flight - Swiss ‘Rocketman’ Yves Rossy crosses English Channel with homemade jet wing in 10 minutes

the wings that Rossy straps to his back carry 30 litres of fuel

(quote)

TO INFINITY and beyond. But first, Kent. Daredevil Swiss pilot Yves Rossy soared into the record books yesterday by making the first solo flight across the English Channel - using a single, homemade rocket-powered wing strapped to his back. Mr Rossy, nicknamed "Fusionman", navigated the crossing from Calais to Dover in less than 15 minutes before proclaiming it was now possible for all of mankind to "fly a little bit like a bird".

Rossy reached speeds of 125mph during the short flight

Yves Rossy, 49, who calls himself Fusionman - half man, half bird - made the 21-mile, jet-powered flight from Calais, France, to Dover, England, in just less than 15 minutes while traveling at speeds of more than 125 mph, The Daily Telegraph said.

An airline pilot by day, Mr Rossy's attempts to traverse the 22-mile stretch had twice been thwarted by typically overcast British weather conditions. But by yesterday lunchtime, a crisp autumn day allowed the 49-year-old to drop from a light aeroplane 8,000 feet above the French coast and set off into clear blue skies.

route of the record-breaking flight  read more »

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