Posted by Adam Wills
NASA scientists reported Thursday that they have found evidence of water on Mars.
Tests aboard the Phoenix Mars Lander identified water in a soil sample, which had been delivered via the lander’s robotic arm on Wednesday to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples.
“We have water,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer. “We’ve seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted.”
NASA also announced operational funding for the mission will extend through Sept. 30. The original prime mission of three months ends in late August. The mission extension adds five weeks to the 90 days of the prime mission.
“Phoenix is healthy and the projections for solar power look good, so we want to take full advantage of having this resource in one of the most interesting locations on Mars,” said Michael Meyer, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
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July 31, 2008 | 8:46 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Gawker published photos on Tuesday of what’s being dubbed the Monster of Montauk—or the Montauk Monster—under the headline: “Dead Monster Washes Ashore in Montauk.”
Three friends walking along the beach apparently stumbled onto the creature, which some have described as a turtle that lost its shell or a raccoon.
GeekHeeb hoped to talk with Rachel Goldberg, whose camera is said to have been used by Jenna Hewitt to take the photo on July 13. Instead, Courtney Fruin, one of the three friends who said they found the monster, took the call.
“We think it’s a mutant from Plum Island,” she said, referring to a USDA animal disease research center. “It had a beak, and it looked like a reptile in a dog’s body.”
Fruin said Hewitt took a couple shots with Goldberg’s camera, and then they just “dismissed it and walked away.” She said the photo was sent to their local newspaper, The Independent (“The Hound of Bonacville,” page 10), which Fruin supposes is how Gawker got the image.
According to New York magazine:
The photo had come over e-mail to Anna Holmes, the managing editor at Jezebel, from an employee at Evolutionary Media Group, in Los Angeles; Holmes passed it on to Gawker. Because it came from a marketing company, Gawker surmised, “our guess is that it’s viral marketing for something.” They later pointed to a Cartoon Network show, Cryptids Are Real, which features similar-looking chubby monsters. We called Evolutionary, where a woman named Alanna Navitski, who claimed to be responsible for the tip, swore it was not a viral-marketing campaign. “This is what happened,” she said.
“I got this e-mail and opened it from my girlfriend who works at Harris Publications, which has nothing to do with anything. Anyway, my girlfriend’s sister was there with her friends and one of them took the picture. And we were like, ‘This is the scariest shit we’ve ever seen.’ And so — I’m in marketing — we were like, ‘Maybe we should send it to a few blogs and see if anyone else is as freaked out as we are.’ We had no idea that it would turn into this. Now it’s literally a beast of its own. But it has nothing to do with any kind of campaign.”
In fact, this turned out to be true. A number of eyewitnesses say they saw the monster with their own eyes. “I saw the monster,” says Michael Meehan, a 22-year-old waiter at the Surfside Inn, which sits above the beach where the monster washed up. “I just came walking down the beach and everyone was looking at it. No one knew what it was. It kind of looked like a dog, but it had this crazy-looking beak. I mean, I would freak out if something like that popped up next to me in the water.”
While Fox News wasn’t able to find the carcass, GeekHeeb got some answers:
“A friend has the carcass,” Fruin said.
She wouldn’t give up the friend’s name or his phone number, but Fruin says he’s waiting to hand the monster over to the proper authorities for an autopsy.
The assumption would be that the “proper authorities” would not include the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Dr. Larry Barrett, the center’s director, has denied the mutant abomination originated from its facility:
“It is impossible to accurately identify the species of animal from the photo. There is no scale from which to judge its size. Additionally, when a body has had prolonged exposure to water and predators, it can be altered or appear different from its normal form. If we had the actual body, we could tell you what it is; however, from viewing a canine tooth in the picture, we could guess it may be a cat or raccoon. I can state categorically that it is not associated with the work performed at Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). PIADC serves as the nation’s first line of defense against foreign animal diseases of livestock by identifying such diseases through diagnostic testing and by developing vaccines to protect livestock from those diseases.” (Associated Content)
So is this the real deal or just some Photoshop scam?
The Jewish Journal’s own resident Photoshop experts are divided. One says the shadow cast from the head looks wrong when compared with the other shadows and mentioned that the sand around the neck would make it easy to fake the photo. The other said the shadows looked to be about right, depending on where the light source was.
July 29, 2008 | 9:45 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
The Bell Textron Jet Pack in the James Bond film Thunderball (yes, and Die Another Day) might look like fun, but it’s only good for about 30 seconds and it’s incredibly expensive to run. And the jetpack featured in The Rocketeer would probably burn your legs off faster than it would boost you into the sky … if it were real.
Today, New Zealand inventor Glenn Martin demonstrated his Martin Jetpack—the first jetpack with 30 minutes of flight time—at the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It has a patented fan jet technology, operates on run-of-the-mill gasoline, complies with Ultralight regulations and is easy to fly after completion of a training program.
“We’ve made it possible to fly the dream,” Martin said.
The thing is also loud, bulky and runs about $100,000 (donations should be sent to the GeekHeeb Martin Jetpack Fund, c/o The Jewish Journal, 3580 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1510, Los Angeles, CA 90010).
John Schwartz of The New York Times took it out for a little spin:
On a couple of test runs in the yard of a home here belonging to a friend of Mr. Martin, the jetpack jumped off the ground as if impatient to get moving, scattering a cloud of dirt and grass clippings.
With the startling power of its twin rotors and its 200-horsepower engine behind my shoulder blades screaming like an army of leaf blowers, it felt almost as if I were doing the lifting myself, with muscles I did not know I had. It felt like living in the future — and, even better, the future we imagined back when it was something to be hoped for rather than feared.
Pressing the left-hand stick forward caused the device to pitch forward slightly, and the jetpack began advancing, a few feet above the lawn. Mr. Martin and a colleague steadied it by grasping hand rails and trotting alongside, like parents teaching a child to ride a bicycle without training wheels.
Then, coming around a curve, Mr. Martin jogged to the right to avoid some equipment on the ground, bringing the jetpack too close to an overhanging tree. The limb was sucked into the rotors with a brief but sickening sound, like a blender trying to make a margarita with twigs. Luckily, he had spare parts and access to a workshop to replace a chipped rotor.
July 8, 2008 | 8:18 pm
Posted by Adam WillsA meteor entered the skies of central Israel on Tuesday night at about 8:15 p.m. Astronomers had failed to predict the arrival of this large hunk of rock, which apparently freaked out a number of Israelis, JPost and Haaretz reported.
Yigal Pat-El, chairman of the Israeli Union of Astronomers, told Army Radio that the meteor was exceptionally large, and that its entry into the atmosphere was not expected.
Nevertheless, he emphasized that this was not an uncommon occurrence.
"Meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere all the time - it's not a rare phenomenon. The meteor was relatively large - most do not weigh a thousandth of a gram, and it seems this meteor would have weighed a few grams," he said.
June 20, 2008 | 8:53 am
Posted by Adam Wills
The worldwide video game phenomenon of “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” can be partly traced back to an MIT grad from Tel Aviv, Eran Egozy. Listed as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2008, his love of music came from his childhood in Israel. But given his musical passion, one might expect that Egozy would have developed something like “Symphony Hero.” He took up the clarinet—not the guitar—as a seventh-grader. When his chemist parents—who met on the Technion campus in Haifa—asked him what instrument he wanted to play, his mind flashed to a series on musical instruments he watched on Israeli television.
“It seemed kind of cool, so when my parents asked me if I wanted to learn an instrument, I said, ‘Sure, the clarinet.’”
The Boston-based Egozy, 36, has performed in a variety of symphonies and currently plays in the Radius Ensemble. He recently returned to Israel for the first time in 10 years and was stunned at the high-tech developments made during his absence. He also found his Hebrew a little rusty.
“I still can get by, I still speak Hebrew casually with my parents and with some Israeli musician friends who are in the US. But being back in Israel demonstrated to me that my Hebrew is not quite what it used to be,” he laughs. (Jerusalem Post)
June 11, 2008 | 8:17 am
Posted by Adam Wills
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, has booked himself a ride to space courtesy of Space Adventures, a Virginia company that arranges trips to the International Space Station on a Russian Soyuz rocket. His journey is scheduled for 2011.
What, he can’t wait for the Virgin Galactic joy ride?
Brin has a $5 million investment in Space Adventures, and the trip has cost others between $20 million and $40 million. No word on how much it’s costing him. But The New York Times reports there’s a little wrinkle that needs to be ironed out:
“Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian space agency, has said repeatedly that the seats for tourists could disappear in 2010, when the size of the station crew expands to six from three and requires more of the available seats on the Soyuz.
“Space Adventures has seats reserved for flights to the space station this October and April 2009.”
Then again, when that much Google money talks, who isn’t going to listen?
March 28, 2008 | 4:12 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Caltech has more Nobel laureates than any other university, and is considered among the top five academic institutions in the world. The Pasadena campusâ contributions to science and technology are vast.
And then thereâs the Beavers.
It figures that athletics at such a prestigious technical university would take a backseat to rocket science and particle physics. But as of the 2005-06 season profiled in the documentary âQuantum Hoops,â the NCAA Division III Beavers had yet to win a single Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game in 21 years. The teamâs last conference title was in 1954.
The history-heavy film narrated by actor David Duchovny, which has been getting renewed attention (most notably in TIME) during March Madness in advance of the DVD’s spring release, follows the Beavers as they attempt to win their first conference game since the 1980s.
Focused on the last nail-biting game of the season against Whittier College, the film took the Top 10 Audience Choice Award at the 2007 Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January. However, itâs probably the only award the team is likely to see, if tangentially, for a while.
Director Rick Greenwald says the winless Beavers appealed to him on his first time out. It didnât hurt that the 36-year-old documentary filmmaker from Chino grew up watching the collegeâs pranks, which inspired the 1985 comedy âReal Genius.â
But for all the opportunities to poke fun at the team, Greenwald says he wanted to treat his subjects with respect. For instance, he resisted the urge to include scenes of flubber-sporting basketball players in the 1961 Disney film âAbsent-Minded Professorâ or Charlie Brown failing at trying to kick a football.
âI abandoned that plan,â he said. âPart of it was that I was very sensitive to making fun. â¦ I donât use the term nerd once. I tried to walk a fine line.â
Still hoping to score points with Caltechâs geek factor, Greenwald hoped to secure Duchovny as narrator based on his âX-Filesâ credentials. The actor, himself a college basketball player for Princeton and an avid sports fan, agreed to voice the film a few weeks before its release. âI still canât believe it happened, to be honest,â Greenwald said.
The documentary profiles many of its quirky student players, but the camera lingers primarily on Roy Dow, a veteran college coach who has helped the team close its average losing margin from the high 50s to roughly 20 points.
While Dow doesnât have the pressures of a NCAA Division I coach, Greenwald says the doc certainly evokes a strong reaction from more sensitive viewers, especially when the coach shouts at players for performing at a level below that displayed in practice. âYouâre playing like dumb smart kids!â Dow yells.
Rather than alienating the players, Dowâs passion for the game inspires them.
âThey respect him, they believe in him,â Greenwald said.
The reasons why players join a team as underwhelming as the Beavers varies, the director says, from bragging rites that they played in the NCAA to blowing off steam from the intense academic pressure.
Jeremy Leibowitz, an applied math sophomore from Las Vegas, played basketball in high school and says he joined the Beavers to have fun. He admits the losing streak is daunting.
âIt was discouraging, but it wasnât something that would motivate me to quit in any way,â he said. âThere are some games that are close and competitive â¦ thatâs the heartbreaker.â
He added that while jokers tease players off the court for their losing streak, the Beavers also have their share of loyal fans at every game.
âOnce these guys get going, they really want that win,â Greenwald said. âTheyâve never failed, statistically, on a level like this in anything theyâve ever done in their entire life. And I think a lot of them like the challenge of that part.â
March 26, 2008 | 5:38 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Two rocket-shaped mezuzot by Tel Aviv-based Judaica designer Laura Cowan are scheduled to be sent into space in May on the Discovery mission to the International Space Station. Flight Engineer and Science Officer Greg Chamitoff will carry the works to the ISS (no word yet on where they’ll be placed).
“I was contacted because of the space theme in my work,” Cowan told The Jerusalem Post. “All of my work has been space-themed, since I watched the moon landing on TV in 1969. I saw how excited people were, and just got carried away with the theme.”
The two mezuzot are:
Apollo Mezuza ($125/$140 + $35 for kosher scroll)
Shuttle Pewter Mezuza ($69/$71/$73 + $35 for kosher scroll)