Continent-sized floating garbage patch threatens food chain

Continents of garbage in the oceans are killing marine life and releasing poisons that enter the human food chain, Amanda Woods reports.

The plastic killing fields

In one of the few places on Earth where people can rarely be found, the human race has well and truly made its mark. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a floating garbage patch twice the size of Britain. A place where the water is filled with six times as much plastic as plankton. This plastic-plankton soup is entering the food chain and heading for your dinner table.

For hundreds of years, sailors and fisherman have known to avoid the area between the Equator and 50 degrees north latitude about halfway between California and Hawaii. As one of the ocean's deserts, the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre lacks the wind that sailors need to survive, as well as the nutrients to support large fish or the men who hunt them.

But 10 years ago, Captain Charles Moore took a short cut through the airless doldrums in his catamaran, Alguita, and caught sight of something that changed his life. As he looked out at what should have been a clear blue ocean, Moore saw a sea of plastic. As far as he could see, day after day, were bottles, wrappers and fragments of plastic in every colour.

Historically, the ocean's circular currents have led to accumulation of flotsam and jetsam in the subtropical high, where the waste has biodegraded with the help of marine micro-organisms. But since humans developed a material designed for durability, which can survive exposure to any bacteria, the gyre has been filling with a substance it can't get rid of. Rather than biodegrading, plastic photodegrades, breaking down in the sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces. But no matter how small it gets, it's still plastic, and causes havoc when it enters the stomachs of marine life.

Ian Kiernan, the Australian who founded Clean Up the World, started his environmental campaign 20 years ago after he became appalled by the amount of rubbish he saw on an around-the-world solo yacht race. He'll never forget the first time he saw the gyre.

"It was just filled with things like furniture, fridges, plastic containers, cigarette lighters, plastic bottles, light globes, televisions and fishing nets," Kiernan says.

"It's all so durable it floats. It's just a major problem."

He picks up an ashtray filled with worn-down coloured pieces of plastic. "This is the contents of a fleshy-footed shearwater's stomach," he says. "They go to the ocean to fish but there ain't no fish - there's plastic. They then regurgitate it down the necks of their fledglings and it kills them. After the birds decompose, the plastic gets washed back into the ocean where it can kill again. It's a form of ghost fishing, where it goes on and on."

With gyres in each of the oceans, connected by debris highways, the problem isn't restricted to the North Pacific Gyre. It is estimated there are more than 13,000 pieces of plastic litter on every square kilometre of the ocean surface.

The United Nations Environment Program says plastic is accountable for the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals every year. A Dutch study in the North Sea of fulmar seabirds concluded 95 per cent of the birds had plastic in their stomachs. More than 1600 pieces were found in the stomach of one bird in Belgium.

Since his first encounter with the gyre in 1997, Moore has returned several times and created the Algalita Marine Research Foundation to study the problem. The Canadian filmmaker Ian Connacher joined Moore in 2005 and again last year to film the garbage patch for his documentary, I Am Plastic. After a week of sailing from Long Beach, California, Connacher was not prepared for what he saw.

"Charlie once found a mile-long trail of Taco Bell wrappers which had plastic in them. I didn't see anything like that, but that's not the point, because it's the little bits that are really making it a plastic soup," Connacher says.

"The most menacing part is those little bits of plastic start looking like food for certain animals, or the filter feeders don't have any choice, they just pick them up." Then there's the plastic that doesn't float. Greenpeace reports that about 70 per cent of the plastic that makes it to the ocean sinks to the bottom, where it can smother marine life. Greenpeace says Dutch scientists have found 600,000 tonnes of discarded plastic on the bottom of the North Sea alone.

A study by the Japanese geochemist Hideshige Takada and his colleagues at Tokyo University in 2001 found that plastic polymers act like a sponge for resilient poisons such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls. Takada's team found non-water-soluble toxic chemicals can be found in plastic in levels as high as a million times their concentration in water.

As small pieces of plastic are mistaken for fish eggs and other food by marine life, these toxins enter the food chain. Even without this extra toxic load, eating plastic can be hazardous to the health.

In 2002 a study of hermaphrodite fish led Canadian scientists to link oestrogen in water to abnormal sex organs in fish. Several plastic additives have been found to mimic oestrogen. Some experts, such as Frederick vom Saal, a professor of biological sciences at Missouri University, say declining fertility rates in humans could be linked to exposure to synthetic oestrogen in plastics.

Some of the ocean's plastic arrives over the side of a ship as litter, and some is the result of containers falling into the ocean. But Greenpeace says about 80 per cent of plastic found at sea is washed out from the land.

The journal Science last year predicted seafood stocks would collapse by 2048 if overfishing and pollution continued.

Greenpeace says embracing the three Rs - reduce, re-use and recycle - would help tackle the problem. Plastic recycling is lagging well behind paper and cardboard, as people are confused about what recycling is available in their areas. There are other challenges for plastic recycling, such as the fact that it can release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere, and that it is more expensive to recycle some plastic than to create a new product from petrochemicals.

The use of bioplastics could help reduce the amount with which we are coating the planet. Traditional petrochemical-based plastics are non-degradable and non-renewable; degradable plastic breaks into smaller pieces in UV light but remains plastic; and there are two kinds of biodegradable plastic that break down in compost - one from a petrochemical resource, the other from a renewable resource such as corn or wheat, which is known as bioplastic.

Dr Katherine Dean, of the CSIRO, says corporate firms have become interested in bioplastic over the past three years.

"When oil prices soared in 2005, that changed a lot of people's perspective, because bioplastic became quite cost-competitive," she says. "All of a sudden it wasn't just about doing the right thing."

In 2001 CSIRO researchers were involved in the development of a corn-based bioplastic that would provide the foundation for the company Plantic Technologies, which developed biodegradable plastic for everything from food and beverage packaging to medical, agricultural and sporting applications.

The chief executive of Plantic, Grant Dow, says once composted, the plastic would become nothing more than carbon dioxide and water.

"For all intents and purposes, it looks like plastic and feels like plastic and does the same thing as plastic in the application," he says.

"It will only biodegrade in the presence of heat, moisture and bacteria, so it will sit in your cupboard pretty much indefinitely, but when the bacteria get to it in compost, that's it. It's gone."

While researchers continue to develop bioplastics, there's no doubt the new generation of polymers can make a difference in day-to-day living. Already supermarkets in Britain, such as Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and Tesco, have introduced bioplastic packaging, and food companies are embracing the concept.

Connacher believes as consumers learn more about the situation, many will respond positively. "We think products are going to be recycled, but they're not. We have become irresponsible with the way we use a lot of things, particularly disposable products."

[via smh]
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Apple to introduce iPhone Cashless Service and Line Jumping

Steve Jobs wants to patent a process that will save customers the hassle of waiting to order a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks or a fresh burger at the nearest fast food restaurant. Even better: The technology would let you jump the line of those ordering in person.

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs wants to patent a process that will save customers the hassle of waiting to order a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks or a fresh burger at the nearest fast food restaurant. Even better: The technology would let you jump the line of those ordering in person.

In an application with the U.S. Patent Office published on Dec. 20, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer and gadget company described a wireless system that would allow customers to place an order at a store using a wireless device such as a media player, a wireless personal digital assistant or a cellphone.

The system could go far beyond the program that Apple announced with Starbucks in September, which allows iPhone users to press a button and wirelessly download the song playing in the background as they sip their soy lattes.

Apple's application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes a process for placing an order and then notifying customers when an order is ready to grab at a pick-up station. One goal, the patent application notes, is to avoid an "annoying wait in a long queue if the purchaser arrives before completion of the order."

U.S. Patent Application #20070291710 describes a device that also would keep tabs on where a user shops and what he or she likes to buy. Computers at participating stores would keep track of regular customers and their favorite orders.

Customers might tap a button to order their favorite drink, say a double-shot mocha, as they stroll up to the nearest coffee shop. When the drink is ready go to, the device--such as an iPhone--would chime or blink to let the thirsty one know it's time to scoop up the order at the counter.

The patent puts Apple's partnership with Starbucks in a new light. The technology promises to morph Apple from the business of simply selling gadgets and music and movies that can be played on those devices into an intermediary in all kinds of exchanges.

Apple is notoriously tight-lipped about its future products. But head honcho Jobs has also said that he believes the innovative insights at the core of the iPhone all start in the software built into the device, not its sleek form factor.

Apple granted eight patents in December, and the patent office published applications for 12 others, giving investors and Apple fans an idea of where the secretive company could be headed next.

[via Forbes]
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10 Top Funny, Odd and/or Interesting Images of 2007

Some pictures are worth 1,000 words, but others are worth 1,000,000. By (subjective) category, here are 10 of the most amazing viral images of 2007. Undoubtedly some of these you will have seen before, but some will be new as well. Click on the images below to go to the full-sized originals. Enjoy!


Most Touching: Loyal to the End


Most Geeky: Why We Love Firefox


Best of Technology: 1 Gigabyte Then and Now


Best of the Web: Why Net Neutrality is So Important


Photoshop Humor: Photo With and Without Flash


Religious Humor: God’s Inbox


Religious Satire: Satan Goes to Sunday School

(This is clearly photoshopped)


Commercial Humor: FedEx Pwns UPS


Gaming Humor: Carmen Sandiego Finally Found


Celebrity Humor: Chris Farley Found Alive


Honorable Mention: Do Not Take This Flyer Down


Greatest Image Collection of 2007: 56 Wonders of the World

[via oddorama]

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Largest diamond in galaxy predicts future of solar system

Astronomers discovered the largest diamond of all times in space. The weight of the precious stone reportedly makes up ten billion trillion trillion carats or five million trillion trillion pounds).

The space diamond is virtually an enormous chunk of crystallized carbon, 4,000 kilometers in diameter. The stone is located at a distance of 50 light years from Earth, in the Constellation Centaurus.

Scientists believe that the diamond is the heart of an extinct star that used to shine like the Sun. Astronomers have already dubbed the space diamond as Lucy in a tribute to the Beatles song ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.’

"You would need a jeweler's loupe the size of the Sun to grade this diamond!" says astronomer Travis Metcalfe (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), who leads a team of researchers that discovered the giant gem.

The cosmic stone completely outclasses all diamonds that have ever been found on Earth. The largest diamond weighing 546 carats was found in South African Republic. The diamond, The Star of Africa, resides in the Crown Jewels of England. The Star of Africa was cut from the largest diamond ever found on Earth, a 3,100-carat gem.

Lucy, also known as BPM 37093, is actually a crystallized white dwarf. A white dwarf is the hot core of a star, left over after the star uses up its nuclear fuel and dies. It is made mostly of carbon and is coated by a thin layer of hydrogen and helium gases.

The white dwarf is not only radiant but also harmonious. It rings like a gigantic gong, undergoing constant pulsations. "By measuring those pulsations, we were able to study the hidden interior of the white dwarf, just like seismograph measurements of earthquakes allow geologists to study the interior of the Earth. We figured out that the carbon interior of this white dwarf has solidified to form the galaxy's largest diamond," says Metcalfe.

Astronomers say that our Sun will die in five billion years and become a white dwarf too. About two billion years after it will turn into a similar diamond that will continue to sparkle in the center of the solar system forever.

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Man Downloads TV Shows and Gets a $54,000 Cell Phone Bill

A man who went on a TV show downloading spree after misunderstanding the terms of his cellphone contract has been hit with a bill for $54,000. The factory worker, 29, who fears being made bankrupt said: “I just laughed out loud. How on earth could I afford to pay that?” A loan, maybe? Santa?

Most people know that downloading TV shows doesn’t usually cost anything when you get them using BitTorrent.
However, Ian Simpson, a 29 year old factory worker found a way to make them cost - lots. After taking out a cell phone contract which he thought included ‘unlimited’ internet use (albeit with a ‘fair use’ clause), he got some advice from a friend who showed him how to connect his cell phone to his laptop.
According to a Stewart Maclean report in the UK’s Daily Mirror, Simpson said: “My mate told me how to wire my mobile to my laptop as a modem. It meant I could download faster than on the handset and get a proper internet connection in my flat.”
However, after downloading TV shows for a month, Simpson’s service was disconnected: “I probably downloaded 20 or 30 TV shows and four albums” he said. “I assumed it’d be OK, but they cut me off. I rang up and they said I owed them nearly £30,000.”
“If I’d known it would cost so much I wouldn’t have done it” he added.
A spokesman for the cellphone company, Vodafone in the UK said: “Few customers exceed the fair usage. But it seems clear Ian has run up these charges legitimately. The rules are clearly stated. Mobile web pages use fewer megabytes. That package is not designed for large-scale downloading or computer-speed web use.”
Simpson, who claims he can only afford to rent a room in which to live, lives in hope that the company will go easy on him: “Unless they take a sensible approach I don’t think I’ll have any choice but to go bankrupt.” he said.
Luckily for him it seems that Vodafone will “try to come to some sympathetic arrangement” despite being taken unawares by “the intensity of Ian’s downloading”. Intensity. On a cell phone. What a guy.
Always check the small print ;)Saved in: P2P and Filesharing
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We and the Earth are Unimportant

A video of comparable measures.

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Extreme Photoshop Makeovers

Want to look like the stars in glamor magazines? Well look no further than a quick Photoshop session. It's no wonder your daughter, girl friend, wife is unhappy with herself when she stares at these Photshoped girls all day and wonders why can't I look like that.

It's remarkable the power of a computer and some software these days...

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Woman Ticketed After Goats Caught Mating

Some "goats gone wild" are the talk of a small Oklahoma town.A woman received two tickets after her goats were caught mating and relieving themselves on her own yard.

City law said it is illegal for any two animals to have sex in public within Dibble city limits.It's also against law for them to relieve themselves in public even if the animal is fenced in on private land.The owner was shocked when she heard the charges.“I kind of thought if anyone was caught having sex in public, it could have been me,” Carol Medenhall said.The woman fought the tickets and won partially because she didn't know she lived within city limits.Her land was recently annexed by the city, located south of Oklahoma City, but she claims no one told her.

You watch the local news cast of this bizarre story here.
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The Myth and Mystery of Hiccups

How many times have you seen this in the movies and on television: The “drunk,” slumped on his barstool, is telling his sad tale to the bartender or anyone else willing to listen. And every other word is punctuated with an involuntary spasm of the shoulders and a short, squeaking noise – a hiccup.

Ever wonder why we get the hiccups? Are they really associated with alcohol use? And to get rid of them, does frightening the “hiccupper” really work?

Hiccups in Health

The reason we hiccup is unknown. The phenomenon is nearly universal and it can even be observed in a fetus, especially during the last trimester of pregnancy. The technical term for hiccups is singultus (from the Latin, singult, which describes catching your breath while crying). Hiccupping is a complex reflex: A sudden contraction or spasm of the diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs makes you inhale quickly and involuntarily. It ends with “glottic closure” -- the space in the throat near the vocal cords snaps shut, producing the typical sound. In most cases, only one of the two sides of the diaphragm is involved; it is left-sided in 80 percent of cases.

While much is uncertain, this much is clear: Most of the time hiccups are simply a normal part of the human condition and, as annoying as they may be, they rarely last long. While hiccups occasionally indicate illness (as described below), they rarely are cause to worry, and there should be no urgency to “cure” yourself when the hiccups will almost always go away soon regardless of what you do.

Why Hiccups?

Most likely hiccups are a reflex. Nerves inside the chest send signals to the diaphragm and muscles between the ribs to spontaneously contract during normal breathing. This “hiccup reflex” may be set off by many triggers, including:

  • Emotional stress or excitement

  • Stretching of the stomach as may occur after overeating, drinking carbonated beverages, or swallowing air

  • Abrupt changes in the temperature (as with drinking a hot beverage)

  • Alcohol binging

  • Smoking

  • What Is Normal?

    It is not easy to define “normal” hiccups. My medical dictionary describes them as “a spasmodic inhalation with closure of the glottis accompanied by a peculiar sound – fair enough! But what if it goes on for an hour or more? At some point, everyone might agree that prolonged or particularly forceful or painful hiccups are not normal and warrant more than the usual “wait it out” strategy. Experts have set up these definitions for hiccups based on how long they last:

  • A bout of hiccups -- Having hiccups on and off for up to 48 hours

  • Persistent hiccups -- Hiccups that last more than 48 hours but less than one month

  • Intractable hiccups -- hiccups lasting two months or more

  • A standard definition of “abnormal” hiccups is important in order to study the phenomenon in illness and to determine effective treatment.

    Hiccups in Disease

    Although it is rare, intractable hiccups may be a sign of disease and cause problems of their own, such as difficulty eating, weight loss, dehydration and poor sleep. There are even very rare reports of hiccups contributing to death. The most famous is that of Pope Pius XII in 1958 whose death was widely reported to be related to intractable hiccups. However, he apparently suffered from recurrent gastritis, which itself could have provoked persistent or intractable hiccups, and he ultimately died of strokes and pneumonia. The world record for hiccups (according to Guinness) is held by a farmer from Iowa who apparently hiccupped for more than 60 years for no known reason. When hiccups develop after major surgery, each hiccup may cause significant pain and can impair wound healing.

    When hiccups are associated with medical problems, the cause is usually irritation of one of the nerves in the chest. Examples include laryngitis, goiters (enlargement of the thyroid gland), tumors in the neck, infections near the diaphragm, and hiatus hernia (usually with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). Hiccups can also be triggered by excess alcohol use, kidney failure, and other infections (especially ear infections). Rarer causes are aortic aneurysms and multiple sclerosis.

    Treating a disorder that may be triggering hiccups is usually the first course of action for prolonged or intractable hiccups. For example, surgical removal of a tumor, medication treatment for GERD (such as cimetidine or omeprazole) or antibiotic treatment of an infection may reduce or even eliminate severe hiccups when one of those conditions is the trigger.

    Myth or Not?

    Although there is much we do not understand about hiccups and how to make them stop, this much seems to be true:

  • Hiccups are not a reliable sign of alcohol use.

  • Holding one’s breath, breathing into a bag, being frightened, swallowing sugar, or drinking from the opposite side of a glass may be effective (though scientific proof is lacking). Other maneuvers that may work (and seem reasonably safe) include biting on a lemon, pulling on the tongue, gargling ice water or “tickling” the hard palate with a cotton swab. Knowing just how effective each of these may be and how much is myth is difficult because they are advocated primarily for “benign” hiccups that would likely resolve on their own regardless of treatment.

  • Medications can reduce hiccups. Among those with scientific evidence of effectiveness are chlorpromazine, metoclopramide, and baclofen (although side effects may be limiting). A variety of other medications have been suggested, though unproven. These include anticonvulsants (such as phenytoin), antidepressants (such as amitriptyline) and even marijuana.

  • Certain drugs are thought to cause hiccups. Discontinuing these medicines can an effective cure. Examples include midazolam (a relative of ValiumR), some types of chemotherapy, and digoxin (a heart medication).

  • Other approaches with rare reports of effectiveness for intractable hiccups include hypnosis, acupuncture, and even surgery. Two examples surgical procedures are a “nerve block” that stops the phrenic nerve (the major nerve supply for the diaphragm) from sending signals so that the diaphragm stops contracting, and implantation of a pacemaker that results in more rhythmic contractions of the diaphragm.

  • Hiccups may be dangerous, but that’s rare. As mentioned above, weight loss, poor wound healing and even death occasionally have been attributed to intractable hiccups.

  • The Bottom Line

    Hiccups are a normal and common human experience (though shared by many animals as well). They may serve an important purpose, although what that could be remains unknown. The next time you are afflicted with hiccups and everyone around you is giving you different advice, you may be better off politely walking away; chances are excellent that your hiccups will soon pass no matter what you do. And while others may think you’ve been drinking just because you have the hiccups, let them know that’s a common misconception -- unless, of course, it’s true.


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    Super Secret Recipes from Major US Restaurants

    This directory has the secret recipes from dozens of major US restaurant chains like Applebee's, KFC, McDonald's, and Taco Bell. Not sure I'd want to actually cook any of this garbage, but the listing is pretty cool.

    Although, there are some that really interest me- Mrs. Fields Cookies, Outback Steakhouse Deserts, Chilis Dinner menu items, and my all time favorite restaurant food, The Jack Daniels glaze sauce over the New York Strip Steak! I only go to T.G.I Fridays for the JD Glaze... and now I have the recipe!

    The list is really endless, so I willing to bet you'll find a food you'll want to make at home.

    Check it out here, and you might want to copy and paste the recipe off of the internet because its only a matter of time before its taken down. You can also find other secret recipes here.
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    Man Climbs Many Tall Buildings with Only His Bare Hands

    Alain Robert is totally nuts. He may be an amazing climber without ever needing any rope, but if he slips up just one time, he is a goner. Anyway, watch the video below to see what he has climbed to the top of with using a rope.

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    7 Engineering Wonders of the Modern World

    Contemporary World Record-Setting Construction

    Would you believe that the tallest bridge in France reaches higher than the Eiffel tower, or that a single dam in China can hold back 1.4 trillion cubic feet of water? Each of the projects depicted here has set at least one world record for its height, scale, daring or ingenuity. From Venice to Boston, Egypt to England, here are seven amazing engineering wonders of the modern world.

    Venice, Italy: The Venice Tide Barrier Project will be the largest flood prevention project in the world. The project has been debated in one form or another for over 40 years as a way to protect this historical city-on-the-water for future generations. With Venice slowly sinking, and the water around it slowly rising, and floods always a fear, Italians have known for a long time that something needs to be done. Finally, the Prime Minister of Italy approved the second phase of the plan, including 80 hinged barriers, each approximately 6,500 square feet.

    Venice Square Flooded

    Venice Flooded

    Venice Tide Barrier Diagram

    Zhangjiajie, China
    : The Bailong Elevator is the world’s largest exterior elevator. At over 1,000 feet tall, this elevator looms high midway up a cliff overlooking a valley far below. Moreover, the elevator is mostly glass, affording passengers a dizzying view to the depths below. There is some concern, however, about the elevator’s long-term impact on the surrounding natural environment.

    Paroramic Shot of Tallest Elevator

    Worlds Tallest Exterior Elevator

    Millau, France: The Millau Viaduct is the highest bridge in the world. At almost 1,000 feet high (taller than the even the Eiffel Tower) and over 8,000 feet long it sometimes sits above the cloud line, as shown in the beautiful photographs above. The engineered wonder of the bridge itself is nearly as amazing as the view of the valley below.

    Worlds Tallest Bridge France

    Millau Bridge in the Mist

    Millau Bridge France

    Millau Bridge

    More, Norway to Easington, Britain: The Langeled Pipeline is slated to be the longest underwater gas pipeline in the world. It will ultimately supply 20% of Britain’s gas needs, connecting England to the largest gas field in Europe via 750 miles of complex underwater terrain. Engineers have had to account for subzero temperatures an stormy waters in addition to developing techniques for installing the pipeline in the first place. They are able to lay an amazing 8 miles of pipe per day.

    Worlds Largest Underground Pipeline

    Underground Tunnel 3D Model

    Yangtze, China
    : The Three Gorges Dam has drawn fire from people around the world for its role in raising water levels and displacing millions of Chinese residents in the area. As a work of engineering, however, it is unparalleled. It will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, 600 feet high and holding 1.4 trillion cubic feet of water behind 100 million cubic feet of concrete. This engineering wonder will also eventually provide as much as 10% of China’s vast power needs.

    Three Gorges Dam Aerial

    Three Gorges Dam Map

    Three Gorges Damn Photo

    Boston, Massachusetts: The so-called Big Dig is a massive tunneling project in the heart of Boston, and is the most massive and expensive construction project in the history of the United States (at 15 billion dollars). Disaster and scandal have haunted this endeavor from the beginning, including accidents, deaths and even arrests for criminal negligence. Engineers were forced to navigate a maze of subways, pipes and utility lines in the course of the project, all with minimum disturbance to the bustling streets of Boston above.

    The Big Dig Boston Map

    The Big Dig Boston 2

    The Big Digg Boston

    Big Dig Collapse Boston

    Mubarak, Egypt: The Toshka Project is an amazing attempt to convert a half million acres of desert landscape into arable land. The Mubarak Pumping Station is at the center of this effort, and will channel millions of cubic feet of water per hour. It will ultimately redirect 10% of the country’s water from the Nile and will increase the inhabitable land in Egypt by as much as 25%.

    Mubrak Pumpting Station Aerial

    Mubrak Pumping Station Model

    Mubarak Pumping Station Construction


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    100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers

    Great montage of a 100 Movies with 100 quotes , counting down from 100 to 1.

    Complete list of movies used can be found here.
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    Hear Voices? It May Be an Ad

    An A&E Billboard 'Whispers' a Spooky Message Audible Only in Your Head in Push to Promote Its New 'Paranormal' Program

    New Yorker Alison Wilson was walking down Prince Street in SoHo last week when she heard a woman's voice right in her ear asking, "Who's there? Who's there?" She looked around to find no one in her immediate surroundings. Then the voice said, "It's not your imagination."

    No, he's not crazy: Our intrepid reporter Andrew Hampp ventures to SoHo to hear for himself the technology that has New Yorkers 'freaked out' and A&E buzzing.
    No, he's not crazy: Our intrepid reporter Andrew Hampp ventures to SoHo to hear for himself the technology that has New Yorkers 'freaked out' and A&E buzzing.
    Photo Credit: Yoray Liberman

    Indeed it isn't. It's an ad for "Paranormal State," a ghost-themed series premiering on A&E this week. The billboard uses technology manufactured by Holosonic that transmits an "audio spotlight" from a rooftop speaker so that the sound is contained within your cranium. The technology, ideal for museums and libraries or environments that require a quiet atmosphere for isolated audio slideshows, has rarely been used on such a scale before. For random passersby and residents who have to walk unwittingly through the area where the voice will penetrate their inner peace, it's another story.

    Ms. Wilson, a New York-based stylist, said she expected the voice inside her head to be some type of creative project but could see how others might perceive it differently, particularly on a late-night stroll home. "I might be a little freaked out, and I wouldn't necessarily think it's coming from that billboard," she said.

    Less-intrusive approach?
    Joe Pompei, president and founder of Holosonics, said the creepy approach is key to drawing attention to A&E's show. But, he noted, the technology was designed to avoid adding to noise pollution. "If you really want to annoy a lot of people, a loudspeaker is the best way to do it," he said. "If you set up a loudspeaker on the top of a building, everybody's going to hear that noise. But if you're only directing that sound to a specific viewer, you're never going to hear a neighbor complaint from street vendors or pedestrians. The whole idea is to spare other people."

    Holosonics has partnered with a cable network once before, when Court TV implemented the technology to promote its "Mystery Whisperer" in the mystery sections of select bookstores. Mr. Pompei said the company also has tested retail deployments in grocery stores with Procter & Gamble and Kraft for customized audio messaging. So a customer, for example, looking to buy laundry detergent could suddenly hear the sound of gurgling water and thus feel compelled to buy Tide as a result of the sonic experience.

    Mr. Pompei contends that the technology will take time for consumers to get used to, much like the lights on digital signage and illuminated billboards did when they were first used. The website Gawker posted an item about the billboard last week with the headline "Schizophrenia is the new ad gimmick," and asked "How soon will it be until in addition to the do-not-call list, we'll have a 'do not beam commercial messages into my head' list?"

    "There's going to be a certain population sensitive to it. But once people see what it does and hear for themselves, they'll see it's effective for getting attention," Mr. Pompei said.

    More disruptions
    A&E's $3 million to $5 million campaign for "Paranormal" includes other more disruptive elements than just the one audio ad in New York. In Los Angeles, a mechanical face creeps out of a billboard as if it's coming toward the viewer, and then recedes. In print, the marketing team persuaded two print players to surrender a full editorial page to their ads, flipping the gossip section in AM New York upside down and turning a page in this week's Parade into a checkerboard of ads for "Paranormal."

    AM New York's gossip page got turned upside down as promo.
    AM New York's gossip page got turned upside down as promo.

    It's not the network's first foray into supernatural marketing, having launched a successful viral campaign for "Mind Freak" star Criss Angel earlier this year that allowed users to trick their friends into thinking Mr. Angel was reading their mind via YouTube.

    "We all know what you need to do for one of these shows is get people talking about them," said Guy Slattery, A&E's exec VP-marketing. "It shouldn't be pure informational advertising. When we were talking about marketing the show, nearly everyone had a connection with a paranormal experience, and that was a surprise to us. So we really tried to base the whole campaign on people's paranormal experiences."

    So was it a ghost or just an annoyed resident who stole the speaker from the SoHo billboard twice in one day last week? Horizon Media, which helped place the billboard, had to find a new device that would prevent theft from its rooftop location. Mr. Pompei only takes it as a compliment that someone would go to the trouble of stealing his technology, but hopes consumer acceptance comes with time. "The sound isn't rattling your skull, it's not penetrating you, it's not doing anything nefarious at all. It's just like having a flashlight vs. a light bulb," he said.

    [Via AdAge]

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    4 original fairy tales endings-before Disney made them happily ever after...

    Those Disney endings where the prince and the princess end up blissfully married don’t really happen in the original stories. But To make sure kids go home happy, not horrified, Disney usually has to alter the endings. Read on for the original endings to a couple of Disney classics.

    1. Cinderella

    Don’t break out your violins for this gal just yet. All that cruelty poor Cinderella endured at the hands of her overbearing stepmother might have been well deserved. In the oldest versions of the story, the slightly more sinister Cinderella actually kills her first stepmother so her father will marry the housekeeper instead. Guess she wasn’t banking on the housekeeper’s six daughters moving in or that never-ending chore list.

    2. Sleeping Beauty

    In the original version of the tale, it’s not the kiss of a handsome prince that wakes Sleeping Beauty, but the nudging of her newborn twins. That’s right. While unconscious, the princess is impregnated by a monarch and wakes up to find out she’s a mom twice over. Then, in true Ricki Lake form, Sleeping Beauty’s “baby’s daddy” triumphantly returns and promises to send for her and the kids later, conveniently forgetting to mention that he’s married. When the trio is eventually brought to the palace, his wife tries to kill them all, but is thwarted by the king. In the end, Sleeping Beauty gets to marry the guy who violated her, and they all live happily ever after.

    3. Snow White

    At the end of the original German version penned by the brothers Grimm, the wicked queen is fatally punished for trying to kill Snow White. It’s the method she is punished by that is so strange – she is made to dance wearing a pair of red-hot iron shoes until she falls over dead.

    4. The Little Mermaid

    You’re likely familiar with the Disney version of the Little M story, in which Ariel and her sassy crab friend, Sebastian, overcome the wicked sea witch, and Ariel swims off to marry the man of her dreams. In Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale, however, the title character can only come on land to be with the handsome prince if she drinks a potion that makes it feel like she is walking on knives at all times. She does, and you would expect her selfless act to end with the two of them getting married. Nope. The prince marries a different woman, and the Little Mermaid throws herself into the sea, where her body dissolves into seam foam.

    [via mentalfloss]
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    Is the Window on the Left or the Right? [optical illusion]

    So tell me, is the window on the left or right?

    Read More →

    10 Amazing and Magnificent Trees In the World

    10. Lone Cypress in Monterey

    The Lone Cypress
    (Image credit: bdinphoenix [flickr])

    Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach
    (Image credit: mikemac29 [flickr])

    Buffeted by the cold Pacific Ocean wind, the scraggly Lone Cypress [wiki] (Cupressus macrocarpa) in Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula, California, isn’t a particularly large tree. It makes up for its small size, however, with its iconic status as a stunningly beautiful tree in splendid isolation, framed by an even more beautiful background of the Pacific Ocean.

    9. Circus Trees

    As a hobby, bean farmer Axel Erlandson [wiki] shaped trees - he pruned, bent, and grafted trees into fantastic shapes and called them “Circus Trees.” For example, to make this “Basket Tree” arborsculpture, Erlandson planted six sycamore trees in a circle and then grafted them together to form the diamond patterns.

    Basket Circus Tree
    Basket Tree (Image credit: jpeepz [flickr])

    Circus Tree with Two Legs
    The two-legged tree (Image credit: Wikipedia)

    Ladder Tree
    Ladder tree (Image credit: Arborsmith)

    Axel Erlandson underneath a Circus Tree
    Axel Erlandson underneath one of his arborsculpture (Image credit: Wilma Erlandson, Cabinet Magazine)

    Erlandson was very secretive and refused to reveal his methods on how to grow the Circus Trees (he even carried out his graftings behind screens to protect against spies!) and carried the secrets to his grave.

    The trees were later bought by millionaire Michael Bonfante, who transplanted them to his amusement park Bonfante Gardens in Gilroy in 1985.

    8. Giant Sequoias: General Sherman

    General Sherman Tree
    (Image credit: Humpalumpa [flickr])

    Giant Sequoias [wiki] (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which only grow in Sierra Nevada, California, are the world’s biggest trees (in terms of volume). The biggest is General Sherman [wiki] in the Sequoia National Park - one behemoth of a tree at 275 feet (83.8 m), over 52,500 cubic feet of volume (1,486 m³), and over 6000 tons in weight.

    General Sherman is approximately 2,200 years old - and each year, the tree adds enough wood to make a regular 60-foot tall tree. It’s no wonder that naturalist John Muir said “The Big Tree is Nature’s forest masterpiece, and so far as I know, the greatest of living things.”

    For over a century there was a fierce competition for the title of the largest tree: besides General Sherman, there is General Grant [wiki] at King’s Canyon National Park, which actually has a
    larger circumference (107.5 feet / 32.77 m vs. Sherman’s 102.6 feet / 31.27 m).

    In 1921, a team of surveyors carefully measured the two
    giants - with their data, and according to the complex American Forestry Association system of judging a tree, General Grant should have been award the title of largest tree - however, to simplify the matter, it was later determined that in this case, volume, not point system, should be the determining factor.

    7. Coast Redwood: Hyperion and Drive-Thru Trees

    Stratosphere GiantThere is another sequoia species (not to be confused with Giant Sequoia) that is quite remarkable: the Coast Redwood [wiki] (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest trees in the world.

    The reigning champion is a tree called Hyperion in the Redwood National Park, identified by researcher Chris Atkins and amateur naturalist Michael Taylor in 2006. Measuring over 379 feet (155.6 115 m) tall, Hyperion beat out the previous record holder Stratosphere Giant [wiki] in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park (at 370 feet / 112.8 m).

    The scientists aren’t talking about the exact location of Hyperion: the terrain is difficult, and they don’t want a rush of visitors to come and trample the tree’s root system.

    [Image: The Stratosphere Giant - still an impressive specimen, previously the world’s tallest tree until dethroned by Hyperion in 2006.]

    That’s not all that’s amazing about the Coast Redwood: there are four giant California redwoods big enough that you can drive your car through them!

    The most famous of the drive-through trees is the Chandelier Tree [wiki] in Leggett, California. It’s a 315 foot tall redwood tree, with a 6 foot wide by 9 foot tall hole cut through its base in the 1930s.

    Chandelier Tree
    Chandelier Tree. (Image credit: hlh-abg [flickr])

    6. Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse

    Chapel Oak Tree
    Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse (Image credit: Old trees in Netherlands & Europe)

    Chapel Oak Tree
    (Image credit: dm1795 [flickr])

    Chapel Oak Tree
    (Image credit: Luc Doudet)

    The Chêne-Chapelle (Chapel-Oak) of Allouville-Bellefosse is the most famous tree in France - actually, it’s more than just a tree: it’s a building and a religious monument all in one.

    In 1669, l’Abbe du Detroit and du Cerceau decided to build a chapel in (at that time) a 500 years old or so oak (Quercus robur) tree made hollow by a lightning bolt. The priests built a small altar to the Virgin Mary. Later on, a second chapel and a staircase were added.

    Now, parts of the tree are dead, the crown keeps becoming smaller and smaller every year, and parts of the tree’s bark, which fell off due to old age, are covered by protective oak shingles. Poles and cables support the aging tree, which in fact, may not live much longer. As a symbol, however, it seems that the Chapel-Oak of Allouville-Bellefosse may live on forever.

    5. Quaking Aspen: Pando (The Trembling Giant)

    Quaking Aspen Grove
    Quaking Aspen (Image: Wikipedia)

    Aspen Grove
    Aspen grove (Image credit: scottks1 [flickr])

    Aspen in winter and snow
    Quaking Aspen in winter (Image credit: darkmatter [flickr])

    Pando [wiki] or the Trembling Giant in Utah is actually a colony of a single Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) tree. All of the trees (technically, “stems”) in this colony are genetically identical (meaning, they’re exact clones of one another). In fact, they are all a part of a single living organism with an enormous underground root system.

    Pando, which is Latin for “I Spread,” is composed of about 47,000 stems spread throughout 107 acres of land. It estimated to weigh 6,600 tons, making it the heaviest known organism. Although the average age of the individual stems are 130 years, the entire organism is estimated to be about 80,000 years old!

    4. Montezuma Cypress: The Tule Tree

    Tule Tree next to a church
    The Tule Tree Towers over a church next to it (Image credit: jubilohaku [flickr])

    Girth of the Tule Tree
    Full width of the Tule Tree (Image credit: Wikipedia)

    Detail of knotted burl of the Tule Tree
    Close-up of the tree’s gnarled trunk. Local legends say that you can make out animals like jaguars and elephants in the trunk, giving the tree the nickname of “the Tree of Life” (Image credit: jvcluis [flickr])

    El Árbol del Tule [wiki] (”The Tule Tree”) is an especially large Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) near the city of Oaxaca, Mexico. This tree has the largest trunk girth at 190 feet (58 m) and trunk diameter at 37 feet (11.3 m). The Tule tree is so thick that people say you don’t hug this tree, it hugs you instead!

    For a while, detractors argued that it was actually three trees masquerading as one - however, careful DNA analysis confirmed that it is indeed one magnificent tree.

    In 1994, the tree (and Mexican pride) were in jeopardy: the leaves were sickly yellow and there were dead branches everywhere- the tree appeared to be dying. When tree “doctors” were called in, they diagnosed the problem as dying of thirst. The prescription? Give it water. Sure enough, the tree soon recovered after a careful watering program was followed.

    3. Banyan Tree: Sri Maha Bodhi Tree

    The Banyan tree is named after “banians” or Hindu traders who carry out their business under the tree. Even if you have never heard of a Banyan tree (it was the tree used by Robinson Crusoe for his treehouse), you’d still recognize it. The shape of the giant tree is unmistakable: it has a majestic canopy with aerial roots running from the branches to the ground.

    Banyan tree
    Banyan tree (Image credit: Diorama Sky [flickr])

    Banyan tree's aerial root system
    Closer view of the Banyan aerial root structure (Image credit: BillyCrafton [flickr])

    If you were thinking that the Banyan tree looks like the trees whose roots snake through the ruins of the Ta Prohm temple like tentacles of the jungle (Lara Croft, anyone?) at Ankor, Cambodia , you’d be right!

    Banyan tree at Ta Prohm temple
    Banyan tree (or is it silk-cotton tree?) in the ruins of Ta Prohm, Ankor, Cambodia
    (Image Credit: Casual Chin [flickr])

    One of the most famous species of Banyan, called the Sacred Fig [wiki] or Bo tree, is the Sri Maha Bodhi [wiki] tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is said that the tree was grown from a cutting from the original tree under which Buddha became enlightened in the 6th century BC.

    Planted in 288 BC, it is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world, with a definitive planting date!

    Banyan Tree which Buddha sat under
    (Image credit: Images of Ceylon)

    Sri Maha Bodhi
    (Image credit: Wikipedia)

    2. Bristlecone Pine: Methuselah and Prometheus, the Oldest Trees in the World.

    Methuselah Grove (Image Credit: NOVA Online)

    Prometheus bristlecone pine grove
    Bristlecone pine grove in which Prometheus grew (Image credit: Wikipedia)

    The oldest living tree in the world is a White Mountains, California, bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva) named Methuselah [wiki], after the Biblical figure who lived to 969 years old. The Methuselah tree, found at 11,000 feet above sea level, is 4,838 years old - it is not only the oldest tree but also the oldest living non-clonal organism in the world.

    Before Methuselah was identified as the world’s oldest tree by Edmund Schulman in 1957, people thought that the Giant Sequoias were the world’s oldest trees at about 2,000 years old. Schulman used a borer to obtain a core sample to count the growth rings of various bristlecone pines, and found over a dozen trees over 4,000 years old.

    The story of Prometheus [wiki] is even more interesting: in 1964, Donald R. Currey [wiki], then a graduate student, was taking core samples from a tree named Prometheus. His boring tool broke inside the tree, so he asked for permission from the US Forest Service to cut it down and examine the full cross section of the wood. Surprisingly the Forest Service agreed! When they examined the tree, Prometheus turned out to be about 5,000 years old, which would have made it the world’s oldest tree when the scientist unwittingly killed it!

    Stump of Prometheus
    Stump of the Prometheus Tree. (Image Credit: James R. Bouldin, Wikipedia)

    Today, to protect the trees from the inquisitive traveler, the authorities are keeping their location secret (indeed, there are no photos identifying Methuselah for fear of vandalism).

    1. Baobab

    The amazing baobab [wiki] (Adansonia) or monkey bread tree can grow up to nearly 100 feet (30 m) tall and 35 feet (11 m) wide. Their defining characteristic: their swollen trunk are actually water storage - the baobab tree can store as much as 31,700 gallon (120,000 l) of water to endure harsh drought conditions.

    Baobab trees are native to Madagascar (it’s the country’s national tree!), mainland Africa, and Australia. A cluster of “the grandest of all” baobab trees (Adansonia grandidieri) can be found in the Baobab Avenue, near Morondava, in Madagascar:

    Baobab Avenue
    (Image credit: Wikipedia)

    (Image credit: plizzba [flickr])

    Baobab at sunset
    (Image credit: Daniel Montesino [flickr])

    In Ifaty, southwestern Madagascar, other baobabs take the form of bottles, skulls, and even teapots:

    Teapot baobab
    Teapot baobab (Image credit: Gilles Croissant)

    The baobab trees in Africa are amazing as well:

    Baobab in Tanzania
    Baobab in Tanzania (Image credit: telethon [flickr])

    Another baobab in Africa
    Baobab near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Image credit: ironmanix [flickr])

    There are many practical uses of baobab trees, like for a toilet:

    Toilet inside a baobab tree
    A toilet built inside a baobab tree in the Kayila Lodge, Zambia
    (Image credit: Steve Makin [flickr])

    … and even for a prison:

    Prison boab
    A “Prison Baob” tree in Western Australia (Image credit: yewenyi [flickr])

    [via neatorama]

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