Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Just the Facts? - Humans Are Multi-Planet Species, New Jersey Sasquatch and Noisy Eyeballs


Can Humans be a Multi-Planet Species?

Space may be the final frontier, but Mars should be the next one.

At a spaceflight propulsion conference held by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics on Tuesday, Elon Musk -- the billionaire founder of PayPal and the man behind leading private spaceflight company SpaceX -- spoke about just how to get humanity there.

"Are we on the path to becoming a multi-planet species or not?" Musk asked the crowd at the event. "If we're not, it's really not that exciting after all."

The challenge to getting to Mars is transporting significant tons of cargo and people, Musk noted, a task that will require what he described as a rapidly and fully reusable rocket.

"There's a reason no one has invented a fully reusable rocket before," Musk explained. "It's super-damn hard."

Still, the inventor has a plan for interplanetary travel, and a name for it: Falcon.

Musk described several of the recent advances made by his company's Falcon 9 rockets, which were tested successfully for the first time June 4, 2010. The rocket is designed to generate 3.8 million pounds (1,700 metric tons) of thrust -- making it easily capable of carrying satellites, cargo, and even humans to other planets, he said.

"It's got potential as a generalized science delivery platform for other planets in the solar system," Musk noted.

While he believes there will be a single vehicle for transporting humans to the Red Planet and back -- at least at first -- a Mars base could dramatically change the game.

"As soon as you've got a base on Mars, you've got a 'forcing function' for improving the transportation capability," he noted.

The company did not explain prior to the 4 p.m. EST speech what Musk would discuss, other than referencing the title of his brief speech: "Getting to Mars." But the SpaceX founder has often publicly stated his desire to have humans on Mars within 20 years.

According to a story at Space.com, NASA has been tentatively discussing work with the company and its Dragon capsule on an exploratory mission to Mars, a so-called "Red Dragon" mission.

In that mission, NASA's science hardware would fly to the Red Planet aboard SpaceX's Dragon capsule, which the company is developing to ferry cargo and astronauts to and from the International Space Station, Space.com reported.

The Dragon capsule is designed to work in concert with the company's multistage Falcon 9 rocket, either on short range resupply trips to the International Space Station or on longer range missions to other planets.

This so-called "Red Dragon" mission, which could be ready to launch by 2018, would carry a cost of about $400 million or less. And the Dragon capsule clearly fits Musk's description of "rapidly and fully reusable."

At the AIAA speech, Musk also teased a new engine development -- needed to bring cargo and people to Mars, he noted -- which he promised to unveil later this year. - foxnews

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Searching for Big Red Eye, the New Jersey Sasquatch

Click for video

The search for North Jersey's Sasquatch, Big Red Eye, has been going on for years. Witnesses describe encounters with Big Red Eye and Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman of 'Weird NJ' also lend their expertise to this myth. They also help answer the question on who would win in a fight, Big Red Eye or The Jersey Devil. (Video by Lisa Rose/The Star-Ledger)

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Man who could hear his own eyeballs roll cured

Stephen Mabbutt, 57, from Charlton, near Banbury, could also hear his own heart beating.

Mr Mabbutt first experienced symptoms six years ago, when he felt a dull ache in the side of his head.

GPs treated him with nasal sprays and antibiotics, but his hearing deteriorated. Mr Mabbutt was eventually diagnosed with an unusual ear condition in which sounds inside the body are heard very loudly. The condition meant that the noise from chewing food became deafening.

His symptoms worsened to the extent where loud noises caused dizziness and his vision blurred.

Mr Mabbutt told the BBC: "When I raised my voice I could hear it reverberating in my head and the vibrations made my vision vibrate.

"Eventually I could hear my heart beating and my eyes moving in their sockets. It was really distracting."

Mr Mabbutt was referred to Martin Burton, a surgeon from the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital who helped establish the Cochrane Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Group. A CT scan found perforations inside the semicircular canals inside Mr Mabbutt's ear.

He was diagnosed with superior canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS), a rare condition discovered by American surgeon Lloyd B Minor in 1995, which is thought to only effect one in 500,000 a year in Britain.

The operation to cure the problem involved a 5cm (2in) incision behind the ear, making a channel through the bone to find the "balance organ" and using the patient's own bone to create a seal around the defect, the BBC said.

It was carried out by Richard Irving, an expert at the Birmingham Ear Clinic.

"It's made a big difference to my life. I feel a different person all round," Mr Mabbutt said. - telegraph

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Swede held for building nuclear reactor in his kitchen

Swedish police have detained a 31-year-old man in Ängelholm in western Sweden who was discovered after he sought advice from authorities on the legality of building a nuclear reactor in a domestic kitchen.

The man began his experiment some six months ago and has reportedly been open about his plans to construct a nuclear reactor in his apartment in the small Swedish coastal town, maintaining a blog of his nuclear adventure.

The man, who explained that his interest in nuclear physics was awakened as a teenager, ordered some radioactive material from overseas and acquired more by taking apart a domestic fire alarm.

Despite the man's frank and full disclosure of his experiment, his activities only came to the attention of the authorities a couple of weeks ago when he contacted the Swedish Radiation Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) to inquire if it was legal to construct a nuclear reactor at home.

The man was told that somebody would be sent to measure the levels of radiation in his flat.

"When they came they had the police with them. I have had a Geiger counter and have not detected a problem with radiation," the 31-year-old told the local Helsingborgs Dagblad (HD).

The man was arrested by the police and taken in for questioning. He admitted to his plans and was later released.

He told the newspaper that had he succeeded in building a nuclear reactor, generating any power would probably have proved beyond him.

"To get it to generate electricity you would need a turbine and a generator and that is very difficult to build yourself," he told HD.

The man is reported to have spent around 6,000 kronor ($950) on his project and after all his equipment was seized in the raid, he has confirmed that in the future he intends to focus on the "theoretical" aspects of nuclear physics. - thelocal

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Indian man has hysterectomy after doctors find uterus

An Indian farmer and father of two had a hysterectomy after doctors discovered a "full female reproductive system" in his lower abdomen. The man, identified as Ryalu, was admitted to a hospital near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, after complaining of severe stomach pains. Doctors suspected a normal hernia, but when they carried out an exploratory operation they were shocked to discover it had been caused by a female uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, a cervix and underdeveloped vaginal tissue.

Dr Pramod Kumar Shrivastava, a surgeon at the Chhindwara district hospital said the patient had external male organs, was fit from working in the fields, and lived a normal life. "Usually the contents of the Hernia Sac are abdomen organs like large intestines and small intestines but when we operated on the patient we were surprised to find female reproductive organs. We have removed the organs through a hysterectomy and repaired the hernia.

"The sac contained quite developed uterus, both the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, cervix and a tissue which is undeveloped but apparently looks like vaginal tissue," he explained. The man had not suffered any problems until the stomach pains which led him to hospital. Although he is medically a hermaphrodite, his hormones and sexuality are clearly male, he said.

"The external reproductive organs of the patient were masculine and he has no problems whatsoever with his sexuality. He had functional male genitals and there was no formation of breasts in the patient. It's an embryological accident at the time of embryonic formation," he said. The patient, who was said to be as "stunned" as his doctors at the discovery, is recovering in hospital and is being supported by his family. - telegraph

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Chocoholic Giant Fish Gorged On Kit Kats

Aquarium staff have managed to wean a chocoholic giant fish onto a healthier diet after inheriting the gourami, raised entirely on Kit Kats by its owners.

At first, staff at the Sea Life London Aquarium were baffled by the 4kg fish's refusal to eat until they learned it had been fed nothing but chocolate.

The team then stuffed crushed Kit Kat pieces inside grapes to get the 40cm-long gourami named Gary to "take a break" from his daily fix.

"I have never heard of a fish being fed chocolate, let alone being brought up entirely on the stuff," said Gary's handler, Rebecca Carter.

"Gouramis usually eat a diet of fruit but Gary doesn't appear to have suffered any ill effects from his chocolate addiction," she added.

"However, we would not recommend feeding fish confectionery of any kind."

Gary is not the only unusual creature to come to the centre from private owners.

Close by the gourami lives Ed, a catfish with decidedly cat-like tendencies.

Ed will only accept being hand fed and likes to be stroked on the head at the same time.

He has also learned to head-butt a lethal puffer fish who vies for his food, staff said.

But aquarium staff warn that Gary and Ed's peculiar interest in food highlights a more serious issue.

They have nicknamed one display the "tank busters" tank, because it houses a number of large fish that simply grew too big for their owners to manage.

"Many people don't do the right research when they buy fish and end up unable to care for them," said Ms Carter.

"We're delighted we could find a home for Gary but the fact is we simply do not have the space to accommodate the vast number of re-homing requests we receive." - sky
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