Thursday, March 15, 2012

Just the Facts?: Hog Manure Explosions -- Rendlesham Forest Incident 2012 Conference -- Emails From Beyond


Mysterious Hog Farm Explosions Stump Scientists

A strange new growth has emerged from the manure pits of midwestern hog farms. The results are literally explosive.

Since 2009, six farms have blown up after methane trapped in an unidentified, pit-topping foam caught a spark. In the afflicted region, the foam is found in roughly 1 in 4 hog farms.

There’s nothing farmers can do except be very careful. Researchers aren’t even sure what the foam is.

“This has all started in the last four or five years here. We don’t have any idea where it came from or how it got started,” said agricultural engineer Charles Clanton of the University of Minnesota. “Whatever has happened is new.”

A gelatinous goop that resembles melted brown Nerf, the foam captures gases emitted by bacteria living in manure, which on industrial farms gathers in pits beneath barns that may contain several thousand animals.

The pits are emptied each fall, after which waste builds up again, turning them into something like giant stomachs: dark, oxygen-starved percolators in which bacteria and single-celled organisms metabolize the muck.

Methane is a natural byproduct, and is typically dispersed by fans before it reaches explosive levels. But inside the foam’s bubbles, methane reaches levels of 60 to 70 percent, or more than four times what’s considered dangerous. The foam can reach depths of more than four feet.

Disturb the bubbles, and enormous quantities of methane are released in a very short time. Add a spark — from, say, a bit of routine metal repair, as happened in a September 2011 accident that killed 1,500 hogs and injured a worker — and the barn will blow.

If it’s easy to see what the foam causes, however, it’s much more difficult to understand what causes the foam.

Among the possibilities are new bacterial communities that cause foam to form, or a change to the molecular structure of hog waste — a new foodstock, for example, or a pit-cleaning soap that makes the waste more frothy.

Or it could be both factors, or neither. Scientists have so far been stumped by the foam’s patterns.

It can appear in one barn but not another on a farm where every barn is operated identically. Once the foam’s established, it keeps coming back, regardless of efforts at cleaning and decontamination.

But though it’s now common in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, and in adjacent parts of northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin, the foam doesn’t seem to be spreading outside that area.

A possible clue comes from historical experiences at wastewater treatment plants, where similar-looking foams have been caused by bacteria, though the identified species can’t always survive in low-oxygen environments like manure pits.

If microbes are to blame, the next question would be: Why now? Deep-pit manure collection on high-density hog farms has been around for decades. Some recent and specific change would need to be responsible for altering the communities of microbes inside them.

“I don’t think it’s a dangerous new microbe,” said Angela Kent, a microbial ecologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “I think it’s a shift in the environment that’s favoring a particular microbial assemblage that’s inadvertently causing this.”

One possibility is a dramatic rise in the agricultural use of so-called distiller’s grain, a byproduct of alcohol and ethanol production: Between 2001 and 2003, the amount of distiller’s grain in hog food quadrupled in the United States. Some evidence suggests a link to foaming, though it’s still tentative.

Changes in water use, antibiotic distribution and even corn genetics have also been suggested as hypothetically plausible culprits, but hypothetical is the operative term.

Kent is current comparing microbial differences between foam and foam-free manure pits, and hopes that a new round of carefully controlled studies on farms using pigs with identical characteristics and diets will give new insight into this unlikely scientific frontier.

“I don’t think anyone’s very familiar with what microbes are present in a manure pit on a hog farm,” she said. - wired

NOTE: anyone who has lived / worked on a farm knows that hog manure is some volatile stuff. I've seen a manure pile on a spreader catch fire from a spark...Lon

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Expanding UFO Filmed Over Fort Meyers Beach

A UFO was filmed over Fort Meyers Beach, Florida, which seems to expand and grow as it hovers, dipping in and out among the clouds. What is it?

The unidentified flying object, caught on tape as a hazy sky fades to night, at first doesn't seem remarkable. Other than the fact it's brightly glowing, shows no standard aircraft lights or markings and doesn't seem to make a sound.

But as the video plays out, the UFO seems to grow in size and its lights multiply into four separate quadrants. It definitely doesn't behave like any known aircraft and the people witnessing the event seem to be very puzzled.

Because they are speaking French, it's hard to tell. But shock and awe are detectable in any language, and these people are evidently experiencing it. - Gather - Tom Rose

Click for video

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Travis Walton, John Burroughs, Jim Penniston, Monroe Nevels, Larry Warren, Peter Robbins, Robert Salas, Darren Perks, Gary Osborn.

Saturday June 16 and Sunday June 17

Go to Rendlesham Forest Incident 2012 Conference for further information


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Emails from the other side

When Jack Froese, 32, died of a heart arrhythmia in June 2011, he left behind a number of grieving friends and family members. But the BBC reports that several mysterious posthumous emails from Froese's account have brought some happiness and closure to those who were closest to him.

Last November, five months after Froese's death, his childhood best friend Tim Hart received an email from Froese's account.

"One night in November, I was sitting on my couch, going through my emails on my phone and it popped up, 'sender: Jack Froese.' I turned ghost white when I read it," Hart told the BBC. "It was very quick and short but to a point that only Jack and I could relate on."

The email had the subject heading, "I'm Watching." While the text of the message itself read, "Did you hear me? I'm at your house. Clean your f***ing attic!!!"

Hart says that shortly before Froese's death, the two had a private conversation in Hart's attic, during which Froese teased him over the attic's messy state. "Just he and I up there. That's it," Hart said.

Froese's cousin Jimmy McGraw also claims to have received a posthumous email from Froese, warning him about an ankle injury that occurred after his cousin's death.

"I'd like to say Jack sent it, just because I look at it as he's gone, but he's still trying to connect with me. Trying to tell me to move along, to feel better," McGraw said.

For now, the source of the emails remains a mystery. But that's OK with Hart, who says that even if the emails are coming from a cruel prankster who has hacked Froese's account, he doesn't mind. "If somebody's joking around, I don't care because I take it whatever way I want," he said.

What's interesting and unique about this case is that the emails all had a personal touch. There have been several reported cases of emails sent from a deceased person's account, but those usually can be easily traced back to spam accounts that have accessed the deceased person's information.

Facebook has had somewhat similar problems for several years, with the social networking site sending automated notifications encouraging users to "reconnect" with the accounts of users who have died. Under normal circumstance, the feature is meant to help connect users who travel in similar social circles. In an 2010 New York Times story, Facebook said it was actively addressing how best to handle accounts belonging to users who have died.

And there are even options for those who would intentionally like to send emails from beyond the grave. The website Dead Man's Switch, lets you write email drafts that will be sent to a group of preselected recipients after your death. The site explains exactly how they're able to know when to send the emails:

"The emails are sent at certain intervals. By default, the switch will email you 30, 45, and 52 days after you last showed signs of life. If you don't respond to any of those emails, all your messages will be sent 60 days after your last check-in."

And if you're simply looking for advice on preparing for your Web-based afterlife, the site Digital Beyond offers ongoing tips about preparing your online identity for after your death. - Yahoo

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Human fossils hint at new species

The remains of what may be a previously unknown human species have been identified in southern China.

The bones, which represent at least five individuals, have been dated to between 11,500 and 14,500 years ago.

But scientists are calling them simply the Red Deer Cave people, after one of the sites where they were unearthed.

The team has told the PLoS One journal that far more detailed analysis of the fossils is required before they can be ascribed to a new human lineage.

"We're trying to be very careful at this stage about definitely classifying them," said study co-leader Darren Curnoe from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

"One of the reasons for that is that in the science of human evolution or palaeoanthropology, we presently don't have a generally agreed, biological definition for our own species (Homo sapiens), believe it or not. And so this is a highly contentious area," he told BBC News.

Much of the material has been in Chinese collections for some time but has only recently been subjected to intense investigation.

The remains of some of the individuals come from Maludong (or Red Deer Cave), near the city of Mengzi in Yunnan Province. A further skeleton was discovered at Longlin, in neighbouring Guangxi Province.

The skulls and teeth from the two locations are very similar to each other, suggesting they are from the same population.

But their features are quite distinct from what you might call a fully modern human, says the team. Instead, the Red Deer Cave people have a mix of archaic and modern characteristics.

In general, the individuals had rounded brain cases with prominent brow ridges. Their skull bones were quite thick. Their faces were quite short and flat and tucked under the brain, and they had broad noses.

Their jaws jutted forward but they lacked a modern-human-like chin. Computed Tomography (X-ray) scans of their brain cavities indicate they had modern-looking frontal lobes but quite archaic-looking anterior, or parietal, lobes. They also had large molar teeth.

Dr Curnoe and colleagues put forward two possible scenarios in their PLoS One paper for the origin of the Red Deer Cave population.

One posits that they represent a very early migration of a primitive-looking Homo sapiens that lived separately from other forms in Asia before dying out.

Another possibility contends that they were indeed a distinct Homo species that evolved in Asia and lived alongside our own kind until remarkably recently.

A third scenario being suggested by scientists not connected with the research is that the Red Deer Cave people could be hybrids.

"It's possible these were modern humans who inter-mixed or bred with archaic humans that were around at the time," explained Dr Isabelle De Groote, a palaeoanthropologist from London's Natural History Museum.

"The other option is that they evolved these more primitive features independently because of genetic drift or isolation, or in a response to an environmental pressure such as climate."

Dr Curnoe agreed all this was "certainly possible".

Attempts are being made to extract DNA from the remains. This could yield information about interbreeding, just as genetic studies have on the closely related human species - the Neanderthals and an enigmatic group of people from Siberia known as the Denisovans.

Whatever their true place in the Homo family tree, the Red Deer People are an important find simply because of the dearth of well dated, well described specimens from this part of the world.

And their unearthing all adds to the fascinating and increasingly complex story of human migration and development.

"The Red Deer People were living at what was a really interesting time in China, during what we call the epipalaeolithic or the end of the Stone Age," says Dr Curnoe.

"Not far from Longlin, there are quite well known archaeological sites where some of the very earliest evidence for the epipalaeolithic in East Asia has been found.

"These were occupied by very modern looking people who are already starting to make ceramics - pottery - to store food. And they're already harvesting from the landscape wild rice. There was an economic transition going on from full-blown foraging and gathering towards agriculture."

Quite how the Red Deer People fit into this picture is unclear. The research team is promising to report further investigations into some of the stone tools and cultural artefacts discovered at the dig sites.

The co-leader on the project is Professor Ji Xueping of the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology. - BBC

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