World’s 10 largest cruise ships


If a cruise vacation is your dream you should take one in these mammoth luxury cruise ships. Check out the world’s largest cruise ships.

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‘Nature’s revenge’: Huge sinkholes burst open on banks of Dead Sea as water dries up


Environmentalists say mismanagement of water resources around the Dead Sea has produced more than 3,000 sinkholes.
The saline lake — bordered by Jordan, Israel and the West Bank — is evaporating at nearly four feet per year, which leaves behind the salt pockets responsible for the dangerous sinkholes, reported ABC News.

A sink hole filled with water is seen in this aerial view of the Dead Sea December 5, 2011.

A sink hole filled with water is seen in this aerial view of the Dead Sea December 5, 2011.

Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East, told the news site that the sinkholes are “nature’s revenge.”
The organization of Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists is dedicated to preserving their shared environmental heritage.
EcoPeace says the construction of dams, storage reservoirs and pipelines has caused the unique salt lake to dry up at a distressing rate. Water simply is not flowing in as freely as it once did from the typical sources, the Jordan River and various tributaries.
“They could develop overnight or over time,” Bromberg said to ABC News, “making them unpredictable and very dangerous.”
The first sinkhole appeared in the 1980s, but new ones appear every single day. They grow in groups and collapse into one another to create massive craters, according to Bromberg.
In 2005, Smithsonian magazine said that roughly 1,000 sinkholes had been reported. The new 3,000-plus figure indicates that they have been appearing at an accelerated rate in recent years.

Sink holes filled with water are seen in this aerial view of the Dead Sea December 5, 2011.

Sink holes filled with water are seen in this aerial view of the Dead Sea December 5, 2011.

Bromberg fears that an overnight sinkhole might cause Route 90, which runs along the lake, to collapse.
“If nothing is done, it’s only a matter of time until someone dies,” he said.
Haaretz reports that Israel’s Transportation Ministry closed down a nearly 1,000-foot stretch of the highway in January after several meters on its eastern side sank roughly five centimeters.

Source: YAHOO

This Powerful Apology By A Group Of Men Is What Every Woman In India Needs To Hear


Domestic violence, rape, sex selective abortions, dowry, female infanticide, everyday we hear stories of crime & hate against women. India is the world’s second most unsafe place for women in the world. How did we land up here? We have become a country that worships its goddesses & hurts its women. And it’s just shameful.

Here’s a powerful apology by these men to every woman in India. This might not justify the crime but it sure is an initiation.

How old is the moon? True age is finally revealed


Moon is 4.47 billion years old, a new study has revealed.

Moon is 4.47 billion years old, a new study has revealed.

A new study has revealed the moon is 4.47 billion-years-old, after a team of planetary scientists discovered it was formed 95 million years after the birth of the solar system.

This makes the Earth’s moon up to 60 million years younger than some previous estimates, a study published on Wednesday found.

Researchers used a new way to calculate the birthday of the planet’s only natural satellite.

Astronomer John Chambers, with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, said the mega-asteroid that smashed into Earth, launching debris that later became the moon, occurred about 95 million years after the birth of the solar system.

“We think that the thing that hit Earth and ended up forming the moon, the lion’s share of it stayed on Earth,” he explained.

“A small fraction of its mass and some material from Earth was pushed off into space to form the moon. That was probably the last big event,” he added.

The study, published in the journal Nature, is based on 259 computer simulations of how the solar system evolved.

The programs simulate the crashes and mergers of the small bodies until they meld into the rocky planets that exist today.

Earth’s last big chuck came from a Mars-sized body that hit about 95 million years after the solar system’s formation when measured by that geologic clock, the study showed.

At 99.9 per cent accurate, the study disputes some previous estimates that the moon-forming impact occurred as early as 30 million to 40 million years after the solar system’s formation.

The results also open another even bigger mystery about why some planets, like Mars, form relatively quickly, while others, like Earth and possibly Venus, take far longer.

Analysis of Martian meteorites and the computer simulations indicate Mars was finished in just a few million years.

(Additional reporting by Reuters)

How We Stopped Light


Most of us probably know a few basic facts about light: nothing can travel faster than it, it comes in forms that we can’t see (such as x-ray and infrared), it can give you a nasty sunburn or a super cute tan (which will inevitably make you look like old leather), and it can be slowed down. If you didn’t know the last one, allow me to explain.

The speed of light is a constant. It travels at an amazing 186,282 miles per second (299,791km/sec). However, this speed only applies in a perfect vacuum where light will not encounter any other atoms. In a non-vacuum (which exists pretty much everywhere), bits of light smash into other objects. These objects absorb the photon and then re-emit it. In this respect, the slowing of light is an illusion. The photons still travel from at the same speed, but they make a few stops along the way as they are absorbed and refracted by various atoms. And light is absorbed and emitted more slowly through certain substances. For example, diamond makes light travel from A to B significantly slower.

But we can use these principles to essentially stop light. In all likeliness, many of you have already heard about the scientists in Germany who stopped light for a full minute. I’d like to offer a breakdown of how they accomplished this feat.

(a) APS/H. de Riedmatten; (b) G. Heinze et al. [1] Figure 1: (a) Energy-level scheme for EIT experiments: two ground states (|g〉 and |s〉) are connected to one excited state (|e〉) by an optical transition. To reach the EIT condition, the frequency difference between the input and control beams must be equal to the splitting between |g〉 and |s〉. (c) Output pulse energy and storage efficiency as a function of the storage time, as measured by Heinze et al. [1] for three coherence times (T2) obtained under different sequences of radio frequency pulses. The inset shows a three-stripe image retrieved from the memory after different storage times

(a) APS/H. de Riedmatten; (b) G. Heinze et al. [1]
Figure 1: (a) Energy-level scheme for EIT experiments: two ground states (|g〉 and |s〉) are connected to one excited state (|e〉) by an optical transition. To reach the EIT condition, the frequency difference between the input and control beams must be equal to the splitting between |g〉 and |s〉. (c) Output pulse energy and storage efficiency as a function of the storage time, as measured by Heinze et al. [1] for three coherence times (T2) obtained under different sequences of radio frequency pulses. The inset shows a three-stripe image retrieved from the memory after different storage times

To begin with, the scientists took an opaque crystal (something that light is not able to penetrate) and fired lasers into it. This caused the quantum states of atoms within the crystal to become disturbed. Ultimately, the scientists were able to make it so that a specific frequency of light could pass through this previously opaque object by altering the crystal in such a say so that the atoms within it had two quantum states.

Next, the researchers shot a laser beam (which corresponded to the specific frequency) through the newly transparent region. Then they turned off the laser beam that was altering the quantum states of the atoms within the crystal. This made the material once more opaque. The result of this was that the second laser beam was halted within the material. The beam was held in place for a whole minute. They were also able to store and retrieve an image using the same technique.

Of course, things are not quite this simple. For starters, the crystal that was frozen to less than negative 450 degrees Fahrenheit (-267C). But the aforementioned is a basic breakdown of the technique. For those interested in more technical information, see this source. Here, I will offer a brief passage which conveys the specifics:

“Light can be slowed down to the point that it comes to a halt: by switching off the control beam when the light is within the sample, the photons can be converted into collective atomic spin excitations (so called spin waves). The spin waves can be stored in the atoms for as long as the coherence between the two spin levels survives, before being converted back into light by turning on the control pulse again. The scheme thus allows the coherent storage and retrieval of light. How long can the storage time be? Since the light is stored in atomic coherences, the limit is given by T2, quantifying the lifetime of the coherence between the two relevant atomic spin states (how long the two spin states can remain in a coherent superposition).”

California’s wildfire woes: In pictures


The Powerhouse wildfire in California’s Lake Hughes area, has threatened more than 1,000 homes and has already charred 19,500 acres. To add to that, shifting winds have hampered fire-fighting efforts

Asteroid 2012 DA14 to pass close by Earth tonight, scientists rule out possibility of collision


A large asteroid approaching the earth at great speed. Scientists, sitting in a control room, keeping a close eye on its trajectory on large screens before them.

asteroid-1_350_021513082143

After a few hours and ground-based maneuvering, they finally manage to deflect the rogue body and save the planet earth from a catastrophe. This familiar sequence from sci-fi films may be enacted in control rooms of space agencies on Friday when an asteroid, designated 2012 DA14, about half the size of a football field flies past the earth. The only difference, however, is that scientists have ruled out any possibility of a collision with earth.

asteroid_660_021513082118

Nevertheless, it is a close call. THe nearest the flying object will come to the earth is 27,600 km. It is indeed close shave in astronomical terms, because some of our communication satellites fly above this mark at 36,000 km.

“The trajectory was analysed and we see no danger to our satellites”, a spokesperson of the Indian Space Research Organisation said. The closest approach as seen from Delhi will be between 1 am and 2 am on February 16, at a point where the asteroid will be seen near Virgo constellation, according to C.B Devgun of amateur astronomy group SPACE India.
Read more at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/asteroid-2012-da14-earth-isro-collision-scientists/1/250302.html

‘Super-Earth’ alien planet may be capable of supporting life


Newfound exoplanet is located inside its host’s habitable zone where liquid water may exist

Astronomers have detected an alien planet that may be capable of supporting life as we know it — and it’s just a stone’s throw from Earth in the cosmic scheme of things.

The newfound exoplanet, a so-called “super-Earth” called HD 40307g, is located inside its host star’s habitable zone, a just-right range of distances where liquid water may exist on a world’s surface. And the planet lies a mere 42 light-years away from Earth, meaning that future telescopes might be able to image it directly, researchers said.

“The longer orbit of the new planet means that its climate and atmosphere may be just right to support life,” study co-author Hugh Jones, of the University of Hertfordshire in England, said in a statement. “Just as Goldilocks liked her porridge to be neither too hot nor too cold but just right, this planet or indeed any moons that it has lie in an orbit comparable to Earth, increasing the probability of it being habitable.”

HD 40307g is one of three newly discovered worlds around the parent star, which was already known to host three planets. The finds thus boost the star’s total planetary population to six.

Finding new signals in the data
The star HD 40307 is slightly smaller and less luminous than our own sun. Astronomers had previously detected three super-Earths — planets a bit more massive than our own — around the star, all of them in orbits too close-in to support liquid water.

In the new study, the research team re-analyzed observations of the HD 40307 system made by an instrument called the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS.

HARPS is part of the European Southern Observatory’s 11.8-foot (3.6 meters) telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The instrument allows astronomers to pick up the tiny gravitational wobbles an orbiting planet induces in its parent star.

The researchers’ new analysis techniques enabled them to spot three more super-Earths around the star, including HD 40307g, which is thought to be at least seven times as massive as our home planet.

HD 40307g may or may not be a rocky planet like Earth, said study lead author Mikko Tuomi, also of the University of Hertfordshire.

“If I had to guess, I would say 50-50,” Tuomi told Space.com via email. “But the truth at the moment is that we simply do not know whether the planet is a large Earth or a small, warm Neptune without a solid surface.”

A jam-packed extrasolar system

HD 40307g is the outermost of the system’s six planets, orbiting at an average distance of 56 million miles (90 million kilometers) from the star. (For comparison, Earth zips around the sun from about 93 million miles, or 150 million km, away.)

The other two newfound exoplanets are probably too hot to support life as we know it, researchers said. But HD 40307g — which officially remains a “planet candidate” pending confirmation by follow-up studies — sits comfortably in the middle of the star’s habitable zone.

Further, HD 40307g’s orbit is distant enough that the planet likely isn’t tidally locked to the star like the moon is to Earth, researchers said. Rather, HD 40307g probably rotates freely just like our planet does, showing each side of itself to the star in due course.

The lack of tidal locking “increases its chances of actually having Earth-like conditions,” Tuomi said.

The new study has been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

A candidate for direct observation


Super-Earths have been spotted in other stars’ habitable zones before. For example, a team using NASA’s prolific Kepler Space Telescopeannounced the discovery of the potentially habitable world Kepler-22b in December 2011.

Kepler-22b lies 600 light-years away, which is not terribly far considering that our Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light-years wide. But HD 40307g is just 42 light-years from us — close enough that future instruments may be able to image it directly, scientists say.

“Discoveries like this are really exciting, and such systems will be natural targets for the next generation of large telescopes, both on the ground and in space,” David Pinfield of the University of Hertfordshire, who was not involved in the new study, said in a statement.

Satellite data aims to improve location searches


Satellite data, road and transport timetables are helping to make travel-time searches more accurate.

Most search engines plot travel times “as the crow flies”, which can produce unrealistic estimates of how far it will take to reach a location.

Two British projects are changing that by basing estimates on timetables, road data and more accurate maps.

But the efforts of both have been hampered by bad data sets that made it tricky to combine information.

Local hero

“About 40% of all web searches are for geographic information,” said Charlie Davies, founder of mapping firm iGeolise. That percentage rose to more than 50% when people searched from a mobile, he said.

Before now, he said, most results were derived by the straight-line distance between two points.

IGeolise, and others such as Mapumental, were starting to produce results that were more humanly relevant, said Mr Davies. These no longer ignored important human factors such as the position of bus stops and stations, the frequency of trains, buses and trams and key details of UK roads such as the distance between junctions.

Combining these data sources with average walking speeds and driving speeds produced much more accurate results, he said.

It would mean that instead of just searching for locations within a mile of a person’s house, they could be much more specific with their search parameters. They could, he said, seek locations that were 45 minutes away by car or could be reached in a 45-minute commute given that a person set off at 07:00 every morning.

In early November, iGeolise won a European Satellite Navigation Competition for its mapping work.

However, said Mr Davies, getting at the data that could help produce these types of results had not been easy. While many public authorities and agencies make their data available it was far from easy to combine it, he said.

“There’s a lot of data and it’s all in different formats,” he said. Data from different sources even when it was about the same kind of thing, such as bus times, was rarely preserved in a file in the same way. Before it could be used, he said, it had to be cleaned up and standardised.

Tom Steinberg, head of the MySociety project that is behind Mapumental, said it was often public transport data sets that was not well preserved or presented.

“The data that is put out has often not been collected without much or any thought that it would be used by third parties,” he said. “Typically this leads to the data containing ambiguities or apparently internal contradictions that take a lot of time to clean up.” Mapumental would soon be letting the public play with its mapping system, said Mr Steinberg.

“We’re very grateful to have the data,” he said, “but it is clearly early days.

NZealand beaching proves rarest of whales exists


WELLINGTON, New Zealand  — The spade-toothed beaked whale is so rare that nobody has seen one alive, but scientists have proof the species still exists.

Two skeletons were identified as belonging to the species after a 17-foot whale and her calf beached themselves in New Zealand in 2010. Scientists hope the discovery will provide insights into the species and into ocean ecosystems.

It was almost a missed opportunity, however, since conservation workers misidentified the carcasses as a much more common type of whale and buried them. In a paper published Tuesday in the journal “Current Biology,” researchers from New Zealand and the United States say of their discovery: “For the first time we have a description of the world’s rarest and perhaps most enigmatic marine mammal.”

Previously only three skull fragments of the species had been found: in New Zealand in 1872 and in the 1950s and the last one 26 years ago on an island off Chile. The males have broad blade-like tusk teeth that give the species its name. Both males and females have beaks which make them resemble dolphins.

“This is pretty fantastic,” said Ewan Fordyce, a geology professor at the University of Otago who specializes in the evolution of whales and who was not involved in the research. “There would be few, if any, mammalian species in the world that would be rarer. And we know much more about panda bears and other iconic, rare animals.”

The beached whales, an adult and her 11-foot male calf, were discovered on Opape Beach on the North Island on New Year’s Eve in 2010. Conservation workers thought they were Gray’s beaked whales and took tissue samples before burying them about nine feet under the sand.

Those samples ended up at the University of Auckland where scientists did routine tests about six months later. Rochelle Constantine, a co-author of the paper, said she and her colleague Kirsten Thompson couldn’t believe it when the results showed the pair to be the rarest of whales.

“Kirsten and I went quiet. We were pretty stunned,” she said. Further tests confirmed the discovery. Constantine said they then retested about 160 samples taken from other stranded Gray’s whales but didn’t find any more that had been misidentified.

This year, researchers returned to the beach to exhume the skeletons. Anton van Helden, who manages the marine mammals collection for New Zealand’s national museum Te Papa, said it wasn’t a straightforward task to find the remains after so long and that the mother’s skull, which was buried shallower than the rest of the remains, washed out to sea. But they were able to recover the rest of the skeletons.

“It’s a hugely significant find,” said van Helden, a co-author of the paper. He said it’s impossible to know why the whales came ashore although whales often beach themselves when they become ill. He said almost nothing is known about the species except they live in the South Pacific Ocean and eat primarily squid.

Fordyce said it may be possible to use the skeletons of the rare whales to reconstruct their muscles and tissues and to find out more about how they live and die and why they are so reclusive. The scientists say the discovery could also provide broader insights into the ocean’s complex ecosystems.

“This is good reminder,” said Constantine, “of how large the oceans are, and of how little we know about them.”