Thursday, 31 January 2013


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Everything You Need to Know About the New BlackBerries
Gizmodo, 30 January 2013.

This morning [30 January] the world held its collective breath as RIM BlackBerry took its sweet ass time trotting out the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 and amidst all the shenanigans, the company formerly known as RIM managed to show off a few notable new BB10 features, too. In case you missed all the live coverage this morning, you can find everything and anything related to BlackBerry 10 below.

1. BlackBerry 10 Launch: Everything You Need to Know

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Well, here goes. RIM is announcing its new BlackBerry 10 OS and hardware today. This could be the launch that gets RIM back in the game for smartphones. Or it could be the last time BlackBerry is relevant. It's a big moment. [More]

2. This is the New Blackberry Z10

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Here it is. It's the new Blackberry 10. It's official, it looks exactly like the leaked photos and the renders we published. [More]

3. RIM is Dead, Long Live BlackBerry

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Starting today, RIM is rebranding itself as BlackBerry. With the official name change, you can say so long to all your RIM-related innuendo. [More]

4. BlackBerry Q10: The Next Generation QWERTY Beast

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Blackberry's QWERTY handset for Blackberry 10 is here. Launched today, BB10 10 does away with a lot of baggage that has been holding the company back, but the QWERTY keyboard is here to stay. This slim, lightweight phone is its future. [More]

5. How the Blackberry Z10 Stacks Up to the Competition

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Q10's physical keyboard may be the most notable feature in the new line-up, but the Z10 is BlackBerry's best shot at taking a share of the more prominent (at least for now), touchscreen market. So can the Z10 measure up to some of the its biggest contenders? [More]

6. BlackBerry Q10 Hands On: We Missed You, QWERTY

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The BlackBerry Z10 might be the prom queen of the BB10 launch, but the Q10 and its physical keyboard is what a lot of people are actually waiting for. "Will I still be able to have a BlackBerry like my BlackBerry after this?" Sure, just better. [More]

7. BlackBerry's Most Important Phone Isn't Its Flagship

Everything You Need to Know About the New BlackBerries

BlackBerry announced two phones today, but it's clear which is the favourite son. The Z10 looks like a winner; it's got brains and body enough to face the iPhones and Galaxy S IIIs of the world head-on. It's got a release date and a price. It's a phone any company would be proud to call a flagship. In fact, its only downside is that it's totally irrelevant. Whoops! [More]

8. BlackBerry's Best Trick: Nailing Work-Life Balance

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Today BlackBerry demoed what it's calling BlackBerry Balance, a clever way of separating one's personal and work lives in one device. You don't see it as much these days but carrying two phones - one for business, one for pleasure - was commonplace not too long ago. I remember having a BlackBerry 6200 alongside my Sidekick 2; and I'm sure a lot of you remember those days as well. [More]

9. BlackBerry Z10 Camera: The Worst Low-Light Performance We've Seen in a Long Time

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For the old BlackBerry, a handset's camera was an ancillary feature. But the new hip BlackBerry is supposed to be tuned into how regular people - not just suits - use their phones. The BlackBerry Z10's camera has a chance to prove it's better than the rest. And if our initial low-light camera test is any indication, the camera is a complete failure. [More]

[Source: Gizmodo. Edited.]


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Just Relax For A Minute And Watch This Incredible Moonrise [Video]
By Emily Elert,
Popular Science, 30 January 2013.

Can you believe something this beautiful happens 182 days a year?

This is an edited, single-shot (not time-lapse) video of the moon rising over Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand two days ago. It was filmed by Australian Astrophotographer Mark Gee, who was sweet enough to share it with NASA, who was awesome enough to post it as their Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

Moonrises happen about every 25 hours - the moon's orbit around the Earth delays its rise by about 50 minutes each day - which means that it comes up after sunset about half the time. All you need is a horizon to watch it on.

[via APOD]

Top image: Screen-captured from video

[Source: Popular Science. Top image added.]

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


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5 Automotive Brands That Came Back from the Dead
By Kristen Hall-Geisler,
Mental Floss, 29 January 2013.

It’s hard enough to start - or restart - an entire automotive company these days. A hundred years ago, car companies would come into being and fade away with the frequency of app design firms and cupcake shops today. But there’s an easy way to give a new car company some instant gravitas: pick up one of those old names and bolt it to a shiny new car.

Sometimes a company just needs break with its own recent past. Sometimes it needs an old name for its new ambition. And sometimes a guy just needs some instant history to attach to the car of his dreams. Read on to see which second chances lived - and which were dead on arrival (DOA).

1. Lincoln Motor Company (1920-1950s, 2012-present)

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The Lincoln Motor Company was founded by Henry LeLand in 1920, but it didn’t operate on its own for long. The more famous Henry in American autos, Henry Ford, snapped it up in 1922, and the marque has served as the Ford company’s luxury nameplate ever since. Eventually, in the 1950s, the name was shortened to Lincoln, and over the years, it lost some of its lustre. In the latter part of the twentieth century, Lincolns were regarded by many (and not incorrectly) as gussied-up Fords, not luxury cars in their own right.

In 2012, as part of Ford’s overhaul in the wake of the automotive crisis of 2008, it resurrected the full Lincoln Motor Company name for its 2013 models. Even Abraham Lincoln, for whom the company was originally named, was trotted out in ads for the rebranded cars. It helped that there was an Oscar-nominated Stephen Spielberg movie that autumn called Lincoln - and who doesn’t love a tie-in? - but the new Lincoln Motor Company cars will have to prove their luxurious chops if they want buyers to take the rebranding seriously.

2. Bugatti (1900-1995, 1998-present)

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Bugatti has always meant speed, power, and luxury, as well as the wads of cash required to pay for those things. Its French blue race cars were unstoppable in the early days of automotive history, and its oval nameplate and EB logo (for founder Ettore Bugatti) crossed the finish line first repeatedly in the first decades of automotive racing.

But World War II did a number on the Bugatti company, as it did for so many exclusive car makers. The company loped along for decades before it was finally sold to fellow old-timey carmaker Hispano-Suiza in 1963. There was an attempted revival in the late 1980s, and even a new model in the early '90s called the EB110, but the company went completely bankrupt in the 1990s.

Luckily, none other than the Volkswagen company (which also owns Lamborghini and Bentley) swooped in with money and a mission: to bring back Bugatti in all its nearly unobtainable, checkbook-breaking glory. Since 1998, when VW re-established Bugatti at Molsheim, the company has made one amazing car: the Bugatti Veyron. It comes in many guises, from convertible to Hermes-clad, but each is bespoke and unique. What else would you expect for a million bucks - minimum?

3. Maybach (1921-World War II, 2002-2012)

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Wilhelm Maybach and Gottfried Daimler were besties in the early days of the automobile, working together in the late 1800s to build engines and cars - until Daimler manoeuvred Maybach out of the partnership picture. So Maybach started his own company in 1909 with his son Karl, affixing the curious name “Luftfahrzeug-Moterenbau,” which translates as “aircraft engine.” (There was a lot of crossover in the early days of autos and airplanes.)

In 1921, the name was changed to the more melodious Maybach Moterenbau, and the factory in Friedrichshafen, Germany, built exclusive, expensive luxury cars. During World War II, the Maybach factory was pressed into service to turn out military engines (not for the good guys) and, as with so many manufacturers after the war, Maybach never resumed making cars.

But Daimler wasn’t done with Maybach yet. In 2002, Mercedes-Benz, which is part of the Daimler group, rolled out the Maybach 57 and 62. And then Daimler was done with them again, for real this time. The 2012 models would be the last of the line, as the Maybach brand had cost Daimler $1 billion over its decade-long resurrection. Maybe they’ll give it another go next century.

4. Spyker (1898-1925, 2000-present, fingers crossed)

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Like Maybach and Bugatti, the Spijker brothers were in the automotive game early, building their first car in 1898 in the Netherlands - not a country renowned for its supercars, then or now. In 1907, a Spyker (the brothers had changed the company name so it would be pronounceable by the rest of the world) finished second in the Peking to Paris race. And in 1914, Spyker merged with the Dutch Aircraft Factory, taking the motto “Nulla tenaci invia est via” or “For the tenacious, no road is impassable.”

Except, of course, the road to long-term viability. Spyker didn’t even make it to World War II; it was belly up by 1925, the heyday of the Jazz Age and big, expensive cars. There may have been a lesson to learn there.

It took 75 years for the brand to see the light of day again. This time, a European fashion magnate with his dream car in mind dusted off the old wheel-and-propeller insignia and debuted the Spyker C8. That seemed to go pretty well for a first supercar, so in 2006 Spyker fielded a Formula 1 team for one expensive season.

Not content to merely leak money all over the track, Spyker took over struggling Swedish passenger car maker Saab in 2010 - or tried to, anyway. Saab went bankrupt in 2011, and Spyker sued Saab’s former owner GM for $3 billion in damages in 2012. The Dutch carmaker is hanging by a thread while it awaits the outcome of the suit.

5. Detroit Electric (1907-1939, 2009-present, maybe)

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Back in the early days of the automobile, electric cars were really popular - as popular as gasoline-powered cars in Northeastern metro areas. One of the best-known electric car builders at the time was Detroit Electric, and it lasted a surprisingly long time, thanks to its ability to build cars that could go over 200 miles on a charge (the Nissan Leaf of today gets about 100 miles per charge). But even in Detroit, the economic effects of World War II took their toll, and gasoline had long before won the fuel war in America. Electric cars had become a novelty, and then a nothing.

But by the twenty-first century, electric cars were starting to make sense again. Fuel prices were up, the phrase “peak oil” was being tossed around, and Americans were tired of fighting wars for oil. Mainstream manufacturers like Ford, Chevy, Nissan, Toyota, and others quickly electrified a small percentage of their fleets while new companies started from scratch. One company decided if it was going to start from scratch, it would at least start with a name people might know: Detroit Electric.

In 2009, the new Detroit Electric emerged. Sort of. There’s a web site, and a concept, and some proprietary technology, but as of 2013, there is not yet an actual, drivable car.

Top image: Bugatti and the Rubell Family Collection unveiling of artist Bernar Venet's Grand Sport Venet. Credit: Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited.]


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Animals in Space: 10 Beastly Tales
By Jeanna Bryner and Tia Ghose,
Live Science, 29 January 2013.

Four-Legged Astronauts

Before humanity ever rocketed past the edge of space, let alone into Earth orbit, and before man ever stepped foot on the moon, our four-legged (and sometimes legless) friends tested the ether. Plenty of animals, from dogs and cats and even chimps to worms and frogs, rode into space aboard various rockets. At first the often adorable astronauts were a means for testing the ability to launch a living organism into space and bring it back alive, though various animals have been sent into space to test other phenomenon, including motion sickness and radiation.

10. Space menagerie

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Since the 1950s, several countries have sent fish, rodents - including the Argentine rat Bellisario - the Soviet Horsfield Tortoise and rabbit Marfusa and the U.S.-sponsored mice Amy and Sally, into space. What have we learned from such space-y animals? Turns out, fish and tadpoles swim in loops, rather than straight lines, because there is no up or down in microgravity to orient them, according to NASA. Baby mammals, it seems, have a tough time in spaceflight, as the furry creatures can't easily huddle for warmth as they normally do while floating; they also have difficulty locating their mama's nipples, making nursing tricky.

9. Laika

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On Nov. 3, 1957, a female part-Samoyed terrier made history when the furball became the first animal launched into space, riding into orbit aboard the Sputnik II spacecraft. Originally named Kudryavka (or "Little Curly" in English) and later called Laika (Barker), the 13-pound (6-kilogram) dog was nestled in a pressurized cabin during the one-way trip - since the technology to safely return a payload to Earth didn't exist at the time, Laika was provided with 10 days' worth of oxygen.

However, the pup likely only survived a day or two, according to NASA. The mission gave scientists the first data on animal behaviour in space; apparently Laika showed signs of agitation, though she did eat her food.

8. Ham, the Chimp

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Named Ham, the first chimp to get its "space stripes" rode into sub-orbit aboard the Mercury Redstone rocket, reaching an altitude of 157 miles (253 kilometres) on Jan. 31, 1961. During his 16.5-minute flight, Ham experienced 6.6 minutes of weightlessness before splashing down into the Atlantic Ocean. The chimp showed signs of fatigue and dehydration, though medical examiners gave him a good bill of health otherwise.

Ham, which is an acronym for Holloman Aero Med (the air force base where he came from), spent the next decade-plus on display at the Washington Zoo, before being moved in 1980 to the North Carolina Zoological Park. Ham died on Jan. 17, 1983; his skeleton was kept for on-going examination, while his other remains were laid to rest in front of the International Space Hall of Fame in New Mexico.

On Nov. 29, 1961, Enos became the first chimpanzee to reach Earth orbit, circling the planet twice aboard a Mercury Atlas rocket. Enos died at Holloman Air Force Base due to dysentery 11 months later.

7. Chubby monkey

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In 1958, the Navy trained a squirrel monkey named Gordo to travel on an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Unfortunately, when the parachute attached to the nose cone failed to deploy, Gordo was lost. Later, scientists looked at sensor data from the monkey and found he had survived the launch, several minutes of zero gravity, and 10,000 mile per hour speeds back down to Earth. The cone, and poor Gordo, sank at Cape Canaveral in Florida. (Shown here, a common squirrel monkey.)

6. Space survivors

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Able and Baker were the first monkeys to make it back from space alive. In 1959, the rhesus monkey Able and the squirrel monkey Baker flew on an intermediate-range ballistic missile's nose cone. They were weightless and reached a top speed of about 10,000 miles per hour (16,093 kilometres per hour).

While they made it back in good spirits, Able died four days later from anaesthesia during surgery to remove an infected electrode. Baker spent the rest of his days at the U.S. Space and Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, before passing away in 1984.

5. Cat cadets

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Credit: vvvita | Shutterstock

In 1963, the French space program planned to launch Felix the cat into space. The wily cat escaped and the space program had to send his female body double, Felicette, according to some reports. Electrodes on the cat's brain transmitted data to the ground, before the cat was successfully recovered. Another feline flight attempted on Oct. 24 of that year reportedly failed and the cat wasn't recovered.

4. Space Spiders!

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The animal payload diversified after the landing of Apollo 11 to include turtles, rabbits, spiders, fish, jellyfish, algae, amoeba and insects. On July 28, 1973, on the last Apollo flights, Skylab 3 housed some creepy-crawlies: Anita and Arabella, two common cross spiders, which were being monitored to see how they spun webs in space. The spiders are on exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

In 2011, two golden orb spiders (shown here) - dubbed Gladys and Esmeralda - were launched aboard the space shuttle Endeavor to the International Space Station, where astronauts observed their behaviours in microgravity.

3. Flying frogs

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In 1959, the United States sent a missile launch with two frogs, but sadly, those frogs were destroyed in space. In 1970, the U.S. sent bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) into space on the Orbiting Otolith satellite to understand how frogs deal with motion sickness. (Otolith refers to the structures in the inner ears of some organisms that sense gravity and motion.)

2. Weightless Worms

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Spiders aren't the only creepy crawlers to make it to space. In 2006 scientists brought 4,000 nematodes, or worms, aboard the International Space Station to see how microgravity affected their floppy bodies. The worms seemed to take to weightlessness well: nematode eggs grew into full-fledged adults, and those adults in turn had offspring. All in all, 12 generations of worms reproduced in space.

1. Iran's monkey

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On Jan. 28, 2013, Iranian space officials announced they had successfully launched a live monkey into space, inching closer to the Islamic republic's goal of a manned mission. After a suborbital flight, the space capsule Pishgam (which means "pioneer" in Farsi) returned the monkey alive, according to Iranian news agencies.

In 2011, Iran's effort to launch a live rhesus monkey into space atop a Kavoshgar-5 rocket failed, though what actually happened didn't come out in news reports from the country.

[Source: Live Science. Edited.]

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


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Top 10 Greatest Eruptions in Geologic History
Discovery News, 12 December 2012.

Ring of Fire

In 2008, 72 volcanoes erupted around the world - that's a lot of fire, and slightly above average. 2009 got off to a fast start, too, with Mount Redoubt letting loose in Alaska, Japan's Mount Asama raining ash on Tokyo and an undersea volcano in Tonga breaching the surface and growing an island. But none of these is likely to break into our list of Top 10 Volcanoes in Geologic History. Most of these come with signs that read "Danger: Keep Back at Least One Continent." But if this list of past catastrophes teaches us anything, it's that the biggest, baddest volcanoes can erupt anywhere and at any time. And they will again - it's just a matter of when.

10. Ontong-Java Plateau, South Pacific

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This is the biggest volcano you've never heard of. When it erupted 125 million years ago, it covered a region of the south Pacific Ocean the size of Alaska with basalt, in some places as much as 30 kilometres thick. It was so big, the eruption itself is thought to have lasted 6 million years. Scientists call this type of volcano a large igneous province (LIP). They are highly mysterious, and appear to form when huge amounts of hot magma well up from thousands of miles deep in the mantle, near Earth's core. There's a lot of debate as to whether LIPs erupt in huge explosions, or just ooze out in massive sheets of lava. Either way, mass extinctions have a tendency to occur whenever one of these things go off, so it's probably a good thing we've never seen one in action. [More info here, here and here]

9. Mount St. Helens, Washington, USA

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May 18, 1980, was a bad day in Washington state. Silent for over 100 years, the picturesque 9,677-foot peak had by late April grown into a bloated, trembling blister of rock and magma. And like a blister, it popped early on a Sunday morning, rocketing fiery ash out to the north at close to the speed of sound. The eruption killed 57 people and did almost $3 billion in damage when all was said and done. It also lopped 1,314 feet off the height of the mountain, which was reduced to a smouldering crater. This was the most deadly volcanic eruption in Unites States history - and it was just a pipsqueak, really. [More info here and here]

8. Grimsvotn, Iceland

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Nothing says "explosion" quite like the mixing of searing hot magma with ice from a glacier. It's a common circumstance at Grimsvotn, a volcano buried underneath the Vatnajokull glacier in eastern Iceland that last erupted in 2004. Each time Grimsvotn erupts, huge amounts of liquid build up under the glacier until the pressure becomes so great that the water literally lifts up the glacier and escapes in catastrophic floods, called "jokulhlaups." You don't want to be around for a jokulhlaup. The flood that came after the 1996 Grimsvotn eruption discharged 50,000 cubic meters of water per second, making it briefly the second-largest river in the world. But that kind of thing doesn't faze Icelanders - these are the same folks who once sprayed seawater on a lava flow to keep it from engulfing a nearby harbour town. [More info here and here]

7. Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA

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Given the violent company it's in, Mauna Kea is pretty chill. Dormant for the last 4,500 years, it was never much of an exploder even in its heyday. That's because the lava that comes out of volcanoes in Hawaii is a low-viscosity basalt - it tends to ooze and flow like a river. Shown here with snowy peaks in the foreground, the mountain has erupted a lot of lava over the eons. It is only 13,796 feet above sea level, but from its base at the bottom of the Pacific, it measures 33,476 feet high, making it the tallest mountain in the world. Its upper reaches used to have enough snow for skiing (and further back, glaciers). [More info here and here]

6. Krakatau, Indonesia

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In 1883, humanity witnessed what scientists call a "caldera-forming eruption" in Indonesia. In plain English, we call that a mountain blowing itself apart. At 200 megatons of explosive power, the eruption was four times more powerful than the biggest nuclear bomb ever detonated. Since the volcano and island were one and the same, there wasn't much left after the explosion rocked the Sunda Strait and sent 100-foot-high tsunamis and scalding ash flows ashore up to 25 miles away. In the ruined void the volcano left behind, a new island has been growing back (through a series of much smaller eruptions) and is now around 1,000 feet high. [More info here, here and here]

5. Ra Patera, Io, Jupiter's Moon

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Thanks to space exploration, the list of greatest volcanoes can no longer be restricted to Earth. In 1979 the Voyager space probe made a shocking discovery - Jupiter's moon Io was pock-marked with active volcanoes. Voyager's snapshot of Ra Patera was the first discovery of an active extraterrestrial volcano, though the bigger vents Loki and Pele were discovered soon after. But it didn't make sense. Io is about same the size as Earth's moon, which long ago froze in the vacuum of space. So why was it still active? As scientists soon learned, Jupiter's intense gravity was tugging on Io's innards, creating such heat that the moon was literally disembowelling itself, spewing sulphur-rich lavas all over the surface of the moon, and out into space. [More info here and here]

4. Santorini, Greece

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Look at the small group of five islands known as Santorini, and it's clear something bad once happened there. In fact, the islands all were one, until an eruption bigger than Krakatau blew the place apart about 3,600 years ago. Ash deposits 100 feet thick have been found 19 miles in all directions from the caldera. Shown here is a wall of the volcano where you can see layers of ash, lava flows, pyroclastic deposits and other volcanic products. The ancient eruption is thought to have spawned the tales of the "Lost City of Atlantis" and perhaps even hastened the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the nearby island of Crete. [More info here and here]

3. Olympus Mons, Mars

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The biggest volcano in the solar system is also the quietest. It's the size of Arizona, and close to 90,000 feet high, but this gentle giant hasn't erupted in millions of years. When it did it was probably a lot like Mauna Kea, leaking rivers of liquid rock rather than exploding into the Martian skies. [More info here and here]

2. Tambora, Indonesia

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Between dozens of volcanoes, the biggest earthquakes in the world, and devastating tsunamis, Indonesia has a lot of geology to worry about. And Mount Tambora, a huge volcano on the island of Sumbawa, is no exception. The mountain produced a gargantuan eruption in 1815 that produced an ash cloud so big, it cancelled the summer of 1816 in North America and Europe. The eruption also killed between 70,000 and 90,000 people, making it the deadliest in human history. [More info here and here]

And the No. 1 volcano in geologic history is...(you saw this one coming)...

1. Siberian Traps, Siberia

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A LIP just like Ontong-Java, the Siberian Traps supervolcano has one distinct difference: it is by far the deadliest volcano the planet has ever seen. The traps erupted at the end of the Permian era, 250 million years ago. It was the worst mass extinction the planet has ever seen; 90 percent of all life on Earth was wiped out. The massive traps basalts appear to be the smoking gun. They seeped into huge coal deposits on their way to the surface, and their enormous heat baked the coal, sending billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The global warming that followed was catastrophic - it took millions of years for life on Earth to recover. [More info here and here]

Top image: Ring of Fire. Credit: USGS 

[Source: Discovery News. Edited.]

Related Post: 7 Volcanoes We Should Be Watching


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This is Bloomberg’s daily ranking of the current world’s top 100 billionaires. Of the 100, only one Malaysian is listed – Robert Kuok, ranked 39, with a net worth of US$19.1 Billion. To view the full visual and get more information, see Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Bloomberg Billionaires
By bloombergvisualdata,, 28 January 2013.

The Bloomberg Billionaires Index is a daily ranking of the world's richest people. In calculating net worth, Bloomberg News strives to provide the most transparent calculations available. Each Bloomberg Billionaires profile contains a detailed analysis of how that person's fortune has been tallied.

Bloomberg Billionaires

For more information, see Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

[Source: Links added.]


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The first panorama from the top of the world's tallest building
By Samantha Rollins,
The Week, 28 January 2013.

This 360-degree shot from the top of the Burj Khalifa brings high-definition views of Dubai to your computer screen.

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Image via Gizmodo

Dubai isn't exactly known for understated beauty. So it's fitting that the city with the world's tallest building would honour its glory by releasing a dizzyingly beautiful, high-definition, interactive panorama shot from the top of the 2,722-foot tall building. The 2.6 GB image, which was released to (appropriately) publicize the world's most lucrative photography award, was composed of 70 separate photos shot by Dubai-based photographer Gerald Donovan. Take a look at Dubai in all its glory, or pretend you have the view that Tom Cruise enjoyed during that famous scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, by checking out the panorama here.

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Above images screen captured from video

Video: Burj Khalifa Pinnacle Panorama

It is arguably the greatest image on earth - a 360 degree panoramic view from the very top of the world's tallest tower, Dubai's Burj Khalifa. The giddying image shows the view across the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates from 830 meters above sea level captured in high resolution using some of the most advanced techniques in digital photography.
Top image: Screen capture from video

[Source: The Week. Edited. Images added.]


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Space Pictures This Week: Martian Gas, Cloud Trails
By Jane J. Lee,
National Geographic News, 28 January 2013.

Mercury gets a close-up, ships leave cloud trails, and the sun shines in multiple colours in the latest space pictures.

1. Multi-coloured Sun

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The sun is more than meets the eye, and researchers should know. They've equipped telescopes on Earth and in space with instruments that view the sun in at least ten different wavelengths of light, some of which are represented in this collage compiled by NASA and released January 22. (See more pictures of the sun.)

By viewing the different wavelengths of light given off by the sun, researchers can monitor its surface and atmosphere, picking up on activity that can create space weather.

If directed towards Earth, that weather can disrupt satellite communications and electronics - and result in spectacular auroras. (Read an article on solar storms in National Geographic magazine.)

The surface of the sun contains material at about 10,000°F (5,700°C), which gives off yellow-green light. Atoms at 11 million°F (6.3 million°C) gives off ultraviolet light, which scientists use to observe solar flares in the sun's corona. There are even instruments that image wavelengths of light highlighting the sun's magnetic field lines.

2. Martian Ice Fans

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In a picture released January 24 by NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, black streaks of sand fan out over a seasonal ice cap at the Martian north pole.

Unlike on Earth, ice caps on on the Red Planet are made of frozen carbon dioxide - similar to the dry ice found in Halloween punch bowls.

When sunlight filters down through the Martian ice, it warms the sand - and the ice in contact with the dirt - turning solid ice directly into a gas in a process called sublimation. Once the trapped gas finds an outlet it erupts, dragging sand from Mars' surface along with it. (Related: "Mars Snow Falls Like Dry Ice Fog.")

3. Night-Shining Clouds

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These luminous blue clouds at the edge of space are called polar mesospheric clouds, or noctilucent clouds. Formed between 47 to 53 miles (76 to 85 kilometres) up in the atmosphere, they're most visible during late spring and early summer in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

They get their blue glow when the sun dips below the horizon, shrouding the ground in darkness but giving off enough illumination to light up the clouds. The yellow-orange band at the bottom of the blue layer is the stratosphere.

This picture, released January 21, was taken by the crew of the International Space Station as they passed over the Pacific Ocean south of French Polynesia (map).

4. Mercury’s Michelangelo

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The Michelangelo basin, shown here in a close-up released January 24, resides in the Michelangelo quadrangle located in the southern polar regions of Mercury.

The image was taken as part of NASA's MESSENGER mission, whose satellite is the first spacecraft to orbit this innermost planet.

Since Mercury has no atmosphere, there is no wind to erode the many impact craters stamped onto its surface.

5. Snail Trails?

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NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on-board the Aqua satellite snapped this image of clouds across the eastern Pacific, off the west coast of the U.S. and Canada, on January 15.

Scrawled across the fluffy clouds like drunken snail trails are ship tracks (centre). These human-made clouds form when atmospheric water vapour condenses on small particles lofted into the air from a ship's exhaust. (See pictures of a possible new cloud type.)

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited.]