Monday, 31 March 2014


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9 Craziest Stories of Social Media Addiction
By Grace Murano,
Oddee, 31 March 2014.

From a woman who committed suicide when forbidden to use Facebook, to a teen who almost killed himself because of bad selfies, meet some people that are seriously addicted to the Internet.

1. The woman who was hospitalized after excessive WhatsApp typing

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A woman used the WhatsApp messaging service so much over the last Christmas holiday that she ended up in hospital.

The Lancet medical journal noted a report by medical staff who treated a 34-year-old emergency medicine physician who was 27 weeks pregnant and sought treatment for severe pain in her wrists.

She had no history of trauma and had not engaged in any excessive physical activity in the previous days. However, on Christmas Day 2013, she spent an estimated six hours holding a weighty mobile phone while sending vast quantities of messages.

The diagnosis was bilateral extensor pollicis longus tendinitis of the thumb - or what they have nicknamed "WhatsAppitis."

2. The teenager who tried to kill himself because he wasn't satisfied with the quality of his selfies

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A selfie-addicted British teen tried to kill himself because he didn't like any of the photos he had taken.

Danny Bowman, 19, spent up to 10 hours each day taking up to 200 photos of himself on his iPhone. He then nearly overdosed on pills, but his mother intervened and kept him alive.

Bowman's case is extreme, yes, but psychiatrists are starting to consider selfie addiction as a serious mental health issue.

3. The Chinese teen who died at internet addiction rehab camp

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China is investigating the death of a teenager who was allegedly beaten to death in a camp designed to treat internet addiction.

Deng Senshan, 15, died less than a day after his parents sent him to the camp in southern Guangxi province.

The case has led medical experts to call for laws regulating centres that treat obsessive web surfing. Concern over such behaviour is so widespread in China, and demand for rehabilitation is so great, that some camps now advertise on television, the report said.

Deng was found vomiting and was taken to a clinic where he died. Fellow students said a teacher beat him.

Tao Ran, director of the country's first internet addiction treatment clinic at a military hospital in Beijing, told The Associated Press that deaths like these are bound to happen because few camps employ scientific methods, with most opting for crude military-style discipline.

Internet addiction is a big problem in China. 200 million internet users are between the ages of 15 and 35 and many lack self-control. Students in high school and college also face enormous pressure from parents to succeed academically.

Tao's clinic has treated about 5,000 internet addicts since 2004.

4. The teenage ballerina who killed herself because she was banned from owning a mobile phone

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An internet addicted teenage ballerina shared photos of her own bleeding arms on self-harm websites before committing suicide. Troubled Tallulah Wilson, 15, created an online alter ego - a fantasy cocaine-taking character - in her desperation to be loved as someone else. The teenager also regularly visited pages accused of promoting suicide before throwing herself in front of a train.

Tallulah retreated into an online world as she struggled to cope with alleged bullying, her grandmother's death and her parents' divorce. She was banned from owning a mobile phone or laptop - but used her mother's computer to go online.

Her mother confronted her about her online fantasies. "She said she had 18,000 people who loved her for who she was online." The following day Tallulah left home in West Hampstead, NW London, without her dance gear, telling her mother, "I don't need my things today."

She died later that day - October 12, 2012 - when she was hit by a train at St. Pancras station.

5. The 14-year-old who was killed by a train while retrieving her cell phone

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In March 2014, a 14-year-old girl was killed by a train after she tried to retrieve her cell phone which she dropped on the tracks.

Jenna Betti was hit by a freight train in Martinez, California. According to the 14-year-old's mother Dena Derenale Betti, Jenna had reportedly been sitting on the tracks with her boyfriend and jumped off when the train approached. However, realizing that she had dropped her phone, she ran back for it, but misjudged the distance of the freight train and was "sucked in by its vacuum."

6. The woman who committed suicide after being accused of Facebook addiction

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In February 2014, a 24-year-old Indian woman who was confronted by her parents over her obsession with Facebook responded by hanging herself from a ceiling fan.

Sushma Goswami, 24, had discovered Facebook only a few months earlier and the site quickly turned into an addiction as she started spending hours in front of her computer. Her younger brother followed suit and both raised the ire of their parents for neglecting their daily chores while doing little else beyond spending time online. The siblings each had more than a thousand friends on Facebook, despite spending their lives as social recluses focused almost entirely on their studies.

Following the confrontation with her parents, Goswami locked herself in her room and was found hanging from a ceiling fan the next morning.

Sadly, this isn't the first time a young Indian woman took her own life over Facebook. In October 2013, a 17-year-old girl in Parbhani district of Maharashtra committed suicide after an argument with her parents over her obsession with Facebook. "Is Facebook so bad? I cannot stay in a home with such restrictions as I can't live without Facebook," she wrote in her suicide note.

7. The woman who was so distracted by Facebook that she walked off a pier into icy waters

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A female tourist visiting Australia has put a new spin on taking a long walk off a short pier. She was so intent on checking Facebook that she plunged straight into chilly waters of Port Phillip Bay. Fortunately for her there were witnesses who quickly alerted the police.

Not only was this particular tourist completely unaware of her surroundings - she also reportedly couldn't swim. Luckily for her, Port Philip is quite shallow for the most part, and she wound up just 60 feet away from the pier where she was quickly rescued and taken to a local hospital.

The most surprising part? She didn't lose her phone. Even though she couldn't swim and the water temperature was around freezing, she clung tightly to her precious mobile during the whole ordeal.

8. The man who lost his job and wife thanks to his Twitter addiction

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Larry Carlat used to be a married editor of a famous men's magazine. Then he became obsessed with Twitter, lost his job, got divorced, and alienated loved ones.

The tweetoholic describes tweeting "every hour on the hour, day and night." His tweets were a clear violation of the company's social-media policy. He was given to choose choice: to delete the account or face termination. He chose Twitter. About a month later, he lost his wife after tweetting "I would've taken a bullet for my wife, but now I'd rather be the one pulling the trigger." He claims to have reached his lowest point when his son threatened to stop following him on Twitter.

After Twitting as much as 30 times a day, seven days a week for over 3 years and amassing over 25,000 followers, Larry decided to commit “Twittercide” and left the social platform.

9. The two men killed for playing an internet drinking game

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An online drinking craze linked to the deaths of two teenagers over one weekend in February continued across Britain, despite warnings that it was lethal when taken to its extreme.

The internet trend, known as "neknomination" involves young people filming themselves gulping down large amounts of alcohol in increasingly dangerous settings and posting them online. At the end of the video they shout out a friend's name and nominate them to perform their own stunt.

Jonny Byrne, a 19-year-old from County Carlow, Ireland, was discovered floating in a river after jumping in as part of a nomination stunt.

A Facebook page dedicated to the craze called NI Neknomination has now been discontinued and turned to an alcohol awareness page.

Just hours before the discovery of Jonny Byrne's body, Ross Cummins, 22, was found unconscious in a house in Dublin and died later in hospital. Irish media reported that he was drinking spirits at the time of his death and that his extreme drinking was part of a Neknomination.

Top image via Guardian Liberty Voice.

[Source: Oddee. Edited. Top image added.]


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Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Our Moon
By Gregory Myers,
Toptenz, 31 March 2014.

Ever since man looked up at the stars, he has been fascinated by the big round white hunk of rock that hangs in the sky above us. The Moon has featured in religious beliefs and in the lore of countless cultures and societies. Due to human curiosity, we set out to understand the Moon further, and what we have learned is sometimes even more interesting than the legends themselves. Join us below as we explore our Moon and revel in its glory.

10. Helium 3

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Many people, upon hearing that countries still plan to return to the Moon, often wonder why. Some people don’t really think much of a big hunk of dull rock that isn’t even made of cheese. However, the Moon has something much more valuable than stale Gouda underneath the surface. Enter Helium 3, a lightweight isotope that could single-handedly fix our energy problems. Helium 3 can be used in nuclear fusion sans the radioactivity, making it a way safer process. This isotope has already been tested, and has been found to be incredibly efficient. While mining it would be extremely expensive, the costs would be well worth the gain. Imagine a future with safe, affordable, clean energy for the entire world.

9. Water

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These days, scientists are on a roll finding all kinds of cool new things, and the Moon has been no exception. While many people would suggest all kinds of strange things that could be on the Moon, such as extraterrestrial beings or maybe all of those socks that you lose in the washing machine, what scientists actually found is much more surprising. Using remote imaging, scientists scanned the crater Bullialdus near the equator of the Moon, and found water molecules locked in the rocks deep below the surface. Found beneath the surface, it is referred to as magmatic water and is thought by scientists to have originated due to solar wind that impacted on the surface of the Moon.

8. Preserved Footprints

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As you know, our Moon doesn’t really have much in the way of an atmosphere, but what you may not realize is that this has some very interesting implications. Namely, things don’t erode very easily, so the footprints left by US astronauts in the ’60s and ’70s are still preserved, and should be for a long time. This unique situation has given a brand new thing for people to worry about, and US lawmakers spent time that they were getting paid for in an attempt to legislate the issue. You see, some people are worried that, with commercial organizations getting into space flight and other countries working towards landing on the Moon, that we needed to make sure no one messes with our historical imprint. For this reason, lawmakers tried to pass a bill making the Moon landing site a national park. This failed, though NASA has asked people to at least attempt to respect the original lunar landing site, should they somehow end up there.

7. Spaceship Moon Theory

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It’s a God! It’s a huge hunk of cheese in the sky! It’s…an alien spaceship? The Moon has been the victim of many strange origin stories over the years. Many have been convinced that the Moon is some sort of God that needs to be worshiped, and some people actually think it is made of cheese. However, perhaps the oddest theory is that the Moon is the remains of an alien spaceship left orbiting earth. The theory starts with the supposition that aliens have been seen on the surface of the Moon. At one point, the United States even experimented with remote viewing, although they decided it was pure rubbish.

But it gets weirder. Those who subscribe to the theory claim that the Moon’s deposits of rocks such as chromium, titanium and zirconium were actually because they were strong building materials for the alien’s enormous spaceship. Those who believe this claim that the Moon’s surface is actually armour plating and was used to protect from meteorite impacts, although they believe the Moon has been abandoned for some time.

6. Moonquakes

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Over forty years ago while visiting the Moon, astronauts left seismometers that sent data back to the scientists waiting on good old terra firma for results. These seismometers were left active for over a decade and now many years later a professor from Notre Dame and his team set to work once again looking at the data.

What they found is that the Moon has earthquakes or “moonquakes” as it were. Apparently there are several different kinds of quakes that can happen on the Moon. The first are hundreds of miles below the surface, some are simply vibrations set off by meteorites striking the surface. Still others are simply due to thermal expansion. and then there are the shallow moonquakes, the ones that, according to the scientists, we need to watch out for. These are only tens of miles below the surface and can reach a 5.5 on the Richter scale. However, quakes on the Moon have some features that differ from ours and make them more intense. Many of these shallow moonquakes went on for a good ten minutes, and the researcher in charge said the Moon was “ringing like a bell”. Learning more about these quakes is very important if any country is ever to set up a base on the Moon.

5. The Man in the Moon

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Long ago before all of our precious modern technology, man looked up at the Moon and wondered about it. For one thing, what was that strange outline that looked like a man on its surface? Wanting to explain the strange shape, people made up many different stories about the Man in the Moon. While these stories have different variations they usually feature a man who was banished to the Moon as punishment for working on the Sabbath and some versions include a woman who was punished with him for a similar crime. However, some legends suggest the man was actually Cain, exiled to our lonely Moon as punishment because his offering was not pleasing to God.

4. Moon Base

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Suggesting that NASA will build a base on the Moon has turned into almost something of a joke in the United States. NASA keeps talking about it and people keep making plans or claiming it is going to happen, and it just never quite gets off the ground. However, while the United States may have been the first to land on the Moon, they may not be the first to establish a permanent base. Supposedly, the Russians plan to head to the Moon with some cosmonauts in 2025, and hope to have a base established a few years later, but they have the countries of Japan, China, and India close on their heels. China especially has ambitious plans of their own and has come up with advanced concepts for their own plans to establish a fully-working base on the Moon by the year 2050.

3. Blue Moon

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You’ve probably at some point in your life heard the expression “once in a Blue Moon” and thus know it means something that doesn’t happen very often. However, interestingly there is some confusion as to how not often a Blue Moon actually occurs. Some people are under the impression that it is when two Full Moons happen in the same exact month, but this isn’t accurate. Essentially, a Blue Moon is when a particular season has four Full Moons instead of only three.

Much more interesting though, is that under certain circumstances the Moon can truly appear blue to the naked eye. According to scientists, volcanic eruptions can cause huge plumes of ash to spread out over the atmosphere and scatter red light particles. Particularly strong eruptions such as the volcano Krakatoa caused people to see blue Moons and lavender suns for literally years. According to some people as recently as the 1980’s, after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption a Blue Moon was visible in some parts of the world.

2. Outer Space Treaty

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We mentioned earlier that one lawmaker tried to have the lunar landing site made into a national park, but it turns out that there is a really good reason why his legislation failed. It may not be obvious to those outside the US at first, but the Moon is not actually our property. The Moon orbits the Earth, and is not claimed in particular by any one group of people.

This presents a unique problem when it comes to colonizing, mining from, or even landing on the Moon. Many years back, during the Cold War, some people were afraid the Moon might end up a serious point of contention, perhaps even used as a military base or a place to launch missiles. After much diplomatic back-and-forth, a treaty was finally agreed upon that essentially makes the Moon international territory, from which no one is allowed to conduct any military operations.

1. Dark Side of the Moon

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You’ve probably heard the phrase “dark side of the Moon” before; after all, it was one of Pink Floyd’s most well known albums. What you might not realize though, is that the phrase actually doesn’t make any sense. You see, the Moon is mysterious and has a whole secret life we know nothing about, and by that we mean there is a half of the Moon we never see. However, while the Moon only shows one side to us, it still shows both sides to the Sun, and the “dark side” gets plenty of light. Interestingly, if you take this the other way around, it means that if you looked at the Earth from the surface of the Moon, you would end up with the same effect. The Earth would continue to show you the same side, and remain in the same place in the sky every single day.

Top image: Red and orange tinted Moon, as seen from Earth during a lunar eclipse. Credit: Scott Taylor/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]


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10 Lesser-Known Historic Comets
By Patrick Weidinger,
Listverse, 31 March 2014.

Seeing one of the incredible comets that pass by the Earth is one of the greatest pleasures in life. If we are lucky, we will get to see several comets while we are here on this planet. Some will be barely visible to the naked eye, while others will be objects as bright as Venus or the Moon. It is the latter that we remember most and to which we give the name “Great Comet of (fill in the year).” Here are 10 of the lesser-known comets that, in one way or another, live up to the title of “great.”

10. Comet Bennett

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Probably the best-remembered comet from the 1970s was the very disappointing Kohoutek, which failed to reach its much-anticipated level of brightness in 1973–1974. However, there were two very good comets to grace the skies in the ’70s - Comet West and the lesser-known Comet Bennett. Though seldom mentioned in the same breath as the fantastic Comet West, Comet Bennett put on a spectacular display from February through May 1970.

Comet Bennett was a bright morning comet visible to anyone willing to brave the cold to see it. And it was worth the trouble, as it brightened to magnitude zero. The astronomical magnitude scale is a measure of how bright an object appears in the night sky, with zero being as bright as the summer star Vega. Objects with a negative number are even brighter and easier to see. For comparison, the brightest planet in the night sky is Venus, at -4 magnitude. Comet Bennett had a fantastic, long tail extending behind it, which was actually two tails twisting together. Though it faded from view by mid-May, it is remembered by some astronomers as one of the most impressive comets of the 20th century. Comet Bennett will be back to see us (or rather, for us to see) in 17,000 years.

9. The Headless Comet Of 1887

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Viewable for a very short time in the Southern Hemisphere, the Great Southern Comet of 1887 was remarkable for one bizarre reason - it had no nucleus, or “head.” The nucleus is the heart of the comet and is a solid block of ice and other material which is often referred to as a “dirty snowball.” The nucleus creates the coma - the cloud of dust surrounding the nucleus - and that accounts for the dust tail that is “blown” by the solar wind.

How is it possible that the Great Southern Comet of 1887 was so spectacular to see, but did not have a visible coma? Scientists have a few theories as to why the head of the comet may not have shone very brightly, but none of them are entirely conclusive. Whatever the explanation, the lack of a head gave the comet its second name, the “Headless Wonder.” Even though it was not visible for long before it disappeared, it was spectacular to see, with a tail stretching 50 degrees across the night sky.

8. Great Comet Of 1861

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In 1910, the world eagerly awaited the return of Comet Halley. By that point, scientists had been able to study the chemical composition of the tail of dust from Halley’s comet and had determined that it contained, among many other chemicals and elements, cyanide gas. Though the amount of cyanide gas was very low, the press spread fears that on May 19, 1910, when the Earth passed through the comet’s tail, the deadly gas would kill all life on Earth. Of course, the night came and went, the Earth passed through the tail of the comet, and the next morning the planet was still full of life.

Forty-nine years earlier, the Earth had another very close encounter with a comet - the Great Comet of 1861, also called Comet Tebbutt after the man who discovered it - farmer and astronomer John Tebbutt. On May 13, 1861, he spotted a fuzzy object in the night sky above the little town of Windsor, near Sydney, Australia. Not recognizing any such nebula or star cluster in that area of the sky, he sent a letter to the Government Astronomer at Sydney University, who verified that Tebbutt had done what few humans ever achieve - find (and be named for) a comet. Tebbutt’s discovery was published in the Sydney paper, and word of the new comet started to spread around the scientific world.

As it slowly moved into the Northern Hemisphere, Comet Tebbutt was visible for most of the summer of 1861. It steadily grew in brightness, eventually reaching magnitude zero, and on June 29th, the Earth passed right through the tail of the comet. It brightened to magnitude -4 (as bright as Venus), with a tail that stretched 120 degrees across the sky. To give you a rough idea of how amazing that is, remember that 90 degrees (the zenith) is the point directly overhead from the horizontal (the horizon). If the head of Comet Tebbutt had been at the horizon, its tail would have arced across the sky well past the zenith. Just as it would in 1910, the Earth survived its close encounter with the tail of the Great Comet of 1861.

7. Comet Arend-Roland

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Discovered in 1956, Comet Arend-Roland was the first great comet visible in the Northern Hemisphere since the 1910 appearance of Halley’s Comet, and today it’s thought of as the first great comet of the modern era. In April 1957, the comet passed closest to Earth and brightened into an amazing celestial object with a magnitude of zero and a tail stretching 30 degrees. It then showed a rare site: a bright anti-tail - a tail pointed toward the sun.

In his book Cosmos, astronomer Carl Sagan recollected one of the great stories of Comet Arend-Roland. Sagan was a graduate student attending the University of Chicago when Comet Arend-Roland was visible. He received a phone call one evening from an inebriated man who wanted to speak to a “shtrominer” about why there was a fuzzy ball of light in the sky above his outdoor party. Why did the ball of light disappear when you looked at it, then reappear when you averted your gaze? Sagan explained to the man that he was seeing Comet Arend-Roland. The man asked Sagan, “what’s a comet,” to which Sagan replied, “a snowball one mile across.” Not about to believe such nonsense, the man then asked Sagan if he could speak to “a real shtrominer.”

6. Comet Encke

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Comet Encke makes this list for several significant reasons. First, it is the periodic comet with the shortest known orbit around the Sun, only three years. Comet Encke is just one of many periodic comets, most with orbits that will bring the comet past Earth several times during an average human life span. Periodic comets are interlopers from the Oort cloud and Kuiper belt, an area filled with comets and asteroids which lies past the orbit of Neptune. From there, the periodic comets make frequent visits to Earth as they orbit the Sun. Because it comes back to visit our planet on a regular basis, Comet Encke is sometimes referred to as “old faithful.”

But sometimes, the comet is not so friendly to Earth. Some scientists believe that Comet Encke is related to many historical Earth impacts, including the 1908 Tunguska explosion. Some scientists even believe that Comet Encke may be the source of inspiration for the swastika. A rare Chinese comet atlas from the fourth century B.C. was discovered in 1978, and among the many drawings of comets was one with a very recognizable swastika shape.

Had the ancient Chinese observed Comet Encke in 2007, they would have been amazed to find that it had no tail at all - it had fallen off after a close encounter with the Sun. Comet Encke is also responsible for the annual Taurid meteor shower in early November, when the Earth passes through the remnants of dust left behind by the comet’s tail.

5. Comet Swift-Tuttle

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Photo credit: ESO/S. Guisard

You may not have heard of Comet Swift-Tuttle, but astronomers and scientists have, and they worry a great deal about this comet. And for good reason - Comet Swift-Tuttle has been called “the single most dangerous object known to humanity.”

Comet Swift-Tuttle is the largest of the periodic comets, those that make regular and relatively short-term visits to our Sun and Earth. It’s an old acquaintance of man. Scientists believe that there have been recorded sightings of its regular 120-year orbit for thousands of years. The last time it was back to see us was in 1992, not 1982 like astronomers expected. We now know its true orbital period, which leads to the problem: The next time Comet Swift-Tuttle is due to return is 2126, not 2116 - putting it much closer to the Earth’s orbit. For a time, scientists were actually worried that it might impact the Earth.

The comet’s large nucleus is what gives scientists concern. At over 26 kilometres (16.2 mi) in diameter, Comet Swift-Tuttle rivals the size of previous comets that have hit the Earth - impacts that have destroyed almost all life on the planet. Even though we now know the comet will miss us in 2126, it will be close enough to Earth to provide those lucky enough to see it with a spectacular show in the night sky. And we are still keeping a close eye on the comet, just in case it decides to change its mind between now and 2126.

On a more pleasant note, because it comes back to visit Earth on a routine basis, the Earth regularly passes through remnants of its tail. The dust left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle creates one of the best and most reliable astronomical events each year - the Perseid meteor shower.

4. The Great Comet Of 1811

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Also called Comet Flaugergues, this comet was first seen in April 1811. The comet was visible with either the naked eye or a telescope for an amazing 17 months, spanning well into 1812. At its brightest, Comet Flaugergues was magnitude 1 and had a tail stretching 25 degrees.

While the Great Comet of 1811 was called Comet Flaugergues, it is best remembered as either “Tecumseh’s Comet” in the United States or “Napoleon’s Comet” in Europe. In 1811, people were beginning to look at comets and other astronomical events with less fear and superstition. However, Comet Flaugergues worked hard to overcome that progress by coinciding with the greatest onset of earthquakes in US history - the New Madrid earthquakes, a series of thousands of quakes that spanned from December 1811 to March 1812. Two of the earthquakes exceeded 8.0 on the Richter scale.

At that time, the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh (his name just happened to mean “Shooting Star”) was bringing together various tribes in a confederacy to fight back against the United States for seizing Native American land. As Tecumseh was meeting with other tribal leaders just 80 kilometres (50 mi) from the epicentre, the first quake (magnitude 8.1) hit the New Madrid, Missouri area.

As for Napoleon, he apparently embraced the comet as a sure sign of the justness of his reign, but it came in the years when he would embark on his worst military decision, the invasion of Russia. In fact, a total of three comets spanned the time between Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and his retreat.

3. The Comet Of 1472

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In 1472, Leonardo da Vinci was at the height of his profession and Columbus was still 20 years away from discovering the New World. The year also marked the appearance of one of the great comets of the tail end of the Middle Ages.

Scientific observations of comets were in their infancy in 1472 when the comet appeared. Scientists of the day tried to determine its distance from Earth, the size, length, and direction of the comet’s tail, and the size of its nucleus. Their measurements and calculations left much to be desired, but still, this was cutting-edge science for the time. After all, the telescope would not appear for more than another 100 years.

One of the early astronomers who studied the comet of 1472 was a German mathematician named Johannes Regiomontanus. Not only did he study the comet, he also wrote down what he observed. The comet had come along at just the right time for Regiomontanus. The printing revolution was just taking off all over Europe, and Regiomontanus’s notes became De Cometis, one of the first astronomy books ever published.

Regiomontanus wasn’t the only one watching the comet. An Italian philosopher and physician named Angelo Cato de Supino claimed that the comet was as bright as the full Moon and had a tail over 30 degrees long. The comet was also being studied by the Koreans and the Chinese. The Chinese described it as a “broom star” and recorded that it “even appeared at midday.” The comet would be visible for 59 days and would ultimately reach -3 magnitude in brightness.

2. Great Comet Of 1618

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Almost 150 years after the appearance of the Great Comet of 1472, Europe was enthralled with everything that could be observed, studied, recorded, and analyzed. But not everyone was getting with the times. In Prague, Protestants were tossing Catholic noblemen out of windows and triggering the Thirty Years’ War. But while all this was happening, Johannes Kepler was discovering the third law of planetary motion. Nobody paid much attention to what Kepler was up to, including the Catholic Church (fortunately for Kepler). But everyone noticed the comet that graced the sky in 1618.

Known as “the Angry Star” because of its reddish colour and very long, menacing tail, the Great Comet of 1618 was visible for seven weeks, which was plenty of time for 17th-century Europeans to get excited about this visitor from beyond. One person who certainly got excited about the comet was Galileo, who saw this as a perfect time to refute Aristotle’s claim that comets were “fiery objects.” He claimed that comets were not like planets with regular circular orbits (wrong), and that comets were not even real objects - they were just appearances (wrong and wrong again). Even Galileo wasn’t right all the time.

But what really caught everyone’s attention was that in England, King James I had taken notice of the comet, and he even penned a poem about it. In his own kingly manner of prose, his Majesty told his subjects to calm down, because it was only a comet. Even if God Almighty sent the comet, he reasoned, your typical Englishmen shouldn’t make too much of it, and should “keep his rash imaginations till he sleep.”

1. Comet Donati

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Comet Donati has two major distinctions that make it stand out in history. First, it is also known as “Lincoln’s Comet” because it was seen by the soon-to-be US president. When Lincoln observed Comet Donati in 1858, he was just a young Senate candidate from Illinois. Lincoln was said to have “greatly admired this visitor,” and spent a considerable amount of time watching the comet in the night sky. Second, and of even more historical significance, Comet Donati has the distinction of being the first comet ever photographed.

In 1839, photography was invented by Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, and astronomers quickly realized the potential applications of photography to their science. It didn’t take astronomers long to start snapping pictures of everything in the sky. The first successful daguerreotype of the Moon was made in 1840. By 1858, when Comet Donati became visible, the daguerreotype process was being improved with the wet collodion method. George Bond, an astronomer at Harvard, used a telescope and the collodion photography method to record the first-ever image of a comet. It wasn’t much to look at, but there it was. History had been made.

Besides these two historically important distinctions, Comet Donati was also a spectacular comet to observe. The night sky of the 1800s was not yet obscured by the modern curse of light pollution. People around the world, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, were in awe of the many spectacular comets that came along in the 1800s. It must have been marvellous to observe so many great comets in such a short period of time, under such perfect, dark skies.

Top image: Painting of Comet Donati. Credit: Yale Centre of British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]


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Tasty Tech Eye Candy Of The Week (Mar 30)
By Tracy Staedter,
Discovery News, 30 March 2014.

This week, we present a host of tech meant to save people and perhaps save the planet.

1. Carbon Nanofibers

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Carbon nanofibers are grown in labs under extreme conditions, namely inside a vacuum chamber filled with ammonia gas and heated to 700 degrees Celsius. This week, researchers from North Carolina State University demonstrated that they could grow vertically aligned carbon nanofibers without ammonia and using ambient air. The advance will make the process cheaper and safer. The nanofibers could one day be used like wires to power tiny electronics.

2. Green Machine

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Deserts are taking over the planet. The UN estimates that more than 1 billion people in some 100 countries are threatened by desertification, which consumes more than 46,000 square miles of arable land each year. The Green Machine concept, designed by Malka Architecture and Yachar Bouhaya Architecture for the Venice Biennale, is a rocket platform that would be commissioned as a mobile oasis to roam over dry lands and plant seeds.

Giant balloons would capture water condensation from the air, while the treads would inject seeds, fertilizer and water into the ground. Power would come from solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable energy sources. Enough electricity could be generated to support a small community. The architects are working on a project to address desertification on the Moroccan side of the Sahara Desert.

3. Solar Cells Harvest Infrared Light

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Most solar cells convert the visible part of the sun's spectrum into electricity. But the infrared part of the spectrum remains elusive. Now researchers in Spain have created photovoltaic spheres just a micrometre or two across that trap infrared light until it's absorbed by the silicon and turned into electricity. That could improve the efficiency of solar power and make solar panels more cost effective.

4. Sand Babel Tower

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This year's eVolo Skyscraper Competition churned out an amazing list of futuristic architecture. Take this piece from Chinese designers Qiu Song, Kang Pengfei, Bai Ying, Ren Nuoya and Guo Shen, who won honourable mention for their Sand Babel Tower. The twisting structure is built from sand using a 3-D printing manufacturing process and it's powered by the sun.

5. Mirror Culture

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For those of us who still have cassette tapes collecting dust in closets, it's a little hard to believe that CDs and DVDs are about to join them. Instead of packing them into a box, though, one group of artists in Bulgaria turned them into a work of art. Mirror Culture is a curtain of 6,000 optical discs strung up over the entrance to the Sea Garden public park in Varna, Bulgaria. Borislav Ignatov of Ignatov Architects, lead the project and describes it as a "literal reflection and recording of our time.”

6. Buoyant Airborne Turbine

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The most powerful winds are located higher in the sky than land-based wind turbines can reach. That's why Altaeros Energies is sending an inflatable, high-altitude floating wind turbine 300 meters over the skies of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Buoyant Airborne Turbine is a helium-filled ring with a wind turbine suspended inside. It has a power capacity of 30 kilowatts and will create enough energy to power about 12 homes.

7. WarkaWater

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These sculptures look like giant wicker baskets but they're actually water harvesting structures that can turn atmospheric water vapour into more than 25 gallons of potable water per day. The WarkaWater, designed by Arturo Vittori and inspired by the Warka tree, could hydrate the more than than 750 million people around the world that do not have access to safe drinking water.

The structure has two layers: an external semi-rigid exoskeleton built from juncus or bamboo and an internal plastic mesh. Dew forms on the mesh and then drips into a basin at the base. Each tower costs about US$550 and can be built in less than a week. Vittori is currently looking for financing to build two WarkaTowers in Ethiopia by 2015.

8. Cybathlon Parathletes

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A new competition, the Cybathlon, is being organized for people with disabilities that use advanced assistive devices, including robotic technologies. The event, conceived of by ETH Zurich and the Swiss National Competence Centre of Research in Robotics, will take place in 2016 and be comprised of different disciplines that apply the most modern powered knee prostheses, wearable arm prostheses, powered exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles and novel brain-computer interfaces.

9. StratoBus

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This autonomous airship is being developed to carry out long endurance missions 12 miles above the Earth’s surface. Designed by French-Italian aerospace company Thales Alenia Space, alongside Airbus Defense & Space, Zodiac Marine, and CEA-Liten, the rigid blimp-like aircraft will work something like a satellite, conducting observations, maintaining security as well as improving telecommunications and broadcasting signals.

10. 3D-Printed Skull Cap

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A 22-year-old Dutch woman with a medical condition that causes her skull to constantly grow thicker and compress her brain just received a transplant of her entire cranium. The surgeons relied on a 3D-printed plate that accurately mimicked the shape of her natural skull.

Top image: The StratoBus. Credit: Thales Alenia Space.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Top image and links added.]