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March 18, 2009

Meet Predator X — The Great White Shark of the Ancient Jurassic Seas

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Long story short: On attack in the artist's rendering pictured above, the creature also known to scientists as "The Monster" sat atop the food chain in ancient seas, back in the time of the dinosaurs.

Wrote John Noble Wilford in an article in today's New York Times Science section, "This extinct marine reptile was at least 50 feet long and weighed 45 tons, the largest known of its kind. Its massive skull was 10 feet long, and the flippers, more like outsize paddles, were also 10 feet."

Here's the Times story.

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From Arctic Soil, Fossils of a Goliath That Ruled the Jurassic Seas

There were monstrous reptiles in the deep, back in the time of dinosaurs.

They swam with mighty flippers, two fore and two hind, all four accelerating on attack. In their elongated heads were bone-crushing jaws more powerful than a Tyrannosaurus rex’s. They were the pliosaurs, heavyweight predators at the top of the food chain in ancient seas.

Much of this was already known. Now, after an analysis of fossils uncovered on a Norwegian island 800 miles from the North Pole, scientists have confirmed that they have found two partial skeletons of a gigantic new species, possibly a new family, of pliosaurs.

This extinct marine reptile was at least 50 feet long and weighed 45 tons, the largest known of its kind. Its massive skull was 10 feet long, and the flippers, more like outsize paddles, were also 10 feet. The creature — not yet given a scientific name but simply called the Monster or Predator X — hunted the seas 150 million years ago, in the Jurassic Period.

“Everything we are finding is new to science,” said Jorn H. Hurum, a paleontologist at the University of Oslo who directed the excavations on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago. He described new details of the find in a telephone interview last week.

Dr. Hurum said that in the Jurassic Period, Spitsbergen was covered by the then-temperate waters of a deep ocean. In 2006, the expedition began finding a variety of marine fossils, including pieces of the pliosaur skull, weathering out of a mountainside patrolled by polar bears. A year later, the university announced, the team came upon a flipper and much of the first pliosaur specimen.

But only after excavating the second specimen in last summer’s expedition and comparing the two were the scientists prepared to describe their findings about the huge pliosaur’s anatomy and probable physiology and hunting strategy. This was reported in recent science meetings, and Dr. Hurum said a full description would be published next year in a journal.

A two-hour documentary on the expedition will be shown on the History Channel on March 29, at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific time.

Fossil hunters get used to working in the heat and cold, the dry and wet, but even without counting the polar bears nosing around their dig, Spitsbergen posed unusual challenges. It has only a three-week window for excavating, from the end of July through much of August.

That is after the warmth of a brief summer has thawed upper layers of the ground and before the onset of the round-the-clock darkness of Arctic winter. Even on the better days, temperatures drop close to freezing and clouds often spring a leak. For hours on end, excavators are assaulted by deafening jackhammers penetrating the recalcitrant permafrost to reach lower fossil beds. They are left in no doubt as to why, until now, Spitsbergen’s fossils had gone largely untapped.

Pliosaurs were marine reptiles not directly related to dinosaurs, which dwelled on land. Previous well-studied discoveries in Australia and England showed the average length of pliosaurs to be 16 to 20 feet. An Australian giant, Kronosaurus, measured up to 36 feet. In 2002, European and Mexican scientists found bones of what they called a larger pliosaur, but paleontologists said that much more analysis of the fossils was required before its size could be reliably estimated.

Pliosaurs preyed on fish, squidlike animals and other marine reptiles, including smaller relatives, the long-necked plesiosaurs, and another common sea reptile, ichthyosaurs, which superficially resemble the modern dolphin. Bones of many of these species have been collected at the Spitsbergen site.

Patrick Druckenmiller, a paleontologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and a member of the expedition, said the archipelago was proving to be “one of the most important localities of extinct marine reptiles in the world.”

Recent examinations of the Spitsbergen fossils were conducted at the Natural History Museum in Oslo, and in London and the United States. Bones at the base of the animal’s skull and in the jaw enabled researchers to estimate the 10-foot length of its crocodile-like head.

At Duke University, American scientists conducted wind-tunnel tests on models of the animal’s flippers, trying to determine how they were used to move through the water. Calculations of their hydrodynamic properties, researchers said, suggested that the predator could have used the front flippers while cruising, but went into overdrive with all four to accelerate toward its prey.

At the Natural History Museum in London, scientists took CT scans of the pliosaur’s skull, especially the region of the braincase, measuring its probable brain size and shape.

Although the recovered braincase was not complete, Dr. Druckenmiller, who participated in the CT examination, said that some of the structure appeared to be “similar in many respects” to the great white shark, the top predator in oceans today.

Dr. Hurum, therefore, suggested that the pliosaur might have been comparable to the white shark “in hunting strategy but much more powerful.”

In another investigation, Gregory M. Erickson, an evolutionary biologist at Florida State University, compiled data on the bite force of crocodiles and large alligators. A summary of results, issued by Dr. Hurum’s team, said the research indicated that the much larger Predator X had a bite force of about 33,000 pounds — more than 10 times that of any animal alive today and 2 to 4 times the bite force of T. rex.

“There is nothing really comparable in the sea today,” Dr. Hurum said, as he looked forward to more digging in August, in the remaining daylight of Spitsbergen’s next brief thaw.

March 18, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Carrot Curler

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I've seen these since forever but never met anyone who had one.

"Insert a vegetable and rotate — the stainless steel blade produces pretty curls."

Can it really be that simple and easy?

Maybe I'll try it.

Looks pretty TechnoDolt™-compatible but I've been burned before by appearances.

$4.30.

March 18, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

UK Bus Slogan Generator — Episode 2: Hopefully more crash-resistant

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As best I can tell, the crush of joeheads at the site last week Monday crashed it.

'Cause I got more than one annoyed email from readers complaining that the generator page wasn't available.

Just now Tim was kind enough to inform me that it's back up.

Don't everybody rush in at once lest you cause another FAIL.

March 18, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

iPood Onesie — Official Silicon Valley Baby Downloader

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"At least it's not in stereo."

Heh.

From the website:

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Snap crotch makes for easy diaper changes.

Machine wash/dry.

100% cotton.

Infant sizes:

• 6 mo. fits birth to 12 lbs.

• 12 mo. fits 13-18 lbs.

• 18 mo. fits 19-24 lbs.

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$13.98.

March 18, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How to Make Bacon Soap — From Real Bacon

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Finally.

"This should be viewed as more of a jackass experiment than a “how to” by a soapmaking expert. I just wanted to see if it was possible to make soap from bacon fat."

"The bonus challenge: make the soap look like bacon."

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Wrote one commenter, "Awesome, yet disgusting at the same time."

[via toxel]

March 18, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Plastic Razor Blades — 'Non-scratch scraping'

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Who knew?

I love it when things are made from unlikely or unexpected materials.

Consider people — I mean, just a bunch of atoms arranged in such a way that somehow a miracle — the material world — appears around them.

And even more miraculous: consciousness to realize it.

Who'd a thunk?

But I digress.

Here's the scoop on these blades, as featured in this week's edition of Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools (edited by Steven Leckart) in a review by David King.

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ScrapeRite Plastic Razor Blades — Non-Scratch Scraping

Along with opening blister packages, removing product labels from items is an unavoidable annoyance of contemporary life. After years of scratching with my fingernails and scraping with a sharpened tongue depressor (works well, dulls easily), I’ve discovered the ultimate solution: ScrapeRite Plastic Razor Blades, double-edged plastic blades designed for light scraping, not cutting. The blades are available in three materials of varying hardness; my experience is with their General Purpose Blades, the softest of the three, which is said to have the consistency of a fingernail and are relatively safe to use on just about any surface, including the paint on your car.

Two years of experience validates these claims: I've used mine on everything from a stainless steel soup pot and wooden cutting board to countless items from Home Depot or Lowe's. I use mine a few times a month and I'm still on my first blade. The two blades of harder, more rigid compounds are supposed stand up to rougher use, such as paint removal on glass, but may scratch delicate surfaces. Their main advantage over razor blades appears to be safety. (note: I have no experience with these blades).

While the plastic razor blades will fit into most standard blade holders, for around-the-home use, I use the manufacturer's inexpensive and compact plastic holder, which I store under a rubber band stretched around a bottle of Goo Gone. Since I still use my standard metal holder with razor blades for glass, I see no reason to buy an extra standard holder for these blades.

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Yyig

5-pack with holder: $3.99.

March 18, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meet Jerry Jalava and his USB Finger — World's first 'Terminal Man'

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Just in from Jackson Nash over at Super Forest, news of a Finnish software developer named Jerry Jalava, "... who following amputation of his finger [lost in a motorcycle accident] had his doctor make him a USB drive replacement."

See Jalava's full flickr set, whence come the photos above and below.

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The BBC did a story on him as well; it follows.

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Finn creates USB 'finger drive'

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A Finnish computer programmer who lost one of his fingers in a motorcycle accident has made himself a prosthetic replacement with a USB drive attached.

Jerry Jalava uses the 2GB memory stick, accessed by peeling back the "nail", to store photos, movies and programmes.

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The finger is not permanently attached to his hand, so it can be easily left plugged into a computer when in use.

Mr Jalava says he is already thinking about upgrading the finger to include more storage and wireless technology.

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"I'm planning to use another prosthetic as a shell for the next version, which will have removable fingertip and RFID tag," he wrote on his blog, ProtoBlogr.net.

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Half of Mr Jalava's left ring finger had to be amputated last summer after he crashed into a deer while riding his motorbike near Helsinki.

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He says he was inspired to create the unique storage device when doctors treating him joked that he should have a USB "finger drive" after finding out that he was a software developer.

March 18, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mirror Spy Watch

Erytuyfiguhijol;

From the website:

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Mirror Spy Watch

Checking your wrist for the time?

That's what they'll think.

Convex chrome mirror with plastic casing sits on a heavy-duty webbing strap with Velcro closure.

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Ljij

$4.98.

March 18, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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