« July 15, 2009 | Main | July 17, 2009 »

July 16, 2009

Aboard the Kaguya Spacecraft as it crashes into the Moon

From NASA:


Kaguya Spacecraft Crashes into the Moon

Japan's Kaguya spacecraft crashed into the Moon last week [June 11, 2009], as planned. Officially named the Selenological and Engineering Explorer (SELENE), the spacecraft was given the nickname Kaguya after the princess in the Japanese folklore story The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Pictured above is a movie taken by Kaguya during the last orbit of its twenty-month lunar mission. A desolate, hilly, and cratered terrain passes underneath as the spacecraft barely clears a few peaks. At the movie's end, the spacecraft disappears into darkness near Gill crater. Robotic SELENE carried thirteen scientific instruments and two HDTV cameras. The groundbreaking mission took data on lunar topology and composition that are being used to better understand the origin and history of Earth's unique and ancient companion. Data and images from Kaguya and the recently launched Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter could be used to choose good locations to land future Moon-exploring astronauts.


Credit & Copyright: SELENE Team, JAXA, NHK

[via Paul McAuley]

July 16, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Duckie Ear Buds


$9.99 (iPod not included).

July 16, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

4 Googles is better than 1


You could look it up.

[via davelog]

July 16, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Battleships are so back


That was the subject line of reader Pete Stanley's email yesterday about the great game of days gone by.

Wrote Pete, "I just had to show you this.... Fond memories of playing battleships with my kid brother so as you can tell I'm very excited!"

Me too, I'm all worked up now.

From the website:


Battleship Game Mug Set

Comes with two Battleship game mugs and two black pens.

Ink washes or wipes off with a soft damp cloth.



July 16, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Hunt for the Giant Palouse Earthworm


Long story short: it's on.

Here's a July 12, 2009 story about this strange, nearly mythical creature (above), which spits at predators, emits a lily-like smell when handled, and can grow to be three feet long.


Searchers shovel dirt seeking giant worm

The giant Palouse earthworm has taken on mythic qualities in this vast agricultural region that stretches from eastern Washington into the Idaho panhandle — its very name evoking the fictional sandworms from "Dune" or those vicious creatures from the movie "Tremors."

The worm is said to secrete a lily-like smell when handled, spit at predators, and live in burrows 15 feet deep. There have been only a handful of sightings.

But scientists hope to change that this summer with researchers scouring the Palouse region in hopes of finding more of the giant earthworms.In this photo made on Tuesday, the only verified sample of a giant Palouse Earthworm specimen is preserved in this test tube, as seen at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. (AP Photo) Conservationists also want the Obama administration to protect the worm as an endangered species, even though little research has been done on it.

The worm may be elusive, but there's no doubt it exists, said Jodi Johnson-Maynard, a University of Idaho professor who is leading the search for the worm. To prove it, she pulled out a glass tube [below]


containing the preserved remains of a fat, milky-white worm. One of Johnson-Maynard's graduate students found this specimen in 2005, and it is the only confirmed example of the species.

The worm in the tube is about 6 inches long, well short of the 3 feet that early observers of the worms in the late 1890s described. Documented collections of the species, known locally as GPE, have occurred only in 1978, 1988, 1990 and 2005.

The farmers who work the rich soil of the Palouse — 2 million acres of rolling wheat fields near the Idaho-Washington border south of Spokane — also have had little experience with the worm.

Gary Budd, who manages a grain elevator in Uniontown, said no farmer he knows has talked about seeing the worm. He compared the creature to Elvis.

"He gets spotted once in awhile too," Budd joked.

Johnson-Maynard and her team of worm hunters are working this summer at a university research farm and using three different methods to try and find a living worm.

One involves just digging a hole and sifting the soil through a strainer, looking for any worms that can be studied.

The second involves old-fashioned chemical warfare, pouring a liquid solution of vinegar and mustard onto the ground, irritating worms until they come to the surface.

The third method is new to this search, using electricity to shock worms to the surface.

"The electro shocker is pretty cool," said Joanna Blaszczak, a student at Cornell who is spending her summer working to find the worm alongside Shan Xu, a graduate student from Chengdu, China, and support scientist Karl Umiker.

The shocker can deliver up to 480 volts. That makes it dangerous to touch, and it could potentially fry a specimen.

On a recent day, Umiker drove eight 3-foot-long metal rods into the ground in a small circle and connected them to batteries. Then he flipped the switches. The only sound for several minutes was the hum of a cooling fan.

"I'm kind of bummed we haven't seen anything yet," Umiker said.

Eventually, a small rust-colored worm dug its way to the surface. It was not a GPE, but it was collected for study anyway.

The search for the giant worm is reminiscent of efforts in Louisiana, Florida and the swamps of eastern Arkansas to find the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker. The large, black-and-white bird was believed to be extinct until a reported sighting five years ago stirred national experts and federal funding to launch a full-blown campaign to verify its existence. Search efforts later dwindled after biologists and volunteers were unable to find the evidence they were looking for.

The GPE was described as common in the Palouse in the 1890s, according to an 1897 article in The American Naturalist by Frank Smith. Smith's work was based on four samples sent to him by R.W. Doane of Washington State University in nearby Pullman.

Massive agricultural development soon consumed nearly all of the unique Palouse Prairie — a seemingly endless ocean of steep, silty dunes — and appeared to deal a fatal blow to the worm.

They were considered extinct when Idaho graduate student Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon in 2005 stuck a shovel into the ground to collect a soil sample and found the worm that now is in the tube in Johnson-Maynard's office.

Conservation groups quickly petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the worm as an endangered species, citing as proof the lack of sightings. But the agency said there simply was not enough scientific information to merit a listing.

Conservationists recently filed a second request, saying they had more information. They are also hoping the Obama administration will be more friendly than the Bush administration. The GPE would be the only worm protected as an endangered species.

Doug Zimmer of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Seattle said the agency isn't ready to comment on the petition.

"It's always good to see new information and good science on any species," Zimmer said.

Farmers are keeping a wary eye on the process.

"The concern is whether a listing is going to end up curtailing farming activities," said Dan Wood of the Washington State Farm Bureau. "I don't know if people plan to stop all farming for the possibility of a worm being somewhere."

Most earthworms found in the Northwest originated in Europe, arriving on plants or in soil shipped to the New World. The giant Palouse earthworm is one of the few native species, and has become quite popular with the public.

While it's tough to come by a live GPE, visitors seem happy to take a picture with a dead one. Johnson-Maynard said she has received calls from tourists who want to come to her office and be photographed with the specimen.

"A lot of people are curious about it," she said.



The large white worm in the photo above is the Giant Palouse Earthworm, Driloleirus americanus. Below it is the southern worm, Aporrectodea trapezoides, which is considered an introduced species.

July 16, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

English Jockey Scale


From the website:


English Jockey Scale


Fine carved oak with tufted leather seat, rope twist legs, and a built-in scale, all in excellent condition.

These scales were used at English race tracks to determine the jockey's weight.

Made by the famed firm of Henry Pooley & Sons circa 1890.

41"H x 32"W x 22"D.




Note: you don't have to be a jockey to use it.

July 16, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's largest thesaurus — 44 years in the making


Here's the BBC's July 6, 2009 article about the project.


Forty-year wait for new thesaurus

The world's largest thesaurus is due to be published this autumn, Oxford University Press has said.

The project began in 1965 and will include almost the entire vocabulary of the English language.

The work was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1978, but despite the building being gutted, a metal filing cabinet protected the files.

A spokesman said the final tome would contain over 230,000 categories with 800,000 meanings.

The thesaurus was nearly completed in 1980, but the team decided to include words from updated versions of the Oxford English Dictionary.

This added almost 30 years more work to the project.

The finished book will be twice the size of the current Roget's Thesaurus when it is published in October.

Professor Christian Kay, 69, one of four co-editors, began working on the book in the late 1960s when she was 27.

She said: "I didn't think at the time I would be involved 40 years later.

"We started using Roget's classifications, but it soon became apparent that wasn't adequate, as it wasn't detailed enough.

"Then we virtually started from scratch with a new system. That's why it took so long."

The thesaurus is divided into 354 categories covering subjects including leisure, education, faith and philosophy.

The eventual plan is to link the project to the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary, but no date has been set for this.


The two-volume 4,448 piece magnum opus will cost $316.



[via Cary Sternick]

July 16, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Neolithic Sushi Knife


Made by Michael H. Mara.

"This 11-inch-long hunting/cooking knife features a 6-inch-long dropped point flintknapped Smoky Obsidian blade. The knife has a Cocobolo handle with an authentic rawhide wrap at the blade/handle juncture."


[via Mark Hall]

July 16, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

« July 15, 2009 | Main | July 17, 2009 »