Archive for the ‘General’ category

Punxsutawney Phil sees no shadow…

February 2, 2011

Groundhog handler Ben Hughes watches Punxsutawney Phil, who did not see his shadow predicting an early spring.

After this week’s weather, I’m sure that everyone is looking forward to spring.  With Punxsutawney Phil not seeing his shadow this morning, spring is supposed to come early, right?

Maybe….maybe not….

Flipping through the history books, it seems Punxsutawney Phil has spotted his shadow 99 out of 114 times. That would mean that there is rarely an early spring. However, according to the Stormfax Almanac, the groundhog is only right 39 percent of the time — a failing grade in school terms.

Automated 2-wheeler…will it be the car of the future?

January 11, 2011

En-V - General Motors 2-wheeled concept vehicle

Many futuristic electronics showed up at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, including the EN-V “electric networked vehicles” by General Motors.  The EN-V is about half the size of current mini-electric cars, and it’s built on Segway technology, so it can pivot in place and park without any turn radius. GM says five or six of them can fit in one standard U.S.-size parking space. It’s bristling with GPS antennas and motion sensors, so it can autonomously sense possible collisions and avoid them on its own. Since  it can drive itself, it can be retrieved it by telling it to come to you.  For those who live in congested areas, this would be a great way to get around.

The Different Celebrations of Christmas

December 22, 2010

Stockings by the fireChristmas as we know it today began in the early 1860’s.  Probably the most celebrated holiday in the world, our modern Christmas is a product of hundreds of years of both secular and religious traditions from around the globe.  Here are some of the different ways that different cultures celebrate the Christmas season:

Norway: ‘Gledelig Jul!’
Norway is the birthplace of the Yule log. The ancient Norse used the Yule log in their celebration of the return of the sun at winter solstice. “Yule” came from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel. The Norse believed that the sun was a great wheel of fire that rolled towards and then away from the earth. Ever wonder why the family fireplace is such a central part of the typical Christmas scene? This tradition dates back to the Norse Yule log. It is probably also responsible for the popularity of log-shaped cheese, cakes, and desserts during the holidays.

Mexico: ‘Feliz Navidad!’
In 1828, the American minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett, brought a red-and-green plant from Mexico to America. As its coloring seemed perfect for the new holiday, the plants, which were called poinsettias after Poinsett, began appearing in greenhouses as early as 1830. In 1870, New York stores began to sell them at Christmas. By 1900, they were a universal symbol of the holiday.

England: ‘Merry Christmas!’
An Englishman named John Calcott Horsley helped to popularize the tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards when he began producing small cards featuring festive scenes and a pre-written holiday greeting in the late 1830s. Newly efficient post offices in England and the United States made the cards nearly overnight sensations.snowman

Celtic and Teutonic peoples had long considered mistletoe to have magic powers. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits. During holidays in the Victorian era, the English would hang sprigs of mistletoe from ceilings and in doorways. If someone was found standing under the mistletoe, they would be kissed by someone else in the room, behavior not usually demonstrated in Victorian society.

Italy: ‘Buone Natale!’
Italians call Chrismas Il Natale, meaning “the birthday.”

Ukraine: ‘Srozhdestvom Kristovym!’
Ukrainians prepare a traditional twelve-course meal. A family’s youngest child watches through the window for the evening star to appear, a signal that the feast can begin.

Most Canadian Christmas traditions are very similar to those practiced in the United States. In the far north of the country, the Eskimos celebrate a winter festival called sinck tuck, which features parties with dancing and the exchanging of gifts.

Greece: ‘Kala Christouyenna!’
In Greece, many people believe in kallikantzeri, goblins that appear to cause mischief during the 12 days of Christmas. Gifts are usually exchanged on January 1, St. Basil’s Day.

Central America
A manger scene is the primary decoration in most southern European, Central American, and South American nations. St. Francis of Assisi created the first living nativity in 1224 to help explain the birth of Jesus to his followers.

France: ‘Joyeux Noël!’
In France, Christmas is called Noel. This comes from the French phrase les bonnes nouvelles, which means “the good news” and refers to the gospel.

In southern France, some people burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure good luck for the next year’s harvest.

Lunar Eclipse…Monday night

December 20, 2010

Akira Fujii captured this record of the moon's progress dead-center through Earth's shadow in July 2000 by aligning his camera on the same star for successive exposures.

Tonight marks the first lunar eclipse that falls on the winter solstice in 372 years.  Those of us in North Americans should have the best seats in the house for tonight’s event, which reaches its climax at 1:41 a.m. CT Tuesday when Earth’s shadow covers every bit of the moon’s disk. For more than an hour, the moon should glow sunset-red, thanks to the light refracted by the edge of Earth’s atmosphere.

In case of cloudy skies, there’s always the Internet. NASA is planning to stream live Web video of the moon as seen from Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The embedded video coverage will be accompanied by a Web chat with NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams from midnight to 4 a.m. CT Tuesday.

Invisible toxins in your home

December 6, 2010

Exposure to indoor pollution is associated with allergies, severe asthma, hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and even heart attacks.

Having a clean home doesn’t keep the toxins and pollutants away.  According to the EPA, pollution in the home is often 2 to 5 times higher than it is outdoors.  “The air in your house contains pollen, mold, and ozone that leach in from the outdoors, as well as pet dander and pollutants from household cleaning products,” says Ted Myatt, ScD, a senior scientist at the consulting firm Environmental Health and Engineering, Inc.

Come winter, weatherproofing combined with heated, dry air can boost indoor pollution levels even higher by sealing in airborne toxins and lowering levels of humidity. The combination of the two can pose an even greater risk. “Exposure to indoor pollution is associated with allergies, severe asthma, hospitalizations for cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and even heart attacks,” Dr. Myatt says.

Considering we spend about 60% of our lives in our homes, it’s time to clear the air. Check-out this article to find out what you can do help reduce the toxins and pollutants in the home.

Zoo Atlanta’s baby panda makes an appearance

December 3, 2010
Panda cub

Lun Lun & cub

After almost a month since his birth, Zoo Atlanta allowed the media in to get their first view of Lun Lun’s Giant Panda cub.  The cub won’t be named until he is 100 days old, following Chinese tradition. He will be placed in public viewing areas at the zoo when he can walk, usually around 4 months old. But for now, viewers can watch the online panda cam

Glowing trees may soon replace street lights

November 30, 2010


Biologically based LEDs could be used to make trees illuminate city sidewalks. Grant Faint/Getty Images

Scientists from the Academia Sinica and the National Cheng Kung University in Taipei and Tainan have implanted glowing gold nanoparticles, known as bio light emitting diodes, or bio LEDs, inside the leaves of a plant. These  nanoparticles will hopefully one day replace electricity powered street lights with biologically powered light that removes CO2 from the atmosphere 24 hours a days.


“In the future, bio-LED could be used to make roadside trees luminescent at night,” said Yen-Hsun Su in an interview with Chemistry World. “This will save energy and absorb CO2 as the bio-LED luminescence will cause the chloroplast to conduct photosynthesis.”

The gold nanoparticles are the key to turning a material that normal absorbs light into one that emits it. When shorter wavelengths of light hit the gold nanoparticles, they get excited and start to glow violet. That violet light strikes the nearby chlorophyll molecules, excites them, and the chlorophyll then produces red light.