Posted tagged ‘Fort Hays State University’

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.

Cure for the common cold…may not be too far away

November 4, 2010
virus and antibody

Virus (purple) circulating in the bloodstream recognized by antibodies (yellow) of the immune system

In a dramatic breakthrough that could affect millions of lives, researchers at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge have been able to show for the first time that the body’s immune defenses can destroy the common cold virus after it has actually invaded the inner sanctum of a human cell, a feat that was believed until now to be impossible.

In the past, it was thought that the antibodies of the immune system worked entirely outside the cells, in the blood and other extra-cellular fluids of the body. Now scientists realize that there is another layer of defense inside the cells where it might be possible to enhance the natural anti-virus machinery of the body.

How the virus is tackled

  1. Virus (purple) circulating in the bloodstream recognized by antibodies (yellow) of the immune system
  2. Virus attaches to outer cell membrane with antibodies still attached
  3. Virus invades the cell membrane and emerges inside the cell
  4. Remains of cell membrane disappear and the virus is free to hijack the cell
  5. TRIM21 protein (blue) recognizes attached antibodies as foreign material
  6. Powerful virus-destroying machines (cylinders) attracted to virus by TRIM21
  7. Virus rapidly broken down and disabled within hours

The road to the future could be paved with solar panels

July 21, 2010
Solar Road Runner

Highways basking in the hot sun are wasted energy. Scott Brusaw's solution? Make them out of solar panels

The company, Solar Roadways, has been working on embedding PV (photovoltaic) cells and LED lights  into panels engineered to withstand the forces of traffic. The lights would allow for “smart” roadways and parking lots with changeable signage, while the cells would generate enough energy to power businesses, cities and, eventually, the entire country.  With each 12-by-12-foot Solar Roadway able to produce about 7,600 watt-hours a day (based on a 4-hour a day avg), a one-mile stretch of four-lane highway could power approximately 500 homes.

The Stars & Stripes travels out of the solar system

July 7, 2010

After 33 years & 10.5 billion miles, the American flag will be leaving the solar system .  Old Glory is along for the ride with the space probes

John Casani, Voyager project manager in 1977, shows of a small Dacron flag that was folded and sewed into the thermal blankets of the Voyager spacecraft before they launched 33 years ago. Voyager 2 stands behind him before heading to the launch pad in August 1977. Full Story. Credit: NASA/JPL

Voyager I & II as they continue their journey of space.  Joining the American flag on this journey is a golden record, which contains messages from Earth for any extraterrestrials out there who might happen to come across the probe. This 16″ version of Old Glory, joins the many other American flags in space but is the only one that has traveled this far from home. 


11-year cycle of solar activity to peak in 2012-2013

June 29, 2010
Solar flare

The Earth is superimposed on a solar eruptive prominence as seen in extreme UV light (March 30, 2010) to give a sense of how large these eruptions are.

The 11-year cycle of solar activity is expected to peak in 2012-2013.  Based on solar dynamic computer models, solar scientists predict that the “solar max” may be 30 to 50 percent stronger than the last solar peak.  The solar storms or geomagnetic storms have the potential to interfere with GPS navigation, mobile phones, power grids, and satellite communications.

Fortunately, space weather prediction methods have improved greatly over the last couple of decades.  With the help of satellites, like the Advanced Composition Explorer, scientists can spot signs of a geomagnetic storm up to an hour before it hits earth; and by using instruments to measure the seismic activity on the far side of the sun, scientists can be provided with a couple of weeks of warning about active sunspot regions.  In addition, NASA has set up a Solar Dynamics Observatory to help understand the Sun’s influence on Earth and Near-Earth space.  Up-to-date space weather information can be found at the Space Weather Prediction Center .

A Bug’s Life

June 28, 2010

Photo Credit: Discover


Azteca ants use similar principles to those found in velcro to capture their prey. The ants dig their claws into the rough side of their host leaf and wait for an unsuspecting grasshopper or moth to land. Scientists used weights to measure the strength of the Aztec worker ant. Results revealed they can hold 5,700 times their own body weight. The key to their strength is the surface from which they inhabit. Rough surfaces allow their claws to get a better grip and hold more weight than on smoother surfaces.