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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Circus Flora: Scott Raffe Photos

accidental mysteries: Circus Flora


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Spitzer Space Telescope Discovers Galaxy, "Wild Creature of the Dark"

NASA - Coiled Creature of the Night

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged a wild creature of the dark -- a coiled galaxy with an eye-like object at its center.

The galaxy, called NGC 1097, is located 50 million light-years away. It is spiral-shaped like our Milky Way, with long, spindly arms of stars. The "eye" at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars. In this color-coded infrared view from Spitzer, the area around the invisible black hole is blue and the ring of stars, white.

The black hole is huge, about 100 million times the mass of our sun, and is feeding off gas and dust along with the occasional unlucky star. Our Milky Way's central black hole is tame in comparison, with a mass of a few million suns.

The ring around the black hole is bursting with new star formation. An inflow of material toward the central bar of the galaxy is causing the ring to light up with new stars.

The galaxy's red spiral arms and the swirling spokes seen between the arms show dust heated by newborn stars. Older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue. The fuzzy blue dot to the left, which appears to fit snuggly between the arms, is a companion galaxy. Astronomers say it is unclear whether this companion poked a hole in the larger galaxy, or just happens to be aligned in a gap in the arms.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay, Life Magazine

Cahokia: Bloody "Woodhenge" of the Midwest

Sacrificial virgins of the Mississippi | Salon Books

Andrew O'Hehir writes

As archaeologist Timothy Pauketat's cautious but mesmerizing new book, "Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi," makes clear, Cahokia -- the greatest Native American city north of Mexico -- definitely belongs to human history. (It is not "historical," in the strict sense, because the Cahokians left no written records.) At its peak in the 12th century, this settlement along the Mississippi River bottomland of western Illinois, a few miles east of modern-day St. Louis, was probably larger than London, and held economic, cultural and religious sway over a vast swath of the American heartland. Featuring a man-made central plaza covering 50 acres and the third-largest pyramid in the New World (the 100-foot-tall "Monks Mound"), Cahokia was home to at least 20,000 people. If that doesn't sound impressive from a 21st-century perspective, consider that the next city on United States territory to attain that size would be Philadelphia, some 600 years later.

In a number of critical ways, Cahokia seems to resemble other ancient cities discovered all over the world, from Mesopotamia to the Yucat√°n. It appears to have been arranged according to geometrical and astronomical principles (around various "Woodhenges," large, precisely positioned circles of wooden poles), and was probably governed by an elite class who commanded both political allegiance and spiritual authority. Cahokia was evidently an imperial center that abruptly exploded, flourished for more then a century and then collapsed, very likely for one or more of the usual reasons: environmental destruction, epidemics of disease, the ill will of subjugated peoples and/or outside enemies.

Some archaeologists might pussyfoot around this question more than Pauketat does, but it also seems clear that political and religious power in Cahokia revolved around another ancient tradition. Cahokians performed human sacrifice, as part of some kind of theatrical, community-wide ceremony, on a startlingly large scale unknown in North America above the valley of Mexico. Simultaneous burials of as many as 53 young women (quite possibly selected for their beauty) have been uncovered beneath Cahokia's mounds, and in some cases victims were evidently clubbed to death on the edge of a burial pit, and then fell into it. A few of them weren't dead yet when they went into the pit -- skeletons have been found with their phalanges, or finger bones, digging into the layer of sand beneath them.

In "Cahokia: Ancient America's Great City on the Mississippi," Pauketat tells the story of what we now know, or can surmise, about the intriguing and bloody civilization that built Cahokia -- which looks comparable to a Mesopotamian or Greek city-state -- and also the tragic story of why it was overlooked and misunderstood for so long. Reading his book, one constantly marvels at the hair-raising archaeological discoveries that fly in the face of conventional understandings of Native American life, and mourns for how much more that could have been discovered is now lost or destroyed.

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RIP Budd Schulberg, Writer

Budd Schulberg, Screenwriter, Dies at 95 - Obituary (Obit) -
Budd Schulberg, who wrote the award-winning screenplay for “On the Waterfront” and created a classic American archetype of naked ambition, Sammy Glick, in his novel “What Makes Sammy Run?,” died on Wednesday. He was 95 and lived in the Brookside section of Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Betsy.

Mr. Schulberg also wrote journalism, short stories, novels and biographies. He collaborated with F. Scott Fitzgerald, arrested the Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and named names before a Communist-hunting Congressional committee. But he was best known for writing some of the most famous lines in the history of the movies.

Some were delivered by Marlon Brando playing the longshoreman Terry Malloy in the 1954 film “On the Waterfront.” Malloy had lost a shot at a prizefighting title by taking a fall for easy money.

“I coulda been a contender,” Malloy tells his brother, Charley (Rod Steiger). “I coulda been somebody. Instead of a bum, which is what I am.”

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Judaculla Rock: North Carolina

Judaculla Rock | Sylva, United States | Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura writes:

Cave drawings are more often thought of as the domain of France, but there are incredible petroglyphs in North America, too, dating back to 2000 BC.

The Judaculla Rock was a sacred site for the Cherokee Indians before the colonization of North America, and this engraved soapstone boulder can still be visited in western North Carolina. The Cherokees believed Juaculla (or Tsul'Kalu) an ancient giant-like creature, landed on the rock while jumping from one mountain to another, and thus the rock bears his seven-fingered hand print.

There is lingering folklore about ghost sounds being heard around the rock at night, made spookier by the location of a cemetery a few hundred feet away.

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DNA-Based Computer Performs Logic Computation

BBC NEWS | Technology | DNA computer solves logic queries
DNA has been used to do simple number crunching before, but a system developed by Israeli scientists can effectively answer yes or no questions.

Strands of DNA are designed to give off a green light corresponding to "yes".

In Nature Nanotechnology, the team also describes a program which bridges the gap between a computer programming language and DNA computing code.

The team, led by Ehud Shapiro of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, has been developing DNA-based computation systems for a number of years, including "computers" that can diagnose and treat cancers autonomously.

But the current approach is fundamentally different, Professor Shapiro told BBC News.

"Using more sophisticated biochemistry, we were able to implement simple logic programs, which are more akin to the way people program electronic computers," he said.

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Guinea-Bissau Maternal Death Rate Among the World's Highest Guinea Bissau: 'It's Like a Hotel for Pregnant Women' (Page 1 of 1)
One in 13 women in Guinea-Bissau dies from complications during pregnancy - one of the highest death rates in the world, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

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Assassination in Africa Somalia: Puntland Information Minister Assassinated (Page 1 of 1)
Mr. Warsame Abdi "Sefta Bananka," Puntland's information minister, was killed by unknown gunmen dressed in military fatigues at a restaurant in Galkayo, a trade town that links Puntland to regions in south-central Somalia, where an insurgency has been raging since early 2007.

Police officials said the killers escaped, but Puntland security forces are doing all they can to capture the assassins.

The late Warsame Abdi becomes the first Cabinet minister since Puntland's formation in 1998 to be killed in the line of duty.

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Be Honest: Who Owes This Cat a Gambling Debt?

Morbid Anatomy writes:
My friend Kelli just alerted me to a new, great, and somewhat misleadingly named website: Ostensibly a collection of crappy taxidermy, the website is much more than that and far better and broader than the name suggests; it is in fact a kind of visual collection of the many ways in which mankind's unending pleasure in preserving, depicting, and re-creating animals including taxidermy (crappy and otherwise), models, museum dioramas, and creative taxidermy is expressed. Endless fun to peruse, though--sadly--and my only complaint--no credits to find out photographer or artifact information.

Click here to visit

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Creationist Park Seized for Back Taxes

Judge clears way for dinosaur park to be seized | | Pensacola News Journal

Kris Wernowsky writes:

A federal judge has cleared the way for the government's seizure of a creationism theme park in Pensacola owned by a couple convicted of tax fraud.

A ruling by U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers states that the nine properties that make up Dinosaur Adventure Land as well as two bank accounts associated with the park will be used to satisfy $430,400 owed to the federal government.

Kent Hovind, who founded the park and a ministry, Creation Science Evangelism, is serving 10 years in federal prison for failing to pay the Internal Revenue Service more than $470,000 in employee taxes.

He was found guilty in November 2006 on 58 counts, including failure to pay employee taxes and making threats against investigators.

The conviction culminated 17 years of Hovind sparring with the IRS. Saying he was employed by God and his ministers were not subject to payroll taxes, he claimed no income or property.

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Weird Bedfellows: Rose and Laura Wilder and the Politics--Internal and External--of "Juvenile" Fiction

Rose and Laura Wilder and the Little House stories : The New Yorker
“The popularity of the Little House books . . . helped create a constituency for politicians like Reagan who sought to unsettle the so-called liberal consensus established by New Deal politics.” Considering the outcome of the November election, and the present debacle of laissez-faire capitalism, that popularity may have peaked. On the other hand, it may not have. Hard times whet the appetite for survival stories.

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What's In the Genes? Birds Re-Create Their Music

Can Culture Be Encoded in DNA? New Research Says "Yes"
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory scientists isolated a Zebra Finch, preventing it from learning the songs of its parents (and probably pissing off a bunch of PETA activists). These finches are known to learn their song from elder male relatives, which is why the scientists were surprised to see the same songs emerge from a colony of these utterly isolated birds.

They didn't get it right immediately. The first isolated bird, cut off from its culture, emitted a cacophonous screeching about as melodious as nails being dragged down a pieces of broken blackboard which were, in turn, being dragged down an even larger blackboard. It even tried to teach its kids the same, but they obviously thought "that sucks" (in bird) and made a few improvements. After four generations, the original finch songs reappeared, meaning that either

a) Cultural information can be genetically encoded or
b) Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has embarrassingly bad sound insulation.
We're going to assume a) for now.

The implications are enormous: the encoded information wasn't immediately available like some kind of genetic database, but as the baby birds learned and improved what they saw they were all along being guided by built-in information. At every point, if you'll forgive the outrageous anthropomorphization, they "thought" they were working it out for themselves while dancing to the genetic tune. That's the kind of thing that would make you think very seriously about free will.

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Wife and Father-in-Law of Taliban Leader Killed in Pakistan by US Drone, Four Children Injured

Al Jazeera English - CENTRAL/S. ASIA - Pakistan raid 'kills Mehsud's wife'
The wife and father-in-law of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban have reportedly been killed in an air raid in Pakistan's South Waziristan region.

A missile, suspected to have been fired from a US drone, reportedly destroyed the home of Akramud Din, the father-in-law of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban, early on Wednesday.

"I confirm that the female that was killed in the strike was the wife of Baitullah Mehsud," a relative told the Reuters news agency by telephone on Wednesday.

The woman was reported to be Mehsud's second wife.

Four children were also injured in the overnight raid, local officials said.

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O Arizona: Mystery Crash

Police Investigating Bizarre Crash - Phoenix News Story - KPHO Phoenix
Glendale police investigated a bizarre incident Tuesday night near 67th and Glendale Avenues.

They said a man driving a pickup truck crashed into a trailer. When officers arrived on scene, they discovered the man had been stabbed repeatedly.

He was rushed to the hospital in grave condition.

Police do not yet have a suspect description, but they are expected to release more details as the investigation unfolds.

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Happy Birthday Ernestine "Tiny" Davis, Hell Divin' Woman


Ernestine "Tiny" Davis, trumpet/vocals
b. USA, d. Jan. 30, 1994
~Eugene Chadbourne
A trumpeter who was often called the "female" Louis Armstrong, Ernestine "Tiny" Davis was a member of the all-female International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a popular and innovatively interracial big band that was formed in the late '30s. She was the group's best soloist, and was reportedly offered ten times her salary in the band to jump ship and go to work for Captain Satchmo, who apparently loved her playing. In the decades following the career of the band, Davis and her associates, such as her long-term partner, pianist Ruby Lucas, became adopted as cultural heroes for the gay rights movement. Davis and Lucas, who also performed under the name of Renee Phelan, ran a bar called Tiny and Ruby's Gay Spot in Chicago during the '50s. The two were the subject of a documentary film entitled Tiny and Ruby: Hell Divin' Women.

A great player, Davis was never really taken seriously simply because she was female. Even the opportunity to work steadily was denied until the Second World War took quite a few male musicians out of reach of ringing phones. This resulted in a few different female bands having the opportunity to perform, some of them such as the International Sweethearts of Rhythm amassing large followings and breaking attendance records. But because of the mixed racial grouping within the band, which not only included blacks and whites but Latinas and Asians as well, exposure was mostly limited to black audiences. Tours through the South were particularly heinous, with white players either having to put on blackface or hide beneath the skirts of one of the black players to avoid being arrested for violating Jim Crow laws.

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