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June 22, 2012

The Voyager spacecraft has entered the heliosheath, the energetic membrane that separates our system from the rest of the galaxy

Voyager 1 Reaches Edge Of Solar System In ‘Crowning Achievement,’ Project Chief Says | TPM Idea Lab
NASA’s unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, has become the first vessel in history to reach the edge of the solar system, NASA announced in mid-June. It’s hard to overstate the milestone: At some point in the near future — it could be days or months, possibly, but not likely even a few years — Voyager is expected to break away from the bubble of particles emitted by the Sun encasing our solar system and enter the totally new, completely unexplored region of interstellar space, the black void separating us from the other star systems in our Milky Way Galaxy. Voyager’s ability to travel through the solar system to where it is now, 11 billion miles from Earth, passing by and snapping what were then the best images of Jupiter and Saturn in the process, has been a “crowning achievement,” according to the project’s chief scientist, Ed Stone, a preeminent 76 year-old physicist at Caltech, in a telephone interview with TPM. “We were hopeful that the spacecraft would reach interstellar space,” Stone told TPM. “It’s really set some records: The longest and furthest-flying spacecraft ever designed and built.”

June 21, 2012

The Coffeehouse Effect: A bit of noise aids creativity

Health - Hans Villarica - Study of the Day: Why Crowded Coffee Shops Fire Up Your Creativity - The Atlantic
RESULTS: Compared to a relatively quiet environment (50 decibels), a moderate level of ambient noise (70 dB) enhanced subjects' performance on the creativity tasks, while a high level of noise (85 dB) hurt it. Modest background noise, the scientists explain, creates enough of a distraction to encourage people to think more imaginatively. (Here's a helpful chart on typical noise levels.) CONCLUSION: The next time you're stumped on a creative challenge, head to a bustling coffee shop, not the library. As the researchers write in their paper, "[I]nstead of burying oneself in a quiet room trying to figure out a solution, walking out of one's comfort zone and getting into a relatively noisy environment may trigger the brain to think abstractly, and thus generate creative ideas."

June 14, 2012

Cooked squid inseminates woman’s “tongue, cheek and gums”

Squid mate by forcefully injecting their partner's skin, organs, eyes, whatever with their spermatophores. When you eat raw or nearly-raw squid that have sperm on-deck, they can also forcefully inject them into your tongue or cheeks or gums. Cooked squid inseminates woman's "tongue, cheek and gums"
Here's a story that could put you off calamari for a while. According to a scientific paper from the Journal of Parasitology, a 63-year-old Korean woman "experienced severe pain in her oral cavity immediately after eating a portion of parboiled squid along with its internal organs." She spat out the food in her mouth, but still had a "pricking and foreign-body sensation" in her oral cavity. When she went to the hospital, they removed a dozen "small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms stuck in the mucous membrane of the tongue, cheek, and gingiva." Yes, the dead squid's spermatophores were still active, and they'd inseminated the woman's oral cavity.

June 12, 2012

"There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins."

Penguins' Explicit Sex Acts Shocked Polar Explorer - Yahoo! News
Hidden for nearly 100 years for being too "graphic," a report of "hooligan" behaviors, including sexual coercion, by Adelie penguins observed during Captain Scott's 1910 polar expedition has been uncovered and interpreted. The naughty notes were rediscovered recently at the Natural History Museum in Tring, in England, and published in the recent issue of the journal Polar Record. . . . For instance, on Nov. 10, 1911, Levick wrote in Greek (translated here): "This afternoon I saw a most extraordinary site [sic]. A Penguin was actually engaged in sodomy upon the body of a dead white throated bird of its own species. The act occurred a full minute, the position taken up by the cock differing in no respect from that of ordinary copulation, and the whole act was gone through down to the final depression of the cloaca." In another entry, this one written in English on Dec. 6 of that year, he wrote: "I saw another act of astonishing depravity today. A hen which had been in some way badly injured in the hindquarters was crawling painfully along on her belly. I was just wondering whether I ought to kill her or not, when a cock noticed her in passing, and went up to her. After a short inspection he deliberately raped her, she being quite unable to resist him." [Homosexual Tales: 10 Gay Animals] Levick described penguins that waddled about the colony's outskirts terrorizing any straying chicks as "little knots of hooligans" in his pamphlet. "The crimes which they commit are such as to find no place in this book, but it is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness." Homosexual behaviors in animals are no longer cause for hiding data, or even a blush. (Case in point: Dutch biologist Kees Moeliker won an Ig Nobel prize in 2010 for the first report of dead gay duck sex.) . . .