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Ambulance

The Comet and the Chicago Fire

For nearly one and a half centuries, the cause of the most notorious fire in U.S. history has been a source of "heated" controversy. Some researchers suggest that a disintegrating comet ignited the blaze. But the electrical theorists say that evidence most often ignored offers the best clues.

"With the heat increased the wind, which came howling across the prairie, until at last there arose a perfect hurricane. Mighty flakes of fire, hot cinders, black, stifling smoke, were driven fiercely at the people, and amid the terrible excitement hundreds of them had their very clothes burned off their backs, as they stood there watching with tearful eyes the going down of so many houses". -- James Goodsell's History of the Great Chicago Fire, October 8, 9, and 10, Published 1871 by J.H. and C.M. Goodsell.
Better Earth

Comet Biela and Mrs. O'Leary's Cow



Image
©Unknown
Cometary fire ruins, as seen from the corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets, Chicago, 1871.


Last night we watched Super Comet - After the Impact, a Discovery Channel special that basically takes the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs and put into modern times. They added some cheesy drama, following the struggles of several individuals or groups, before, during, and after the impact, to show how people would react to such a global cataclysm. They used the same type of cometary body assumed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, the same size, same impact location, and utilized all the computer modeling they have done on this past event to try to show what might happen (and to show what they think happened then). Not terribly creative and suggests that they really don't know all the effects of such an impact and are just putting things together from what little they have been able to figure out about that one impact, some (or much) of which may be just speculation, though I'm sure that there is some good science going on there.

This show highlights what we have already noted in this series of articles: the difference between the American School of Asteroid impacts that happen only at millions of years intervals and the British School which posits that showers of much smaller objects occur with great frequency in between those millions of years events.

The cheesiest part of this "docu-drama" was, of course, the depicted foibles of the humans experiencing the event. But, in a way, even those depictions were useful. The one guy who simply couldn't grasp the nature of the event, kept traveling "home" (which happened to be the site of the impact) even when it was clear that there was no home left. His emotions basically drove him to his own death.

Other people continued to act as if the world was still the same place and suffered thereby, though they learned to cope. What was clearly evident was that it was lack of knowledge about such events that was the chief problem for all of them.

During the course of the show, one of the experts made the remark "WHEN it happens," as though he - and the rest of them - knew for a fact that this was on the agenda for our near future. The very fact that so many scientists are working on these problems, including a large number of them studying the possible human reactions and behaviors and how to deal with masses of people, should warn us that there IS something they aren't telling the masses in the headlines of our daily newspapers, though certainly they are "testing" public reactions with shows such as Super Comet - After the Impact.

On my desk, before me, I have a book out of the more than 30 volumes and scores of papers on the topic of comet and asteroid impacts that I have collected in the course of this study. The title of this book is Hazards due to Comets and Asteroids edited by Tom Gehrels, with 120 contributing authors, published by the University of Arizona Press in 1994.

There is something in this book that I want to bring to your attention before we get on to our main catastrophe of the day: Mrs. O'Leary's Cometary Cow.

Comment: Continue to Part Seven: Tunguska, the Horns of the Moon and Evolution

Eye 1

California to test using drivers' cell phones to monitor traffic

Researchers at UC-Berkeley will join in a field test Feb. 8 to study how traffic flow can be monitored using data from driver's GPS-enabled cell phones.

The researchers will look at the potential of using cell phone data instead of the road sensors currently used, while at the same time preserving phone users' privacy.


Comment: Who are they trying to kid? Given the track record in surveillance of the US government so far, are we going to trust them to preserve our privacy once they develop the technology?

Info

How the Hyoid Bone Changed History

Our gift of the gab is all due to a small horseshoe-shaped bone suspended in the muscles of our neck, like a piece of fruit trapped in Jell-O.

The hyoid bone, which is the only bone in the body not connected to any other, is the foundation of speech and is found only in humans and Neanderthals.

Other animals have versions of the hyoid, but only the human variety is in the right position to work in unison with the larynx and tongue and make us the chatterboxes of the animal world. Without it, we'd still garble and hoot much like our chimpanzee cousins, scientists say.

©Unknown
The hyoid bone helps to support the tongue and elevate the larynx when you talk or swallow. It's the only bone of the body that does not articulate with any other bone. The hyoid is suspended above the larynx and is anchored by ligaments to bones in the skull.
Einstein

Particle Accelerator May Reveal Shape Of Alternate Dimensions

When the world's most powerful particle accelerator starts up later this year, exotic new particles may offer a glimpse of the existence and shapes of extra dimensions.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California-Berkeley say that the telltale signatures left by a new class of particles could distinguish between possible shapes of the extra spatial dimensions predicted by string theory.

©CERN
A new particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, is scheduled to begin operating later this year near Geneva, Switzerland.
Telescope

Gas 'Finger' Points To Galaxies' Future

Like a fork piercing a fried egg, a giant finger of hydrogen gas is poking through our Milky Way Galaxy from outside, astronomers using CSIRO radio telescopes at Parkes and Narrabri have found.

The location of the intrusion may give a crucial clue to the fate of the little galaxies the gas flows from, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.

©John Rowe Animations
Robot

Shape-shifting robot forms from magnetic swarm

Swarms of robots that use electromagnetic forces to cling together and assume different shapes are being developed by US researchers.

The grand goal is to create swarms of microscopic robots capable of morphing into virtually any form by clinging together.

Comment: See some prototypes of robot swarms created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University:

Chess

Quantum computing firm gets $17 million in cash

D-Wave Systems has received $17 million to see if it's possible to compute complex equations by studying the behavior of molecules.

International Investment and Underwriting of Dublin led the round, which was the third round of funding for the Vancouver-based company. Draper Fisher Jurvetson (which always seems to be involved in wacky sorts of companies), GrowthWorks Capital, BDC Venture Capital, Harris & Harris Group, and British Columbia Investment Management also participated. Previously, the company raised more than $30 million.
Umbrella

Comet samples are surprisingly asteroid-like

Samples of Comet Wild 2 suggest it is made of rocky material, like an asteroid, rather than the fluffy dust expected of a comet. The object may be a refugee that formed in the asteroid belt before getting kicked to the chilly fringes of the solar system, or it might have formed in that frigid realm from material thrown out of the inner solar system, scientists say.

©NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Comet Wild 2 is shown in close-up above. Beside it is a microscopic view of an EDM (electrical discharge machined) surface. Note the flat-floored depressions with steep scalloped walls and terracing. The small white spots on the comet can then be reasonably identified as the active cathode arcs that produce the cometary jets.

Comment: Read also SOTT's special report on Comets and Catastrophe (links on the left bar)

Fish

Lost City Pumps Life-essential Chemicals At Rates Unseen At Typical Deep Ocean Hydrothermal Vents

Hydrocarbons -- molecules critical to life -- are being generated by the simple interaction of seawater with the rocks under the Lost City hydrothermal vent field in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.

Being able to produce building blocks of life makes Lost City-like vents even stronger contenders as places where life might have originated on Earth, according to Giora Proskurowski and Deborah Kelley, two authors of a paper in the Feb. 1 Science. Researchers have ruled out carbon from the biosphere as a component of the hydrocarbons in Lost City vent fluids.

©Kelley, U of Washington, IFE, URI-IAO, NOAA
The carbonate structures at the Lost City Field include these spires stretching 90 feet tall. The white, sinuous spine is freshly deposited carbonate material. Added digitally to this image are the remotely operated vehicles Hercules and Argus that were used to explore the hydrothermal vent field during an expedition in 2005 funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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