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Courtesy Public domain photo by David Rydevik via WikimediaNatural disasters are a fact of nature, and natural disaster movies are a fact of the film industry. Whether it be volcanoes, errant asteroids, earthquakes, or something as far-fetched as the seeds of carnivorous plants riding to Earth on meteorites (one of my childhood favorites) - the genre has been a story staple since the early days of cinema.
This year's offering is The Impossible, a gut-wrenching movie that portrays the effects of the December 26, 2004 tsunami in Thailand. The main storyline centers on a family of five who struggles to survive and reconnect after a 9.3 earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggers a deadly tsunami that killed more than a quarter-million people. In the film, the family is English, but the screenplay was based on the actual ordeal of a Spanish family (you can read about them here but be aware that it could be a spoiler for watching the film).
Personally, I thought the film was really good and gave an incredibly realistic and fascinating depiction of what it must have been like to have experienced such a devastating natural disaster. The special effects were amazing and I'm very curious to find out just how they were done. Plus it got me interested in re-examining the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Courtesy Public domain via WikipediaThere’s concern in the scientific community as the Republic of Turkey seemingly expands its censorship of evolution. Turkey is one of the more secular Islamic countries, but recent events seem to show a growing trend in the Turkish government's crumbling stance on evolution. In 2008, the country’s Council of Information Technology and Communications (BTK) banned access to evolution websites including www.richarddawkins.com, www.aboutdarwin.com and www.darwin-online.org.uk. (Access to some other previously banned evolution sites was later allowed). The next year, the cover story of a science magazine celebrating the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth was removed just before publication but later reinstated after public outcry. In 2011, Turkey’s Council of Information Technology and Communications (BTK) released secure “Child Profile” Internet filters that, along with guarding against access to pornography, blocked sites containing words such as “Darwin” and “evolution”.
Now the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) has stopped publication and sale of all evolution books its archives. The TÜBITAK website has long listed books by such evolution writers as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and J a m e s W a t son as “out of stock”, but now titles by these and other writers like will no longer be available.
In a scene reminiscent of the ending to the original Indiana Jones movie, five little moon rocks have turned up in a storage center for the Minnesota National Guard. Read more about this lunar mystery here.
President Obama appointed the Science Museum of Minnesota's very own president, Dr. Eric Jolly, to the National Museum and Library Services Board. Here's all the pertinent information. Congratulations Dr. Jolly!
Another danger associated with alcoholic beverages. Be careful not to store your vodka bottles in the way of direct sunlight. Or get ready to call the fire department.
Courtesy USGS/Earthquake Science CenterA court in Italy has sentenced six scientists and an ex-government official to six years in prison for failing to properly warn the public about a devastating earthquake that killed 309 residents of the town of L'Aquila in 2009. The seven defendants were convicted of manslaughter and also ordered to pay for damages and court costs.
I think the court itself has failed to predict just how idiotic this irrational prosecution looks to the world scientific community. Let's hope an appeals court will be reasonable enough to override this terrible injustice.
Courtesy US Geological SurveyThis cool graphic from the USGS Water Science School website gives you a really good idea of just how much water there is on Earth. Compared to the Earth itself, it doesn't look like much. The large blue globe represents the volume of all the water present on Earth, i.e. in the oceans, lakes, icecaps, atmosphere etc. The next size is the volume of the all fresh water - much of which is located underground. Don't overlook the very tiny blue globe positioned beneath the mid-sized water globe and just northwest of Florida in the graphic. That's how much fresh water is contained in all the lakes and rivers on Earth - the sources of life's drinking water. Feeling thirsty now?
Check out this incredible video taken at the edge of a lava lake produced by Marum Volcano on Ambryn Island, Vanuatu near New Guinea. The astounding video was shot by Geoff Mackley, Bradley Ambrose, and Nathan Berg. I'm not sure which of them is in the suit posing at the edge but what a view he must have had! Apparently, without the heat-proof suit and breathing gear, you could only get within 30 yards of the boiling lake, and endure just six seconds of the blistering heat. The protective gear allowed the wearer to stand at the edge for 40 minutes! How cool would that be?
Courtesy WikipediaCheck out this nifty homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting Starry Night put together by Alex Parker a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Parker obviously must not have had much research work last April when the Hubble Telescope was celebrating its 22nd birthday, so he spent all the free time putting together this really cool recreation of the Van Gogh astronomical masterpiece using photo-mosaic software and several of Hubble’s stunning Top 100 images found here.