Aconcagua mountain south americ

Aconcagua.     Photo: Roberto Castillo/Wikimedia

9-Year-Old Boy Climbs Aconcagua

Calif. kid is youngest ever

On Christmas Eve, Tyler Armstrong, a nine-year-old American boy, became the youngest person in recorded history to reach the summit of Mount Aconcagua, one of the Seven Summits and the tallest peak in the Americas.

The fourth grader from Yorba Linda, California, summited the 22,841-foot peak with his father, Kevin, and  professional guide Lhawang Dhondupa, a Tibetan sherpa. The three followed the north-eastern, or "Polish Glacier" route, a common line of ascent that doesn't require technical climbing.

"You can really see the world's atmosphere up there. All the clouds are under you, and it's really cold," Tyler said, in an interview with The Associated Press. "It doesn't look anything like a kid's drawing of a mountain. It's probably as big as a house at the summit, and then it's a sheer drop."

SEE ALSO Into Teen Air: The list of seven summits climbers used to read like an alpinist all-star team. Now there are kids who can include it on their college applications.

Only about 2,100 out of the 7,000 who obtain permits for Aconcagua each year reach the summit. The mountain's oxygen-scarce heights, dangerous terrain, and bitter cold have claimed more than 100 climbers' lives. Since no one under 14 is usually allowed to climb the mountain, the Armstrong's family persuaded a Argentine judge that Tyler could safely accomplish the feat.

Tyler Armstrong has been climbing mountains since the age of seven. Last year, he summitted Mount Kilimanjaro, the second youngest person ever to do so. In 2011, Armstrong became the youngest to summit 14,505-foot Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States, in one day.

"Any kid can really do this," Armstrong told the AP. "All they have to do is try. And set their mind to the goal."


Dry Run for Commercial Drones

FAA Sets Six U.S. Test Flight Sites

Skeptics saying drones won't be delivering your Amazon holiday gifts anytime soon might want to think again. The Federal Aviation Administration is working to develop operational guidelines for the commercial robo-craft by the end of 2015. On Monday, the FAA announced six states where drone testing will begin.

The administration selected sites in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia from 25 applicants—taking into consideration geography, climate, location, and airspace use, among other factors, the AP reports.

The lucky states are generally enthusiastic about hosting research facilities—the industry is expected to spike economic activity. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projected that the commercial drone industry will create 100,000 jobs and bring in $82 billion within 10 years after the aircraft are granted flight in shared airspace.

"This is wonderful news for Nevada that creates a huge opportunity for our economy," said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

North Dakota’s already committed $5 million to the venture.

Proposed commercial drone use has seen it's share of controversy in recent months. Critics argue that loosening restrictions on drones in U.S. skies will bring America closer to "a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities," the American Civil Liberties Union declared in a report last December.

Ask FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, though, and there is no question we’ll see drones in our skies—and soon. "We have successfully brought new technology into the nation's aviation system for more than 50 years,” Huerta said in a report. “I have no doubt we will do the same with unmanned aircraft."


A mockup of the gondola.     Photo: Courtesy of WVE

Near-Space Tourism Takes Off

U.S. firm will fly you 19 miles up for $75K

If you were riveted by Felix Baumgartner's parachute jump from the edge of space last year, now's your chance to sign up for a similar experience. Tickets went on sale Saturday for the ultimate hot-air balloon trip. For just $75,000, American firm World View Experiences will fly you 19 miles to the very edge of space.

The first trip, expected to launch in 2016, will take eight passengers to the edge of the atmosphere in a capsule attached to a helium balloon. The balloon will launch from Sir Richard Branson's spaceport in New Mexico and make a two-hour ascent to its cruising height of 100,000 feet. When the cruising portion is finished, the passenger capsule will detach from the balloon and return to the ground via para-wing.

The journey will last less than 9 hours, but in that time passengers will be treated to a view of the Earth's curvature as well as a brief period of weightlessness during the craft's rapid descent. Passengers will also be able to live tweet or instagram their experiences via on-board wi-fi. "We want to give people the experience of seeing the Earth from space for hours and contemplating the curvature of the planet and all that comes with that," says WVE chief executive Jane Poynter.

WVE's experience is significantly cheaper than a prospective trip on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which will cost you between $200,000 and $250,000.

You can begin the application process here.


Health experts recommend halving the amount of sugar adults consume.     Photo: Martijn Nijenhuis/Flickr

Experts Urge Strict Sugar Cap

Americans eat ten times too much

Next time you reach for that Red Bull, reconsider. The World Health Organization is currently thinking about halving the daily recommended sugar limit.

The new guidelines would advise adults to consume just five teaspoons of sugar a day, rather than 10. This is bad news for the average American, who eats approximately 40 teaspoons of the stuff daily.

Health experts fear that an excess of the carbohydrate contributes to heart disease, tooth decay, and obesity. And sugar is pervasive. A single can of soda can contain 10 teaspoons of sugar, while a bowl of sweet cereal has about four.    

If the WHO does change the recommended limit, many food companies might have to lower the sugar content in their products.

“There is overwhelming evidence coming out about sugar-sweetened beverages and other sugar consumption links to obesity, diabetes, and even cardiovascular disease,” Srinath Reddy, a cardiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Daily Mail.

Some studies suggest that vigorous exercise can help offset the sweet poison's deleterious effects. Check out some sugar-busting fitness tips here.  


Volgograd Russia CCTV railway station

CCTV camera captured the moment of the explosion that killed 16 in a railway station in Volgograd, Russia, on Monday.     Photo: News 360/YouTube

Bombings Hit Russia as Olympics Near

Putin promises 'safe and secure' Games

Two suspected suicide bombings in the southern Russian city of Volgograd since Sunday highlight the terrorist threat to the Winter Games. Despite the daunting security challenge facing Russian authorities, Russian President Vladimir Putin's promises a "safe and secure Games in Sochi."

Yesterday, a blast at the city's main train station killed 17 people and wounded at least 35, and an explosion on a trolleybus near a busy market this morning killed at least 10 people.

With the Sochi Olympics about a month away, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach condemned the December bombings as a "despicable attack on innocent people." He said in a statement: "I am certain that everything will be done to ensure the security of the athletes and all the participants of the Olympic Games."

These attacks aren't the first in Volgograd this year. In October, a bomber blew up a passenger bus in Volgograd, killing six people and wounding more than 30. Russian media reported that a female Islamist suicide bomber from the Russian region of Dagestan was responsible for the attack. Volgograd is about 400 miles north of Sochi.

The recent attacks remain unclaimed. However, Russian authorities reportedly believe Caucasus Emirate, which the U.S. State Department considers a foreign terrorist group, is responsible. The widely known Chechen rebel leader, Doku Umarov, released a video statement in July urging his followers to "do their utmost to derail" the Sochi Olympics, which he described as "satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors."