November 22, 2012

Giovanni dalle Bande Nere.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Famous Italian Army Commander Exhumed

Giovanni de' Medici died in 1526

Led by Gino Fornaciari, the director of the University of Pisa's pathology museum, a team of Italian researchers have exhumed the bodies of Giovanni de' Medici (also known as Giovanni dalle Bande Nere for the black mourning bands he wore following Pope Leo X's death) and his wife, Maria Salviati. Buried in the Medici Chapels in Florence, Giovanni was a member of the wealthy Florentine Medici family, but also one of the most celebrated mercenary soldiers of the Renaissance. Fornaciari's team is conducting a "'thorough analysis' which includes medical, paleopathological, and anthropological investigations of the remains," according to Discovery News. Their hope is to better understand the life and death of the army commander, who died at the age of 28 after being hit by a cannon ball while fighting troops marching toward Rome.

Via Discovery News


Turkey.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Turkeys on the Offensive

Residents in Brookline fed up with attacks

In the suburban town of Brookline, Massachusetts (pop. 58,732), residents are getting fed up with aggressive turkeys. Karen Halvorson, who lives in the Aspinwall Hill neighborhood, is so frustrated that she's now working with town leaders to organize meetings with locals so that they can vent and brainstorm an action plan. "I can't believe we're living this way," she told a local CBS affiliate after turkeys attacked her truck, her front door, and her person. Halvorson was on one of her routine walks through town when she was charged by a band of three turkeys. She moved to the center of the street, but that wasn't enough to deter the birds. "The turkey flew in my face and scratched my neck," said Halvorson, who now carries a hiking stick she picked up at a nearby store for protection. The only upside? Increased work for the local animal control team. "Some people going to work and they've been chased by turkeys," said animal control officer Pierre Verrier, who now spends most of his mornings keeping birds away from Brookline High School.



Tongariro.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Mount Doom's Neighbor Erupts in New Zealand

Could happen again soon

Even though it erupted for the first time in more than a century on August 6, shooting boulders up to one-meter-wide into the air, Mount Tongariro, which sits on New Zealand's North Island, is perhaps best known as the neighbor of Mount Ngauruhoe, the stand-in for the fictional Mount Doom in Peter Jackson's award-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tongariro came to life again earlier this week when a five-minute eruption shot ash, smoke, and gas 4km into the sky. The eruption, which was followed by 15 minutes of volcanic activity, led to the cancelation of several flights as air traffic coordinators feared volcanic ash, which contains pieces of glass, could clog the turbine engines of commercial aircraft.

While the immediate threat has passed, experts monitoring the mountain predict another sudden eruption of similar size could take place within the next couple of weeks. "Should a further eruption occur, a new national advisory or warning would be issued," according to the New Zealand Herald. There's also the possibility, volcanologists from GNS, a government-owned company that focuses on geology, geophysics, and nuclear science, warn, of a much larger event.

Via The New Zealand Herald


Wild turkey.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Big Waste of Turkey

Americans throw away 35 percent

Our modern-day version of Thanksgiving in the United States is commonly traced back to a 17th-century feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, that was held in celebration of a good harvest. There was plenty of food for everyone then, and there's plenty of food now—perhaps too much. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans end up throwing away 35 percent of the turkey (not including bones) they buy for holiday gatherings. "We love to have the big feast at holiday time," Dana Gunder, food and agriculture scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Discovery News. "That results in a lot more extra food. People do leftovers for a day or two, but people are sick by day three. I think it's just basic math."

Tossing all of that turkey isn't just a waste of money (it adds up to more than $280 million), it's also terrible for our environment. "Growing a pound of turkey meat uses 468 gallons of water and releases 12 pounds of CO2 emissions according to a report by the Environmental Working Group," Discovery News pointed out. That's "equivalent to driving your car 11 miles and taking a 94-minute shower." With Americans projected to purchase 736 million pounds of the bird for this Thanksgiving (and throw away 204 million pounds), that adds up to 95 billion gallons of water and about one million tons of CO2.

Via Discovery News



Discovery Cancels 'Dirty Jobs'

Had eight successful seasons

After a long and successful run, the Discovery Channel has canceled Dirty Jobs, the show Brian Stelter in the New York Times called "a forerunner to the genre of weird-workplace reality television that now flourishes on cable." Mike Rowe, the show's creator, executive producer, and host since 2003, announced the news in a piece on the Huffington Post. "Dirty Jobs is a very personal show, and it's difficult for me to imagine a future that does not involve exploding toilets, venomous snakes, misadventures in animal husbandry, and feces from every species," he wrote, noting that he was given the news a few weeks ago but needed time to process it before going public.

Via The New York Times


    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thanksgiving Travel Up Across U.S.

44 million Americans hitting the road

For the fourth consecutive year more Americans are traveling 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA. "We are on a slow climb back," said AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair Jr., referring to the severe economic downturn in 2008 that led to a 25 percent decline in holiday travel. "It's a climb, but it is a slow one, and perhaps not enough for people to really make a significant commitment to travel."

Most of the nearly 44 million Americans who are traveling for the weekend—the majority by automobile—can expect clear skies and pleasant weather. "Airports across most of the country faced few delays on Wednesday," according to Reuters. The only major problem area was Chicago, where a thick fog forced hundreds of delays at both O'Hare and Midway, the city's two primary airports. Even there, though, flights were typically off the ground about 40 to 45 minutes later than scheduled.

Via Reuters