December 6, 2013

    Photo: Youtube.com

Mystery “Alien” in Bristol Harbor Uncovered

You can relax now, it was just a PR stunt.

A bioluminescent, squid-like alien thing appeared in Bristol Harbour Tuesday, pulsating in a spectacular show of light and exterrestrial wonder. After 20 seconds it disappeared, but it was enough time for onlookers to Instagram the bejeezus out of the event. As the tweets and posts poured in—3.5 million in the last 24 hours—scientists were baffled.

"There is a possibility that it is a special type of jellyfish or a marine salp. It's very unusual and I haven't really seen anything like it before," Steve Simpson, senior lecturer in Biosciences at the University of Exeter, told the Telegraph.

What could it be? The Telegraph asked. A jellyfish, brought into the harbour by spring tides and recent storms? An alien? A Banksy work?

The answer revealed today: The "alien" was a PR stunt for a new magic and illusion TV show, The Happenings, from the channel Watch. The program uses illusion to bring movie-like experiences to British and American towns, very much like the Bristol Harbour "alien." The stunt was meant to "replicate this sense of magical excitement in a real world setting," says Steve Hornsey, general  manager of Watch.

Is anyone else disappointed that this thing wasn't real?

0 Comments

Outdoor/Adventure films draw attention on Oscar short list     Photo: Hussain Jassim/Thinkstock

Oscars Show Love for Outdoor and Adventure Films

Four of 15 listed documentary films highlight another stirring year in cinema

The short list of Oscar-nominated documentary features was released yesterday; four of the 15 listed films stem from heated controversy or great achievement in the realm of nature, exploration, and world-class athletes.

The films include The Armstrong Lie, Blackfish, The Crash Reel, and Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, according to reports from Variety.

The Armstrong Lie, directed by Alex Gibney, actually began as a documentary about Armstrong's 2009 comeback, but eventually became an exploration of his infamous fall from stardom and coming clean about doping.

Blackfish, directed by Gabriella Cowperthwaite, was inspired by the Outside article "Killer in the Pool." The award-winning film examines the SeaWorld orca whale Tilikum, who has been associated with three human deaths during his life in captivity.

The Crash Reel, directed by Lucy Walker, tracks the life of Kevin Pearce in the lead up to the 2010 Olympics, which Pearce was forced to miss due a nearly life-threatening traumatic brain injury. The film emerges as true voice for TBI's as these issues garner more of the public's attention.

Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, directed by Sebastian Junger, profiles one of the most influential journalists in recent history. Tim Hetherington died in Lybia in 2011, just weeks after he attended the Oscars for his nominated film Restrepo.

The list of 15 documentary films will be voted on to select five nominees on January 16. The Oscars will be held on March 2.

Also: See Outside's "The Best Adventure Films of 2013" for more great flicks.

0 Comments

A SkySeer drone     Photo: DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AP Images

Drones to Detect Fires, Not Pot Smokers

Forest Service's $100,000 mistake remembered, might be redeemed

In 2006, the U.S. Forest Service purchased two drones for catching marijuana users in the woods of California, not knowing that the agency didn't meet federal requirements for drone operation. Seven years and $100,000 later, the drones sit in storage. But if prospective Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) amendments go through, the law-enforcement team could give drones another shot: this time for fire-fighting.

Forest Service officials had intended their SkySeer drones to spare officers the risk of monitoring pot smokers in person (although Jeff Ruch, of the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told the Associated Press at the time that the purchase indicated a "boys with toys" mentality). Members of the agency soon realized they had neither the mandatory pilots nor the authority required by the FAA.

Jennifer Jones, spokeswoman for the Forest Service, told The Huffington Post that the drones are "not even operational at this point," as their custom batteries are dead and cannot be replaced.

But the FAA is revising its position on unmanned aircraft, working with Congress on a method of integrating drones into everyday application, possibly by 2015, to meet the increased demand exemplified by Amazon's newfangled delivery idea.

The Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management is working toward FAA approval by developing new drone protocols and assessing their risks, reports the Central Valley Business Times.

"Sometimes what happens is the technology gets out there before our agency policies," says Jones, who believes the drones could mark a new frontier for the law-enforcement division.

0 Comments

    Photo: Andrei Zveaghintev/Shutterstock

San Francisco Mulls Butterfly Ban

Releasing them at weddings may be hazardous

Host your butterfly-themed weddings while you can. San Francisco's seven-member Commission on the Environment voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a resolution that would urge the city's environmental department to ban the release of commercially bred butterflies at weddings. 

Environmentalists have long opposed the practice, fearing that the releases can lead to the transfer of disease from breeding facilities into the wild, weakening other populations and leading to more die-off. Interbreeding between native and industrially raised butterflies may also be potentially hazardous.

"Experts state that release of non-native and/or commercially raised butterflies can cause the introduction of deleterious genes into local populations," reads the resolution. "Which could negatively influence the survivorship potential of native butterflies."

The resolution might carry more weight now that monarch butterfly populations are on the decline. The number of monarchs successfully reaching their winter home in Mexico dropped 59 percent this year to a record low of 3 million.

Butterfly breeders are already responding to the resolution, arguing that such releases remain a possible remedy for declining butterfly populations.

"If they disallow reintroduction they will actually be injuring the butterfly population," says International Butterfly Breeders Association spokesperson Dale McClung. "People are just going to order butterflies anyway."

0 Comments

Shanghai's skyline on a day much better than yesterday.     Photo: Jason Lyon/Getty Images

Shanghai's Smog Problem

Air-quality index is "severe"

If you're outside in Shanghai right now, reading this article would probably be near impossible. And looking at anything more than 50 yards away? Forget it.

Shanghai is experiencing one of its worst episodes of air pollution. The air quality index reached the "severe" level yesterday, the most dangerous in the six-tier national rating system.

South China Morning Post reports that the amount of fine particles peaked at 700 micrograms per cubic meter. Compared to London, a city famous for it's befouled air, Shanghai's air was nearly three times as thick. 

The pollution in Shanghai is more than 20 times the World Health Organization's safe limit (25 mcg per cubic meter), and even low levels of smog have been linked to health risks. Smog has been linked to increases in heart and lung disease since the 1970s, and recent research points to decline in academic performance in children and cognitive decline in women, according to the American Psychological Association. With air quality so low, even healthy Shanghai citizens would be more vulnerable to disease.

To bring levels down, the worst polluting factories have limited or stopped production today. Construction around the city has also halted and a third of government vehicles were taken off the roads.

The pollution is expected to linger until a cold front forecasted for early next week drives away air pollutants to the East China Sea.

0 Comments

Comments