January 18, 2013

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NASA Beams Mona Lisa to the Moon

A first in interplanetary communication

The Mona Lisa, one of the most recognizable pieces of art in human history, can now be viewed in its new location, orbiting gently above the moon. Using a carefully timed laser, NASA scientists successfully beamed an image of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that has been floating above the moon’s surface since 2009. David Smith, a researcher with the project, was quite enthused with his work. "This is the first time anyone has achieved one-way laser communication at planetary distances,” he said.

Communicating by lasers, which move at light speed, could offer a vast improvement over the radio links currently used to maintain contact with all of NASA’s probes operating in our solar system.

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    Photo: Scott_Calleja/Flickr

Florida Officials Chase Escaped Grizzly Cub

Bear is part of traveling show

Florida residents already have to deal with their fair share of hazardous fauna, from alligators to invasive pythons. Now you can add another to that list: grizzly bears. State wildlife officials are searching for Booboo, an escaped cub, after it bolted from a private ranch near Naples on Tuesday. The 125-pound ursine is owned by animal trainer Dexter Osborn, who travels around the country with Booboo and two other bears putting on live shows and working on TV and film projects. Mitts Mravic, a supervisor of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, warned that the bear could travel south in search of food.

"Residents should remain calm, but pay attention to their surroundings,” said Mitts Mravic, one of the Fish and Wildlife officials leading the search. “If you see the bear, please do not approach it. Get indoors if you can, and call the Fish and Wildlife Commission or local law enforcement."

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Antarctica's frozen waters are frequently home to huge storms.     Photo: John Lester/Flickr

Antarctic Wave Slams Ship Carrying Students

Turns the vessel around

An Antarctic storm pummeled a luxury cruise liner carrying 90 students from the elite Hotchkiss School in Connecticut on Sunday. According to the New York Times, the students were on a three-week trip to learn about the effects of climate change. They experienced firsthand the strength of the southern seas when their ship was hit by a 30-foot wave, which destroyed windows on the bridge, killed some electricity, and injured the captain and three crew members.

The trip was financed to a large extent by an heir to the Mars candy empire, who was also aboard the vessel. The cruise ship featured walk-in-closets, hot tubs, and large amounts of Mars candy. The waiters addressed the students as "sir" or "madam" and the children feasted on duck pâté and apple sorbet.

Unfortunately, many of the students were seasick after the storm, but when they weren't sick they were able to update their respective blogs.

"The ship, suddenly, seems to suspend itself in midair,"; Sebastian Sanchez, one of the students, wrote in one of the more dramatic blog posts on the episode. “We stand no chance on board because the elements have no emotion. They will toss and turn us, bite and rip us apart until we are nothing left but a piece of floating driftwood."

Others took a less metaphysical approach. "Dramamine became everyone’s new best friend," wrote Natalie Kawam, another student.

Though they never made it to Antarctica, as the Times points out, each student was given a far greater gift: A college essay.

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    Photo: USFWS Headquarters/Flickr

White-Nose Bat Found in Mammoth Cave

Park was previously thought clean

A bat with white-nose syndrome has been found in Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park, officials announced Wednesday. White-nose syndrome, which was discovered in New York in 2006, has killed around six million bats in Canada and North America. It gets its name from the powdery substance that appears on the nose, muzzles, and wings of affected bats.

"I am incredibly sad to report this," said Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead. "A northern long-eared bat showing symptoms of white-nose syndrome was found in Long Cave in the park. The bat was euthanized on January 4 and sent for laboratory testing. Those tests confirmed white-nose syndrome."

Long Cave, an undeveloped cave about 1.3 miles long, is not connected to 390-mile long Mammoth Cave, a popular historic site visited by about 400,000 each year.

The park service will continue giving tours of Mammoth Cave, which annually generate about $3.9 million in fees from visitors. To prevent spread of the disease, the parks service screens all visitors before they go on a tour and has them walk across decontamination mats as they exit, Craighead said.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official, the disease could endure in the cave environment for multiple decades.

Via Los Angeles Times

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