July 2, 2013

    Photo: Courtesy of Rossiya 24

Russian Rocket Explodes on Takeoff

Fourth incident in three years

A Russian rocket that was supposed to carry three navigation satellites into space instead exploded shortly after launch in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, showering flaming, toxic fuel around the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Authorities told residents of Baikonur, a 70,000-person city near the spaceport, to stay inside following the accident, cautioning about the danger of contamination from the carcinogenic fuel, know as heptyl in Russian, used to power the rocket.

The accident is the fourth in the past three years for the Proton-M, a Russian-made rocket designed to carry heavy loads into space, and marked the first time that a rocket equipped with the DM-3 booster had been used since 2010, when another Proton-M and its payload crashed into the Pacific. But engineer Sergei Gromov said that the DM-3 probably didn't cause the incident.


"DM-3 was to be switched into motion only about an hour after the launch so obviously it cannot be the problem," he told The Times. "Accidents do happen, but we shouldn't see a tendency here either as there have been several successful launches of Proton-M recently."

Via Quartz

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    Photo: POST_UPLOAD

Brother of Sen. Mark Udall Missing in Wyoming

Disappeared on solo hike

Randy Udall, brother to democratic Colorado senator Mark Udall, has now been missing for almost a week after embarking on a solo hiking trip in Wyoming.

Randy set out on his journey along the Wind River Range trail, one with which he was reportedly familiar. However, he failed to reappear on schedule. “He is missing,” department spokesman Steve Smith told the Denver Post. “He was supposed to be back on the 26th. We were notified on the 28th.”

Rescue workers have begun searching for Randy, covering an area of some 225 square miles. The U.S. Forest service has also pitched in, but neither have found any sign of him.

The Senator's office released a statement regarding the search:

"Mark is concerned about his brother's whereabouts, and he continues to closely monitor the situation. He and his family hope for the best. [Senator Udall] has remained in contact with those searching for his brother and, along with his family, has waited and hoped for the best."

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An ocean buoy.     Photo: Kevitivity/Flickr

Possible Breakthrough in El Niño Forecasting

Could forecast a year in advance

An international team of meteorologists announced Monday that they've discovered a new way to forecast El Niño a year ahead of time, doubling the current lead team experts have. According to the research team, the new forecasting method should only cause false alarms 10 percent of the time.

"We study how the various locations in the Pacific are linked and how the links between them change with time," the lead researchers told USA TODAY.

The new model incorporates data from 1950 to 2011 showing that weather patterns were predicted by a ripple of rising temperatures through the El Nino "basin" of the Pacific Ocean. The team then builds forecasts soley from temperature data, without using weather models.

Outside researchers remain cautious about the findings. "I'm very skeptical. I don't think this is a breakthrough," El Niño forecaster Anthony Barnston of Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society told USA TODAY. "Look hard enough for a connection between past temperature numbers and weather patterns and some link will turn up, Barnston said. "But that is just a statistical game without any physics behind it that will turn out sooner or later not to work."

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Spoiler: Crashes and an Upset Win at TDF TTT

Several pre-race favorite lose time

Orica-GreenEdge took the win in today's team time trial over Omega Pharma-Quick Step, vaunting stage 3 winner Simon Gerrans into the yellow jersey. Team Sky held on for third, three seconds down on Orica-GreenEdge, moving Chris Froome to the top of the standings among favorite for the overall title. Team Katusha conceded 25 seconds to Sky, making pre-race favorite Joaquim Rodriguez the biggest loser of the day.

The time gaps are small, but having climbing specialists Alberto Contador and Rodriguez behind him in the GC gives Froome a crucial advantage. Both riders, along with Cadel Evans, who also lost time on today's stage, will be forced to attack Froome, while he'll be able to use his team to defend his lead.

As the pre-race stage favorite, Team Sky was expected to put more distance between themselves and the other teams, but was hampered by Geraint Thomas' pelvis fracture. The rider, who is ordinarily a powerhouse in time trials, was left struggling on the stage.

There's never an uneventful stage at the Tour, and key Contador lieutenant Benjamin Noval is heading to the hospital following a crash in the stage. Meanwhile, American Ted King is out of the Tour. There is some confusion surrounding the race jury's decision. King clocked his finish at 32:24 (and posted a power file on Twitter supporting his claim), while the Tour's results sheet lists him finishing at 32:32, outside the cut-off.

King chose to race his road bike rather than a dedicated time trial bike after separating his shoulder earlier this week, and the official timing chip was not transferred over to his road machine from his time trial bike before the stage. Because of the bike change, there is no automated record of King crossing the line, but the Tour officials say he missed the cut-off.

“They didn’t want to listen to our explanation. Ted was racing with a shoulder injury, and he raced with a road bike. He was very brave. He did not stop fighting. Those are the qualities of cycling, yet they did not want to change their minds,” said Cannondale spokesman Paolo Barbieri told VeloNews. “It is Ted’s dream to race the Tour. We cannot believe it.”

On Twitter, popular pro Jens Voigt has taken King's side, saying he should be allowed to start the next stage. A rule is in place allowing “one or several particularly unlucky riders” to continue even after missing the cut-off, but Tour officials are reluctant to apply it to King for unknown reasons.

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    Photo: JJ Harrison

House Cat Kills Rare Parrots

Less than 50 of the birds left in wild

The orange-bellied parrot, one of the world's rarest species of birds, got a little rarer when a cat broke into a breeding enclosure in Tasmania and killed two of the them, officials confirmed. Speaking to the province's parliament, Environment Minister Brian Wightman said that the birds were found dead in May after the feline crawled through a hole in their enclosure, sending the parrots into a panic.

"That is why it is very important we have correct housing for these birds," said Wightman. "We will continue to ensure that the facilities we have in the north and south of the state are secure and my expectation as minister would be that if there has been an issue that it is fixed in a timely manner and we will undertake to make sure it has occurred."

According to Treehugger, the feline culprit was discovered two days later, still trapped in the parrot enclosure.

Scientists estimate that there are 320 orange-bellied parrots alive today. All but about 50 of those live in captivity.

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