July 9, 2013

    Photo: Matth1

Solar-Powered Plane Completes Cross-Country Flight

Next up: circling the globe

The world's first solar-powered plane completed its first-ever cross-country flight on Monday. The Solar Impulse touched down in New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport at 11:09 p.m., ending a three-month odyssey that began when the plane and its two pilots left San Francisco on May 3.

While the Solar Impulse's two pilots, Andrew Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, had originally planned to pass near the Statue of Liberty en route to their destination, the fly-by had to be scrapped after the crew found an eight-foot tear in one of the plane's wings.

Powered by 11,000 solar cells, the Solar Impulse can fly at altitudes of up to 30,000 feet and reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour. According to Washington Post, the plane's creators plan to take an improved version of the craft on a round-the-world flight in 2015.

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Town to Put Deer on the Pill

Alternative to hunting them

Communities in New York’s Westchester County have long used hunters to control deer populations, but now one town, Hastings-on-Hudson, is taking a more progressive approach. The town, together with Tufts University’s Center for Animals and Public Policy, will conduct the first experiments in deer regulation using immunocontraception, or, more simply, birth control.

More than 50 residents have already volunteered to help with the experiment, tracking the animals so they can be trapped and treated.

“It’s brilliant,” said center director Dr. Allen T. Rutberg of the contraceptive vaccine, which will use the animal’s own immune system to prevent it from fertilizing offspring. “It works on a lot of animals, even elephants.”

The small town, which measures only about two square miles, is believed to be home to some 70 to 120 deer.

The program will cost an estimated $30,000 for the first two years, but Hastings mayor Peter Swiderski is confident the issue is pressing enough to warrant the effort. In 2011 there were 16 car collisions reportedly involving deer, and Mayor Swiderski himself contracted lyme disease from a deer tick, as did his entire family.

The town plans to submit the proposal to the State’s Department of Environmental Conservation within a month.

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Fido loves to watch TV.     Photo: Charlzzz/Flickr

TV Network for Dogs Launching

Will hit cities nationwide in August

After four years of development and a trial roll-out in San Diego last year, the first TV network aimed at dogs will launch nationwide on DirecTV in August. The network, designed for pups of all breeds, will broadcast short video clips in three categories: relaxation, stimulation, and exposure, designed to help habituate dogs to domestic life.

“The dog-approved programming content was created to entertain, relax and stimulate stay-at-home dogs,"  the company said in a press release. "So owners don’t come home to ripped-up couches, shredded magazines or a favorite pair of heels chewed to bits."

DogTV has worked with several industry experts to help develop its programming, and cites a survey conducted by the American Kennel Club and IAMS showing that nearly half of dogs show "some interest" in what's happening on the TV screen, according to their owners.

While older TV sets—which produced only 50 frames a second—were inscrutable to our canine friends, dogs can "probably see the new TVs just as well as they see the world in general," Ernst Otto Ropstad, an associate professor at the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science who specializes in animal vision, told ScienceNordic.

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Firefighters drive to the frontlines of a Colorado forest fire.     Photo: USDAgov/Flickr

Nevada Blazes Continue to Grow

Near Las Vegas and Reno

Two large wildfires escaped containment Monday and continue to rage in Nevada near Las Vegas and Reno. Over 750 firefighters and 18 Hotshot crews are currently battling the Las Vegas fire, 25 miles northwest of the City.

The Las Vegas fire, named Carpenter 1, was declared a top national priority due to the value of structures at risk and its size, Suzanne Shelp, a Forest Service spokeswoman told the Associated Press. More than 400 homes have been evacuated and two state highways closed as firefighters struggle to contain its growth. Smoke from the blaze is visible from downtown Las Vegas and the local air qualty department issued an adivsory set to take effect through Sunday.

In northern Nevada, the fire near Reno doubled in size Monday as it burned through dead trees and juniper forests. Officials have closed popular back-country roads in the Carson City and Sacramento regions as 700 firefighters combat the blaze, which has yet to destroy any homes. The fire broke out on July 4 and firefighters hoped to have it contained by Monday, but strong wins fanned the fire Monday to the northeast, hampering their efforts.

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