April 9, 2013
Saddle Rock in Joshua Tree National Park

Saddle Rock in Joshua Tree National Park     Photo: Jarek Tuszynski/Wikimedia Commons

Vandalism Forces Closure in Joshua Tree

Rattlesnake Canyon shuttered through April 30

The National Park Service has closed down a day-use area in Joshua Tree popular with canyoneers and boulderers following a spate of vandalism.

In a press release, the NPS blamed social media for encouraging would-be taggers, and said that the area would be shuttered to public use at least through the end of April.

Since January, individuals have defaced the day-use and canyon area of Rattlesnake Canyon with graffiti While this started as a few markings, social media posts appear to have sparked numerous individuals' interest in adding to the vandalism of this scenic canyon. The continued malicious desecration of Joshua Tree National Park has now affected archeological sites.

The closure is likely to impact climbers, who frequent the boulders in the area, as well as canyoneers, who use the non-technical canyon as a connection between Indian Cove and Willow Hole.

Via Los Angeles Times

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Chelone Miller at 2013 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Canyons

Chelone Miller at 2013 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix at Canyons     Photo: Jen Desmond/U.S. Snowboarding

Snowboarder Chelone Miller Found Dead

Bode Miller's brother found in a van

Professional snowboarder Chelone Miller, an athlete looking to make the 2014 Olympics in snowboardcross and the younger brother of skier Bode Milller, was found dead on Sunday, April 7, in Mammoth Lakes, California. The New Hampshire native was 29. Early reports state that Miller died of an apparent seizure, which likely stemmed from a 2005 dirt bike accident that left him in a coma for 11 days.

"Chelone Miller had a purity of spirit that was contagious," said Pat Bridges, the editor of Snowboarder. "From sending it at Superpark to being banned from the X Games for jumping off the chair while trying to get to his heat race on time, Chilly always sent it."

Miller grew up on an Easton, New Hampshire farm without electricity or running water, started skiing soon after he could walk, and started snowboarding at nine.

He continued to go for big tricks and try new sporting events after his 2005 accident, and suffered occasional seizures while training and during competition. He once fell 25 feet off a chairlift at Mammoth Mountain after suffering a seizure. During the 2012 Arctic Man Classic—an Alaska race that partners snowboarders and skiers with snowmobile racers—he suffered a seizure on the last day of the event.

Miller's Olympic snowboardcross dream looked possible in 2013, as he finished fourth in the Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Canyons, Utah, and won the Rahlves Banzai Tour overall title with a victory in Sugar Bowl, California.

Friends who remembered Miller online said he went after lines, jumps, and life with everything he had.

“I won’t forget the time I showed up for a SNOWBOARDER Mag park session at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. Chas had a jump built he called, “The Cube.” There was a wedge jump that was pretty sizable with a huge snow cube in the middle that you had to clear before making it to the landing. Chas, Pat, Lago, myself, and some more riders were there for the shoot and Chilly showed up for the day. No one had hit the jump and the whole morning we were speed testing the run in, unsure of how it would turn out. Sure as shit, Chilly shows up takes one look at the jump and hops on a sled to the top. Next thing we know Chilly is pinning it into this jump and sending the biggest back rodeo double grab I’ve ever seen. He sends the jump to the bottom and catches the last little bit of tranny. When he came back up we asked him why went back rodeo first hit. His response was “Straight air, back rodeo, same thing. If things go bad they go bad, makes no difference to me.” That’s just how he lived life. I swear it didn’t matter what he was doing he was going 100%, 100% of the time. Without a doubt, this guy lived every moment to the fullest!” —Snowboarder Ian Thorley

For more remembrances, go to "R.I.P. Chelone Miller" on Snowboarder.

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    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Drones for Wildlife Conservation?

"PETA drones will be used to save lives.”

Could military-style drones play a role in the future of wildlife protection? Monitoring endangered species within the boundaries of massive game reserves has long been a challenge for conservationists, but drones could help change that by covering more ground in less time and with less manpower.

Poachers managed to kill 22 one-horned rhinos in the India’s 185-square mile Kaziranga National Park in 2012, and have already killed 16 so far this year. The park's three hundred armed guards have been no match for organized gangs of poachers armed with automatic weapons. In response, wildlife authorities have begun using aerial drones to protect to patrol the park. The drones took their first flight on Monday but will not be put into regular use until the park gets the approval of the Indian Defense Ministry.

In the United States, animal rights group PETA, is following suit. The group announced Monday that it is actively shopping for drones that could “stalk hunters” and capture footage of potentially illegal hunting to be turned over to the police. “The talk is usually about drones being used as killing machines,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “But PETA drones will be used to save lives.”

PETA has not said where exactly they would implement the drones, but hinted that they would be targeting the Northeast. In order to legally operate a drone program, PETA will need a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. A PETA representative confirmed that they are actively seeking approval.

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    Photo: Jeff Wasserman via Shutterstock

Do You Have the Couch Potato Gene?

You may be predisposed to laziness

Maybe you can't help it if you never make it to the gym. Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that genes may play a role in motivation to exercise, at least in rats.

Frank Booth and Michael Roberts placed rats in cages with running wheels, and measured the amount of time the rats spent on the wheel over six days. They bred the 26 top runners with each other and the 26 least active rats with each other, repeating this over 10 generations to create "super runner" rats and "couch potato" rats.

The most significant difference between these two lines of rats were not body composition or levels of energy-storing mitochondria in muscle cells, but genes. The researchers now plan to study the 36 identified genes that differed between the rats, which could play a role in their willingness to exercise.

Read more about the tyranny of fat in Your Fat has a Brain

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Man Travels by Helium Balloons

Rides four miles over shark-infested waters

It was a scene that could have come straight from a Pixar movie: On Saturday, a South African man tied himself to 160 helium balloons and floated for an hour a thousand feet above sea level. The only downer was the shark-infested patch of Atlantic Ocean below.  

Matt Silver-Vallance, a 37-year-old office manager, pulled the stunt to raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which is trying to build a children's hospital in Johannesburg. He launched at Robben Island, where Mandela had been imprisoned for 18 years during apartheid. Silver-Vallance then traveled four miles strapped to the balloons and wearing only a wetsuit, according to the British publication Metro. 

Nelson Mandela has just completed a 10-day stay at a hospital after a bout of pneumonia. "We all hope, if he sees this story, that it will bring a smile to his face," Silver-Vallance said. 

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