It’s possible to travel to the edge of the universe in a human lifetime

Posted in Math & Physics, Outer Space on September 24, 2009 by Gustav

According to calculations, most of the way to the very edge of the universe could be traveled in a human lifetime.

All you need is a rocket capable of accelerating at 9 metres per second per second. You would be traveling at speeds close to the speed of light, so time would be slower for you due to relativity.

Because the universe is expanding, and because that expansion is accelerating, the expansion horizon could never be reached, but you could get 99 percent of the way in 50 years.

Or, as it turns out, in even less time:

[Juliana Kwan at the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia] and her colleagues have found the trip could take even less time.

Based on the latest cosmological values for dark energy and other parameters, they showed an astronaut could make the journey in only 30 years.

But their calculations also suggest that returning home presents its own challenges. Even slight uncertainties in the strength of dark energy or the total density of matter in the universe could cause a spacecraft to miss Earth by millions of light years.

Beginning the deceleration just a second too late could cause you to overshoot the Milky Way, Kwan says. “You would effectively be lost in space.” [New Scientist]

Not that it matters. Even if you made it back, 70 billion years would have passed on Earth and nothing you remember would remain- even the Sun would be gone.

Bats caught in flight drinking water from pond

Posted in Images & Videos, Nature Attacks! on September 24, 2009 by Gustav

Bat drinkning and flying

This amazing shot were taken by experienced wildlife photographer Kim Taylor, and it wasn’t easy.

He said: “I think not one in a million people has ever seen this happen but it happens every night during the summer months all over the country”.

Kim, 76, rigged ropes across the pond which encouraged the bats to drink from a certain point. Then, using special sensors designed by himself, he managed to get the perfect shots.

“These photos were taken with a digital camera using a device that listens for the ultrasonic squeaks”.

An infrared beam was then set to trigger flash lamps whenever a bat dipped down to scoop up a mouthful of water. [Daily Mail]

Th bat in the photo above is probably a Brown Long-Eared Bat. They weigh abot half an ounce and are no bigger than your hand.

And Taylor managed to shoot it flying at 20mph at night beating its wings faster than the eye can see.

Via Pharyngula.

The Mayans may have built musical pyramids

Posted in The Ancient World on September 23, 2009 by Gustav

El CastilloThe ancient Mayans may have used their pyramids as as a great musical instrument to play for the gods.

If you were to sit on the steps of Mexico’s El Castillo in Chichen Itza, you would notice a sound like raindrops hitting water when other visitors climbed the pyramid’s stairs.

The same phenomenon can be found at the Moon Pyramid at Teotihuacan in central Mexico, suggesting that at least some of the Mayan pyramids were expressly built to be an instrument.

El Castillo is widely believed to have been devoted to the feathered serpent god Kukulcan, but Cruz thinks it may also have been a temple to the rain god Chaac. Indeed, a mask of Chaac is found at the top of El Castillo and also in the Moon Pyramid.

“The Mexican pyramids, with some imagination, can be considered musical instruments dating back to the Mayan civilisation,” says [Jorge Cruz of the Professional School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in Mexico City], although he adds that there is no direct evidence that the Mayans actually played them. [New Scientist]

It’s an interesting idea, but as of yet it’s still a largely unsubstantiated one. And as Francisco Estrada-Belli, an archaeologist at Boston University, Massachusetts, points out, the supposed musical pyramids goes unmentioned in Mayan texts.

Yeah, who wouldn’t want a Spider-Man lizard for a pet?

Posted in Nature Attacks! on September 23, 2009 by Gustav

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that pet-lovers in Britain has a new favorite, and it’s this Spider-Man look-alike:

Spider-Lizard

That’s the Mwanza Flat-headed Rock Agama which can be found all-over the Sub-Saharan Africa. The Daily Telegraph writes:

Agamas like the Spider-Lizard, as it has become known make good pets, as they become tame and docile if handled regularly. However, they require specialist equipment in the UK to maintain their temperature.

It can grow up to a foot long, and the squeamish may find it a problem to feed – a balanced diet for an agama includes locusts, crickets, mealworms and waxworms.

If only it could shoot webs! (It can scale vertical walls, though.)

Roundup: nightmare animals, laser dancing and wildlife photography

Posted in Humour, Images & Videos, Nature Attacks! on September 22, 2009 by Gustav

List-based comedy site Cracked count down “13 Real Animals Lifted Directly Out of Your Nightmares“, among them the Deep Sea Holothurian:

Deep Sea Holothurian

This charming video explains how lasers work and use dancing people as illustration:

New Scientist has a set of wildlife photos from the Thrive! exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery. Here’s a Peacock Mantis Shrimp:

Peacock Mantis Shrimp

Jumping robot is not hindered by high fences

Posted in Robots & Cyborgs, Technology Attacks! on September 18, 2009 by Gustav

From Boston Dynamics, the makers of BigDog, I bring you the Precision Urban Hopper:

The purpose of the jumping robot is to be able to scout enemy territory, and to that end it can jump as high as 25 feet. BBC News has more.

Via Discoblog.

Meet Raptorex, the amazing miniature T. rex

Posted in Nature Attacks!, The Ancient World on September 18, 2009 by Gustav

Raptorex and T-rex

In northeastern China, the fossil of a new dinosaur, named Raptorex kriegsteini that lived 125 million years ago has been uncovered.

The Raptorex had an oversized head with powerful jaws for biting, long legs for running and tiny arms that did nothing – it was basically an earlier version of Tyrannosaurus rex, who lived 35 million years later.

The Raptorex, however, was about the size of a human.

The scientists are sure that the new mini tyrant is not just a juvenile. Bones in animals tend to fuse in sequence, providing a key to an animal’s maturity level.

Raptorex’s pelvic girdle was completely fused and its scapula and shoulder blade were nearly so, indicating that it was an adolescent at the end of its growth. [Wired]

The stunted arms of T. rex has previously been thought by many to have evolved has a consequence of T. rex being so big. But the Raptorex shows that the basic body plan of T. rex was already present in its earlier ancestors – it just got bigger.

But why the big head and small arms? Paleontologist Paul C. Serano tells the New York Times:

Raptorex, like T. rex, would have killed animals with its teeth and jaws. The forelimbs would not have been the primary means for attacking prey.

In fact, Dr. Sereno said, the forelimbs would have gotten smaller as the head got larger. “This is an agile, fast-running animal,” he said.

“By adding a lot of weight at the top, something has to give way. What gave way was the forelimb.”

Via 80beats.

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