Who Is the World’s Richest Man?


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Who Is the World’s Richest Man?

By: Life’s Little Mysteries Staff
Date: 02 July 2012 Time: 09:20 AM ET
Mexican businessman Carlos Slim Helú.
CREDIT: Creative Commons License Attribution 3.0 | José Cruz/ABr

There are a record 1,226 billionaires in the world this year worth a combined $4.6 trillion, according to the 2012 Forbes World’s Billionaires list. Reigning as the wealthiest among them — the richest man in the world — for the third year in a row isCarlos Slim Helú, a Mexican telecom magnate with $69 billion to his name.

But Helú’s fortune is falling and he may soon be surpassed as the world’s wealthiest person. The 72-year-old’s net worth is down $5 billion this year compared to 2011, and the gap between him and the former world’s richest man, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has narrowed. Gates, 56, added $5 billion to his worth over the past year, bringing his total to $61 billion.

Warren Buffett, an octogenarian American investor nicknamed the “Oracle of Omaha,” ranks at no. 3, with a net worth of $44 billion.

Here’s the full top-10 list of the world’s richest people as of March 2012, as seen at Forbes.com:

#1: Carlos Slim Helú & family (Mexico) – $69 billion net worth – Source of wealth: telecom industry

#2: Bill Gates (U.S.) – $61 B – Microsoft

#3: Warren Buffett (U.S.) –  $44 B– Berkshire Hathaway

#4: Bernard Arnault (France) – $41 B – LVMH

#5: Amancio Ortega (Spain) – $37.5 B – Zara

#6: Larry Ellison (U.S.) – $36 B – Oracle

#7: Eike Batista (Brazil) – $30 B – mining, oil

#8: Stefan Persson (Sweden) – $26 B – H&M

#9: Li Ka-shing (Hong Kong) – $25.5 B – diversified

#10 Karl Albrecht (Germany) – $25.4 B – Aldi

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Can you guess the subject of this photograph?


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Can you guess the subject of this photograph?

The most common guesses include a geode, a misshapen pomegranate, and a “period rock.” But all these guesses are wrong.

Scientific American’s Becky Crew explains that this bizarre-looking specimen is actually a sea creature (Pyura chilensis, to be exact, but known less formally as a “sea squirt.”) It’s commonly found in the coastal waters of Chile and Peru. They don’t look like much from the outside — their squishy bits are encased in a thick substance called “Tunicin” that’s very similar to the cellulose that you find in plants — but slice one open, and you’ll see they’re actually quite beautiful, if a little alien-looking.

But that’s not the only thing odd about P. chilensis. Despite its crimson appearance, this creature has clear blood. Its meat contains the rare element vanadium, in concentrations up to 10 million times that of the ocean waters where it makes its home (nobody’s quite sure why this is.) And it possesses both male and female gonads. They’re also, evidently, delicious. But while P. chilensishave been fished commercially by Chilean and Peruvian natives for years, it wasn’t until 2005 that researchers had a clear idea of this bizarre animal’s mating habits. Over at SciAm, Crew recounts the details of the experiment that brought its reproductive ways to light:

Can you guess the subject of this photograph?

In 2005, biologists Patricio H. Manríquez from the Universidad Austral de Chile and Juan Carlos Castilla from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile published a paper in the Marine Ecology Progress Series revealing for the first time the particulars of this creature’s asexuality. (They also use the verb ‘selfing’ often and with glorious earnestness). They collected 30 sexually mature P. chilensis from habits in central and northern Chile and set them up in lab tanks as isolated and paired individuals. They wanted to assess the occurrence and success of fertilisation via these two types of reproduction followed by the settlement of the resulting offspring to a hard surface and their subsequent metamorphosis into adulthood.

Continue reading at SciAm.

The world’s biggest, oldest impact crater hollowed out Greenland three billion years ago


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The world’s biggest, oldest impact crater hollowed out Greenland three billion years ago

The world's biggest, oldest impact crater hollowed out Greenland three billion years ago

The asteroid that hit Earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaur was at least six miles across and left behind a crater over 110 miles across. But that’s nothing compared to a possibly newly discovered impact site.

It’s not confirmed yet, but a potential crater site in Greenland would be the oldest, biggest impact ever observed on Earth. The original asteroid would have been about 18 miles across – that’s about half the length of Rhode Island, which is pretty damn huge by asteroid standards – and the crater it initially created would have been nearly 375 miles wide and over 15 feet miles deep. While we’ve seen evidence of impacts on that scale elsewhere in the solar system, we’ve never seen anything like this on Earth.

So why are we only discovering something this big now? Part of it is its immense age – when this asteroid hit, Earth was only a third its current size. Most of the crater has since been worn away by three billion years of erosion, meaning only the rocks from the very bottom of the original impact site are still there. Besides, part of the reason we know so much about the Chicxulub crater is because it killed the dinosaurs – it left behind plenty of clues in the fossil and geological record that there was something there worth searching for, whereas this massive crater smashed into a relatively empty Earth. The fact that this site is in Greenland instead of Mexico also probably doesn’t help.

Still, we can’t say for certain that this is an impact site – it’s hard to be definitive with something so ridiculously old. But after three years of careful review, researchers from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland say they’re pretty much ready to confirm the find. New Scientist has more:

The most compelling evidence is the presence of granite-like rocks that are crushed, melted and pulverised in a way that can only be explained by a sudden, massive impact. The deformed granite is spread throughout an area measuring 35 by 50 kilometres, centred on the supposed impact site. Such large-scale deformation of granite could not have happened over such a large area through any known terrestrial geologic process. “You might see something similar in a geologic fault zone, but not in a circle 100 kilometres across,” says team member Iain McDonald of Cardiff University.

You can check out the original article for more of the evidence used to confirm the find.

Top image from outside the town of Maniitsoq on Greenland’s western coast, near the site of the find. Image by ilovegreenland on Flickr.

Would you want to survive the end of civilization?


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Would you want to survive the end of civilization?

Would you want to survive the end of civilization?

Let’s say the end of the world as we know it is coming — but someone offers you a priceless spot in their guaranteed-to-be-safe bunker, so you can be one of the chosen few who rebuilds the Earth. Would you want to survive, and emerge into the post-apocalyptic wasteland? Would the positives of playing a role in a new society outweigh the loss of creature comforts? Or would you rather just go out with the majority of the human race?

I wouldn’t last long in a Mad Max-style world — the most complex thing I can do to my car is replace its refrigerant. I’d probably die in the first couple of months — or once my glasses broke, whichever came first.

But what if the new world resembled ours, just a little more rugged and difficult? Would you enjoy the opportunity to rebuild society? Here are a few of the positives and negatives associated with a civilization changing event to help you decide.

The top image of a civilization extreme shown in Mad Max 2: Road Warrior.

 

The Negatives
Your new world lacks the creature comforts of today – no electricity, no communication, no instant access to a plethora of information. Hell, the information that lies in your head likely carries little value. 

If you have read any of the 99 issues of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, you know that surviving in a new world with few skills amidst packs of zombies and dangerous people is no way to live. Thankfully, the end of the world as we know it probably wouldn’t include flesh-eating zombies. The end of civilization, however, would bring with it a lack of communication, resources, and lead to immense amounts of unbearable drama, due to fear, hunger, and power grabs.

Do you want to live in a situation where every day includes a dangerous search for food, your nights involve defensive formations to protect those in your community, and you never know what the next moment will bring?

This type of vicious world definitely has its extremes. The bad times would cease over time as groups of people join together to reform civilization, but he birth pains of this new civilization will be severe. Would you want a part in the new world?

 

The Positives
What if the end of civilization leaves you in a reasonably safe place, amongst family and friends? The television show Jericho explored such a scenario. An independent community relied on itself to survive, with scant information about the outside world. In this case, it might be fun to start things over — maintain a background set of laws to maintain order, but re-create society in your image. This view might be a tad bit on the optimistic side, but it’s a possibility. 

Your new life will lack a number of the meaningless stresses of today — no e-mail to check, no presentations to give, no centuries old baggage stemming from geopolitical conflicts. The slate is wiped clean — why not take advantage of the positives inherent in a second chance?

Your Decision
Would you want to survive a devastating event that turns society on its head? The role you play in the rebuilding process might be a large one — how do you weigh the pros and cons?

Images from Image/Skybound and CBS Paramount Network Television.

The Moons of Mars may be the first place we find extraterrestrial life


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The Moons of Mars may be the first place we find extraterrestrial life

By Ron Miller

Was there ever life on Mars? In fact, could there still be microbes living on Mars now? It’s still a distinct possibility. But given the difficulties involved in sending people and specialized equipment to Mars to look for samples, we could be waiting decades to find out. So it’s a good thing there’s a ready alternative: according to scientists, any life that exists on Mars may well also exist on its moons, especially Phobos.

According to Jay Melosh, of Purdue University, “A sample from the moon Phobos, which is much easier to reach than the Red Planet itself, would almost surely contain Martian material blasted off from large asteroid impacts.” Added Melosh, in apress release: “If life on Mars exists or existed within the last 10 million years, a mission to Phobos could yield our first evidence of life beyond Earth.”

Melosh and a team from NASA’s Planetary Protection Office tried to figure out if a sample from Phobos might contain enough recent material from Mars to include viable Martian organisms. The idea was that if asteroid impacts on Mars could launch material later found on earth, it would be even more likely that similar material would be found on the Martian moons… particularly Phobos, the one nearest the planet.

The Moons of Mars may be the first place we find extraterrestrial lifeMelosh and his team concluded that a seven-ounce sample scooped from the surface of Phobos could contain, on average, about 0.1 milligrams of Mars surface material blasted from Mars over the past 10 million years and as much as 50 milligrams of material from the past 3.5 billion years. They presented their findings at a joint NASA-European Space Agency meeting in Austria.

“The time frames are important,” Kathleen Howell, Hsu Lo Professor of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, emphasized, “because it is thought that after 10 million years of exposure to the high levels of radiation on Phobos, any biologically active material would be destroyed.”

When an asteroid hits the surface of a planet it blasts a spray of material into space. The result of such a blast on Mars would be particles about one-thousandth of a millimeter in diameter, or 100 times smaller than a grain of sand — about the size of terrestrial bacteria.

By plotting more than 10 million possible paths such particles could take — including possible speeds, angles of departure and orbital forces — Melosh’s team figured out which trajectories would be most likely to intercept Phobos, and where they might land on the moon during its eight-hour orbit around Mars.

The probability of a particle landing on Phobos depends primarily on the power of the blast that launched it from the surface. “It is estimated,” said graduate student Loic Chappaz, “that during the past 10 million years there have been at least four large impact events powerful enough to launch material into space, and we focused on several large craters as possible points of origin. It turns out that no matter where Phobos is in its orbit, it would have captured material from these powerful impact events.”

Shortly after Melosh and his team submitted their report, a 37-mile-diameter crater was found on Mars. Dubbed Mojave, it is estimated to be less than 5 million years old, which means there might be an even greater amount of Martian material on Phobos containing viable organisms than they’d estimated.

“It is not outside the realm of possibility,” Melosh suggested, “that a sample could contain a dormant organism that might wake up when exposed to more favorable conditions on Earth.” Melosh added that there would be no reason to worry about an “Andromeda Strain”-style epidemic. “Approximately one ton of Martian material lands on Earth every year,” he explained. “There is a lot more swapping back and forth of material within our solar system than people realize. In fact, we may owe our existence to life on Mars.”

“It’s difficult to believe there hasn’t been life somewhere out there in the vast expanse of space,” Howell added. “The question is if the timeline overlaps with ours enough for us to recognize it. Even if we found no evidence of life in a sample from Phobos, it would not be a definitive answer to the question of whether or not there was life on Mars. There still may have been life that existed too long ago for us to detect it.”

[Purdue University]