The Beautiful Fukang Meteorite


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The Beautiful Fukang Meteorite

By Kaushik

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/05/the-beautiful-fukang-meteorite.html

The Fukang meteorite, believed to be some 4.5 billion years old, which is as ancient as Earth itself, was unearthed near a town of the same name in China, in 2000. It is a pallasite, a type of meteorite with translucent golden crystals of a mineral called olivine embedded in a silvery honeycomb of nickel-iron. It’s a gorgeous meteorite, and possibly the most stunning extraterrestrial piece of rock man has ever seen.

The Fukang meteorite was found by a hiker. The man had often stopped and had lunch on this giant rock, and he always wondered what the metal and crystals were. He finally took a hammer and chisel and broke some pieces off, which he sent to the USA to confirm that it was a meteorite.

The original meteorite weighted just over a thousand kilogram, but the rock was so brilliant that everybody wanted a piece of it. Since then it has been divided into dozens of thin slices and auctioned or distributed around the world.

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A total of thirty-one kilograms of specimen is on deposit at University of Arizona. Marvin Kilgore of the University of Arizona’s Southwest Meteorite Centre holds the largest portion weighing at 420 Kg. In 2008, this piece was expected to fetch $2 million at an auction at Bonham’s in New York, but unfortunately, the prospective bidders were more impressed with a couple of pieces of 130-million-year-old fossilized dinosaur’s dung that day, which sold at more than twice the estimate.

According to Bonhams, pallasites are composed of approximately 50 per cent olivine and peridot crystals and 50 cent nickel-iron, and thought to be the relics of forming planets. They apparently make up less than one per cent of meteorites. They are believed to originate from deep inside intact meteors created during the formation of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago and very few specimens are thought to have survived their descent through Earth’s atmosphere.

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Sources: The Daily MailThe RegisterWikipedia

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A guide to the ravenous hellbeast that is the carnivorous caterpillar


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A guide to the ravenous hellbeast that is the carnivorous caterpillar

ROBERT T. GONZALEZ 8/19/13 11:27am

http://io9.com/a-guide-to-the-ravenous-hellbeast-that-is-the-carnivoro-1032957256

It’s been said that the path to overcoming fear is paved with understanding. Normally I’d agree – but when it comes to Hawaii’s carnivorous caterpillars, I find myself second-guessing the maxim. Because THESE CATERPILLARS EAT LIVING FLESH. Here’s how evolution played this cruel joke on us all.

Note: All animations feature in this post were sampled from BBC Two’s brief (and, consequently, somewhat informationally lacking) introduction to carnivorous caterpillars, which I have here distilled down to its purest, nightmarish, eternally looping form.

This, dear reader, is a carnivorous caterpillar. It is one of the more than 20 species belonging to the genus Eupethecia believed to reside exclusively on the Hawaiian islands. As you may have already gathered from the GIF up top, members of this insular clade tend to sport some rather scary-looking appendages:

A guide to the ravenous hellbeast that is the carnivorous caterpillar

Now, scary-looking body parts, in and of themselves, aren’t especially rare among caterpillars. But unlike, say, the poisonous bristles of the nettle caterpillar Darna pallivitta, or the don’t-eat-me-or-you’ll-regret-it coloration of Forbestra olivencia larvae, which are predominantly passive forms of predator-deterrence, the pincers on Hawaii’s caterpillars serve a decidedly active purpose, viz. ensnaring unsuspecting prey. They also play a vice-like role once the caterpillar has acquired its victim; unwilling meals, after all, tend to wriggle.

A guide to the ravenous hellbeast that is the carnivorous caterpillar

That these caterpillars make active use of their scary-bits underscores their transition from a prey-species to a predatory one. And in fact, the conversion to carnivorousness appears to have been a very successful evolutionary path for Hawaiian members of Eupitheciaof all the species identified on the archipelago, only two of them are herbivorous. The rest carry out their murderous larval lives making meals of everything from flies and moths to crickets and cockroaches. They’ve even been known to prey on other caterpillars.

A guide to the ravenous hellbeast that is the carnivorous caterpillar

The carnivorous caterpillar’s predatory technique is rather straightforward. First, the larva secures itself inconspicuously along a leaf or twig using its rear set of appendages. When an unsuspecting meal treads across its posterior, the caterpillar springs forth, snatches its prey and evanesces the futilely twitching body to the other side of its chosen perch (above); or, alternatively, whips it right into the air with the gleeful alacrity of a child who’s just grabbed hold of something she’s probably not supposed to (below).

A guide to the ravenous hellbeast that is the carnivorous caterpillar

Most of Hawaii’s carnivorous caterpillars capture prey via this hair-trigger mechanism, a rare exception being Hyposmocoma molluscivora – a species (belonging, you’ll notice, not to the genus Eupithecia, but Hyposmocoma), first reported by University of Hawaii entomologist Daniel Rubinoff in 2005, that weaves spider-like webs to capture and restrain snails. (Like members of EupitheciaH. molluscivorae consume their prey while it’s alive.)

A guide to the ravenous hellbeast that is the carnivorous caterpillar

Via Rubinoff and Haines, 2005

It bears mentioning that the meat-eating caterpillars of Hawaii are not omnivores. They’recarnivores through-and-through. To quote Rubinoff, these caterpillars “wouldn’t sample foliage if they were starving.” How or why they first set out on this evolutionary course is unclear, but researchers agree the caterpillars’ path was almost certainly cleared by the isolation provided by Hawaii’s islands.

Since Darwin’s paradigm-shifting observations on the Galapagos, scientists have recognized islands as hotbeds of evolutionary activity. Unchecked by natural predators and enabled by vacant ecological niches, mutations can spread quickly and more easily across isolated island populations. It’s why island populations often look so differentand evolve so much faster, than their most closely related mainland counterparts. As Rubinoff so eloquently put it in his 2005 paper: “Hawaii’s isolation and consequently disharmonic biota likely promote evolutionary experiments that occur nowhere else.”

Bristlecone Pines : The Oldest Trees On Earth


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Bristlecone Pines : The Oldest Trees On Earth

By Kaushik

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/07/bristlecone-pines-oldest-trees-on-earth.html

The Great Basin Bristlecone Pines, or Pinus longaeva, is a long-living species of tree found in the higher mountains of the southwest United States. Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves in the arid mountain regions of six western states of America, but the oldest are found in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California. These trees have a remarkable ability to survive in extremely harsh and challenging environment. In fact, they are believed to be the some of oldest living organisms in the world, with lifespans in excess of 5,000 years.

Bristlecone pines grow just below the tree line, between 5,000 and 10,000 feet of elevation. At these great heights, the wind blows almost constantly and the temperatures can dip to well below zero. The soil is dry receiving less than a foot of rainfall a year. Because of these extreme conditions, the trees grow very slowly, and in some years don’t even add a ring of growth. Even the tree’s needles, which grow in bunches of five, can remain green for forty years.

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Pinus longaeva’s wood is very dense and resinous, and thus resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. The wood’s extreme durability plays a big part in the tree’s longevity. While other species of trees that grow nearby suffer rot, bare bristlecone pines can endure, even after death, often still standing on their roots, for many centuries. Rather than rot, exposed wood, on living and dead trees, erodes like stone due to wind, rain, and freezing, which creates unusual forms and shapes. The ancient warped and twisted bristlecone pine trees draw huge number of photographers, painters and other artists.

The oldest Pinus longaeva was discovered growing in the White Mountains of eastern California. The tree is an astounding 5,062 years old, as of 2012, and still living. Another specimen nicknamed “Methuselah”, also located in the White Mountains near Bishop, is 4,843 years old (as of 2012). The exact location of both trees are kept secret to prevent tourists and hikers from damaging the trees. Previously, a 4,862-year old Bristlecone pine nicknamed “Prometheus”, was cut down shortly after it was discovered in 1964 by a geology graduate searching for evidence of Ice Age glaciers.

Bristlecone pines are now protected in a number of areas owned by the United States federal government, such as the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains of California and the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

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Sources: WikipediaNPSBlueplanetbiomes,

 

 

Jabuticaba : The Tree That Bear Fruits On Its Trunk


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Jabuticaba : The Tree That Bear Fruits On Its Trunk

By Kaushik   http://www.amusingplanet.com/search/label/Nature?max-results=10   Jabuticaba is a Brazilian grape tree found in the states of Minas Gerias and Sao Paulo, in the south of Brazil. The fruit grows directly from the trunk and branches of the tree, which gives the Jabuticaba tree a very unusual appearance. The fruit itself is a small and round, about 3 to 4 cm in diameter, with one to four large seeds, a thick, deep purple colored skin and a sweet, white or rosy pink gelatinous flesh. Naturally the tree may flower and fruit only once or twice a year, but when continuously irrigated it flowers frequently, and fresh fruit can be available year round in tropical regions. During Jabuticaba season in Minas Gerais, thousands of street vendors sell fresh Jabuticaba in small net bags, and the sidewalks and streets are stained the same deep purple by discarded Jabuticaba skins.   jabuticaba-1   Photo credit  

This map reveals how natural disasters affect the internet


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This map reveals how natural disasters affect the internet

http://io9.com/this-map-reveals-how-natural-disasters-affect-the-inter-1163594667
ANNALEE NEWITZ Monday 1:59pm

If you want to know the internet is affected by natural disasters, here’s an amazing visualization. It shows all the places where internet service went down after Hurricane Sandy. In the future, disasters don’t just rob you of power and water — they rob you of information, too.

Using a new internet research tool called ZMap, researchers at the University of Michigan created this map based on how many servers were out during Sandy. According to theWashington Post‘s Timothy Lee:

From Oct. 29-31 of last year, as Hurricane Sandy was pounding the East Coast of the United States, the researchers conducted Internet-wide scans every two hours. After linking IP addresses to geographic locations, they could observe which areas saw the most severe disruptions. This map shows “locations with more than a 30 percent decrease in the number of listening hosts.”

io9 and all our sister sites in the Gawker Media Network were among those brought down by the hurricane. For almost a week, io9 was offline — and we redirected all our traffic to a Tumblr site.

This map is further evidence that the idea of the web “cloud” is basically a lie. There is no special place in the air that your data can go and remain unaffected by life back on Earth. Your data is saved on servers that are just as vulnerable to disasters as anything else. Next time you decide to save all your valuable data online, you might want to think about where your “cloud” servers are — and whether you are going to miss that information if a disaster takes it away from you.

Read more at the Washington Post

Al Waba Crater : A Pearly White Crater in Saudi Arabia


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Al Waba Crater : A Pearly White Crater in Saudi Arabia

By Kaushik Friday, August 16, 2013

http://www.amusingplanet.com/2013/08/al-waba-crater-pearly-white-crater-in.html

The Al Wahaba crater is located in the Saudi Arabian desert, 254 km from Taif on the western edge of the Hafer Kishb basalt plateau, which contains many volcanic cones. This photogenic crater is the largest of its kind in the Middle East – 2 km in diameter with cliffs dropping 250 meters to a flat base, in the center of which is a thick crust of dazzling white sodium phosphate crystals.

For some time it was thought that the crater was formed by a meteorite, as its appearance resembles that of the Barringer Crater, with its circular form and high sides. It is now commonly accepted by geologists that the crater was formed by volcanic activity in the form of an underground explosion of steam generated when molten magma came into contact with groundwater. On one side of the crater lies an ash cone which is all that is left of the volcano.

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The crater is situated in an area where there was intense volcanic activity in the past. The surrounding sandy plain is in fact a bed of volcanic ash. To the north-west is a mound with a vertical face on the edge of the crater, which was an earlier volcano, split in half when the crater was formed. In this cliff face can be seen lava-filled dykes. On the northern face of the crater are palm trees and green grass.

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Sources: ArriyadhWikipedia

 

The ancient meteorite cult of Estonia


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The ancient meteorite cult of Estonia

CYRIAQUE LAMAR  http://io9.com/5556690/the-ancient-meteorite-cult-of-estonia

The ancient meteorite cult of Estonia

Somewhere between 7,500-4,000 years ago, a meteorite fragmented over Estonia’s Saaremaa island. The meteorite hit with a force comparable to Hiroshima and left nine impact craters, including the 110-meter Kaali crater. Locals worshiped this hole as holy.

Says Atlas Obscura:

Several kilometers above the earth’s surface, the meteorite broke into pieces from the pressure and heat of the atmosphere. The resulting chunks collided into Saaremaa with the force of a small nuclear bomb, wreaking havoc on the landscape and possibly claiming numerous victims.

The explosion left nine total craters, now known as the Kaali Meteorite Crater Field. Some of these craters are quite small: one measures only twelve meters across and one meter deep. But the most interesting of the group is the largest crater, a gently sloping bowl filled with stagnant, murky water.

Simply known as Kaali crater, the largest crater (which measures 110 meters across) is believed to have been a sacred site for many centuries, in part due to its cosmic origin. Surrounding Kaali crater are the remains of an immense stone wall from the Late Bronze Age, stronger than any similar structures in the region and providing clues to the crater’s use by ancient peoples.

The ancient meteorite cult of Estonia

1500-to-2000-year-old animal remains found around Kaali Lake have led archaeologists to believe that the crater was the site of ritualistic sacrifices. You can read more about the geology and formation of the Kaali crater at Geologos.

[Photos via CarlosJ’s Flickr]