Future Soldiers May Wear Bulletproof Spider Silk


Post 5564

Future Soldiers May Wear Bulletproof Spider Silk

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Can Embassies Be Secure Without Looking Like Scary Bunkers?


Post 5563    Mark Strauss   http://io9.com/wow-shields-london-expansion-is-shaping-up-1597262982

Can Embassies Be Secure Without Looking Like Scary Bunkers?                                 Can Embassies Be Secure Without Looking Like Scary Bunkers?

Over the last 15 years, every embassy that the U.S. has built around the world looks like a fortress—an eyesore in cities and a not-so-friendly message to foreigners. So, architects who are building our new London embassy hope to prove that aesthetics and security can co-exist. It’s an idea that’s sparked some controversy.

I’ve visited a number of these embassies myself, and I can vouch for their dismal, almost bunker-like appearance. And, while that’s good for security and a pending zombie apocalypse, it’s not so good for American diplomacy.

Can Embassies Be Secure Without Looking Like Scary Bunkers?

As the Atlantic observed a couple of years back:

With a string of embassy disasters culminating in the East Africa bombings of 1998, fears of terrorism outweighed other concerns. In 1999, the State Department adopted a standard model of construction, which embassy historian Jane Loeffler describes as an “isolated walled compound.” These spiritless shells are epitomized by the designs of PageSoutherlandPage, who have built 21 such embassies and consulates since 2001. From inside the walls of these fortified villas, you might mistake our embassies for social science buildings at a rural college. They are squat, unremarkable structures surrounded by green lawns; totally anti-urban, and, planners hope, totally secure. As Senator John Kerry put it in 2009, “We are building some of the ugliest embassies I’ve ever seen…I cringe when I see what we’re doing.” Harvard International Relations professor Stephen Walt wrote that our embassies were like the “vivid physical symbol of a powerful Empire striving to keep the outside world at bay.”

This design presents practical problems as well. Enhanced security requirements—such as the rule that embassies must be set back at least 100 feet from city streets on all four sides—has made it very expensive or simply impossible to find real estate in most city centers. That already has pushed many embassies to suburbs, making matters difficult for both visitors and diplomats.

In 2010, the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations began a new initiative, Design Excellence, which emphasized security, good architecture, environmental efficiency and urbanity. (“Whenever possible, sites will be selected in urban areas allowing the U.S. embassies and consulates to contribute to the civic and urban fabric of host cities.”) The initiative quoted the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynahan, who once served on President Kennedy’s ad hoc committee for Federal Architecture: “Architecture is inescapably a political art, and it reports faithfully for ages to come what the political values of a particular age were. Surely ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in the darkness.”

The manifestation of this approach is the new embassy being built in London:

The 581,251-square-foot building includes a consular section, support spaces, a U.S. Marine residence, and access pavilions….The landscape design follows the English tradition of urban parks and gardens surrounding municipal buildings with limestone paving surrounding and within the embassy, similar to many London walks. The lot will include six interior gardens, an event lawn, and a pond. The project features a landscape without visible walls, or fences to open the interior space to the surrounding city yet conceal the required security barriers.

Can Embassies Be Secure Without Looking Like Scary Bunkers?

Some pundits, though, are not pleased. The most recent attack is an editorial that appeared in the Washington Times:

An embassy must be secure against foreign spies and terrorists, and building one entirely of glass is style over function….The new embassy in London might have been meant to compensate for how badly American diplomacy has gone over the past decade or so, but spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make ourselves feel better is an expensive and ultimately useless exercise. The Obama administration would better focus on examining its failure overseas and working to regain moral authority and lost respect. Elaborate state-of-the-art embassies won’t do it.

Putting up a front is a cheap temptation, and dangerous when the front is revealed to be false. Only when America protects her citizens, beginning with embattled ambassadors, will the nation impress its friends and intimidate evil, and be recognized as the great force for peace and freedom in the world.

The editorial has prompted a response from Aaron Betsky, a famous architect and director of the Cincinnati Art Museum:

I am a member of that federal agency program’s review panel, and have experienced first-hand both how incredibly complex it is to design buildings for the state, and how thorough the design process has become. I thought I understood security concerns, but the lengths to which we go to protect our personnel abroad are now beyond anything you can imagine.

The critics claim that the current process is so lengthy that it puts those who are not yet in new structures at risk while they wait for new buildings. Yet I have seen no evidence that the process actually takes longer. The critics also claim massive cost overruns, which the State Department categorically denies.

The crux of the argument is that we are sacrificing security and cost to make the buildings “pretty.” That is such a dumb and reductive notion of good design I almost don’t know how to answer it. The Design Excellence program is about making the structures work. Part of that mandate is to represent our nation in a manner that does not make the people of those countries want to throw Molotov cocktails at us, and that both those seeking visas and those serving them have a pleasant place to work. But those concerns are so embedded in a process that seeks to make these places work in every sense of the word that to reduce them to a call for a certain kind of aesthetics is absurd.

The most obvious reason this has happened is that the new embassy building in London looks so striking…. Its high-performance glass skin allows the users to make the most of the often-dreary weather, while still meeting strict environmental standards and all blast tests.

“But once again,” Betsky concludes, “this seems to be a case of, ‘If a building looks good, the public thinks there must be something wrong with it.'”

Car Airbag Leaves Canvas Imprint on Girl’s Eyes


Post 5562

Car Airbag Leaves Canvas Imprint on Girl’s Eyes

Decorative Contact Lenses Get ‘Horror Story’ Warning from FDA


Post 5561

Decorative Contact Lenses Get ‘Horror Story’ Warning from FDA

Explosion Rocks Nigerian Shopping Mall


Post 5560              http://news.yahoo.com/photos/explosion-rocks-nigerian-shopping-mall-1403725029-slideshow/

Explosion Rocks Nigerian Shopping Mall                                                                                  

People watch as smoke fills the sky, after an explosion, at a shopping mall, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Abuja, Nigeria. An explosion rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police say at least over 20 people have been killed and many wounded. Witnesses say body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in the upscale Wuse 11 suburb. (AP Photo)                                                                                                                                               People watch as smoke fills the sky, after an explosion, at a shopping mall, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Abuja, Nigeria. An explosion rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police say at least over 20 people have been killed and many wounded. Witnesses say body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in the upscale Wuse 11 suburb. (AP Photo) Nigerian emergency officials work on the scene of a bomb blast in Abuja, Nigeria, 25 June 2014. The explosion in Nigeria’s capital Abuja hit the Wusa district close to a shopping complex. According to police reports at least 21 have been killed and 17 injured. (EPA/STR)Nigerian emergency officials work on the scene of bomb blast in Abuja, Nigeria, 25 June 2014. The explosion in Nigeria’s capital Abuja hit the Wusa district close to a shopping complex. According to police reports at least 21 have been killed and 17 injured. (EPA/STR)Destroyed vehicles on the scene of bomb blast in Abuja, Nigeria, 25 June 2014. The explosion in Nigeria’s capital Abuja hit the Wusa district close to a shopping complex. According to police reports at least 21 have been killed and 17 injured. (EPA/Deji Yake)                                                                                                                                                                     A Nigerian soldier, left, stands guard, at the scene of an explosion in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. An explosion rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police say at least over 20 people have been killed and many wounded. Witnesses say body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in the upscale Wuse 11 suburb. (AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga)                                                                                                                        Nigerian police and fire officials work on the scene of a bomb blast in Abuja, Nigeria, 25 June 2014. The explosion in Nigeria’s capital Abuja hit the Wusa district close to a shopping complex. According to police reports at least 21 have been killed and 17 injured. (EPA/DEJI YAKE)Rescue services work at the scene of an explosion at a shopping mall in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. An explosion rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police say at least over 20 people have been killed and many wounded. Witnesses say body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in the upscale Wuse 11 suburb. (AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga)                                                                                                                                   A Nigerian soldier, center, walks, at the scene of an explosion in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. An explosion rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police say at least over 20 people have been killed and many wounded. Witnesses say body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in the upscale Wuse 11 suburb. (AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga)                                                                                                                                                           An injured person is assisted, after an explosion, at a shopping mall, Wednesday, June 25, 2014, in Abuja, Nigeria. An explosion rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police say at least over 20 people have been killed and many wounded. Witnesses say body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in the upscale Wuse 11 suburb. (AP Photo)                                                                                                                                                                                  Nigerian troops, right, stand at the scene of an explosion in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. An explosion rocked a shopping mall in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Wednesday and police say at least over 20 people have been killed and many wounded. Witnesses say body parts were scattered around the exit to Emab Plaza, in the upscale Wuse 11 suburb. (AP Photo/Olamikan Gbemiga)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

This Terrifying Brazilian Island Has the Highest Concentration of Venomous Snakes Anywhere in the World


Post 5559

This Terrifying Brazilian Island Has the Highest Concentration of Venomous Snakes Anywhere in the World

Brazil’s Ilha de Queimada Grande is the only home of one of the world’s deadliest, and most endangered, snakes

smithsonian.com
June 25, 2014 10:56AM

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/snake-infested-island-deadliest-place-brazil-180951782/#pXVbfBuHqhvDuzgL.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter                                                                                                                                                                                              University of Sao Paulo researcher Marcio Martins holds one snake while watching another, a deadly venomous snake living only on Queimada Grande Island, Atlantic Forest, Brazil. (© Mark Moffett/Minden Pictures/Corbis)

From Iguazu Falls to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, there are some breathtakingly beautiful places in Brazil. Ilha da Queimada Grande, located about 90 miles off the São Paulo coast, seems like another one of those beautiful places—at first glance. Almost every Brazilian knows about the island, but most would never dream of going there—it’s infested with between 2,000 and 4,000 golden lancehead vipers, one of the deadliest snakes in the entire world.

These vipers’ venom can kill a person in under an hour, and numerous local legends tell of the horrible fates that awaited those who wandered onto the shores of “Snake Island.” Rumor has it a hapless fisherman landed onto the island in search of bananas—only to be discovered days later in his boat, dead in a pool of blood, with snake bites on his body. From 1909 to the 1920s, a few people did live on the island, in order to run its lighthouse. But according to another local tale, the last lighthouse keeper, along with his entire family, died when a cadre of snakes slithered into his home through the windows.

Although some claim the snakes were put on the island by pirates hoping to protect their gold, in reality, the island’s dense population of snakes evolved over thousands of years—without human intervention. Around 11,000 years ago, sea levels rose enough to isolate Ilha da Queimada Grande from mainland Brazil, causing the species of snakes that lived on the island—thought to most likely be jararaca snakes—to evolve on a different path than their mainland brethren.                                                                                                                                                    www.saveanimals.se

The snakes that ended up stranded on Ilha da Queimada Grande had no ground level predators, allowing them to reproduce rapidly. Their only challenge: they also had no ground level prey. To find food, the snakes slithered upward, preying on migratory birds that visit the island seasonally​ during long flights. Often, snakes stalk their prey, bite and wait for the venom to do its work before tracking the prey down again. But the golden lancehead vipers can’t track the birds they bite—so instead they evolved incredibly potent and efficient venom, three to five times stronger than any mainland snake’s—capable of killing most prey (and melting human flesh) almost instantly.

 

Ilha da Queimada Grande looks very pretty from far away—but terrifying up close.
Ilha da Queimada Grande looks very pretty from far away—but terrifying up close. (Prefeitura Municipal Itanhaém)

Because of the danger, the Brazilian government strictly controls visits to Ilha da Queimada Grande. Even without a government ban, though, Ilha da Queimada Grande probably wouldn’t be a top tourist destination: the snakes on the island exist in such a high concentration that some estimates claim that there’s one snake for every square meter in some spots. A bite from a golden lancehead carries a seven percent chance of death, and even with treatment, victims still have have a three percent chance of dying. The snake’s venom can cause kidney failure, necrosis of muscular tissue, brain hemorrhaging and intestinal bleeding.

The Brazilian government requires that a doctor be present on any legally sanctioned visits, in the event of an unfortunate run-in with the island’s native population. The Brazilian navy does make an annual stop on the island for maintenance of the lighthouse, which, since the 1920s, has been automated. The island is also an important laboratory for biologists and researchers, who are granted special permission to visit the island in order to study the golden lanceheads.                                                                                                                                                          deskarati.com

Ninety percent of snake bites in Brazil come from lancehead snakes, a close cousin of the golden lancehead. (Both are members of the Bothrop genus.) Biologists hope that by better understanding the golden lancehead and its evolution they can better understand the Bothrop genus as a whole—and more effectively treat the numerous snake-related accidents that occur throughout Brazil. Some scientists also think that snake venom could be a useful tool in pharmaceuticals. In an interview with Vice, Marcelo Duarte, a scientist with the Brazilian Butantan Institute, which studies venomous reptiles for pharmaceutical purposes, described the medical potential of the golden lancehead. “We are just scratching this universe of possibilities of venoms,” he said, explaining that the golden lancehead’s venom has already shown promise in helping with heart disease, circulation and blood clots. Snake venom from other species has also shown potential as an anti-cancer drug.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Because of black market demand by scientists and animal collectors, wildlife smugglers, known as biopirates, have been known to visit Ilha da Queimada Grande, too. They trap the snakes and sell them through illegal channels—a single golden lanceheads can go for anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000. Habitat degradation (from removal of vegetation by the Brazilian navy) and disease have also damaged the island’s population, which has dwindled by nearly 50 percent in the last 15 years, by some estimates. The snake is currently listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. While that might make Snake Island slightly less terrifying for humans, it’s not a great deal for the snakes.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/snake-infested-island-deadliest-place-brazil-180951782/#pXVbfBuHqhvDuzgL.99
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17 Amazing Photographs of Abandoned Places


Post 5558

17 Amazing Photographs of Abandoned Places

Top places you should see before they die… or at least disappear

smithsonian.com 
June 25, 2014 9:15AM

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/17-amazing-photographs-of-abandoned-places-180949341/#LoXbDXXBGSYlAfEd.99
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In a world that is full of overcrowding and overpopulation, it’s hard to believe that there are places that, once populated, now sit unoccupied. Whether it be abandonment due to war, economic collapse or disaster, these locations offer a look into a place where time stopped. Once thriving locations are now modern day ruins, sitting in decay.

Take a journey to 17 abandoned places throughout the world.

Plymouth, Montserrat

In 1995, the capital city of Plymouth on the island of Montserrat was evacuated due to an impending volcanic eruption. In 1997, the volcano erupted burying the city in 40 feet of ash. An exclusion zone was created, eliminating access to over one half of the island and banning residents from coming back.

Pripyat, Ukraine

On Saturday, April 26, 1986, a catastrophic power increase occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant’s Reactor No. 4, resulting in several explosions within its core. The explosions released radioactive materials into the atmosphere, which has been widely regarded as the worst accident in the history of nuclear power. The entire town of Pripyat (population 49,360), three kilometers from the plant, was completely evacuated. In total, more than 200,000 evacuations are a result of the accident.

Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station was Detroit, Michigan’s passenger rail depot from 1913 to 1988. The building began operating as Detroit’s main passenger depot in 1913 after the older Michigan Central Station burned on December 26, 1913. It was planned as part of a large project that included the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel below the Detroit River for freight and passengers.

At the time of its construction, it was the tallest rail station in the world. The station served as a central hub during World Wars I and II. After the second World War, passenger attendance declined such that multiple attempts to sell the building occurred from 1950-1970. In 1971, Amtrak took over as the nation’s passenger rail service, and a major renovation began in 1978. In January of 1988, the last Amtrak train departed and the station was closed. Multiple attempts to renovate the building to date have failed.

Kolmanskop, Namibia

A former diamond-rich town that once housed a hospital, school, theater, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray station in the Southern Hemisphere. After World War I, the diamond supply slowly decreased, and by 1954 the town was abandoned. Many abandoned buildings are filled with sand that is knee-deep. Tourists are required to have a permit to enter the town.

Buzludzha Monument, Bulgaria

The Buzludzha Monument was built near the location of the final battle between Bulgarian rebels and the Ottoman Empire. It was built to commemorate the 1891 formation of an organized socialist movement that resulted in the founding of the Bulgarian Socialist Democratic Party – a predecessor of the Bulgarian Communist Party.

The monument was built in 1981, but shortly afterward, no longer maintained by the Bulgarian government. It has since fallen into disrepair and is consistently vandalized and damaged with no plans to restore the abandoned structure.

Hashima Island near Nagasaki, Japan

Populated from 1887 to 1974, Hashima Island served as a coal mining facility founded by the Mitsubishi company. The island was purchased in 1890 for the purposes of extracting coal from undersea mines. The island boasted Japan’s first large concrete building, specifically built to withstand a typhoon.

As petroleum replaced coal, the mines slowly closed, and in 1974, Mitsubishi closed the last remaining mines. Since all were stripped completely, the island is often referred to as “Ghost Island.” In the intervening years, it has fallen into disrepair, and many of the concrete structures have collapsed. A partial re-opening in 2009 allows some tourism opportunities, but a full re-opening would require significant funds to make the island safe to tourists.

Maunsell Sea & Air Forts

During World War II, the Maunsell Forts were built to be small fortified towers in the Thames and Mersey estuaries to help defend the United Kingdom. The sea forts were designed to protect the international shipping channel from German air raids and mine setting.

Air Forts were used for anti-aircraft defense, shooting down 22 planes and 30 flying bombs.

The forts were decommissioned in the 1950s, but were re-occupied in the 1960s by British Pirate Radio stations. They are occasionally visited, but mostly remain unoccupied.

SS Ayrfield in Homebush Bay, Australia

The SS Ayrfield is one of many abandoned and decommissioned ships floating in the Homebush Bay, just west of Sydney. Originally named the SS Corrimal, the steel ship was built in 1911 in the United Kingdom. It was registered in Sydney in 1912 and initially used to provide supplies to American troops in the Pacific during World War II.

In 1972, the SS Ayrfield was retired and sent to Homebush Bay – which served as a ship breaking yard. The bulk of the ship was removed, but the hull was left floating in the bay. The Syrfield is the most enveloped by nature, housing a rich supply of mangrove trees.

Uyuni Train Cemetery, Bolivia

Uyuni is located in southern Bolivia and home to the world’s largest salt flats. It is also home to one of the most comprehensive train cemeteries. The town once served as a distribution hub for trains on their way to Pacific Ocean ports. The train lines were built from 1888 to 1892 by the British. The hopes for the rail line to flourish Bolivia as a transportation hub were consistently dampened by local saboteurs who saw it as an intrusion.

The trains were mostly used for mining, but by 1940, were abandoned when the mining industry collapsed due to mineral depletion. Today, the train cemetery is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

Oradour-sur-Glane, Limousin, France

The original Oradour-sur-Glane was a town in Western France. On June 10, 1944, most of its population, 642 inhabitants including women and children, were massacred by a German Waffen-SS company. The town was the partially razed and left to burn for days. Roughly 20 survivors remained, and after a few days, were allowed to return to bury the dead.

After the war, a new Oradour-sur-Glane was built northwest of the original town. The ruins of the original village remain as a memorial to the dead and as a reminder of a dark time in France’s history.

Kayaköy, Turkey

Kayaköy was a former village in southern Turkey inhabited mostly by Greek-speaking Christians. During the Greco-Turkish War, the village’s population slowly left. The village was completely abandoned after a population exchange agreement was signed between Turkish and Greek governments. Many of the standing structures were damaged in a 1957 earthquake. Today, the village is classified as a World Friendship and Peace Village and remains a tourist destination as a museum and historical monument.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34

Launch Complex 34 (LC34) was used by NASA as part of the Apollo moon program. It was designed to launch Saturn I and IB rockets, that would lay the groundwork for the Saturn V rockets that would send astronauts to the Moon. Launches took place from 1961 through 1968, with the first manned Apollo mission, Apollo 7, launching on October 11, 1968.

On January 27, 1967, it was the site of the fatal Apollo 1 fire, which claimed the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

After the Apollo 7 launch, LC34 was razed, with only the launch platform remaining, along with a memorial for the Apollo 1 astronauts.

Wonderland Amusement Park, Beijing, China

Wonderland Amusement Park was an abandoned theme park about 20 miles outside of Beijing, China. Original plans were to create the largest amusement park in Asia, spanning 120 acres.

Construction stopped in 1998 due to financial issues, and a planned re-attempt in 2008 also failed. The land was soon reclaimed by farmers to tend to crops while the land was unoccupied. In 2013, all structures were demolished and the land reopened to new development.

ew York World’s Fair, Flushing, Queens

The New York State Pavilion from the 1964 World’s Fair is located in Flushing Meadows – Corona Park in Flushing, Queens. Its primary construction was three reinforced concrete and steel components.

The “Tent of Tomorrow” once touted the largest cable suspension roof in the world. The second structure consisted of observation towers that were used for views over the event, and the third structure, “Theaterama”, was used for performing arts events, and is to this day.

Some of the complex is actively used, but other parts are completely abandoned and in ruins.

Hafodunos Hall in Llangernyw, North Wales

Hafodunos Hall was built between 1861 and 1866 and initially was developed to be a single-family home. The hall remained private property until its sale in 1930. In the 1940s, it reopened as a school for girls, an escape from World War II. The school closed in 1969 and reopened in 1970 as an accountancy college.

Upon the closing of the college, it was turned into a home for the elderly until 1993, when it was closed for failing to meet safety requirements. The building changed hands a handful of times, with no clear plans for its use. In 2004, it was severely damaged by arson. Plans as of 2010 were to restore the property to a single-dwelling residence.

Kaserne Krampnitz

Kaserne Krampnitz was a Nazi military compound consisting of 50 buildings. It was initially used as a training center for the cavalry. It was occupied by German soldiers until the end of World War II. A day after it was abandoned in 1945, Russian soldiers claimed the complex and used it for a driving training center. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, the complex has been left abandoned.

Macassar Pavillon, Western Cape, South Africa

Built as a tourist destination, the Macassar Beach Pavilion was one of Cape Town’s most popular summertime destinations.

Due to a series of financial mishaps, the resort is left decaying in ruin. Sand dunes have overrun much of the area and what is left of the beach pavilion is faded and chipped paint.

Once prominent gazebo, water slides, and swimming pools now cast strange shadows, providing a unique backdrop for visiting photographers.

This ghost town of a beach can be accessed through a 30 minute drive from Cape Town, in the Western Cape.