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NASA mission aims to bring back pieces of asteroid
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 26, 2011
NASA mission to bring back asteroid

NASA will launch a sample-return mission to an asteroid in 2016, agency officials announced Wednesday.

The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) will reach an asteroid called 1999 RQ36 in 2020. The unmanned spacecraft will use a robotic arm to snag some samples.

According to the plan, the probe will return these bits of space rock to Earth in 2023 so scientists can study them for clues about the solar system's origin — and possibly, how life may have begun on our planet. [ msnbc ]
 
Extensive map of universe that extends to 380 million light years away
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 26, 2011
universe map 380 million light years

The most complete 3D map of the local universe has been unveiled by British astronomers.

The 2MASS Redshift Survey (2MRS) from the University of Portsmouth extends to a distance of 380 million light years and has taken 10 years to complete.

It extends closer than previous surveys to the galactic plane - a region that is generally obscured by dust. [ dailymail ]

 
Storms killed 4th in Ark.; toll at 14
The News - Religion
May 25, 2011
storm damage tornado hail natural disaster

A violent storm system rumbled through the central U.S. on Wednesday, spawning tornadoes that turned homes into splintered wreckage, killing at least 14 people and hampering rescue efforts in a city slammed by a massive twister days earlier.

The new system, which followed closely behind the one that spawned the massive twister that struck Joplin, Mo., and killed more than 120 people, moved into the Oklahoma City area Tuesday evening as worried commuters rushed home from work.

Several tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 70 others, authorities said. Among those killed was a 15-month-old boy, and searchers were looking for his missing 3-year-old brother. [ yahoo ]

 
Unusual Earthquake Gave Japan Tsunami Extra Punch
The News - Natural Disasters
May 25, 2011
japan tsunami earthquake suduction zone
This diagram shows the March 11 fault motion sequence. 1. Rupture of the fault plane begins at the epicenter. 2. Rupture travels westward, down the fault plane towards Honshu. The island suffers violent shaking for 40 seconds. 3. The upward sloping east side of the fault plane begins to rupture, continuing for 30 to 35 seconds. The sediments overlying the east side expand up the fault plane in response to the force of the rupture. 4. The water above the sediments is pushed into an unstable dome that then flows out in all directions as a tsunami.

The magnitude 9 earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 were like a one-two punch -- first violently shaking, then swamping the islands -- causing tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. Now Stanford researchers have discovered the catastrophe was caused by a sequence of unusual geologic events never before seen so clearly.

"It was not appreciated before this earthquake that this size of earthquake was possible on this plate boundary," said Stanford geophysicist Greg Beroza. "It was thought that typical earthquakes were much smaller."

The earthquake occurred in a subduction zone, where one great tectonic plate is being forced down under another tectonic plate and into Earth's interior along an active fault. The fault on which the Tohoku-Oki earthquake took place slopes down from the ocean floor toward the west. It first ruptured mainly westward from its epicenter -- 32 kilometers (about 20 miles) below the seafloor -- toward Japan, shaking the island of Honshu violently for 40 seconds. [ sciday ]

 
Japan's TEPCO admits further reactor meltdowns
The News - Current Events
May 24, 2011
tepco japan nucler meltdown disaster
The operator of Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant on Tuesday said it believed fuel had partially melted inside three reactors, as long suspected by experts.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said new readings on water gauges indicated that the fuel had dropped to the bottom of the containment vessels of units two and three, matching its earlier assessment of unit one.

In all three reactors, relatively low temperatures indicated that the fuel was now mostly covered by water that has been pumped into the vessels, meaning there was no immediate threat of an uncontrolled full meltdown. [ yahoo ]

 
2011 Tornado Death Toll Is Worst Since 1953
The News - Natural Disasters
May 24, 2011
2011 tornado death toll natural diasasters

2011 has a grim new place in the record books: the deadliest year for tornadoes in more than five decades, with 481 people killed by the storms as of this writing.

It's the highest number of fatalities from tornadoes since 1953, when twisters killed 519 people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the home agency of the National Weather Service.

As of Monday evening, the death toll from the devastating tornado that smashed through Joplin, Mo. on Sunday (May 22) had risen to 116, and could continue to rise as officials sort through the wreckage of the town, home to almost 50,000 people. [ live science ]

 
Failed Doomsday Has Real Deadly Consequences
The News - Religion
May 24, 2011
failed doomsday apocalypse rapture armageddon disaster

Harold Camping, the 89-year-old leader whose study of the Bible convinced him and his followers that the world would end, has been described by his wife as "flabbergasted" that the apocalypse didn’t start over the weekend. There are some red faces out there. And if that's all it had been, then one could argue no great harm had been done.

But while Camping and his followers try to figure out what went wrong (or right) — with news Monday night that he now says Judgment Day will come on Oct. 21 — the failed prophecy did more than just damage Camping's credibility: It also appears to have caused death and serious injury to true believers. [ yahoo ]

 
Not again! October 21st now "doomsday"
The News - Religion
May 24, 2011

All warnings of the end of the world have apparently been "raptured" off the homepage of a doomsday preacher who wrongly predicted the return of Jesus over the weekend, and made a new prediction tonight that the end would now come on Oct. 21 of this year.

For many months, Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio and its main voice Harold Camping had been thundering warnings that Judgment Day was to take place May 21, 2011, and that it would be a certainty with "no Plan B."

 
Twister Season Proves Deadliest Since 1953
The News - Natural Disasters
May 24, 2011
tornado season deadliest 1953 natural disaster

Despite the heavy toll, the storm system that spawned the tornado wasn't unusual for this time of year, say meteorologists. The high death toll resulted from the twister's path through a commercial area including a hospital, a nursing home, a row of crowded restaurants and several large stores. The winds, while as high as 198 miles per hour, weren't unusual for powerful springtime tornadoes in parts of the U.S.

Highlighting the unpredictability of such lethal storms, the weeks before the twister marked an unusual lull in the number of tornadoes that normally occur this time of year, experts said. More than half the season's severe tornadoes usually strike in May and June. During the first three weeks of May, however, the number of powerful twisters had dipped to historic lows, federal meteorologists said.

"We were so far below normal in the first three weeks of May that we may not catch up to normal for the month," said meteorologist Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla. [ wsj ]

 
Joplin tornado toll climbs to 116
The News - Natural Disasters
May 23, 2011
joplin tornado natural disaster
A massive tornado that tore a 6-mile path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 116 people as it slammed into the city of Joplin, ripping into a hospital, crushing cars like soda cans and leaving a forest of splintered tree trunks behind where entire neighborhoods once stood.

Authorities warned that the death toll could climb as search and rescue workers continued their efforts. Their task was made more miserable as a new thunderstorm with strong winds and heavy rain pelted part of the city with quarter-sized hail.

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number of known dead at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday's storm. Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly 6 miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town. Much of the city's south side was leveled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins by winds of up to 165 mph. [ stltoday ] - [ Three-Quarters of Joplin, MO Destroyed ] - Threat of more bears down ] - [ 116 dead, nearly 500 twister deaths this year ]

 
Really? Doomsday prophet, followers ‘flabbergasted’ world didn’t end
The News - Religion
May 23, 2011
harold camping failed doomsday armageddon apocalypse prediction
It's hard to feel bad for someone whose doomsday predictions caused so much anxiety, but 89-year-old Harold Camping's recent admission that he's "flabbergasted" the world didn't end last weekend sounds somewhat pitiful.

"It has been a really tough weekend," Camping said Sunday, after emerging from his Alameda, California home for the first time to talk to a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm looking for answers ... But now I have nothing else to say," he said, adding that he would make a full statement today.

Camping's PR aide, Tom Evans, told the L.A. Times that the group is "disappointed" that 200 million true believers weren't lifted up to heaven on Saturday while everyone else suffered and eventually died as a series of earthquakes and famine destroyed the Earth. "You can imagine we're pretty disappointed, but the word of God is still true," Evans said. "We obviously went too far, and that's something we need to learn from." The group posted 2,000 billboards around the country warning of the rapture, while Camping--an uncertified fundamentalist minister--spread the word on his radio show. [ yahoo ]

 
Missouri officials say at least 89 dead in tornado
The News - Natural Disasters
May 23, 2011
89 dead missouri tornado natural disaster

Authorities say at least 89 have died in the massive tornado that struck the southwest Missouri city of Joplin.

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday's storm.

Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly six miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town.

Much of the city's south side was leveled, with businesses, homes and restaurants reduced to ruins. [ yahoo ]

 
Tornadoes batter central US, kill unknown number
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
midwest tornadoes natural disaster
Tornadoes ripped through parts of the Midwest on Sunday, killing at least one person in Minneapolis and an unknown number of others in Missouri, where a massive twister flattened a large area of one city and heavily damaged a hospital.

Damage was widespread across part of the southwest Missouri city of Joplin. Many streets on the city's south side were described as impassible, littered with downed trees and utility poles. Emergency vehicles were racing across the city, taking injured residents to hospitals.

John Campbell, operations director for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, confirmed fatalities have been reported, but he did not have an exact number or specifics. Phone communications in and out of the city of about 50,000 people about 160 miles south of Kansas City were largely cut off. [ yahoo ]

 
Tornadoes Strike North Minneapolis
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
minneapolis tornado damage

Several rotating supercells spawning a few tornadoes touched down across the Minneapolis area on Sunday afternoon.

The tornado or tornadoes tore roofs off buildings, downed power lines and toppled trees blocking streets. Early reports estimated the tornado touched down for around 30 minutes across the metro area.

Northwest and North Minneapolis was especially hit hard.  Television cameras revealed tremendous tree damage across North Minneapolis which then led to significant house damage. [ weather ]
 
How Area 51 Hid Secret Craft
The News - Cover-Up-Conspiracy
May 22, 2011
area 51 cover up conspiracy

No word yet on alien starships, but now that many Cold War-era Area 51 documents have been declassified, veterans of the secret U.S. base are revealing some of the clever - and surprisingly low-tech - ways they hid futuristic prototypes from prying eyes.

The CIA created Area 51 in 1955 to test and develop top secret U.S. military projects in the remote Nevada desert. More than 50 years later, the base still doesn't officially exist and appears on no public U.S. government maps. In the 1950s and '60s, Area 51 was the epicenter of the OXCART project, intended to create the successor for the U-2 spy plane.

The OXCART plane was expected to be undetectable in the air as it flew surveillance and information-gathering missions over the Soviet Union. But Area 51 personnel soon found it necessary to conceal the craft from the Soviets eyes even when it was still being tested on the ground. [ natgeo ]

 
Pile of debt would stretch beyond stratosphere
The News - Economy
May 22, 2011
national debt

President Ronald Reagan once famously said that a stack of $1,000 bills equivalent to the U.S. government's debt would be about 67 miles high.

That was 1981. Since then, the national debt has climbed to $14.3 trillion. In $1,000 bills, it would now be more than 900 miles tall. In $1 bills, the pile would reach to the moon and back twice.

The United States hit its legal borrowing limit on Monday, and the Treasury Department has said the U.S. Congress must raise the debt ceiling by August 2 to avoid a default. The White House is trying to hammer out a deal with lawmakers to cut federal spending in exchange for a debt-limit increase.

Most people have trouble conceptualizing $14.3 trillion. [ reuters ]

 
Severe Weather : Tornado threat from Minn. to Texas
The News - Current Events
May 22, 2011
tornado threat MN to TX natural disasters

It was a busy day of severe weather on Saturday afternoon and evening. We are expecting much of the same on Sunday afternoon. There were at least 20 reports of tornadoes all congregated around far northeast Kansas.

The threat, however, has shifted farther to the east with the higher chance of tornadoes moving from northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri into southern Wisconsin, parts of Illinois, central Missouri, southeast Kansas and eastern Oklahoma.

Dr. Forbes has increased today's TOR:CON values in Wisconsin, Illinois and Arkansas. More severe weather is on the horizon for Monday. Below we have access to the latest radar, watches/warnings and forecast maps to track the storms each day. [ weather ]
 
Brace yourselves: Iceland's volcanic ash
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
iceland volcano eruption volcanoic ash
  • Keflavik airport closed till Monday and 40 international flights cancelled
  • Residents urged to wear masks and stay indoors as ash rains down on buildings, cars and fields
  • Ash from the Grimsvotn volcano hurled 12 miles into the air
  • The volcano is Iceland's most active and has not erupted since 2004

Ash from Iceland's most active volcano could reach northern Scotland by Tuesday and the rest of the UK, France and Spain by Thursday, experts say.

The Grimsvotn volcano erupted late last night hurling steam and ash 12 miles into the sky forcing the country's main international airport to close and plunging areas into near darkness today. The ash has turned the sky black and rained down on nearby areas covering buildings, cars and fields in a thick layer of gray soot. [ dailymail ]

 
Iceland volcano: Grimsvotn eruption hits local flight
The News - Current Events
May 22, 2011
Iceland volcano Grimsvotn eruption

The Icelandic authorities have imposed a local flight ban after the country's most active volcano, Grimsvotn, began erupting. A plume of smoke has risen 20km (12 miles) into the sky from the volcano.

But Iceland's Meteorological Office says the eruption should not cause widespread disruption to air traffic.

Last year, ash clouds from another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokul, led to the closure of a large section of European airspace. Governments feared that ash particles could cause aircraft engines to fail, and the closure caused chaos to air travellers. [ bbc ]

 
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