Jupiter acquires a new hole

A vast cosmic collision that left a dark scar the size of the Earth on the surface of Jupiter has been discovered by an amateur astronomer using a home-made telescope.

Anthony Wesley spotted the extraordinary impact on Sunday night while watching Jupiter from the backyard of his rural home in Murrumbateman, near Canberra, Australia. He nearly missed it because he was also watching the final rounds of the Open Championship on television.

Mr Wesley, 44, an IT consultant who designed his telescope himself, told The Times how he saw a strange black blob creep across the planet’s surface.

“About 11pm I went inside to have a break and watch the golf, and by the time I came back out at about 1am the impact point had rotated around into view,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘That wasn’t there before’, and then I realised Jupiter had actually been hit by something.”

Mr Wesley immediately set about alerting professional astronomers to his discovery, some of whom trained more powerful telescopes on Jupiter after seeing his e-mailed images.

Scientists at Nasa confirmed that his observations were of an impact rather than a storm. It is thought to have been caused by a small comet or cometary fragment, about 1km in diameter, which would have struck the planet at a speed of about 60km per second (about 135,000mph)…

Were an object of similar size to strike the Earth, it would cause devastation, though not quite over so large an area. Jupiter’s greater gravity will have magnified the effects.

Ian Crawford, lecturer in planetary sciences at Birkbeck, London, said: “Even if the impact would not have been quite so bad on Earth, it underscores the danger to us of such impacts. We wouldn’t want to be hit by a 1km fragment: it would be devastating. You’d expect it to excavate a crater 20km across…”

Mr Wesley, an IT consultant, said that he spends at least 20 hours a week looking at Jupiter — his “main passion” in the sky.

When asked to explain the appeal of Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the solar system, Mr Wesley said: “It’s just such a dynamic planet.

“Even when there are no earth-shattering events happening it just changes day to day and has so many patterns it is fascinating to watch.”

Bravo! Good for you, dude.

Hmm. That’s about how much time I spend each week – online.

Hooker recorded deal with her pimp before Berlusconi assignation

The sex scandal involving Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, and a prostitute deepened today with the release of sensational new audio tapes purportedly proving their encounters late last year.

In the second series of tapes and transcripts to be published by the left-leaning weekly L’Espresso, the escort, Patrizia D’Addario, is recorded discussing her appointment with Mr Berlusconi in October with the man who allegedly hired her to go to the Prime Minister’s official residence

Mr Tarantini…warned Ms D’Addario that the 72-year-old Italian leader does not use condoms. At an apparent meeting held with Ms D’Addario and another unnamed woman in October 2008, Mr Tarantini briefed them ahead of their evening with the premier…

D’Addario: And a thousand for the night.

Tarantini: I have already given you a thousand and if you stay with him he will give you a gift on his own.. ah.. you will also see that he doesn’t use condoms

D’Addario:.. But it is not going to happen without it. How will I feel safe?

Tarantini: But… it’s Berlusconi…

This slimeball is sleazy enough to take over leadership of the Republican Party in the United States. I wonder if John Boehner could get his citizenship expedited?

Home Burial alternative to rules from the religion-as-business crowd

When Nathaniel Roe, 92, died at his 18th-century farmhouse here the morning of June 6, his family did not call a funeral home to handle the arrangements.

Instead, Mr. Roe’s children, like a growing number of people nationwide, decided to care for their father in death as they had in the last months of his life. They washed Mr. Roe’s body, dressed him in his favorite Harrods tweed jacket and red Brooks Brothers tie and laid him on a bed so family members could privately say their last goodbyes.

The next day, Mr. Roe was placed in a pine coffin made by his son, along with a tuft of wool from the sheep he once kept. He was buried on his farm in a grove off a walking path he traversed each day.

It just seemed like the natural, loving way to do things,” said Jennifer Roe-Ward, Mr. Roe’s granddaughter. “It let him have his dignity.”

Advocates say the number of home funerals, where everything from caring for the dead to the visiting hours to the building of the coffin is done at home, has soared in the last five years, putting the funerals “where home births were 30 years ago,” according to Chuck Lakin, a home funeral proponent and coffin builder in Waterville, Me.

The cost savings can be substantial, all the more important in an economic downturn. The average American funeral costs about $6,000 for the services of a funeral home, in addition to the costs of cremation or burial. A home funeral can be as inexpensive as the cost of pine for a coffin (for a backyard burial) or a few hundred dollars for cremation or several hundred dollars for cemetery costs.

The Roes spent $250.

RTFA. Thoughtful, useful, productive. It’s something I’ve considered and the best I came up with before reading this article was pre-paying for cremation – and having my ashes turned over to my [much younger] wife to do with as she wishes. I kind of prefer widely scattered fertilizer, myself.

Coppers shoot man with Taser – he bursts into flames

Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan says the Taser was the best choice

A man in Western Australia was engulfed in flames when police officers fired a Taser stun gun at him.

Police say they used the Taser on Ronald Mitchell, 36, when he ran at them carrying a container of petrol and a cigarette lighter.

They said that Mr Mitchell, who lives in a remote Aboriginal community, had been sniffing petrol. They suggested the cigarette lighter started the fire.

Mr Mitchell is in a critical condition in hospital with third degree burns.

The Police Commissioner told reporters: “The only other choice they would have had is to use a police-issue firearm, and the consequences would almost certainly have been far more grave.”

I hadn’t realized that police departments are down to only two choices when it comes to conflict with a suspect: taser – or shoot ’em?

Blackberry update from UAE Telco turned out to be spyware

An update for Blackberry users in the United Arab Emirates could allow unauthorised access to private information and e-mails.

The update was prompted by a text from UAE telecoms firm Etisalat, suggesting it would improve performance. Instead, the update resulted in crashes or drastically reduced battery life…

Etisalat is a major telecommunications firm based in the UAE, with 145,000 Blackberry users on its books.

In the statement, RIM told customers that “Etisalat appears to have distributed a telecommunications surveillance application… independent sources have concluded that it is possible that the installed software could then enable unauthorised access to private or confidential information stored on the user’s smartphone”.

It adds that “independent sources have concluded that the Etisalat update is not designed to improve performance of your BlackBerry Handheld, but rather to send received messages back to a central server“…

The update has now been identified as an application developed by American firm SS8. The California-based company describes itself as a provider of “lawful electronic intercept and surveillance solutions”…

Etisalat issued a brief statement calling the problem a “slight technical fault”, saying that the “upgrades were required for service enhancements”.

RIM has issued a patch allowing users to remove the application. Phew!

“Cookie Bandit” burglar was a religious nutball and murderer

Security camera photo of Burgess from previous break-in

The burglar killed in a gunfight that also claimed a sheriff’s deputy last week has been identified as the prime suspect in the killing of a young couple in Canada 27 years ago.

However his death leaves unresolved a possible link to the 2004 murder of another young couple, this time in California, leaving the father of one of the victims still waiting for justice.

New Mexico State Police said the Jemez Mountain burglar known for years only as the Cookie Bandit was Joseph Henry Burgess. He’d been wanted since Canadian investigators tied him to the 1972 murders of a young couple camping near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

“We were quite surprised,” New Mexico State Police Lt. Eric Garcia said. “No one knew.”

Burgess, 62, died early Thursday morning in a shootout with Sgt. Joseph Harris and Deputy Teresa Moriarty in a cabin in La Cueva. Harris was fatally wounded in the femoral artery during the skirmish while Moriarty was not injured.

The two Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department officers had staked out the cabin hoping to capture the mysterious burglar known for breaking into local cabins to get food, clothing and occasionally liquor.

Burgess was identified through his fingerprints. They were in a national database from the 1972 murder case. Investigators said they found his prints on the Leif Carlsson and Ann Durrant’s belongings.

Burgess has been described as religious fanatic who often ended his phrases in, “Amen.” Canadian investigators suspected he may have become outraged because Carlsson and Durrant were sharing a tent but weren’t married.

His name also surfaced in the similar killings of a young couple camped out on a northern California beach in 2004…

Until now many who knew of Burgess thought he was hiding out in Canada or the Pacific Northwest.

Joe Harris never thought of this creep as a cutesy Cookie thief. He always suspected the crook they were tracking, the thief they lay in wait for – was dangerous. He was correct.

I tire of amateurs who always think every Mountain Man is a romantic, heroic figure. They are as likely to be disturbed and dangerous as any other misfit.

I can say that with a smile after all my years of railing against conformity. The question doesn’t have to do with non-conformity, it’s what you refuse to conform to that matters. In this case, it was a fanatic whose religious belief said it was OK to kill people having non-marital sex.

Samsung investing in a green future for Korea

The giant South Korean company Samsung Electronics has said it will invest more than $4 billion to cut emissions from its plants.

It said it hoped that by the year 2013, the greenhouse gas emissions from its manufacturing facilities will be reduced by 50%. It also wants to develop its range of more energy-efficient products, such as new refrigerators and air conditioners.

The company’s green initiative follows the South Korean government’s plan to pursue an environmentally friendly agenda.

South Korea is the world’s tenth biggest producer of greenhouse gases and has vowed to spend $84 billion over the next five years on improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution.

The government is on board. The largest corporations in the land are on board. At a minimum, pollution will be diminished and future generations of Koreans will grow up in a healthier environment.

The economics of the process should continue the comparative prosperity of the Korean nation. As did earlier decisions in the same vein – like thorough national access to broadband.

None of this is rocket science. None of this bankrupted the leaders of their economy. What’s wrong with this picture? Don’t they have an equivalent of the Republican Party?

Did Clovis-era comets strike southern California’s Channel Islands?

channel islands

A 17-member team has found what may be the smoking gun of a much-debated proposal that a cosmic impact about 12,900 years ago ripped through North America and drove multiple species into extinction.

In a paper appearing online ahead of regular publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, University of Oregon archaeologist Douglas J. Kennett and colleagues from nine institutions and three private research companies report the presence of shock-synthesized hexagonal diamonds in 12,900-year-old sediments on the Northern Channel Islands off the southern California coast.

These tiny diamonds and diamond clusters were buried deeply below four meters of sediment. They date to the end of Clovis — a Paleoindian culture long thought to be North America’s first human inhabitants. The nano-sized diamonds were pulled from Arlington Canyon on the island of Santa Rosa that had once been joined with three other Northern Channel Islands in a landmass known as Santarosae.

The diamonds were found in association with soot, which forms in extremely hot fires, and they suggest associated regional wildfires, based on nearby environmental records…

The age of this event also matches the extinction of the pygmy mammoth on the Northern Channel Islands, as well as numerous other North American mammals, including the horse, which Europeans later reintroduced. In all, an estimated 35 mammal and 19 bird genera became extinct near the end of the Pleistocene with some of them occurring very close in time to the proposed cosmic impact, first reported in October 2007 in PNAS…

“There was a major event 12,900 years ago,” he said. “It is hard to explain this assemblage of materials without a cosmic impact event and associated extensive wildfires. This hypothesis fits with the abrupt cooling of the atmosphere as shown in the record of ocean drilling of the Santa Barbara Channel. The cooling resulted when dust from the high-pressure, high-temperature, multiple impacts was lofted into the atmosphere, causing a dramatic drop in solar radiation.”

RTFA. Interesting details and the debate will only rage louder and longer. It takes a great deal of proof to move any proper scientific discipline from one thoroughly accepted analysis to something counter to the original proofs. A conservative essential of proper science.