Solar Impulse begins Pacific crossing

Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg has begun his bid to cross the Pacific, from China to Hawaii, in the zero-fuel Solar Impulse aeroplane.

The experimental aircraft, which has a wingspan bigger than a jumbo but weighs little more than a large car, left Nanjing at about 18:40 GMT.

It is likely to take Mr Borschberg five to six days of continuous flight to reach his central Pacific destination.

He will try to stay awake for much of that time, taking only short catnaps.

His progress will be monitored the entire way from a control room in Monaco…

The journey is the seventh leg in the single-seat, propeller-driven aircraft’s quest to circumnavigate the globe using just the energy of the Sun…

Solar Impulse needs not only favourable winds to help push it forward, but also clear skies to enable its 17,000 wing-mounted photovoltaic cells to achieve peak performance.

These cells must have the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries fully topped up at dusk to sustain flying through to dawn the next day.

Mr Borschberg is a highly experienced pilot, and as a trained engineer is completely familiar with the plane’s systems…Nonetheless, he is in no doubt how tough the mission will be.

“It’s more in the end about myself; it’s going to be an inner voyage,” he told the BBC before departure.

“It’s going to be a discovery about how I feel and how I sustain myself during these five or six days in the air.”…

If he succeeds in reaching Kalaeloa airport, he will set several aviation records – not least the longest-duration journey for a single-seater plane.

And then – he will carry on to North America, to Europe, and back to AbuDhabi.

Bacon busted for fighting over the last sausage

A New Jersey man with the surname Bacon found himself under arrest following a breakfast dispute over the last piece of sausage.

Madison police said Officer Lisa Esposito responded to a home about 3:30 a.m. May 12 on a report of a dispute and arrived to find Thomas Bacon, 19, had allegedly assaulted another person in the home for eating the last piece of sausage.

I wonder if folks who believe in things like karma feel it can be affected by pork products.

Population benefits of sexual selection confirm that males are useful

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Biologists have long puzzled about how evolutionary selection, known for its ruthless requirement for efficiency, allows the existence of males — when in so many species their only contribution to reproduction are spermatozoa.

But research published…in Nature shows that sexual selection — when males compete and females choose over reproduction — improves population health and protects against extinction, even in the face of genetic stress from high levels of inbreeding.

The findings help explain why sex persists as a dominant mechanism for reproducing offspring.

Lead researcher Prof Matt Gage, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Sexual selection was Darwin’s second great idea, explaining the evolution of a fascinating array of sights, sounds and smells that help in the struggle to reproduce — sometimes at the expense of survival.

“Sexual selection operates when males compete for reproduction and females choose, and the existence of two different sexes encourages these processes. It ultimately dictates who gets to reproduce their genes into the next generation — so it’s a widespread and very powerful evolutionary force.

“Almost all multicellular species on earth reproduce using sex, but its existence isn’t easy to explain because sex carries big burdens, the most obvious of which is that only half of your offspring — daughters — will actually produce offspring. Why should any species waste all that effort on sons?

“We wanted to understand how Darwinian selection can allow this widespread and seemingly wasteful reproductive system to persist, when a system where all individuals produce offspring without sex — as in all-female asexual populations — would be a far more effective route to reproduce greater numbers of offspring.

“Our research shows that competition among males for reproduction provides a really important benefit, because it improves the genetic health of populations. Sexual selection achieves this by acting as a filter to remove harmful genetic mutations, helping populations to flourish and avoid extinction in the long-term.”

Phew! Had me worried for a while. 🙂

RTFA for details of the analysis.