Saturday, December 31, 2011

More Vignettes From 2011

A protestor hurls a canister towards police next to a burning car during clashes in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011. Protesters in Rome smashed shop windows and torched cars as violence broke out during a demonstration in the Italian capital, part of worldwide protests against corporate greed and austerity measures, entitled Occupy Wall Street.

Vehicles at a Honda car factory submerge in floodwaters in the Rojana industrial district in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011. Monsoon deluges that have pounded Thailand since late July have affected 8 million people and swept across two-thirds of the country, drowning agricultural land and swallowing low-lying villages along the way. More than 200 major highways and roads are impassable, and the main rail lines to the north have been shut down. Authorities say property damage and losses could reach $3 billion dollars.

Workers, with belongings, make their way to a flooded road after being ordered to evacuate when floodwater broke through makeshift barriers at Nawa Nakhon industrial estate on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011. Soldiers, civil servants and families worked frantically Tuesday to add more than 1 million sandbags to Bangkok's vulnerable northern flood defenses after the city's governor warned they were needed to keep waters from swamping the capital.

Protestors post signs atop a University of California at Berkeley building as they participate in an Occupy Cal rally outside Sproul Hall Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 in Berkeley, Calif.

In this Dec. 17, 2011 photo, soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, attend a casing of the colors ceremony by handwritten names of soldiers at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, near Nasiriyah, Iraq. Around 500 troops from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division ended their presence on Camp Adder, the last remaining American base, and departed in the final American military convoy out of Iraq, arriving into Kuwait in the early morning hours of Dec. 18.
A portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is carried past mourners during his funeral procession through the streets of Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday Dec. 28, 2011.
Tourists visit ice sculptures during the lights testing period of the 13th Harbin Ice and Snow World in Harbin, Heilongjiang province (China) December 25, 2011. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival will be officially launched on January 5, 2012. Picture taken December 25, 2011
    Amanda Knox motions to cheering supporters at a news conference shortly after her arrival at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, in Seattle. It's been four years since the University of Washington

Iran Denies Test-Firing Long-Range Missiles in Gulf

 Iran has been conducting naval drills in the Gulf since last week

Iran has denied reports by state media that it test-fired long-range missiles during military exercises in the Gulf. "The exercise of launching missiles will be carried out in the coming days," Iran's senior navy commander is quoted as telling Iran's Press TV. Earlier the semi-official Fars news agency and other outlets reported that land-to-sea missiles had been fired.

The naval exercises come at a time of increased tensions between the West and Iran over its nuclear ambitions. On Tuesday Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil export route, if new sanctions are imposed over its nuclear programme. The US and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons - a charge Iran denies. Tehran insists its nuclear programme is purely for peaceful purposes. Iran has maintained that it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity to meet growing domestic demand.

But in another development, Iran's nuclear negotiator has signalled Tehran's readiness for talks. Saeed Jalili was set to write to the European Union's foreign affairs chief to express Iran's willingness to take part in a fresh round of nuclear talks, Reuters reported, citing the semi-official Mehr news agency.

The latest round of naval exercises began last week and are taking place in international waters to the east of the Strait of Hormuz. They are set to last 10 days. "All kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles will be tested in the coming days," navy commander Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran's English-language Press TV, according to Reuters.
Western nations recently unveiled new sanctions against Tehran following a UN report in November that said Iran had carried out tests related to "development of a nuclear device". Reports that further measures were being considered to target Iran's oil and financial sectors drew a furious response from Tehran. Iran's vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi on Tuesday warned that "not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz" if sanctions are widened. Iran's navy chief has said that closing the strait would be easy.

The Strait of Hormuz links the Gulf - and the oil-producing states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - to the Indian Ocean. About 40% of the world's tanker-borne oil passes through it. The US also maintains a naval presence in the Gulf, largely to ensure the transport of oil remains open.

Washington played down the Iranian threat with a state department spokesman describing it as an "attempt by them to distract attention from the real issue".  In 2009, Iran test-fired its Sajjil and Shahab missiles which could travel 2,000km (1,243 miles), drawing condemnation from the international community.

Those tests were also carried out amid heightened tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions, coming just weeks after Iran revealed the existence of a previously secret nuclear facility in the mountains near the city of Qom.

Debris From Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami Washes up in Canada

Bottles, cans and lumber from the tsunami that devastated Japan in March began washing up on British Columbia shores this week, more than a year earlier than oceanographers had initially predicted. Winds and currents have carried the items -- emblazoned with Japanese characters -- nearly 21,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean. They began washing up in the Tofino area on Vancouver Island's west coast earlier this week.

Jean-Paul Froment, a longtime area resident, says he's used to seeing things wash up on the beach, but has never seen such a large quantity of debris? at once. Tofino mayor Perry Schmunk said municipal workers will take special care in cleaning up the retrieved items.  "We will treat the whole thing with respect because everything that has come ashore has dealt with a significant human tragedy," said Schmunk. The tsunami, which came after one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, claimed more than 15,000 lives and damaged more than 100,000 buildings.

The flotsam now arriving in B.C. heralds a much larger cluster of debris on its way. Russian sailors have reported spotting a giant floating cluster of material, estimated to be twice the size of Texas, about 2,700 kilometres east of Hawaii. The items include a fishing boat marked "Fukushima."

Initially, scientists thought it would take until early 2013 for the debris to arrive in Hawaii, but it is moving much faster than expected.  In November, an  American oceanographer updated that predication, saying his computer models showed that drifting boats and houses could be arriving in B.C. at any time. "When you look at what floats in the water . . . you will see find many objects travel three times faster than surface water," he told last month, saying large objects can travel across the north Pacific at a speed of about 35 kilometres a day. "Those objects stick up so high out of the water they actually catch the wind and sail very fast."  A smaller object -- propelled only by the ocean current -- travels at closer to 11 kilometres a day.

He warned cleanup crews and local officials should keep public safety in mind when handling and disposing of large objects, saying it's possible they could still contain radioactive water. There is also a strong possibility that shoes containing human feet will be among the debris as is often the case after a disaster or a shipwreck.
It seems this tragedy will not go away soon and Hawaii and the western coastal United States will soon  be dealing with tons of detritus also.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Deep -Sea Creatures at Volcanic Vent

 Vent Shrimp
Yeti crab
Remarkable images of life from one of the most inhospitable spots in the ocean have been captured by scientists. Researchers have been surveying volcanic underwater vents - sometimes called black smokers - in the South West Indian Ridge in the Indian Ocean. The UK team found an array of creatures living in the super-heated waters, including yeti crabs, scaly-foot snails and sea cucumbers. They believe some of the species may be new to science.

Hydrothermal vents were first discovered in 1977. These fissures in the ocean floor spew out fiercely hot, mineral-rich water, yet somehow, diverse ecosystems are able to thrive in these hostile conditions. The team, from the University of Southampton, was particularly interested in the vents on the South West Indian Ridge because this range is linked to the Mid Atlantic Ridge and the Central Indian Ridge, where vent life has been well documented.

This area is also unusual because it is an "ultra-slow spreading" ridge, which means it is less volcanically active than other ridges, with fewer vents that are further apart. Dr Jon Copley, chief scientist of the Indian Ocean vents project, said: "This place is a real crossroads in terms of the vent species around the world."

Using a remote-operated, underwater robot called Kiel 6000, from the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM Geomar), in Germany, the team was able to train their cameras on the vents. In the hottest habitat around the black smokers, they found snails and shrimp, as well as mussels, sea cucumbers and crabs. They then compared these with the animals found at vents on the neighbouring ridges.

Dr Copley said: "I was expecting there to be some similarities to what we know from the Atlantic, and some similarities to what we know from the Indian Ocean vents, and that was true, but we also found types of animals here which are not known from either of those neighbouring areas, and that was a big surprise. "One was a type of yeti crab. There are two currently described species of yeti crab known from the Pacific, and it isn't like those, but it is the same type of animal, with long, hairy arms.
"Also some sea cucumbers - not known from the Atlantic or Central Indian vents, but known from the Pacific." He added: "We've got links to lots of different parts of the world here, which is very exciting."

The team was also surprised at the diversity of life they found during this expedition, which was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc). Dr Copley said: "In a lot of other vent fields I've been to, in this hot zone where you get the animals there is often just one type of animal living there: in the deep Mid Atlantic Ridge, it's the shrimp. But here, we have seen three to four all in the same zone."

The findings should help researchers to learn more about how life moves from vent to vent: vents are short lived, and without the ability to hop from one system to the next, life there would go extinct. "That is why vents are a great place to understand how species disperse and evolve in the deep oceans, because they are like little islands," Dr Copley added.

Despite these findings, the researchers are worried about the future of this underwater terrain. China has been granted an exploratory licence by the International Seabed Authority to explore the potential of mining the vents in this area for their rich minerals.

Dr Copley said: "This vent field is the size of a few football pitches, and it seems possible that it is the only known range of some of these species.  "It would be very premature to start disrupting it before we really know the true extent of what lives in it."

US Sells $30bn in F-15 Jets to Saudi Arabia

A F-15 performs during MAKS-2011 in Moscow 16 August 2011 
The United States has confirmed the sale of nearly $30bn of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. The US will send 84 Boeing F-15 jets to its key Middle Eastern ally, and upgrade 70 existing Saudi F-15s. The agreement is part of a $60bn arms deal covering 10-15 years, approved by the US Congress last year.

The military hardware deal comes at a time when Washington is working to counter the influence of the Saudis' bitter regional rival, Iran. The sale was formally announced on Thursday from Hawaii, where President Barack Obama is on holiday.

In Washington, senior state department official Andrew Shapiro said it would send "a strong message to countries in the region that the United States is committed to stability in the Gulf and broader Middle East". "It will enhance Saudi Arabia's ability to deter and defend against external threats to its sovereignty," he added.

As well as the F-15s, the larger $60bn package includes Apache attack helicopters, Black Hawk helicopters, and a range of missiles, bombs and delivery systems. The plan initially raised concerns from pro-Israeli members of Congress, but US officials reassured them that Israel's regional military edge would not be undercut by the sale.

The announcement comes in a week when Tehran said it might close the Strait of Hormuz if the country was hit by more sanctions, prompting the US to warn it would not tolerate any disruption of the vital oil route. Tensions between the Saudis and the Iranians were heightened after the US accused Tehran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia, as well as being a main plank of American policy in the Middle East, is also vital to US energy security, ranking as the third-largest source of its oil imports.

America's principal allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Israel, all view Iran as the principal threat to regional stability. In addition to selling Riyadh as much as $60bn of military equipment, Washington is also moving ahead with plans to supply Iraq with nearly $11bn of arms and training. Iran's western flank, already bristling with weaponry, is being steadily bolstered.

Few in Washington, including Israel's supporters, seriously object to arming Saudi Arabia, but the Iraq deal has its critics. There are doubts about the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's commitment to democracy, and fears that Washington may in fact be arming, rather than creating a bulwark against, Iran.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Abundant Life Found Around Hydrothermal vents

These are hydrothermal vents ( volcanic vents) found deep down at the bottom of the ocean. Some are white smokers, others are black, a most inhospitable place for life to develop. These vents are home to an amazing variety of life forms that live on chemicals and chemosynthesis, since no sunlight can reach them. Some are species unknown and as yet un-named.
This is the Yetti crab, named so after the legendary shaggy snowman of the Himalayas, but who contrary to his friend, lives in depths of 7200 ft ( 2200 mt ) on areas covered with fresh lava from the vents.

Massive Funeral an Attempt to Unite N Korea

The handing on of power from an old dictator to a new one can be a moment of great tension, especially if the new one is under 30 and has no political or administrative experience of any kind.
Hence the need to provide the people of North Korea with a certain reassurance. The elaborate choreography of the funeral parade and the emotional crowd-scenes as Kim Jong-il's coffin was driven round the centre of Pyongyang were intended to unite the country in grief, and make the change of power more secure. It was also intended to emphasise that Kim Jong-un is the latest member of the family firm established by his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. His strongest point is who he is, not what he has done.  Many people in the crowd will have taken comfort from it, just as the North Korean authorities wanted.

Many people in the noisily mourning crowds were quite well dressed by North Korean standards. They also looked reasonably well fed. A recent defector who escaped from North Korea to the South said he thought such people might well feel a twinge of sadness over Kim Jong-il's death, because they had done comparatively well during his 17 years in power. But he had spoken by phone to several people in the countryside, who told him openly that they hated Kim Jong-il for the devastating poverty they had suffered as a result of his policies.  Travellers who have succeeding in getting beyond the poor but more or less adequate suburbs of Pyongyang often tell stories of hungry, gaunt country-dwellers. Such people have no reason to give any support to the regime.

Satellite  image of labor camps

Even so, in a country where the labour-camps are overflowing with prisoners, it is dangerous to show signs of resentment.  As Kim Jong-il's funeral cortege passed through the streets, anyone in the large crowds who did not seem to be sorry would have been asking for trouble. You could sometimes see clearly that people were waiting for their cue to start weeping. And twice at least the live television coverage accidentally showed policemen or other officials holding up cameras to get shots of the crowd standing close to them. It seems unlikely they were simply getting mementos of the occasion.

The young Kim Jong-un will have the backing and guidance of his uncle, Chang Song-taek, a senior figure in the leadership who is married to Kim Jong-il's sister, Kim Kyung-hee - a general in her own right. Will the new team try to keep the lid on North Korea as firmly as his father did? It is much too early to tell, of course, but it is a historical truism that a dictatorship is at its most vulnerable when it tries to ease up.  Yet if North Korea maintains its ferocious grip on the lives of its citizens, there is always the possibility that they will finally be pushed too far.

People who visited Nicolae Ceausescu's Romania as late as the summer of 1989 believed that the ferocity of his rule had wiped out the very instinct for personal freedom among ordinary people. But by late December that year they had risen up, and he and his equally tough wife had been executed.
It is a great deal easier to set up a dictatorship than to change the way it operates.

Kim Jong-il, having inherited the autocracy from his father, Kim Il-sung, kept it going intact under some pretty terrible conditions. But can Kim Jong-un repeat the trick, in a world which suddenly has several fewer dictatorships? His public relations team is already trying to build him up as a caring leader. The North Korean press is running stories that he has sent out hot drinks to mourners in the streets.

China, North Korea's giant neighbour and virtually its only friend, will have an important say in the way the new regime in North Korea develops. During his lifetime Kim Jong-il was sometimes an embarrassment to the Chinese leadership. The Chinese understand the importance of peace in Asia; he, after 2008, seemed determined to pick a fight with South Korea.

China's leaders hate being isolated, and though they are closely linked with more than one rogue state, they prefer to look good in the eyes of the world. If Kim Jong-un and his team were to try settling themselves on power by threatening South Korea, perhaps with nuclear weapons, China would be intensely angry. Still, it might prove hard to stop them. China is trying to perform its own balancing act between liberalisation and keeping the lid on protests. It is not proving easy. And the way North Korea develops may well have an effect on China's future, too.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 In Review

A woman sits on the road amid the rubble of the destroyed city of Natori Miyagi Prefecture in Northern Japan, March 13/2011, after massive earthquake and tsunami kill 10,000 people.

A man sets himself on fire outside a bank in Northern Greece, Sept 16/2011. He asked for an extension on his loan and was refused

The celebration in Cairo's Tahir Square after President Hosni Mubarak resigned, Feb 11/2011.

Passengers on Cathay's Pacific flight disembark after safe landing in Singapore, May 16/2011.
They turned back from flight to Jakarta with engine trouble

The world's population reached 7 billion on Oct 31/2011 as projected by the United Nations

A tidal surge on the banks of the Qiantang River, Aug 31/2011, as typhoon Nanmadol approaches Eastern China.

Rebels hold  a young man at gun point as they accuse him of being loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

North Korea appealed for food aid after disasters and years of mismangement. Summer floods and storms destroyed 80% of the  maize crop.

A volcano in the Puyehue Cordan chain, dormant for many decades erupted violently in Chile,
June 5/2011.

East Africa, including Kenya and Ethiopia suffering  years of drought has the worst famine in 20 years - 3.7 million People are starving.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Have a 'Wonderful Christmas'
A 'Happy and Prosperous New Year'

The blog will re-open on Dec 27th

Eternal Night (On Losing My Sight)

The earth is an Eden of color and light; burnished gold sunsets inspire and delight.
The sky is an ageless blue, so bright, you could weep with the beauty it lends to the night.
And still you can thrill to the subtlest hue and consider with awe each day anew.
The glow of a flame, a leaf you discover, the warm lights you see in the eyes of your lover,
The blush of an apple, the glimmer of stars in the vast unknown are all priceless gifts,
Every shadow and tone, every layer of pearl, every grain in a stone.
Be my eyes for a moment; I want you to see the dazzling landscape calling to me.

And to capture it all can be such a yearning; a privileged few are blessed with that burning.
To paint what is true takes a lifetime of learning. I have far still to go; there's so much I don't know.
To channel the colors that whirl in your brain to flow through your fingers is rapture and pain,
Giving life to a vision is a joy to attain.
How bitter to be so enchanted with light, to be filled with wonder at every new sight
And waken one morning to eternal night.

The Genie

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Freezer Geezers

Freezer Geezers follows four teams from around the world competing for a gold medal in the world's oldest age division (75 and over)in the annual Snoopy's Senior World Hockey Tournament created by beloved artist Charles Schulz in Santa Rosa, California. The story is sometimes hilarious and sentimental, but always inspiring.  It is like 'Cocoon' meets 'The Mighty Ducks'... Meets 'The Bad News Bears' meets 'Grumpy Old Men'!

The film stars the most inspirational, hockey-playing, 75-year-old-men from all over the United States, Canada and Japan who refuse to let their age define them.... Bravo! and standing 'O'.

Biden Urges Iraq Leaders to Resolve Sectarian Disputes

US Vice-President Joe Biden has urged Iraqi leaders to work together to avert renewed sectarian strife.The White House said Mr Biden had expressed his concerns in a phone call to Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. It comes after an arrest warrant was issued for Iraq's Sunni Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi, on terror charges. That sparked fears that Iraq's fragile year-old unity government could fall apart, a day or so after the last US soldiers left the country.

Fighting between Sunnis and Shia left thousands dead in the tit-for-tat attacks of 2006-2007. The entire al-Iraqiyya Sunni political bloc is boycotting parliament and the cabinet in protest at the warrant, while the Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak has said Iraq is facing "chaos and disaster". Mr Hashemi, who is now in Iraq's semi-autonomous northern Kurdistan Region, has denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement, the White House said Mr Biden had spoken separately with Mr Maliki and parliamentary Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi to discuss the political situation and to stress Washington's "commitment to a long-term partnership with Iraq". He told them of the importance of an inclusive government and of "acting in a manner consistent with the law and Iraq's constitution". "The vice-president also stressed the urgent need for the prime minister and the leaders of the other major blocs to meet and work through their differences together," the statement said.

The last US troops left Iraq on Sunday, eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The next day, Iraq's interior ministry announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Mr Hashemi. It said members of his security detail had confessed to carrying out terror attacks.
State-run television broadcast what were said to be the men's confessions. Mr Hashemi has said the accusations are "fabricated". He has accused Mr Maliki of being behind a plot to discredit him and blow apart recent attempts at national reconciliation.

Tariq al-Hashemi

Mr Hashemi said he was ready to defend himself against accusations of terrorism
In response to the warrant, the main Sunni Arab political bloc al-Iraqiyya - which was already boycotting parliament in protest at Mr Maliki's alleged authoritarian manner - said its ministers would suspend participation in cabinet.

Mr Mutlak said said the Sunni minority was "being oppressed" by Mr Maliki's Shia-dominated government and his "unwise running of the country", and has called for a confidence vote in parliament. He said Iraq risked descending into renewed sectarian conflict.  Iraq's power-sharing government was formed a year ago after nine-months of negotiations which followed inconclusive election results. Now the fragile structure is in danger of collapse

Barely had the last American soldier stepped across the border into Kuwait than the flimsy Iraqi political structure the US military left behind began to fall dangerously apart, as long-standing tensions between Shia and Sunni political leaders came to a head.

The most dramatic symptom of the exploding crisis is the fact that Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician, Tariq al-Hashemi, is effectively a fugitive. While he hides out under Kurdish protection in the north, the entire al-Iraqiyya political bloc to which he belongs has pulled out of both parliament and the cabinet.

That paralyses Sunni participation in the hard-won power-sharing deal that underpins a year-old national unity government which has rarely pulled together. Frantic efforts are now under way to try to hold that structure together.
What's the alternative ? Split the government in two along more sectarian lines. It'll  never work. It would end in bloodshed. Hate to say I told you so but, I told you so. You shouldn't have pulled all the troops out at the same time, or at all, Mr Obama. It was too precipitate. They were not ready to stand alone.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dolphins Could Help Us Communicate With Aliens

According to an estimate by the Hubble Space Telescope, there are approximately 125 billion galaxies in the universe. The Drake Equation, SETI's operational manifesto, calculates the probability that there is intelligent life beyond Earth at around 100%, and some physicists believe we'll make contact with aliens during this century. But what then?
Without a common language, a close encounter could be as aimless as an email chain in which everyone hits reply all but no one actually reads anyone else's response. (We sent “Across the Universe” across the universe. Get it? Anyone?) And whether or not you buy Stephen Hawking's evil-alien-colonizer theory, the consequences of an intergalactic miscommunication would undoubtedly be worse than annoying a few colleagues.
"There are many sentient species on our own planet, and that would probably be a good model to start looking at how we might communicate with extra-terrestrial species," says Denise Herzing, founder and Director of the Wild Dolphin Project. Herzing has worked for three decades documenting the daily exchanges of a community of free-ranging Spotted dolphins off the coast of the Bahamas in hopes of finding a dolphin version of the Rosetta Stone.
Herzing and her team spend their days at sea, observing, filming, and occasionally interacting with dolphins. Then, they digitize and index the raw data, searching for patterns that would give insight into the animals' "complicated and understudied" cognitive processes. (They've even created an underwater keyboard to facilitate two-way communication.)
Like humans, dolphins have societal rules, responsibilities, and alliances, says Herzing. They teach their young new skills and forming bonds with parents and siblings. And yet, "there is probably not a more alien social species."
Deciphering the language of their sounds and behavior could therefore give us insight into the evolution and expressions of a mind that is entirely unlike a human being's, shedding light on our own cognitive biases as well as, "potentially, how to overcome them." This, she believes, is the key to building a shared exchange across species. What's the Significance?
In a paper titled "Dolphins as a model for real time interaction and communication with a sentient species,” Herzing asks, "Are there universals to communication that we might find looking at a species outside ourselves?"
"Learning the culturally appropriate etiquette has been important in the relationship with this alien society. To engage humans in interaction, the dolphins often initiate spontaneous displays, mimicry, imitation, and synchrony. These elements may be emergent/universal features of one intelligent species contacting another for the intention of initiating interaction. This should be a consideration for real-time contact and interaction for future SETI work."
But even more important than looking outward towards the stars is getting our collective act together here on Earth. "Humans need to put themselves back into nature and look at ourselves in the context of a larger world, which includes other sentient species and complex ecosystems," she says. "I think it will determine our own survival on planet Earth, not to mention millions of other species." It will also be the most critical test of our own intelligence.
What do you think? Will we ever meet intelligent beings in outer-space? What would an encounter with extraterrestrials be like?

Comet Stays Alive After Buzzing Sun

Much to everyone’s surprise, comet Lovejoy survived its heated encounter with the sun late yesterday.
Between the hours of 7 and 8 p.m. ET, cameras aboard NASA’s sun-watching satellite the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) had a ringside seat to the bombing of the bun, and they managed to lock onto the comet.
Nasa satellite images show comet Lovejoy racing through the superheated solar corona, shedding material. Credit: NASA/SDO

SDO’s onboard cameras provided live views that were streamed over the Internet, showing the comet’s precarious journey directly through the million-degree heat of the solar corona. All the while Lovejoy was visibly shedding material as it reached an altitude of only 87,000 miles from the sun’s surface.
While most watching the solar spectacle, including astronomers, thought Lovejoy would completely dissipate due to the intense solar baking, the plucky comet amazingly emerged on the far side of the sun a short time later—shining nearly as bright as it did before its close encounter.
However, after having barnstormed the sun, the latest analyses of the images show that, even though the singed comet appears to have survived, it’s not without wounds. The comet’s tail—composed of dust and gas shed from the vaporizing core—has been lost. Remnants of the tail appear to be visible in images along the track the inbound comet took before reaching the sun.
The comet's tail and detached head are seen on opposite sides of the sun. Credit: NASA/SOHO
Now, having survived, the severed head of the comet, less than a day after grazing the sun is already showing evidence of growing a new tail.
With at least five spacecraft trained on the fiery event these past days, astronomers hope to learn a lot more not only about Lovejoy and other sungrazer comets but also about how the sun works and its impact on Earth.
Karl Bottoms, of Naval Research Lab in Washington D.C., said on his Sungrazing comet website today, “Objects like this can also provide us with a tremendous amount of information about the solar wind and conditions in the solar corona, which in turn allows us to gain more understanding of the Sun as a driver of “Space Weather” at Earth (it’s one of the reasons my group is interested in sungrazing comets).”
Now that the main event is over, the race is on to see if anyone can pick up comet Lovejoy through ground-based telescopes as it departs the sun along its 400-year orbit. Bets are that it will take at least two to five days looking for the comet in the morning sky just before sunrise.
But after seeing how comet Lovejoy has fooled astronomers already, who knows what this little comet has in store for observers.