Cool and Interesting News & Such.

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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Collector » Sat May 07, 2011 9:55 pm

You mean a ghost town?
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Sun May 08, 2011 9:02 pm

An asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier will come closer to Earth this autumn than our own moon does, causing scientists to hold their breath as it zooms by. But they'll be nervous with excitement, not with worry about a possible disaster.

There's no danger of an impact when the asteroid 2005 YU55 makes its close flyby Nov. 8, coming within 201,700 miles (325,000 kilometers) of Earth, scientists say.

So they're looking forward to the encounter, which could help them learn more about big space rocks.

"While near-Earth objects of this size have flown within a lunar distance in the past, we did not have the foreknowledge and technology to take advantage of the opportunity," Barbara Wilson, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "When it flies past, it should be a great opportunity for science instruments on the ground to get a good look." [Photos: Asteroids in Deep Space]

Getting to know YU55

Asteroid 2005 YU55 is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) wide. It was discovered in December 2005 by the Spacewatch program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Because of the asteroid’s size and orbital characteristics, astronomers have flagged 2005 YU55 as potentially dangerous down the road. But the upcoming encounter is no cause for alarm, researchers said.

"YU55 poses no threat of an Earth collision over, at the very least, the next 100 years," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "During its closest approach, its gravitational effect on the Earth will be so minuscule as to be immeasurable. It will not affect the tides or anything else." [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]

This round space rock has been in astronomers' cross hairs before. In April 2010, astronomers at the National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico generated some ghostly radar images of 2005 YU55 when the asteroid was about 1.5 million miles (2.3 million km) from Earth.

But those pictures had a resolution of just 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel. The November close pass should provide some sharper images.

"When 2005 YU55 returns this fall, we intend to image it at 4-meter resolution [13 feet] with our recently upgraded equipment at the Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California," said JPL radar astronomer Lance Benner. "Plus, the asteroid will be seven times closer. We're expecting some very detailed radar images."

A radar astronomy opportunity

Radar astronomy employs the world's biggest dish-shaped antennas. The antennas direct microwave signals at celestial targets that can be as far away as the moons of Saturn.

These signals bounce off the target, and the resulting "echo" helps researchers create radar images. These images can then be used to reconstruct detailed, three-dimensional models of the object.

With 4-meter-per-pixel resolution, the new views of 2005 YU55 should be pretty sharp, perhaps even showing boulders and craters, researchers said.

"We're talking about getting down to the kind of surface detail you dream of when you have a spacecraft fly by one of these targets," Benner said.

The data collected from Arecibo, Goldstone and ground-based optical and infrared telescopes also should help detail the mineral composition of the asteroid, researchers said.

"This is a C-type asteroid, and those are thought to be representative of the primordial materials from which our solar system was formed," Wilson said. "This flyby will be an excellent opportunity to test how we study, document and quantify which asteroids would be most appropriate for a future human mission."

The capabilities of the Goldstone antenna, in California's Mojave Desert, and of Arecibo are complementary. The Arecibo radar is about 20 times more sensitive and can detect asteroids about twice as far away. But its main dish is stationary, so it can see only about a third of the sky. Goldstone is fully steerable and can see about 80 percent of the accessible sky, so it can track objects for longer periods and can image asteroids at finer spatial resolution, researchers said.

Researchers are eager to train the instruments of both facilities on 2005 YU55 in November.

"So stay tuned," Yeomans said. "This is going to be fun."

Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Maiandra » Sun May 08, 2011 10:24 pm

Collector wrote:You mean a ghost town?

I suppose it would be a ghost town. However, I was wondering more in terms of legality and paperwork, if it would cease to exist. Is a town still a town on record and maps if there's no one living there?
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Collector » Mon May 09, 2011 12:00 am

At Tawm: holy Lucifer's Hammer! :shock:
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby dotkel50 » Mon May 09, 2011 12:21 am

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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Mon May 09, 2011 8:54 pm

Collector wrote:Except that there are many different manufacturers of the Android. Remember, The Android is just an open platform, not a brand. The iPhone is both with only one manufacturer. To compare Apple one on one with a single competitor is misleading, as it accounts for only a fraction of total competitor sales. It is like comparing the sales of Macs against just Acer's and saying Macs out sell PCs. If HTC alone has slightly over half as many sales as the iPhone, all the others only need to sell around 9 million units combined, slightly less than HTC's sales.

Apple may indeed sell more than any other single manufacturer and their sales probably have increased since the last time I looked because of new carriers, but the figures that I have seen are on platform sales. The fact that the iPhones keep a record of everything will probably hurt sales some, too, if Apple does not address that soon.


Heh.

Mind you, I am not an Apple fan by any means. I do own an iPhone, but that's as far as I go. I do enjoy the iPhone, yes. But I don't swear up and down by it. But this discussion is mostly for fun...

See you Google, Apple just moved into town! wrote:http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Apple-usu ... 84535.html

LONDON (Reuters) - Apple has overtaken Google as the world's most valuable brand, ending a four-year reign by the Internet search leader, according to a new study by global brands agency Millward Brown.

The iPhone and iPad maker's brand is now worth $153 billion, almost half Apple's market capitalization, says the annual BrandZ study of the world's top 100 brands.

Apple's portfolio of coveted consumer goods propelled it past Microsoft to become the world's most valuable technology company last year.

Peter Walshe, global brands director of Millward Brown, says Apple's meticulous attention to detail, along with an increasing presence of its gadgets in corporate environments, have allowed it to behave differently from other consumer-electronics makers.

"Apple is breaking the rules in terms of its pricing model," he told Reuters by telephone. "It's doing what luxury brands do, where the higher price the brand is, the more it seems to underpin and reinforce the desire."

"Obviously, it has to be allied to great products and a great experience, and Apple has nurtured that."

By contrast, one of the brands most threatened by Apple's rising popularity in offices took a big hit in the survey.

Research In Motion's BlackBerry brand lost a fifth of its brand value. Among technology companies, only Nokia's 28 percent decline was steeper.

Of the top 10 brands in Monday's report, six were technology and telecoms companies: Google at number two, IBM at number three, Microsoft at number five, AT&T at number seven and China Mobile at number nine.

McDonald's rose two places to number four, as fast food became the fastest-growing category, Coca-Cola slipped one place to number six, Marlboro was also down one to number eight, and General Electric was number 10.

Walshe said demand from China was a major factor in the rise of fast-food brands. "The Chinese have been discovering fast food and it's such a vast market -- Starbucks, McDonald's... and pizza has hit China," he said.

"The way McDonald's has reinvented itself, adapted its menus, added healthy options, expanding the times of day it can be visited, for example oatmeal for breakfast... that allied with growth in developing markets has really helped that brand."

Nineteen of the top 100 brands came from emerging markets, up from 13 last year.

Facebook entered the top 100 at number 35 with a brand valued at $19.1 billion, while Chinese search engine Baidu rose to number 29 from 46.

Toyota reclaimed its position as the world's most valuable car brand, as it recovered from a bungled 2010 product recall. The survey was carried out before the March earthquake that caused massive disruption to Japanese supply chains.

The total value of the top 100 brands rose by 17 percent to $2.4 trillion, as the global economy shifted to growth.

Millward Brown takes as a starting point the value that companies put on their own main brands as intangibles in their earnings reports.

It combines that with the perceptions of more than 2 million consumers in relevant markets around the world whom it surveys over the course of the year, and then applies a multiple derived from the company's short-term future growth prospects.
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Collector » Mon May 09, 2011 11:30 pm

Tawmis wrote:Mind you, I am not an Apple fan by any means. I do own an iPhone, but that's as far as I go. I do enjoy the iPhone, yes. But I don't swear up and down by it. But this discussion is mostly for fun...

Understood. I have noting invested it either. It is fun to debate. That said, remember that Google developed the Android OS, but it fortunes of Google have little to do with the aggregate sales of all of the smart phone manufacturers using the Android OS. That would be like measure the success of companies selling boxes with Linux installed by the personal financial success of Linus Torvalds. Apple is obviously doing very well, but their success is not due to solely to the iPhone. Apple also has the early start on pads, but the Android pads are just getting started. Multitasking and Flash will give it more of an edge on the pad than on a smart phone.

Blackberry has been losing a lot of the market to both, but mostly to all of the different Android manufacturers.
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Tue May 10, 2011 8:50 pm

The Solar Dance! wrote:During this month of May, four bright planets will engage in a fascinating dance with each other in the morning sky.

Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter will be involved in a series of conjunctions, joined at the end of the month by a very thin, waning crescent moon. We could even refer to this as a "celestial summit meeting," or more precisely, a series of summit meetings during May 2011.

Twice during May three planets will converge to form a "trio."

According to Belgian calculator Jean Meeus, a trio is when three planets fit within a circle with a minimum diameter of 5 degrees. Such a limit was one that Meeus chose more or less arbitrarily, but as he notes, "We have to make a choice."

On Wednesday (May 11), Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will converge within 2.05-degrees of each other, followed just 10 days later by another trio, this time formed by Mercury, Venus and Mars, which will crowd within a 2.13-degree circle. Then late in the month, on three successive mornings, May 29th, 30th, and 31st, the waning crescent moon will arrive, sweeping past Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury stretched out across the eastern sky from upper right to lower left. [Video: See the Moon and Planet Alignments through June]

Evil omen? Impending disaster?

What might ancient sky watchers from 500 or 1,000 years ago have ascribed to such a series of gatherings as this?

Most likely, they would have felt a mixture of fear and wonder. A fine example was a case in 1186 A.D. when an unusual gathering of the five planets visible to the naked eye resulted in a near-panic across the whole of Europe after religious leaders predicted that worldwide disasters would result!

Even today, in our modern world, similar fears sometimes arise.

You need only Google-search the date May 5, 2000, and you will find a number of different websites that predicted a variety of disasters attributed to the combined gravitational and tidal forces associated with a gathering of the sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

One website proclaimed that it would be "one of the most exciting, powerful and transformative celestial events of our millennium according to astronomy and astrology experts."

In many ways, these words sound all too similar to the hype and tripe that has been bandied about during these past few years concerning the Mayan Long Count calendar in 2012.

Needless to say, we all survived the recent 2000 celestial summit and despite what you might hear or read in the coming days ahead, absolutely nothing cataclysmic will take place (at least nothing that can be directly attributed to this impending dawn gathering of the moon and planets).

Tough to see

The only tragedy regarding this display is that those living north of the equator will have a difficult time seeing it.

At first glance there doesn't appear to be any problem concerning the visibility of these objects. Their elongations from the sun will range from 18 degrees to 26 degrees, which should place them all in dark skies. Unfortunately, during May, as seen especially from mid-northern latitudes, the ecliptic is oriented at a shallow angle relative to the eastern horizon at dawn.

As a result, the moon and planets will rise into view during late twilight and will lie very low to the east-northeast horizon by sunrise. To see them, you'll have to make sure not to have any potential obstructions to your visibility such as trees or buildings in that direction.

But coming above the horizon so near to sunrise will also mean that you'll have a fighting chance of catching only Venus (magnitude -4) and Jupiter (magnitude -2) with unaided eyes. Whether you will be able to glimpse zero-magnitude Mercury is debatable, and certainly binoculars will be needed if you have any hope of seeing Mars (magnitude +1).

The crescent moon will also prove to be a visual challenge, being only 2 percent illuminated on May 31. Low-lying clouds or haze near the horizon on any given morning will only reduce your chances of success.

In contrast, those of our SPACE.com readers in the Southern Hemisphere, where the ecliptic at dawn appears at a somewhat steeper angle, will see this ever-changing array somewhat higher and in a somewhat darker sky; more like mid-twilight as opposed to late twilight in the north.

Indeed, those living in far southern locations such as Cape Town, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia; or Dunedin, New Zealand, will have a much better chance of seeing and enjoying this month-long dance of the planets.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Wed May 11, 2011 3:08 pm

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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Fri May 13, 2011 10:05 pm

Never go through Oregon during the winter... wrote:PORTLAND, Ore. – The body of a man was found in his pickup truck on a mountain road, along with a calendar he kept of his ordeal for nearly 70 days, authorities said Friday.

The Linn County sheriff's office said the log kept by Jerry McDonald showed he became stranded on Feb. 14.

The entry read: "Heavy snow. Snowed in."

His first log entry was Feb. 7, indicating he had been in the area for a week before he became stuck. The last entry was on April 15, about 60 days later.

A U.S. Forest Service survey crew found his body Thursday in a sleeping bag in the back of his 1997 GMC pickup truck on a one-lane dirt road about four miles from Marion Forks. The forest service road is in the remote foothills of the Cascade Range, about 70 miles east of Salem.

By late February, McDonald was detailing the weather and repeating his location, "Horn Rd.," daily.

"The road Mr. McDonald was on is in a mountainous area of east Linn County and the way in or out would have been impassable once it snowed," said Sheriff Tim Mueller. "There were no indications that he had attempted to walk out of the area."

McDonald was carrying $5,000 in cash. There were no signs of foul play and he had not been reported missing.

Deputies said McDonald had warm clothing and water but no food or cell phone.

The calendar showed that he scrawled brief notes about the weather daily. "Snowed 1 foot night," he wrote on March 15.

He marked April 12 as the day his motor vehicle registration expired.

The discovery of McDonald's body came nearly a week after a Canadian woman who had gone missing with her husband in Oregon was found alive in a stranded van in a remote part of northeastern Nevada. Officials have not yet found Rita Chretien's husband, Albert, who had set off on foot weeks earlier in search of help.

There have been several cases of motorists getting stranded on remote roads in the back woods of Oregon during the past couple of years. In 2006, San Francisco journalist James Kim died of hypothermia after he, his wife and two children became stranded in Oregon's southern mountains.


Because 7 wives wasn't enough, he also had p0rn... wrote:WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A stash of pornography was found in the hideout of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. commandos who killed him, current and former U.S. officials said on Friday.

The pornography recovered in bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The officials said they were not yet sure precisely where in the compound the pornography was discovered or who had been viewing it. Specifically, the officials said they did not know if bin Laden himself had acquired or viewed the materials.

Reports from Abbottabad have said that bin Laden's compound was cut off from the Internet or other hard-wired communications networks. It is unclear how compound residents would have acquired the pornography.

But a video released by the Obama administration confiscated from the compound showed bin Laden watching pictures of himself on a TV screen, indicating that the compound was equipped with video playback equipment.

Materials carted away from the compound by the U.S. commandos included digital thumb drives, which U.S. officials believe may have been a principal means by which couriers carried electronic messages to and from the late al Qaeda leader.

Three other U.S. officials familiar with evidence gathered during investigations of other Islamic militants said the discovery of pornography is not uncommon in such cases.
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Sat May 14, 2011 8:07 pm

:lol:

Sometimes it's great to read the news...

Never steal from someone who knows how to use a computer...
http://www.betabeat.com/2011/03/21/dont ... ers-video/

Which led to the thief turning himself in and begging to be taken down from Youtube...
http://www.betabeat.com/2011/03/22/danc ... -youtubed/

And Twitter helps find a stolen laptop...!
http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_nyobserve ... -part-deux
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Thu May 19, 2011 12:14 pm

Rogue Planets wrote:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/space/20110518/ ... tswithsuns

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Astronomers have discovered a whole new class of alien planet: a vast population of Jupiter-mass worlds that float through space without any discernible host star, a new study finds.

While some of these exoplanets could potentially be orbiting a star from very far away, the majority of them most likely have no parent star at all, scientists say.

And these strange worlds aren't mere statistical anomalies. They likely outnumber "normal" alien planets with obvious parent stars by at least 50 percent, and they're nearly twice as common in our galaxy as main-sequence stars, according to the new study. [Photos: The Strangest Alien Planets]

Astronomers have long predicted the existence of free-flying "rogue alien planets." But their apparent huge numbers may surprise many researchers, and could force some to rethink how the planets came to be.

"Previous observations of bound planets tell us only about planets which are surviving in orbits now," said study lead author Takahiro Sumi, of Osaka University in Japan. "However, [these] findings inform us how many planets have formed and scattered out."

Alien worlds under gravitational lens

Sumi and his colleagues made the find using a method called gravitational microlensing, which watches what happens when a massive object passes in front of a star from our perspective on Earth. The nearby object bends and magnifies the light from the distant star, acting like a lens.

This produces a "light curve" — a brightening and fading of the faraway star's light over time — whose characteristics tell astronomers a lot about the foreground object's size. In many cases, this nearby body is a star; if it has any orbiting planets, these can generate secondary light curves, alerting researchers to their presence.

Before the current study, astronomers had used the gravitational microlensing technique to discover a dozen or so of the nearly 550 known alien planets. (NASA's Kepler mission has detected 1,235 candidate planets by a different method, but they still need to be confirmed by follow-up observations.)

Sumi and his team looked at two years' worth of data from a telescope in New Zealand, which was monitoring 50 million Milky Way stars for microlensing events. They identified 474 such events, including 10 that lasted less than two days.

The short duration of these 10 events indicated that the foreground object in each case was not a star but a planet roughly the mass of Jupiter. And the signals from their parent stars were nowhere to be found.

Independent observations from a telescope in Chile backed up the finds. Either these 10 planets orbit very far from their host stars — more than 10 times the Earth-sun distance — or they have no host stars at all, researchers said. [Infographic: A Sky Full of Alien Planets]

Common throughout the galaxy

Gravitational microlensing events are rare, because they require the precise alignment of a background star, a massive foreground object and Earth. So the discovery of 10 short-duration events in two years suggests a huge population of these unbound or distantly orbiting Jupiter-mass exoplanets throughout the galaxy, researchers said.

Sumi and his team calculated, in fact, that these planets are probably almost twice as common in our own Milky Way as main-sequence stars. And they likely outnumber "normal" planets with known host stars by more than 50 percent.

Other studies have established that it's probably pretty rare for huge planets to orbit more than 10 Earth-sun distances from a parent star. So the research team argues that most of the Jupiter-mass planets — at least 75 percent of them — are likely true "rogues," floating through space unbound to a star.

Theory predicts that such rogues should exist throughout the galaxy, and other researchers have found evidence of unbound objects that may indeed be orphan planets. But those worlds were much bigger, from three to 10 times Jupiter's mass, and there's a lot of uncertainty in the measurements.

Many of the previously detected objects could actually be "failed stars" known as brown dwarfs, Sumi said.

Sumi and his colleagues report their results in the May 19 issue of the journal Nature.

Rethinking planetary formation theories

The newly discovered rogue planets may have formed close to a host star, then been ejected from their solar systems by the gravitational influence of a huge neighbor planet, researchers said. Indeed, such planet-planet interactions are thought to be responsible for the odd, extremely close-in orbits of the giant alien planets known as "hot Jupiters."

But the abundance of the seemingly starless worlds may force astronomers to rethink some of their ideas about planet formation, according to Sumi.

The "current most recognized planetary formation theory (core accretion model) cannot create so many giant planets," Sumi told SPACE.com in an email interview. "So we need a different theory to create [so] many giant planets, such [as the] gravitational instability model."

In the core accretion model, dust coalesces to form a solid core, which later accretes gas around it, creating a planet. The gravitational instability model invokes the rapid collapse of gas, with a core forming later due to sedimentation.

The new study should inspire much follow-up research. One of the next steps could involve training more instruments on the microlensing alien planets, further monitoring them for any signs of a parent star. Such work, which may take years, could eventually reveal how many of these worlds actually do have parent stars, and how many are true rogues.

"The implications of this discovery are profound," astronomer Joachim Wambsganss, of Heidelberg University, wrote in an accompanying essay in the journal Nature. "We have a first glimpse of a new population of planetary-mass objects in our galaxy. Now we need to explore their proper­ties, distribution, dynamic states and history."

You can follow SPACE.com senior writer Mike Wall on Twitter: @michaeldwall. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110518/ap_ ... _planets_4

NEW YORK – Are these planets without orbits? Astronomers have found 10 potential planets as massive as Jupiter wandering through a slice of the Milky Way galaxy, following either very wide orbits or no orbit at all. And scientists think they are more common than the stars.

These mysterious bodies, apparently gaseous balls like the largest planets in our solar system, may help scientists understand how planets form.

"They're finding evidence for a lot of pretty big planets," said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who wasn't involved in the research.

If they orbit stars, their sheer number suggests every star in the galaxy has one or two of them, "which is astounding" because that's five or 10 times the number of stars scientists had thought harbored such gas-giant planets, he said.

And if instead they are wandering free, that "would be really stunning" because it's hard to explain how they formed, he said.

If that's the case, it would give a boost to some theories that say planets can be thrown out of orbit during formation, said Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, another outside expert.

Other scientists have reported free-wandering objects in star-forming regions of the cosmos, but the newfound objects appear to be different, said one author of the new study, physicist David Bennett of the University of Notre Dame.

Bennett and colleagues from Japan, New Zealand and elsewhere report the finding in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. They didn't observe the objects directly. Instead, they used the fact that massive objects bend the light of distant stars with their gravity, just as a lens does. So they looked extensively for such "microlensing" events.

They found 10, each caused by one of the newfound objects. They calculated each object has about the mass of Jupiter, and estimated how common such objects are. They also found no sign of a star near these bodies, at least not within 10 times the distance from Earth to the sun. (For comparison, within our solar system that would basically rule out an orbit closer than Saturn's.)

So the newfound objects either orbit a star more distant than that, or they don't orbit a star at all, the researchers concluded. They drew on other data to determine most of the objects don't orbit a star.

Scientists believe planets are formed when disks of dust that orbit stars form clumps, so that these clumps — the planets — remain in orbit. Maybe the newfound objects started out that way, but then got tossed out of orbit or into distant orbits by the gravitational tugs of larger planets, the researchers suggest.

The work suggests that such a tossing-out process is quite common, Bennett said.

Boss said maybe the bodies formed around a pair of stars instead, one of which supplied the gravitational tug. But even that would take some explaining to produce an object without an orbit, he said. Or maybe they somehow formed outside of any orbit. So the theoretical challenge in explaining the existence of such bodies is "exciting," he said.

Boss said he suspects most of these are in a distant orbit, and that maybe they even formed at that great distance rather than being tossed outward from a closer orbit.

Kaltenegger also said the new results can't rule out the possibility that these possible planets are in orbit, and that they may only have the mass of Saturn, about a third of Jupiter's.

But if they aren't orbiting a star, she noted, they don't fit the official definition of a planet — at least not the definition applied to objects in our own solar system.

All in all, Boss said, the new work is "pretty exciting in telling what is out there in the night sky... Lots of theories will grow in this environment."


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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Fri May 20, 2011 2:17 am

So Long To Unlimited... Suckers! wrote:Verizon: Say So Long to Unlimited Data

By JR Raphael, PCWorld May 19, 2011 3:27 PM

Verizon Unlimited Data PlansGot a smartphone on Verizon Wireless? Get ready to wave goodbye to the days of unlimited data.

Verizon will axe its unlimited smartphone data plan this summer, according to remarks made by the carrier's chief financial officer. Speaking at the Reuters Global Technology Summit on Thursday, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo (no relation to the ShamWow guy) said the company will soon roll out new tiered pricing plans and eliminate the current $30-a-month unlimited option.

According to Reuters, which reported the news, the move is designed to "force heavy data users to pay more for mobile data." Ouch.

Hang on, though: For most of us, it may not be nearly as painful as it sounds.
Verizon Smartphone Data Plans: Context and Perspective

First, some context: We've seen the end of Verizon's unlimited data coming for a while now. After AT&T eliminated its unlimited data plans last summer, Verizon execs hinted it wouldn't be long before they followed suit. Soon after, in October, Big Red seemed to test the waters, unveiling an option to get 150MB of data per month for $15 -- half the price of the unlimited plan. (Oddly, that option was discontinued a few months later.)

So for some perspective, let's assume Verizon's tiered data plans end up being roughly comparable to the ones offered by AT&T. Verizon hasn't released any specifics so far, but given the two carriers' general similarities in plan pricing, it seems like a reasonable guess that they might end up being in the same ballpark.

AT&T provides three base options for smartphone data usage:

• 200MB a month for $15

• 2GB a month for $25

• 4GB a month, with Wi-Fi tethering, for $45

There are actually a few additional options between the lines, too: If you pick the 2GB-a-month plan, for example, and go over the 2GB limit, AT&T automatically charges you an extra $10 and gives you an extra gigabyte to use. So for all practical purposes, you can get 3GB a month for $35.

In the grand scheme of things, then, if you use 2GB a month or less of smartphone data, you'd actually save money on this particular setup (which, again, may or may not be exactly what Verizon offers; it's simply a gauge to give us a general idea). If you use more than 2GB a month, you'd pay more.
Verizon's Plans and Your Smartphone Data Patterns

Verizon Smartphone Data PlansSo what's normal in terms of monthly smartphone data usage? It's hard to say. A study conducted by Nielsen last year suggested average consumption was right around 300MB a month. That total, however, included a lot of smartphone users who were using practically no data -- about a quarter of the sample, perplexingly -- so it's skewed somewhat lower than it would be if we were to look exclusively at data-using customers.

Famed New York Times tech writer David Pogue said last summer that he and his wife, combined, rarely go over 150MB of data per month. I, on the other hand, used almost 2.5GB in my most recent billing cycle and averaged about 2GB per month over the last six months. Yeah -- I know. But I'm certainly not your typical user.

Here's what's interesting, though: Even with my somewhat ridiculous usage, I might end up doing all right. With my six-month average, I could probably get away with a plan like AT&T's $25-a-month 2GB option, provided Verizon offers something similar. With that setup, I'd pay five bucks less on some months, when I stayed at or below the 2GB mark, and five bucks more on others, when I went over and needed that extra gig. Seems like it'd more or less balance out in the end.

Nielsen's study estimated that, based on 2010 data usage patterns, 99 percent of users would save money with a tiered model like AT&T's compared to an unlimited flat-rate approach. And there's another potential silver lining in the distant future: Verizon's CFO mentioned that the carrier would likely one day offer family-based data plans, where you could have one giant plan to share among multiple people and multiple devices. But it was a vague sort of statement, with no definite time frame attached, so don't hold your breath just yet.

For now, you can estimate your monthly data usage by heading over to Verizon's interactive data calculator. Or you can do like I did and just look back at several months of bills to manually calculate an average. Until we hear the specifics about Verizon's new tiered plans, of course, it won't tell you anything concrete about how much you'll pay, but it'll at least give you a feeling for where you fall in the overall spectrum.

Put it this way: If your totals are much higher than mine, you should probably grab the nearest piggy bank and start saving up.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. You can find him on Facebook, on Twitter, or at his geek-humor getaway: eSarcasm.com.



hahahahahaha... who didn't see THAT coming from a mile away!??!
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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby Tawmis » Fri May 20, 2011 2:48 pm

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Re: Cool and Interesting News & Such.

Postby BBP » Fri May 20, 2011 3:33 pm

Wow,what a beautiful creature!
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