All posts by Dylan D

Flying High With The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (Photo Gallery)

The Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is not only Europe’s largest ballooning event, it’s one of the largest ballooning events in the world.

The annual festival is celebrating its 36th anniversary this year. The event will take place in the city of Bristol (England) from August 7th-10th and it is FREE! So if you are dying to see an epic collection of hot air balloons or you just happen to be in the area, don’t worry if you forget your wallet.

There are all kinds of awesome things about the event (food, music, bars, etc.), but the real attraction for the majority of us who have never ridden in a hot air balloon is definitely the overall beauty of the event. Over 150 air balloons from all over the world gather in one area, creating a beautiful scene and environment.

Check out a collection of photos from former Bristol International Balloon Fiestas below (click an image to enlarge):

For more info, check out the festival’s homepage here.

Why Are People Paying As Much As $5,000 per Stem for This Orchid? (Photo Gallery)

The Rothschild’s orchid (Paphiopedilum rothschildianum) is one of the rarest and most expensive flowers on the planet.

Those familiar with the black market say that the plant fetches sums of up to $5,000 a stem.

A close up of the rare orchid. Click to enlarge

So you are probably asking why in the world this plant is so valuable? Well, here are some of the key factors that put such a high price tag on this crchid:

  1. The  Rothschild’s orchid is only native  to Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia. This strain of the orchid species is scarce even there so it is protected by the government.
  2. This specific species of orchid was not discovered until 1987 and, according to MySabah.com, “the flower only grows on the slope of Mt. Kinabalu between 500 and 1,200 meters in altitude”.
  3. Since the plant is endangered and protected by the Malaysia government it is illegal to pick. The plant is only available from smugglers on the black market at a price of up to $5,000 per stolen stem.
  4. The flower itself can take up to 15 years to take bloom. This is one reason they are so rare, and even at Kinabalu National Park in Malaysia they are extremely difficult to find.

Scientists and plant lovers alike are extremely excited to learn more about the rare and relatively new species, but they were that illegal trade on the black market could wipe out the orchids before we really have a chance to study them.

According to the BBC…

“…scientists say the illegal collection of orchids is pushing species to the edge of extinction, with dire consequences for biodiversity. With some vulnerable species available on the black market before they can even be formally named, biologists and customs officers alike are battling to preserve the captivating plants.”

The flower is also known as the Rothschild’s Slipper orchid or the “Sumazau” orchid. The second name was given because the orchid’s long stretched side pedals resemble the arms of someone participating in Sumazau, the most traditional type of dance in the Malaysian state of Sabah, where the orchids are found.
A Malaysian woman performs the Sumazau dance
The orchid is also known to the locals as “The Gold of Kinabalu” because of the plants high value and rarity in Kinabalu National Park.

Check out a few more pictures of the extremely rare Rothschild’s orchid below: 

 

NASA Is Seeking Help In Potentially Finding Life On Jupiter’s Moon Europa (Video)

NASA is confident that underneath Jupiter’s moon Europa there could be more water than in our oceans here on Earth. So naturally, Europa has attracted a lot of attention, encouraging the curious to ask, “Could there be life on Europa?”.

Currently, NASA is aiming to send a new mission to Europa by 2025. The White House’s 2015 federal budget allocates $15 million towards making this Europa mission a reality.

Europa has recently become one of NASA’s main focuses because,  out of all the other planetary bodies in our solar system, it has arguably the greatest chance of harboring life.

From Space.com…


“Every 10 years, the U.S. National Research Council, a nonprofit organization that advises the government, issues a report that recommends a planetary exploration strategy for NASA and the National Science Foundation. The current report (which covers 2013 to 2022) ranks an exploration of Europa among the highest priority missions. According to the report, the future mission should focus on taking a closer look at the ocean that scientists suspect lies below the surface; characterizing its icy crust and looking for any subsurface liquid water; determining the surface composition and chemistry; examining surface features and identifying landing areas for future missions; and understanding the purpose of its magnetosphere — the magnetic field surrounding the celestial body. NASA officials said the instrument proposals should focus on at least one of these exploration goals. The announcement calls for instruments designed for a spacecraft that will orbit Europa or complete several flybys, since astronomers do not yet have enough data to pinpoint safe landing sites on the icy moon.”


The video below describes Europa in more detail.

NASA hopes that by providing monetary incentives to private parties, they will encourage competition and innovation, leading to affordable development processes for the instruments necessary for new missions like the upcoming one to Europa.

Two of the main challenges for teams developing instruments are overcoming Jupiter’s high levels of radiation and making sure that no organic material from Earth (like microorganisms, for example) is introduced to Europa’s potentially habitable surface.

The competition ends in April 2015. NASA will select the top 20 proposals, rewarding $25 million to each of the selected teams to further advance their designs for their instruments. NASA will also select eight winners whose instruments will be developed and actually used in NASA’s mission to Europa.

This competition is included in NASA’s budget to get to Europa, according to Space.com…

“NASA is in the process of designing a mission that will cost less than $1 billion and will still meet as many of the exploration goals as possible.”

Check out NASA’s full guidelines for Europa mission science instrument ideas here.

You can also learn more about how Europa works in this infographic from Space.com (click to enlarge):

Today Is The Anniversary Of The First-Ever International Space Mission

On July 15, 1975, NASA launched an Apollo spacecraft carrying three US astronauts. Two days later, on July 17th, this craft docked with the Soviet Union “Soyuz” spacecraft.

The Soviet craft had two Soviet cosmonauts on board and the rendezvous marked the first ever international space mission.

credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

According to NASA, the Apollo-Soyuz mission was,

“Designed to test the compatibility of rendezvous and docking systems and the possibility of an international space rescue, the nine-day Apollo-Soyuz mission brought together two former spaceflight rivals: the United States and the Soviet Union.”

The “Soyuz” spacecraft was the primary Soviet manned spacecraft since it was introduced in 1967.

credit: BBC
credit: BBC

The docking module used in this mission was designed and constructed by NASA. Prior to the Apollo-Soyuz mission, astronauts had never transferred from one spacecraft to another in outer space.

The docking modules served as an air-locked corridor that allowed the astronauts to travel between the two spacecrafts. The docking was successful.

The  U.S. and Soviet astronauts spent two days together, carrying out five joint experiments. At the end of their time together, they exchanged commemorative items.

The success of their mutual efforts paved the way for decades of international cooperation in space exploration, and laid the political groundwork which eventually led to the construction of the International Space Station, which began in November 1998.

Check out the full story from NASA here.

Watch A 5,078-Foot-Long Bridge Get Destroyed In Seconds (Video)

A 54-year-old bridge was demolished in Cleveland this past weekend.

The bridge originally opened in 1959. It spanned 8 lanes, and at 166 feet it was the widest bridge in Ohio at the time. The bridge connected downtown Cleveland with the Cuyahoga River Valley.

The video below shows a slow motion destruction of the 128-foot-tall 5,078-foot-long structure (it begins about 30 seconds in).

The Ohio Department of Transportation demolished the bridge to replace it with two new structures.

Check out a concept image of the replacement I-90 Innerbelt Bridge below:

concept for replacement bridge

Credits: YahooNews

Buzz Aldrin’s New Campaign Aims to Build Awareness About The Apollo 11 Mission (Video and Photo Gallery)

The second man to ever step on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, is endorsing a new project that’s being called “Apollo 45″. The campaign aims to increase awareness about all Apollo missions and Apollo 11’s historic lunar landing.

The 45th anniversary of that monumental landing is this month (July 26). Aldrin feels that,

“We need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things.”

Aldrin, along with fellow astronauts Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, launched towards the moon from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969.

Collins orbited the moon in the command module as Buzz and Neil set foot on the Moon for the first time in mankind’s history. The pair spent a total of 21.5 hours on the moon’s surface during the mission.

Check out the video below to learn more about the project, including who is currently involved and how you can get involved as well.

According to Miriam Kramer from Space.com:

“Aldrin is asking people around the world to share their memories of the Apollo 11 moon landing via social media by uploading recollections of the landing to Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #Apollo45. The Apollo 45 YouTube page will be used to promote videos uploaded by people around the world remembering Apollo 11, which touched down on the moon on July 20, 1969.”

Also…

“Aldrin will be in the Space.com offices on July 14 for a Google Hangout about the Apollo anniversary. Do you have anything you’d like to ask the moonwalker? Send in your questions via Twitter to @Spacedotcom or you can find us on Facebook and Google+. You can also leave your questions in the comments section below this article.

Aldrin will share special videos celebrating Apollo from July 10 until the anniversary on July 20. You can learn more about the project through the Apollo 45 YouTube page.

Check out some images from the Apollo 11 mission below.

 

White House Staff Salaries Range from $0 up to $400,000

Under a law established in1995, the White House is required to inform Congress how much it pays their staff. The Obama administration has made this information available to the public in a searchable database form.

According to Yahoo News

“In total, the 457 employees make $37,776,925, for an average yearly salary of about $82,663.”

Salaries range from a $172,200 at the top to the lowest paid, who make $0. Who makes $0? The two Obama aides:

“Nathaniel Loewenthiel, is a recent Yale Law School graduate listed as “policy advisor,” while the other is Elyse Cohen, deputy director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” fitness initiative. (A White House official notes that employees whose federal salary is $0 “may receive compensation from other sources, such as through fellowships or foundations.”)”

Our current Commander and Chief pulls in a salary of $400,000 a year. He also has access to a $150,000 expense account, a $100,000 tax free travel account, and a $20,000 entertainment budget.

Though they don’t have access to all of the presidential perks, a number of other White House staff aren’t too far behind, pulling in a little less at $172,200. In fact, 11 men and 11 women on the White House staff currently make that much.

It’s hard to say if the compensation for these government employees is too high or too low.

Value and responsibilities vary depending on the position, but in general do you think the staff is overpaid? Underpaid? Or do you trust the White House’s compensation structure and believe the staff is paid fairly?

Albino one-eyed cyclops shark; photo courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing

Check Out This Rare Baby Albino “Cyclops” Shark (Photo Gallery)

I’ll address all skeptics immediately, this is a real dusky shark fetus that was caught inside its mother in 2011 along with nine other normal baby sharks. Unfortunately the mother died when it was caught so none of the babies survived.

In 2011,Tracy Ehrenberg, general manager of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, interviewed the fisherman who made the catch in the Sea of Cortez, southeast of La Paz, Mexico.

With so many shark species struggling to survive because of the shark finning industry, it’s unfortunate to lose a mother shark with ten offspring. However, Ehrenberg points out,

“It’s kind of sad to see a female with pups inside killed but this was taken by a commercial fishing skiff and this is how this fisherman makes his living. All parts of the shark are used, including the skin. The meat is salted and sent to mainland Mexico, where it is usually sold as bacalo or ‘cod.'”

Shark with Litter
Shark with Litter

When pictures of the shark first emerged online, the images went viral and skeptics all over declined the possibility of this being a real catch. Even the fisherman who made the catch was amazed, and to this day keeps the fish in preservation and refuses to sell it.

The story became more believable after Felipe Galvan, a prominent Mexican scientist, acknowledged that he had inspected the shark and wrote a paper describing the fish’s strange appearance as the result of,

“a rare congenital malformation, resulting from the division of the embryonic brain that leads to fusion of the eyes to form a single, central eye.”

This fish is certainly one of the strangest creatures I have ever seen. Check out more pictures below. Click an image to enlarge:

Message from Orbit Gum: Your Mouth Is Dirtier Than A TOILET SEAT

Orbit Gum recently put together a promotional piece to show consumers how much bacteria is in our mouths compared to other things we commonly associate with being “dirty”. According to Orbit Gum

“It has been estimated that there are approximately 100 million microbes of bacteria for every milliliter of saliva (100,000,000 per ml) and anywhere from 400 to 600 different species.”

The list and data below were provided by Orbit Gum Brand and promoted through Buzzfeed.com

  1. An Elementary School Student’s Hands (1,500 bacteria per square inch)
  2. Toilet Seats (3,200 bacteria per square inch)
  3. The Gowanus Canal (Brooklyn’s infamous body of disgusting water is actually significantly cleaner than your mouth, 16,000 bacteria per ml)
  4. Beards (average 20,000 bacteria per beard)
  5. Pee (100,000 bacteria per ml)
  6. Water Fountains (2.7 million bacteria per square inch)
  7. Subway Poles
  8. Hotel Bathrooms
  9. Cockroaches
  10. Public Hot Tubs (2.7 million bacteria per tsp)

Orbit Gum claims that chewing their gum just after meals and snacks will give you a fresh-brushed clean feeling and reduce some bad bacteria.

But what does Orbit base their claim of cleaning teeth on?

Well, the biggest thing is that it makes you produce more saliva, which contains compounds that help shield against plaque and restore early tooth damage.

Orbit also includes a sugar substitute called Xylitol that has been proven to have antibacterial effects.

The Amazing Iron Gut of Frank “Cannonball” Richards (Video)

Frank “Cannonball” Richards may have the strongest gut in history.  Richards earned his fame with his death-defying 12 pound cannonball to the gut act.

Taking a spring-loaded cannonball to the belly is no easy feat. Richards had to gradually work himself up to this infamous act.

He started with hard punches, slowly working his way up to hammer hits and wood blows to the belly before taking on the canon.

Richards in training (Photo: Bill Meurer/New York Daily News)

Check out the video below to see vintage footage of Frank “Cannonball” Richard’s iron gut in action.

From the video above you can tell that Richards is pretty legitimate, but it’s hard to tell exactly how powerful the cannon is. I’m sure the cannon wasn’t suitable to take down castle walls, but it does appear powerful enough to severely harm or kill a normal man.

Richards made a huge splash in the media in the early 1930’s when the cannonball to the gut act was newly introduced as a live performance. At his prime during the 30s, Richards would perform the act as much as twice a day, but no more because of the obvious pain and risks involved.

Since then, the act has been included on the N.Y. Daily News’s list of “Wildest stunts in New York City History”, reenacted in The Simpsons by Homer himself, and even referenced by Jerry Seinfeld in Seinfeld‘s “The Apology” episode, and more.

You have likely seen this act before, and now you know Frank “Cannonball” Richards is that dude.