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الاثنين، 10 أغسطس 2015

3 standout headphone designs

Ever since Beats headphones became a cultural icon, nearly every company on the planet has tried to capitalize on the trend by introducing their own headphones or earbuds. Consequently, distinguishing one brand from another can be nearly impossible.
Nevertheless, three recent models I've been auditioning from Torque, Plantronics, and Motorola have managed to stand out from the crowd by offering unique features and designs.
Torque t402v, $400
Music sources are more varied today than ever, from full-fledged high-res tracks to thin streaming music. Your headphones can significantly affect how these sources sound from too high-pitched to too much booming bass. To compensate — and appeal to different musical tastes — Torque's t402v headphones can be adjusted using built-in filters.
In the past, other headphones have tried the tuning technique, but Torque's design is simpler and subtler. The earpads are magnetic, so they can be removed and turned to four different positions representing different bass tunings. Inside the earpads, the filters are color coded. Yellow delivers the most punch, black the least. You also have the option of using smaller on-ear pads or larger over-the-ear pads.
Like most serious headphones, the Torque t402v's wrap the listener in sound. I preferred the over-the-ear pads and found the headphones delivered excellent separation of instruments, as well as plenty of tight bass, no matter which filter I chose. The difference is not as dramatic as you switch between settings, but it is noticeable. Yellow makes the bass notes the roundest bringing instruments like the bass guitar to the forefront. Drums are tighter with the black setting.
Some may find that the different filters are more appropriate for different music. Stan Getz is better with less bass, while Moon Martin is better with more. I also found that the mellow yellow setting tended to take some of the rough edges off of streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify.
Plantronics Backbeat Sense, $180
Whereas the Torque headphones felt heavy on my head at times, the Plantronics Backbeat Sense headphones are so light as to be almost effervescent. They also have some extra tricks of their own.
To begin with, the Backbeat Sense headphones can be used wired or wirelessly (via Bluetooth). Without a cable, they're rated for up to 18 hours of playing time. Music over the Plantronics headphones is spritely without ignoring the mid-range keyboards of pop tunes. The Backbeats couldn't match the total immersive sonic sensation of the Torque headphones, but they were certainly respectable. Moreover, even though I'm not a fan of on-ear pads, I quickly grew used to the Backbeats.
In addition to comfort, my favorite feature of the Backbeat Sense headphones is the automatic pause. If, say, a flight attendant should offer you coffee or tea, sliding the headphones down around your neck automatically pauses the music. After you've placed your order and pop the headphones back on, the music starts ups again. Not only is it polite, it helps preserve an already impressive battery life.

الأحد، 9 أغسطس 2015

A Facebook insult lands Thai man 30 years in prison

The frequency with which we've already seen Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton insulted across various social media platforms in the United States makes it difficult to believe that in some countries, this disrespect is met with severe consequences. A Thai man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty of "posting messages and pictures defaming the monarchy" on Facebook. The three decade sentence is actually half of the original punishment of 60 years, which the government benevolently reduced after the naysayer, 48-year-old Pongsak Sriboonpeng, admitted to his "crime." The nation's strict lse-majest law, which translates literally as the "injured majesty" rule, makes any insult of the king, queen, heir, or regent an offense punishable by up to 15 years per count.
Convictions under the stifling law have apparently increased significantly since the 2014 military coup, and both the Thai government and the media take the measures extremely seriously. In fact, even when reporting these offenses, media outlets carefully choose how to convey information, as merely repeating insults and perceived offenses could be seen as illegal. More horrifying still, now that the country is operating under martial law, Sriboonpeng and others found guilty of offending the monarchy cannot appeal their sentences.
The same principle has been used multiple times in the past to imprison dissenters, including non-Thai individuals. In 2007, a Swiss man was imprisoned for a decade for his lse-majest conviction, and an American citizen of Thai descent was also arrested when he visited the country, whereupon he was forced to "confess" his crimes. Lse-majest has also been used to qualify censorship and government surveillance -- YouTube was blocked in the nation several years ago after a video appeared that was considered insulting to the king, and in 2014, mass surveillance "specifically targeting those producing and reading lse majest content" was justified under the law.
While international organizations have long decried the practice as " preposterous," the Thai government has shown no signs of budging. So while you're in the U.S., say what you will about your political leaders. But don't expect to be able to speak so freely, especially on the Internet, in foreign countries.

السبت، 8 أغسطس 2015

Space Station astronauts make history, eat first space-grown veggies

Astronauts on the International Space Station made history Monday when they munched space-grown vegetables for the first time.
Crew members, including American one-year astronaut Scott Kelly, sampled the delights of Red Romaine lettuce grown in the microgravity environment of space. The lettuce was grown on the ‘Veggie’ plant system in NASA’s orbiting lab on the space station.
“Crew tastes red romaine lettuce with oil & vinegar for #NASAVeggie study and#JourneyToMars,” tweeted the International Space Station’s Twitter account.
“Chomp! Our first veggies were harvested & consumed by astronauts in space!,” added NASA, tweeting an image of Kelly enjoying his historic meal.
The leafy greens were cleaned with citric acid-based, food safe sanitizing wipes, according to NASA.
The agency’s plant experiment, dubbed Veg-01, uses rooting “pillows,” which contain the seeds.
NASA sees the development of sustainable food in space as a critical part of its Journey to Mars project, which aims to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s. However, the long journey to Mars, estimated to take six months, poses a unique set of challenges to scientists.
“As NASA moves toward long-duration exploration missions farther into the solar system, Veggie will be a resource for crew food growth and consumption,” explained NASA, in a statement. “It also could be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during deep space missions.”
The first “pillows” were activated, watered and cared for by astronaut Steve Swanson in May 2014, according to NASA. After 33 days of growth, the plants were harvested and returned to Earth in October 2014, undergoing food safety analysis at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center.
The second set of Veg-01 plant “pillows” were activated by Scott Kelly on July 8 and grew again for 33 days before being harvested. The seeds had been on the space state for 15 months before being activated, NASA said.

الجمعة، 7 أغسطس 2015

Hatfields and McCoys help pinpoint key battle site in feud

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  — The Hatfield and McCoy descendants came armed — with digging tools. Side by side, they worked together to help archaeologists unearth artifacts from one of the bloodiest sites in America's most famous feud.
The leader of the dig says they have pinpointed the place where Randolph McCoy's home was set ablaze in the woods of eastern Kentucky during a murderous New Year's attack by the Hatfield clan.
Two McCoys were gunned down in the 1888 ambush on Randolph McCoy's homestead. It marked a turning point in their cross-border war waged in Kentucky and West Virginia, led by family patriarchs William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield and Randolph "Ole Ran'l" McCoy.
The 10-day excavation focused on a back corner of the homestead. Archaeologists and volunteers — including descendants from the two families — uncovered charred timber, shell casings, nails, a pulley and fragments of glass and ceramics.
Eddie McCoy had made earlier pilgrimages there, but he said sifting through his ancestral soil was especially poignant.
"When I was digging through the mud and big chunks of burned wood started coming out, it just made it so real," he said this week. "I had to actually pause for a moment. I just could not believe I was being able to literally dig into my family's past."
A 2012 dig had given excavators some understanding of the McCoy homestead.
The team decided the actual site wasn't quite where they thought it was, said Kim McBride, co-director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey. She led the archaeological teams on both digs.
"We had some suspicions that we weren't quite in the right place at the first dig," McBride said. "With more work, we were able to confirm that suspicion. We think the house sat a little bit further back."
The back corner of the homestead was the area least disturbed by development, McBride said.
"Having this little area of materials from the original house in its burned state was very significant," she said.
In a region slammed by a slumping coal industry, better identifying the McCoy homestead could help lure visitors.
The property is owned by Hatfield descendant Bob Scott, who would like to build a replica cabin on the same spot.
"We're trying to preserve the heritage of the Hatfield-McCoy feud," he said. "People like to get off the beaten path sometimes."
A tour group from Georgia visited the site this week, he said. Visitors from Hawaii stopped by recently.
Pike County tourism officials promote tours of feud sites on their website.
The Hatfield and McCoy Heritage Days from Sept. 24-26 in Pikeville, Kentucky, will include a Hatfield-McCoy paintball tournament, music and local crafts. Across the border, West Virginia tourism officials also are trying to capitalize on interest in the feud.
A 2012 History Channel miniseries about the feud helped stir up new interest. And the National Geographic Channel series "Diggers" will focus on the feud and the most recent dig in an episode airing Monday night.
Many believe the feud was rooted in the Civil War, but the bitterness was perpetuated by disputes over timber rights and even a pig. The fighting claimed at least a dozen lives by 1888. The feud officially ended in 2003, when descendants of the families signed a truce.
The saga even included an ill-fated love affair between Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy.
"The characters are just so amazing and so complex and so human," said feud expert Bill Richardson, an extension associate professor for West Virginia University. "They have all those human faults — greed, jealousy and lust. Honestly, it's like a Shakespearean play but it's true."
The families now share a kinship, said Eddie McCoy, who lives in South Carolina. During the dig, he said, a Hatfield descendant apologized for what her family did to his ancestors.
His reply: "You can't be apologetic for what happened in the past and what your ancestor did, because my ancestor did bad things to their family, too."

الخميس، 6 أغسطس 2015

Strange ‘figure’ spotted by Mars Curiosity Rover

The truth is out there … maybe. A mysterious woman-like shape in a picture taken by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is creating buzz on social media.
In a post entitled “Alien Woman on Mars Watching Rover From Hill” the UFO Sightings Daily website said that the shape “looks like a woman partly cloaked.”
Mashable is somewhat more circumspect in its analysis of the image. “Perhaps it's a cloaked ghost Martian woman, perhaps it's a statue left over from a once great society, perhaps it's a piece of dirt,” it said. (For the record, we agree with the “piece of dirt” assessment).
What do you think? Here’s a link to the image, which was posted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

الأربعاء، 5 أغسطس 2015

Tiny glider could cruise through Martian skies

A tiny aircraft could be plying Mars' skies less than a decade from now.
NASA researchers are developing a glider, called Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars (Prandtl-m), for possible inclusion on a Mars rover mission in the 2022-2024 time frame.
Prandtl-m would weigh a maximum of 2.6 lbs. here on Earth (1 lb in Mars' reduced-gravity environment) and feature a wingspan of just 24 inches, project team members said. The craft would fold up to fit inside a 3U cubesat — a spacecraft about the size of a loaf of bread — that would tag along with the rover. [History of Robotic Mars Missions (Infographic)]
"The aircraft would be part of the ballast that would be ejected from the aeroshell that takes the Mars rover to the planet," Prandtl-m program manager Al Bowers, the chief scientist at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, said in a statement.
"It would be able to deploy and fly in the Martian atmosphere and glide down and land," Bowers added. "The Prandtl-m could overfly some of the proposed landing sites for a future astronaut mission and send back to Earth very detailed high-resolution photographic map images that could tell scientists about the suitability of those landing sites."
The glider would have a flight time of 10 minutes in the Martian sky, and could cover about 20 miles, Bowers said.
Bowers and his team plan to test a Prandtl-m prototype (which will be designed and built with the help of community college students this summer) during a high-altitude balloon flight later this year, either from Tucson, Arizona, or Tillamook, Oregon.
The balloon will drop the aircraft at an altitude of about 100,000 feet, where the thin air provides a good analog of the Martian atmosphere.
"We could have one of two small science payloads on the Prandtl-m on that first balloon flight," Bowers said. "It might be the mapping camera, or one might be a small, high-altitude radiometer to measure radiation at very high altitudes of Earth's atmosphere. Eventually the aircraft may carry both of them at the same time."
A second balloon flight to about the same altitude is planned for 2016. In that test, Prandtl-m will be folded inside a cubesat container; after the drop, the glider will deploy from the container, unfold and fly away, Bowers said.
NASA's Flight Opportunities Program has agreed to fund both of these balloon-aided tests. If everything goes well, Prandtl-m may then find its way onto a sounding rocket that goes into suborbital space.
"That mission could be to 450,000 feet and the release from a cubesat at apogee. The aircraft would fall back into the Earth's atmosphere, and as it approaches the 110,000-to-115,000-feet altitude range, the glider would deploy just as though it was over the surface of Mars," Bowers said.
"If the Prandtl-m completes a 450,000-foot drop, then I think the project stands a very good chance of being able to go to NASA Headquarters and say we would like permission to ride to Mars with one of the rovers," he added.

NASA's Curiosity rover eyes weird rock on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity went out of its way to investigate a rock the likes of which it has never seen before on the Red Planet.
Measurements by Curiosity's rock-zapping ChemCam laser and another instrument revealed that the target, a chunk of bedrock dubbed Elk, contains high levels of silica and hydrogen, NASA officials said.
The abundance of silica — a silicon-oxygen compound commonly found here on Earth in the form of quartz — suggests that the bedrock may provide conditions conducive to the preservation of ancient carbon-containing organic molecules, if any exist in the area, the officials added. So Curiosity's handlers sent the rover back 151 feet to check Elk out. [Latest Amazing Mars Photos by NASA's Curiosity Rover]
"One never knows what to expect on Mars, but the Elk target was interesting enough to go back and investigate," ChemCam principal investigator Roger Wiens, of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in a statement.
Elk lies near a spot on the lower reaches of the 3.4-mile-high Mount Sharp, called Marias Pass, whose rocks Curiosity had been studying. Marias Pass is a "geological contact zone" where dark sandstone meets lighter mudstone.
"We found an outcrop named Missoula where the two rock types came together, but it was quite small and close to the ground," Curiosity project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in the same statement. "We used the robotic arm to capture a dog's-eye view with the MAHLI [Mars Hand Lens Imager] camera, getting our nose right in there."
ChemCam had fired at the Elk bedrock from the top of a small hill close to Marias Pass, which Curiosity had summitted before taking a look at the contact zone. After looking at the Missoula outcrop, the 1-ton rover began moving on, but an analysis of ChemCam's data persuaded the team to turn Curiosity around for a closer look at Elk, mission team members said.
"ChemCam acts like eyes and ears of the rover for nearby objects," Wiens said.
As Curiosity gathers data, mission engineers continue to investigate a short circuit that cropped up in the rover's sample-collecting drill in February. No short circuits occurred during a July 18 engineering test, so the Curiosity team plans to conduct some drilling trials on rocks in the near future, NASA officials said.
Curiosity has been exploring Mars' 96-mile-wide Gale Crater for nearly three years now. The six-wheeled robot touched down on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, on a mission to determine if Gale could ever have supported microbial life.
Curiosity scientists answered this question early in the mission, finding that Gale Crater once harbored an extensive lake-and-stream system that could have supported microbial life, if such organisms had ever evolved on the Red Planet.

الاثنين، 3 أغسطس 2015

Archaeologists uncover clues in Roanoke Island mystery

The mystery of Roanoke Island may be one for the books. Two archaeological teams have dug up new evidence pointing to the fate of English colonists who mysteriously vanished from the North Carolina island 425 years ago, National Geographic reports.
One collection of items appears to support the long-held theory that some colonists moved to Hatteras Island, about 50 miles southeast of Roanoke. "The evidence is that they assimilated with the Native Americans but kept their goods," says chief archaeologist Mark Horton.
Among the Hatteras Island finds: a small bit of a slate writing tablet marked by the letter "M," a rapier hilt likely dating to the late 16th century, and pieces of iron, ingot, and stoneware apparently dating to the same period.
What's more, the name of a native American settlement on Hatteras Island—"Croatoan"—was found etched into a post in 1590 when all the colonists had vanished. For the second find, archaeologists used a map drawn by colony governor John White in 1585.
The map includes an "X" obscured by a patch and may have been a "'cover-up' ... to keep information from the public and from foreign agents," a historian toldNational Geographic two years ago.
The "X" marked a site on Albemarle Sound, an estuary in North Carolina, where archaeologists recently discovered dozens of pottery pieces that resemble others found on Roanoke Island.
So is this finally proof? Not really, because it's hard to date items precisely or know how they got there. "What we’ve found is tantalizing," a volunteer says.
"I would love to see some definitive evidence, but what we have is fragmentary.” (In other US history news: Archaeologists have pinpointed a key location in the Hatfield-McCoy feud.)
This article originally appeared on Newser: Roanoke Island Mystery May Finally Be Solved

الأحد، 2 أغسطس 2015

Powerful El Niño could mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes, experts say

Scientists are carefully monitoring the development of El Niño, noting that the Pacific Ocean phenomenon could keep Atlantic hurricanes in check this year.
“The big news this year is the continued development of a powerful El Niño event, which is well known to suppress Atlantic hurricanes,” explained Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at MIT, in an email to “Thus, we expect an unusually inactive season this year.”
“We are revving up a very strong El Niño and that should lead to less Atlantic hurricanes this year,” added Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, in an email to
El Niño brings warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures to the central Pacific Ocean near the equator, which in turn alter wind patterns over the Atlantic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an El Niño advisory in March, noting the arrival of the ocean-atmospheric phenomenon.
In years when El Niño occurs, wind patterns are altered with vertical wind shear, or gradient, increasing over the Atlantic and Caribbean. “The increased wind shear helps to prevent tropical disturbances from developing into hurricanes,” according to an explainer on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignwebsite.
On Tuesday, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology noted that El Niño is now well established and continues to strengthen, predicting that the ocean phenomenon is likely to persist into early 2016.  
In addition to fewer Atlantic hurricanes, El Niño changes weather patterns worldwide, and is associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere, and a generally warmer globe.  El Niños are usually so important that economists track them because of how they affect commodities.
MIT’s Emanuel warns that powerful Atlantic hurricanes can still occur in El Niño years. “We must remember that Hurricane Andrew of 1992, which occurred in a very quiet El Niño year, was highly destructive,” he said.
However, the professor does not expect the recent heat wave that hit the Middle East to influence the Atlantic hurricane season. “To the best of my knowledge, there is no known connection between Middle Eastern drought and Atlantic hurricanes,” he said. “There does seem to be a connection with drought in the Sahel region of Africa:  when it is unusually dry there are fewer Atlantic storms.”
David Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University, told that the Middle East heat wave is one of a number of notable weather events occurring at the moment. “Right now the biggest anomaly out there is with the El Niño event in the tropical Pacific,” he explained in an email.  “However, there is also the warm pool of water persisting in the NW Pacific, a large area of low pressure that has been soaking Southeast Asia and the unusually strong and persistent dome of high pressure over the Middle East.”
So-called “dust veils” coming off the African coast across the Atlantic could be influenced by the Middle East heat dome, according to Robinson, further reducing the hurricane risk. “When dust veils like this occur, they tend to put a lid on atmospheric convection over areas favorable for tropical storm development,” he said. “Add to this the impact of the El Niño, which favors stronger-than-average winds across the Atlantic basin -- which tend to shear apart any rising motion -- and you have a recipe for a below-average hurricane season.”

The astonishing 390-year old bonsai tree that survived the Hiroshima atomic blast

The history of a 390-year old bonsai tree at the National Arboretum that survived the Hiroshima atomic blast is being honored this week. Thursday marks the 70thanniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.
The Japanese White Pine is in the Arboretum’s National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. The tree was donated in 1976 by bonsai master Masaru Yamaki as part of Japan’s Bicentennial gift to the American people.
However, the tree’s astonishing tale of survival was only revealed to the museum in 2001 during a visit by the late bonsai master’s grandsons Akira and Shigeru Yamaki.
The Washington Post reports that a walled bonsai nursery belonging to the Yamaki family was less than two miles from the site of the Hiroshima bomb blast, just far enough for the tree to survive. Jack Sustic, curator of the Bonsai and Penjing Museum, told the Washington Post that the ancient tree was up against the wall, which likely shielded it from the blast.
News footage taken at the Yamaki nursery after the atomic bomb blast shows the Japanese White Pine unscathed, according to the Washington Post.
The tree is the oldest bonsai in the National Arboretum’s collection.

السبت، 1 أغسطس 2015

Phenomenal temperatures slam Middle East, driven by extreme heat and humidity

The Middle East has been sweltering under some of the hottest weather conditions ever seen, driven by an unusual combination of extreme heat and humidity.

The heat index in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr soared into the 160s Friday and torrid temperatures forced the Iraqi government to declare a four-day holiday last week. AccuWeather reports that the actual temperature in Bandar Mahshahr was 115 degrees Friday, although a dew point temperature of 90 degrees pushed the city’s heat index to 163 degrees.

The heat index, also known as the apparent temperature, describes what the temperature feels like to the body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. The National Weather Service classifies a heat index of 125 degrees or higher as extremely dangerous, warning that heat stroke is highly likely.
The Middle East’s recent heat wave, or so-called “heat dome” has stunned meteorologists.
"A strong ridge of high pressure has persisted over the Middle East through much of July, resulting in the extreme heat wave in what many would consider one of the hottest places in the world," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani, in a statement, noting “incredibly high” levels of humidity.
"As the land heats up around the Persian Gulf, the air rises quickly and rushes inland from the Gulf, creating an onshore wind that pulls humid air sitting over the waters into coastal communities," he added.
AccuWeather noted that water temperatures in the Persian Gulf are running slightly above normal, contributing to the high humidity. “Believe it or not, it is always very humid in these places surrounding the Persian Gulf during the summer, but the nature of the extreme heat wave is causing some of the highest combinations of heat and humidity ever observed,” said Sagliani.
The highest known heat index is 178 degrees, recorded in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 2003 according to The Washington Post.
Iraq's Council of Ministers declared a four-day mandatory holiday beginning Thursday amid soaring temperatures. The statement, delivered on state-run Iraqiyya TV, was the second heat advisory issued by the Iraqi government in July.
Baghdad experienced its record high Thursday when temperatures soared to 124 degrees, according to AccuWeather.
High summer temperatures are standard in Iraq, but widespread power and water cuts complicate everyday life when the temperatures soar. Residents are typically advised to limit any outdoor activities for the duration of the heat wave.


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