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The Chicken from Hell

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Dinosaur dubbed ‘chicken from hell’ was armed and dangerous

Feathered beast, Anzu wyliei, was built for speed, measured three metres from beak to tail and had long, sharp claws

The dinosaur Anzu wyliei ‘looks like something that was placed in the Cretaceous by a Hollywood monster movie director’. Illustration: Mark Klingler/Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The fossilised remains of a bizarre, bird-like dinosaur, nicknamed the “chicken from hell” by scientists, have been unearthed in the US.

The 66-million-year-old feathered beast would have resembled a beefed-up emu with a long neck, a metre-long tail and a tall crest on its head. At the end of its forelimbs were long, sharp claws. The creature stood 1.5 metres high at the hip and reached more than three metres from beak to tail. Researchers believe it lived on ancient floodplains and fed on plants, small animals and possibly eggs. An adult weighed up to 300kg.

Researchers dug the remains from mudstone in the Hell Creek formation in North and South Dakota, where fossil hunters have previously excavated bones from Tyrannosaurus rex and triceratops. Over the past decade they have recovered three partial skeletons of the animal but until now had not recognised it as a new genus and species of a mysterious family of dinosaurs called Caenagnathidae. The fossils are being kept at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.

Scientists working on the remains coined the “chicken from hell” monicker, which later influenced their choice of its more formal name, Anzu wyliei. Anzu is the name of a giant bird-like demon from ancient mythology. Wyliei comes from Wylie J Tuttle, the son of a donor who helps to fund research at the museum.

The animal belongs to a group called the oviraptorosaurs, which are mostly known from fossils found in central and east Asia but the remains provide the first detailed picture of the North American oviraptorosaurs.

“For almost a hundred years, the presence of oviraptorosaurs in North America was only known from a few bits of skeleton, and the details of their appearance and biology remained a mystery,” said Hans-Dieter Sues, curator of vertebrate palaeontology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “With the discovery of A. wyliei, we finally have the fossil evidence to show what this species looked like and how it is related to other dinosaurs.”

Anzu had the build of a fast runner and with substantial claws at the tips of its forelimbs was well-equipped to fight. A close inspection of the fossils revealed that two showed signs of skirmishes. One had a healed broken rib. Another had an arthritic toe that was probably caused by a tendon being ripped off the bone. The fossils are described in the journal Plos One.

Artist's impression of the new oviraptorosaurian dinosaur species Anzu wyliei An artist’s impression of A. wyliei. Illustration: Bob Walters

“Whether these injuries were the result of combat between two individuals or an attack by a larger predator remains a mystery,” said Emma Schachner, a palaeontologist at the University of Utah.

Anzu is not the largest of the oviraptorosaurs found to date. The aptly named Gigantoraptor discovered in Inner Mongolia in 2005 grew to around eight metres long and weighed more than a tonne. “We’re finding that the caenagnathids were an amazingly diverse bunch of dinosaurs,” said Matthew Lamanna at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

“Whereas some were turkey-sized, others like Anzu and Gigantoraptor, were the kind of thing you definitely wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.”

 

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12th May or 5th Dec?

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Why do Americans write the month before the day?

We explore the possible reasons for this mad anomaly and hear your explanations

Does this look like a typo to you? Image: Corbis Premium RF/Alamy/Mona Chalabi

If you ask an American about the way their dates are formatted, you may get a response as defensive as ‘my jumper is not on back to front, it’s supposed to have the v at the back!’.

But let’s face it, it’s weird. Basic group behaviour shows it’s weird. Despite the variety of date formats used around world, the US is the only country to insist on using mm-dd-yyyy.

Date formats around the world

Image: John Harding/Mona Chalabi

 

This condition is diagnosed as middle-endianness. Seriously. It comes from computer science where bytes are arranged according to their size. If the order has larger ones at the front, it’s known as big-endian and so too are dates formatted with the years first (see the likes of China and Mongolia in the map above).

Even more bizarrely, computer scientists got their inspiration for the term ‘endianness’ from Jonathan Swift’s 1726 epic Gulliver’s Travels.  In the fictional kingdom of Lilliput people have to open their soft-boiled eggs at the small end (it’s a royal decree). While in Blefuscu, eggs are cracked from the other end. Lilliputians are small-endians while Blefuscudians are big-endians. Again, seriously.

Jonathan Swift, like the computer scientists, was basically saying that systems are needed to organise even the most irrelevant seeming of things. As Danny Cohen writes “Swift’s point is that the difference between breaking the egg at the little-end and breaking it at the big-end is trivial… but we insist that everyone must do it in the same way, to avoid anarchy. Since the difference is trivial we may choose either way, but a decision must be made.”

But why did Americans choose the way they did? Actually, the dozens and dozens of chat forums on the topic reveals that people don’t really seem to have an answer. We don’t. If you think you do, post a comment below to let us know. Though it seems that Googlers (most of them small-endians) are far more puzzled by other American choices.

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The man who may have saved the world

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Stanislav Petrov:

Stanislav Petrov says no-one would have blamed him if he’d just passed the information on

Thirty years ago, on 26 September 1983, the world was saved from potential nuclear disaster.

In the early hours of the morning, the Soviet Union’s early-warning systems detected an incoming missile strike from the United States. Computer readouts suggested several missiles had been launched. The protocol for the Soviet military would have been to retaliate with a nuclear attack of its own.

But duty officer Stanislav Petrov – whose job it was to register apparent enemy missile launches – decided not to report them to his superiors, and instead dismissed them as a false alarm.

This was a breach of his instructions, a dereliction of duty. The safe thing to do would have been to pass the responsibility on, to refer up.

But his decision may have saved the world.

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Something they Should have Told Us!

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1961

…and this could have been North Carolina.

US plane in 1961 ‘nuclear bomb near-miss’

Image: The Guardian

Image: BBC News

Eric Schlosser: ‘We nearly had a hydrogen bomb detonate a few days after JFK’s inauguration’

A four-megaton nuclear bomb was one switch away from exploding over the US in 1961, a newly declassified US document confirms.

Two bombs were on board a B-52 plane that went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina – both bombs fell and one began the detonation process.

The document was first published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

The US government has acknowledged the accident before, but never made public how close the bomb came to detonating.

The document was obtained by journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act.

Schlosser told the BBC such an explosion would have “changed literally the course of history”.

The plane was on a routine flight when it began to break up over North Carolina on 23 January 1961.

As it was breaking apart, a control inside the cockpit released the two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs over Goldsboro.

One fell to the ground unarmed. But the second “assumed it was being deliberately released over an enemy target – and went through all its arming mechanisms save one, and very nearly detonated over North Carolina,” Mr Schlosser told the BBC’s Katty Kay.

Only the failure of a single low-voltage switch prevented disaster, he said.

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Yes, I think that’s something they should have told us…

The Most Unsecret Secret

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Area 51 ‘declassified’ in U-2 spy plane history

Area 51, so-named for its designation on a 1950s-era map, surrounds a dry lake bed, Groom Lake

The CIA has officially acknowledged the secret US test site known as Area 51, in a newly unclassified internal history of the U-2 spy plane programme.

The document obtained by a US university describes the 1955 acquisition of the Nevada site for testing of the secret spy plane.

It also explains the site’s lingering association with UFOs and aliens.

The remote patch of desert surrounding Groom Lake was chosen because it was adjacent to a nuclear testing facility.

“The U-2 was absolutely top secret,” Chris Pocock, a British defence journalist and author of histories of the programme, told the BBC.

“They had to hide everything about it.”

The U-2 plane, developed to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, is still flown by the US Air Force.

Reports of UFOs

The document, a secret 1992 internal CIA history of the U-2 programme, was originally declassified in 1998 with heavy redactions.

Many of the blacked-out details were revealed this month after a public records request by the National Security Archive at the George Washington University in Washington DC.

The site was selected for the U-2 programme in 1955 after an aerial survey by CIA and Air Force staff.

According to the history, President Dwight Eisenhower personally signed off on the acquisition.

Officials from the CIA, Air Force and Lockheed, the contractor building the U-2, began moving into the facility in July 1955.

While a lengthy account of the development of the U-2 spy plane programme, the history also attempts to shed light on the public’s fascination with the Area 51 site and its lingering associations with extra-terrestrials and UFOs.

It notes that testing of the U-2 plane in the 1950s – at altitudes much higher than commercial aeroplanes then flew – provoked “a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects (UFOs)”.

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The Pot Pot Rots

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The great marijuana (Cannabis sativa) debate.

Marijuana has had a potted history, controlled in 1906 as a medicine, until it was banned outright in  the 1930s.

“Several scholars argue that the goal was to destroy the hemp industry, largely as an effort of Hearst, Andrew Mellon and the Du Pont family. They argue that with the invention of the decorticator hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry.They also believe that Hearst felt that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America and had invested heavily in nylon, DuPont’s new synthetic fiber, and considered its success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp.” – Wikipedia

FBN public service announcement used in the late 1930s and 1940s – image: Wikipedia

A campaign to justify the banning by smearing the reputation of cannabis was waged, and the moneybags won; cannabis became illegal.

Since this time the laws have made millions of criminals, made cannabis a source of income for the drug cartels and dealers as the world waged a war on it.

The war has been totally ineffective, it has not decreased usage; quite the opposite it increased usage. Billions of dollars have been spent in this futility.

Some countries began to question the effectiveness of the ban; with places like Holland, Belgium and Portugal timidly making inroads to normality. Meanwhile a few Latin American countries have begun to question the situation too.

Now we come to an unassuming man, a humble man, one José Mujica, he is the president of Uruguay. José Mujica is the antithesis of nearly every president in the world, he is the president that we all deserve instead of the arrogant power hungry bastards that we are saddled with. Previous post on The World’s Poorest President

Uruguay MPs back marijuana legalisation bill

Those supporting the bill want it passed quickly

Members of Uruguay’s House of Representatives have passed a bill to legalise marijuana.

If it goes on to be approved by the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

The measure is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica, who says it will remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs.

Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana.

The state would assume “the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products”.

Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.

Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.

Political tussle

The bill was approved by 50 of the 96 MPs present in the lower house following a fierce 13-hour debate in the capital, Montevideo.

The supporters of the measure argued that the fight against drugs and drug trafficking had failed, and the country needed “new alternatives”.

“The regulation is not to promote consumption; consumption already exists,” said Sebastian Sabini of the governing centre-left Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition, which has a majority of one in the lower house.

Marijuana use has reportedly doubled in Uruguay over the past year. An estimated 22 tonnes of marijuana are being sold in the country annually, according to Uruguay’s National Drugs Committee.

But Gerardo Amarilla of the opposition National Party said the government was “playing with fire” given the health risks he said were linked to marijuana use.

All eyes were on Dario Perez, a member of the governing coalition but a strong opponent of the bill, whose vote could have scuppered the bill.

During his 20-minute speech, Mr Perez reiterated his belief that the issue should be put to a referendum and not have been “imposed” by the government.

But to applause by supporters of the bill in the public gallery, he finally concluded that as long as he was a member of the coalition, he would vote with it, despite his personal misgivings.

The bill is now expected to be approved by the Senate, where the left-wing government has a bigger majority.

But opposition politicians said that even if the law made it through the senate, they would launch a petition to have it overturned.

A survey carried out before the vote by polling organisation Cifra suggested 63% of Uruguayans opposed the bill.

Papal opposition

The progress of the bill is being watched closely across the region, says BBC Mundo correspondent in the region Ignacio de los Reyes.

President Jose Mujica says he has never tried marijuana but believes it should be legalised

For decades, drug trafficking has caused tens of thousands of deaths throughout Latin America.

Uruguay may have not experienced the bloodshed caused by drug trafficking, but the proposal could be seen as a test for violence-torn nations looking for an end to their drug wars, our correspondent adds.

The vote also comes just days after Pope Francis criticised drug legalisation plans during a visit to neighbouring Brazil.

The pontiff said it was “necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future”.

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The Mysterious North Brother Island

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A forgotten isle in the East River between Bronx and Rikers Island, NYC

mapnorthbrother

Abandoned Riverside Hospital

Abandoned Riverside Hospital

Abandoned for 50 years now.

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northbrotherstairs

You can read about the history on Wikipedia

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