By Jason Samenow

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” Baker tells NASA. “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.”

A CME double whammy of this potency striking Earth would likely cripple satellite communications and could severely damage the power grid. NASA offers this sobering assessment:

Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

CWG’s Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: “The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general.”

Solar physicists compare the 2012 storm to the so-called Carrington solar storm of September 1859, named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who documented the event.

“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” Baker tells NASA. “The only difference is, it missed.”

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA notes.

NASA says the July 2012 storm was particularly intense because a CME had traveled along the same path just days before the July 23 double whammy – clearing the way for maximum effect, like a snowplow.

“This double-CME traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by yet another CME four days earlier,” NASA says. ” As a result, the storm clouds were not decelerated as much as usual by their transit through the interplanetary medium.”

NASA’s online article about the science of this solar storm is well-worth the read. Perhaps the scariest finding reported in the article is this: There is a 12 percent chance of a Carrington-type event on Earth in the next 10 years according to Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc.

“Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct,” Riley tells NASA. “It is a sobering figure.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/07/23/how-a-solar-storm-nearly-destroyed-life-as-we-know-it-two-years-ago/

A self-taught 16-year-old coder from Seattle, Washington, has created a web browser plug-in that won’t let you forget the pervasive and corrupting influence of money in politics.

Called “Greenhouse,” the plug-in picks out the names of any members of Congress on a given web page. Users can then mouse-over those members of Congress to see their top donors, and what percentage of their funding came from small-dollar donations. Here’s an example, taken from a story in today’s New York Times about climate skeptics’ opposition to new carbon emission regulations:

Readers of this article, with the “Greenhouse” plug-in installed, might draw a connection between Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe’s climate skepticism and the money his 2012 campaign received from the oil and gas industry and the mining industry ($558,150 and $150,850 respectively).

Nicholas Rubin, the concerned (but not-yet-old-enough-to-vote) citizen behind the plug-in, first became interested in the issue when he gave a school presentation on corporate personhood while in the seventh grade. About a year later, Lawrence Lessig — the Harvard law professor and activist — provided Rubin with further inspiration. “I went to see Larry Lessig talk about campaign finance at the town hall here in Seattle. Both of these events sparked an interest in me,” Rubin told BillMoyers.com. “It made me angry. I remember asking my dad (multiple times) questions like ‘How is this legal?’”

When it came time to test the project, Rubin got in touch with Lessig, who signed on as the first beta tester. “He loved Greenhouse, and helped me by giving feedback and ideas along the way,” Rubin said.

Read more about the plug-in and try it out at Rubin’s site, allaregreen.us »

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Surgeons in Mumbai have removed 232 teeth from the mouth of an Indian teenager in what they believe may be a world-record operation.

Ashik Gavai, 17, sought medical help for a swelling on the right side of his lower jaw and the case was referred to the city’s JJ hospital, where they found he was suffering from a condition known as complex odontoma, said head of dentistry Sunanda Dhivare-Palwankar.

“We operated on Monday and it took us almost seven hours. We thought it may be a simple surgery but once we opened it there were multiple pearl-like teeth inside the jaw bone,” she said.

After removing those they found a larger “marble-like” structure that they struggled to shift and eventually had to “chisel out” and remove in fragments.

Ashik’s father, Suresh Gavai, said the family had been worried that the swelling was a malignant growth.

“I was worried that it may turn out to be cancer so I brought him to Mumbai,” Gavai told the Mumbai Mirror newspaper.

Dhivare-Palwankar said the literature they had come across on the condition showed a maximum of 37 teeth being removed in such a procedure, whereas she and her team had counted more than 232 taken from Gavai’s mouth.

“I think it could be a world record,” she said.

Gavai’s jawbone structure was maintained during the operation so it should heal without deformities, the surgeon added.

Thanks to Dr. Nakamura for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/24/indian-boy-has-232-teeth-removed

A Japanese jeans maker has found a new way of capitalising on zoo animals. Zoo Jeans are producing jeans “designed by dangerous animals”. Denim is wrapped around tyres, which are then thrown to the lions who enjoy ripping and biting at the material. This produces that all-important designer, distressed look.

Rather than simply being a marketing gimic, there is actually value in this from an animal welfare perspective. Involving lions and the zoo’s other large carnivores in the activity is part of what’s called environmental enrichment. This is the provision of stimuli to help improve well-being. It’s a win-win activity for many zoos, who can make alternative profits from their animals, which tend to be used to provide extra facilities for them.

Wrapping denim around a tyre to make enrichment devices for toothy carnivores is just one way that zoos have profited from their animals’ hobbies over the years. Since their inception, zoos have looked for different ways to fund their activities. London Zoo when it first opened would let in penniless visitors for a cat or dog to be fed to the carnivores. Visitors with money were offered other things to keep themselves amused as they looked at the animals.

read more: http://theconversation.com/jeans-designed-by-lions-and-tigers-are-a-win-win-for-zoos-28988

by Greg Myre

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Mourners carry coffins through the streets of Tehran, Iran, on July 7, 1988, during a mass funeral for victims of a downed Iran Air flight. The U.S. Navy shot down the civilian plane in the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 onboard, after mistaking it for an Iranian warplane.

Ukrainian officials say pro-Russian separatists may have shot down the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed Thursday in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard.

It’s rare, but not unprecedented, for civilian airliners to be shot down. In fact, it’s happened before in Ukraine, just 13 years ago.

Back in 2001, the Ukrainian military accidentally shot down a Russian civilian plane while conducting an exercise on the Crimean Peninsula — the very territory that Russia seized earlier this year, prompting the current crisis in Ukraine.

Here’s a list of the deadliest such episodes:

Israel Shoots Down An Errant Libyan Plane: The Libyan Airlines Boeing 727 left the capital, Tripoli, on Feb. 21, 1973, heading east for Cairo when it suffered the double whammy of bad weather and equipment failure. It flew past Cairo and entered the Sinai Peninsula, which was controlled by Israel at the time. Two Israeli warplanes intercepted the Libyan aircraft, and when it refused to land, the Israelis shot it down, killing all but five of the 113 onboard.

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Men sift through the wreckage of an Air Rhodesia plane shot down by guerrilla fighters in September 1978 in northern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The rebels shot down another Air Rhodesia flight five months later.

Rhodesian Rebels Bring Down Two Planes: During the 1970s civil war in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), guerrillas shot down two Air Rhodesia commercial flights in the space of five months. In the first attack, on Sept. 3, 1978, rebels of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army shot down a plane going from Kariba to the capital, Salisbury (now Harare). Of the 56 people onboard, 18 survived the crash, but rebels killed 10 of them at the crash site. Then, on Feb. 12, 1979, the same rebel group used another missile to bring down a second Air Rhodesia plane traveling the same route. All 59 people onboard were killed.

Soviets Take Out A Korean Plane Carrying A U.S. Congressman: In a 1983 episode that dramatically raised Cold War tensions, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 strayed off course, apparently because of pilot error, on a flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to the Korean capital, Seoul. After the Boeing 747 entered prohibited Soviet airspace, a Soviet fighter jet blew it out of the sky near the island of Sakhalin, to the east of the Soviet mainland, killing all 269 onboard, including U.S. Rep. Lawrence McDonald of Georgia.


A Korean Airlines official, Suk Jin-ku, examines a piece of aircraft debris in Japan on Sept. 12, 1983. Eleven days earlier, a Soviet warplane shot down a Korean Air Lines plane that had strayed into Soviet airspace. All 269 people onboard were killed, including U.S. Rep. Lawrence McDonald.

U.S. Navy Shoots Down An Iranian Plane Over The Persian Gulf: In a tense time in a volatile region, the USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser, was in the Persian Gulf in 1988 to help keep the key oil shipping lane open and to monitor the war between Iran and Iraq. According to the U.S. government, a helicopter from the Vincennes came under warning fire from Iranian speedboats. Such small-scale incidents took place with some regularity at the time.

The Vincennes then entered Iranian territorial waters and spotted an aircraft that it thought was an Iranian F-14 fighter plane. However, it was actually a civilian Iran Air Airbus A300, flying over Iran’s territorial waters on its regular route from Tehran to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The Vincennes fired a surface-to-air missile that destroyed the plane, killing all 290 onboard. Under a 1996 agreement at the International Court of Justice, the U.S. agreed to pay Iran $61.8 million.

Ukrainian Military Accidentally Shoots Down A Russian Civilian Plane: The Ukrainian military was carrying out exercises on the Crimean Peninsula on Oct. 4, 2001, when it launched a surface-to-air missile that struck a Siberia Airlines plane as it was traveling from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk, Russia. All 78 people onboard were killed when the plane disintegrated over the Black Sea.

The episode came less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, and there was immediate speculation that it was a terrorist attack. As suspicion turned to the Ukrainian military, the government initially denied responsibility, but eventually it acknowledged that it was to blame for the accidental hit.

And that brings us to more recent events. Russia seized and annexed Crimea earlier this year, fueling the current crisis, which has included the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatists in that region have brought down several Ukrainian military aircraft in recent months.

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/07/17/332318322/a-brief-history-of-civilian-planes-that-have-been-shot-down

A student in Taiwan who kept a pair of disposable contact lenses in her eyes for six months has been left blinded after a microscopic bug devoured her eyeballs.

The tiny single-cell amoeba ate away at undergraduate Lian Kao’s sight because she didn’t take out and clean the contacts once during that time.

According to a warning issued by doctors the case was a particularly severe example of a young person under pressure who did not take the time to carry out basic hygiene on their contact lenses

As well as being regularly cleaned, contact lenses should also be removed when swimming and washing.

The general advice is to avoid wearing contacts for more than eight hours a day.

Yet apparently 23-year-old Kao had even kept her contact lenses in at all times, even at the swimming pool.

Medics were horrified when they removed the contact lenses to find that the surface of the girl’s eyes had literally been eaten by the amoeba that had been able to breed in the perfect conditions that existed between the contact lens and the eye.

The director of ophthalmology at Taipei’s Wan Fang Hospital, Wu Jian-liang, said: ‘Contact lens wearers are a high-risk group that can easily be exposed to eye diseases.

‘A shortage of oxygen can destroy the surface of the epithelial tissue, creating tiny wounds into which the bacteria can easily infect, spreading to the rest of the eye and providing a perfect breeding ground.

‘The girl should have thrown the contact lenses away after a month but instead she overused them and has now permanently damaged her corneas.’

He said that she had been diagnosed with acanthamoeba keratitis, which although rare was always more common in the summer.

He confirmed and spoke about the girl’s case as a way of urging others to be more careful if they had to use contact lenses.

The problem is the condition can build up over several years – it’s only when it gets to an advanced stage that contacts wearers become aware of a problem, as that’s when it will cause red, irritated eyes, by which time it may be too late.

Acanthamoeba bugs stick to contact lenses and can then burrow their way through the cornea, causing acute pain.

It’s only at this stage that a sufferer would be aware they had a problem.

Prescription drugs may be able to treat the bug in the early stages, but specialists say it is very difficult to get rid of. In serious cases, the patient needs a corneal transplant but these have a high failure rate, resulting in sight loss.

Other steps to prevent the infection include never swimming or using a hot tub or shower when wearing contacts.

Each year, infections cause around 6,000 cases of a severe eye condition known as microbial keratitis – inflammation and ulceration of the cornea that can lead to vision loss.

Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk, since bacteria can get trapped in the lenses.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2687477/Student-goes-blind-keeping-contact-lenses-six-months-microscopic-bug-EATS-eyeballs.html#ixzz37dnGxTKv

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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Tourists at Yellowstone National Park are being barred from areas of the park because the massive underground supervolcano beneath it is melting the asphalt roads.

“It basically turned the asphalt into soup. It turned the gravel road into oatmeal,” Yellowstone spokesman Dan Hottle said. In particular, Hottle said that the road between the park’s most popular attraction, Old Faithful, and Madison Junction has been dangerously compromised.

Park officials also asked tourists not to hike into the affected areas, as the danger of stepping through what appears to be solid soil into boiling-hot water was “high.”

There are plenty of other great places to see thermal features in the park,” park spokesman Al Nash told The Weather Channel. “I wouldn’t risk personal injury to see these during this temporary closure.”

It is not known when the road, which services the three million people who visit the park every year, will be reopened.

The last time the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone actually erupted was 640,000 years ago, U.S. Geological Survey records show.

Late last year, geologists discovered that the supervolcano was more than twice as large as previously thought.

“We found it to be about two-and-a-half times larger than we thought,” the University of Utah’s James Farrell told National Geographic. “That’s not to say it’s getting any bigger,” he added, “just that our ability to see it is getting better.”

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/14/parts-of-yellowstone-national-park-closed-after-massive-supervolcano-beneath-it-melts-roads/?onswipe_redirect=no&oswrr=1