April 15th is usually known for one reason only: Tax Day. However, this year citizens of North and South America are in for something a little more special. On the cosmic schedule this April are a full lunar eclipse and a Mars opposition. So how does all that work exactly? And what does it mean?
To begin with, a full lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is situated directly between the sun and the moon. Hence, the Earth casts its shadow straight on the surface of the usually bright full moon. On April 15th commencing at 1:58am the moon will be shifting into the Earth’s Umbra. Umbra is a word derived from Latin meaning “shade” or “shadow.” At this point the moon will only begin to be covered by the shadow as it assumes a reddish hue. From here on in the moon is in the process of a complete eclipse. The second phase of the eclipse will begin at around 3:07am when the moon will be exactly within the Earth’s Umbra and covered completed. This phase of the eclipse lasts over an hour until 4:25am. Then the third phase begins as the moon exists the Umbra.
The eclipse will be completely over by 5:33am. Lunar eclipses can be seen with the naked eye, binoculars, telescopes and require no special equipment as the solar eclipse does. The lunar eclipse and Mars opposition comprise a valuable and dear experience to star gazers in the Western hemisphere. However, astrologers will not be the only ones appreciate the beauty which these events offer.
What is a Mars opposition? Well, as the planets in the solar system revolve in elliptical patterns they are sometimes closer and further away from other planets. In this case, Mars is closer to Earth than it has been since 2007. Many still remember back in 2003 when Mars was extremely bright and visible to the naked eye for weeks. This event is similar except that the proximity of Mars is smaller at this time. Mars will be a mere 50 million miles away. On April 8th, as the sun is setting in the west, gazers should look directly to the east and there will discover a bright red dot on the celestial fabric. It is said that Mars will appear brighter even than the Sirius- that bright star within Canis Major which philosophers often look up to when deep in thought outside at night.
Mars will appear bright throughout the spring and summer though April 8th is the ideal night to catch a glimpse. Throughout the lunar eclipse it will also be brightly visible along with Saturn, Venus and Jupiter. It seems that the sky will be smiling down for tax day.
Many cultures both ancient and recent have looked up into the sky and deciphered these signs written in the stars. The Moon stands for the feminine, reflective side of people while the Sun is the masculine and active. Mars is the planet not only of war but of motivation and unstoppable force. Jupiter stands for justice, glory and honor, Venus for love and attraction and Saturn is the taskmaster who commands the attention of these aspects and puts them into action. For those who rely on the stars to plan certain events, this may be a very special night to commence.
With a lunar eclipse and Mars opposition, April is turning out to be a very powerful month. Be sure to make the most of it. With Mars in such a strong position, remember to wait for the right moment to make a move. With the lunar eclipse, remember to take time to reflect on thoughts and emotions. All in all, humanity is made of the stars and planets. Perhaps on April 15th the stars will be looking back down at Earth instead of the other way around.
By Susanna Capelouto, CNN
Since February 49 people have gotten sick and 29 have died from an unidentified illness characterized by fever, diarrhea and vomiting in Guinea, according to the West African nation’s minister of health, Remy Lamah.
Lamah said initial test results confirm the presence of a viral hemorrhagic fever, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body.
The Guinean health ministry warned in a statement that the disease is mainly spread from infected people, objects belonging to ill or dead people and by the consumption of meat from animals in the bush.
So far, most of the cases have been in the forest area of southern Guinea, and health officials say they are offering free treatment for all patients.
They’ve urged people to stay calm, wash their hands and report all cases to authorities.
The next threat to your privacy could be hovering over head while you walk down the street.
Hackers have developed a drone that can steal the contents of your smartphone — from your location data to your Amazon password — and they’ve been testing it out in the skies of London. The research will be presented next week at the Black Hat Asia cybersecurity conference in Singapore.
The technology equipped on the drone, known as Snoopy, looks for mobile devices with Wi-Fi settings turned on.
Snoopy takes advantage of a feature built into all smartphones and tablets: When mobile devices try to connect to the Internet, they look for networks they’ve accessed in the past.
“Their phone will very noisily be shouting out the name of every network its ever connected to,” Sensepost security researcher Glenn Wilkinson said. “They’ll be shouting out, ‘Starbucks, are you there?…McDonald’s Free Wi-Fi, are you there?”
That’s when Snoopy can swoop into action (and be its most devious, even more than the cartoon dog): the drone can send back a signal pretending to be networks you’ve connected to in the past. Devices two feet apart could both make connections with the quadcopter, each thinking it is a different, trusted Wi-Fi network. When the phones connect to the drone, Snoopy will intercept everything they send and receive.
“Your phone connects to me and then I can see all of your traffic,” Wilkinson said.
That includes the sites you visit, credit card information entered or saved on different sites, location data, usernames and passwords. Each phone has a unique identification number, or MAC address, which the drone uses to tie the traffic to the device.
The names of the networks the phones visit can also be telling.
“I’ve seen somebody looking for ‘Bank X’ corporate Wi-Fi,” Wilkinson said. “Now we know that that person works at that bank.”
CNNMoney took Snoopy out for a spin in London on a Saturday afternoon in March and Wilkinson was able to show us what he believed to be the homes of several people who had walked underneath the drone. In less than an hour of flying, he obtained network names and GPS coordinates for about 150 mobile devices.
He was also able to obtain usernames and passwords for Amazon, PayPal and Yahoo accounts created for the purposes of our reporting so that we could verify the claims without stealing from passersby.
Collecting metadata, or the device IDs and network names, is probably not illegal, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Intercepting usernames, passwords and credit card information with the intent of using them would likely violate wiretapping and identity theft laws.
Wilkinson, who developed the technology with Daniel Cuthbert at Sensepost Research Labs, says he is an ethical hacker. The purpose of this research is to raise awareness of the vulnerabilities of smart devices.
Installing the technology on drones creates a powerful threat because drones are mobile and often out of sight for pedestrians, enabling them to follow people undetected.
While most of the applications of this hack are creepy, it could also be used for law enforcement and public safety. During a riot, a drone could fly overhead and identify looters, for example.
Users can protect themselves by shutting off Wi-Fi connections and forcing their devices to ask before they join networks.
When an elephant killed a Maasai woman collecting firewood near Kenya’s Amboseli National Park in 2007, a group of young Maasai men retaliated by spearing one of the animals.
“It wasn’t the one that had killed the woman, says Graeme Shannon, a behavioral ecologist at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins. “It was just the first elephant they encountered—a young bull on the edge of a swamp.”
The Maasai spiked him with spears and, their anger spent, returned home. Later, the animal died from his wounds.
Elephants experience those kinds of killings sporadically. Yet the attacks happen often enough that the tuskers have learned that the Maasai—and Maasai men in particular—are dangerous.
The elephants in the Amboseli region are so aware of this that they can even distinguish between Ma, the language of the Maasai, and other languages, says a team of researchers, who report their findings today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The results add to “our growing knowledge of the discriminatory abilities of the elephant mind, and how elephants make decisions and see their world,” says Joyce Poole, an elephant expert with ElephantVoices in Masai Mara, Kenya.
Indeed, previous studies have shown that the Amboseli elephants can tell the cattle-herding, red-robed Maasai apart from their agricultural and more blandly dressed neighbors, the Kamba people, simply by scent and the color of their dress.
The elephants know too that walking through villages on weekends is dangerous, as is crop raiding during the full moon.
They’re equally aware of their other key predator, lions, and from their roars, know how many lions are in a pride and if a male lion (the bigger threat because he can bring down an elephant calf) is present.
And they know exactly how to respond to lions roaring nearby: run them off with a charge.
Intriguingly, when the Amboseli elephants encounter a red cloth, such as those worn by the Maasai, they also react aggressively. But they employ a different tactic when they catch the scent of a Maasai man: They run away. Smelling the scent of a Kamba man, however, troubles them far less.
“They have very clear behavioral responses in all of these situations,” says Karen McComb, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Sussex, in the United Kingdom. “We wondered if they would react differently to different human voices.”
To find out, she and her colleagues played recordings to elephant families of Maasai and Kamba men, as well as Maasai women and boys, speaking a simple phrase in their language: “Look, look over there, a group of elephants is coming.”
Over a two-year period, they carried out 142 such playbacks with 47 elephant families, each time playing a different human voice through a concealed speaker placed 50 meters (164 feet) from the animals. They video-recorded the elephants’ reactions to the various human voices, including a Maasai man’s voice they altered to sound like a woman’s.
As soon as an elephant family heard an adult Maasai man speak, the matriarch didn’t hesitate, the researchers say. “She instantly retreats,” Shannon says. “But it’s a silent retreat. They sometimes make a low rumble, and may smell for him, too, but they’re already leaving, and bunching up into a defensive formation. It’s a very different response to when they hear lions.”
In contrast, the voices of Kamba men didn’t cause nearly as strong a defensive reaction: The elephants didn’t consider the Kamba a serious threat.
“That subtle discrimination is easy for us to do, but then we speak human language,” says Richard Byrne, a cognitive biologist at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland. “It’s interesting that elephants can also detect the characteristic differences between the languages.”
The Amboseli elephants were also sufficiently tuned in to the Maasai language that they could tell women’s and boys’ voices from men’s, seldom turning tail in response. “Maasai women and boys don’t kill elephants,” Shannon points out. Nor were the elephants tricked by the man’s altered voice; when they heard it, they left at once.
“The elephants’ decision-making is very precise,” McComb says, “and it illustrates how they’ve adapted where they can to coexist with us. They’d rather run away than tangle with a human predator.”
Why, one wonders, don’t elephants retreat when poachers descend on them?
“Unfortunately, there are going to be things they cannot adapt to, things such as humans’ ability to come after them with automatic weapons or mass poisonings,” McComb says. “And in those situations, we have to protect them—or we will lose them, ultimately.”
Annapolis Police Chief Michael A. Pristoop thought he came prepared when he testified before a Maryland state Senate panel on Tuesday about the perils of legalizing marijuana.
In researching his testimony against two bills before the Judicial Proceedings Committee, Pristoop said, he had found a news article to illustrate the risks of legalization: 37 people in Colorado, he said, had died of marijuana oversdoses on the very day that the state legalized pot.
“When he said it, everyone in the room dropped their laptops,” Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) said in an e-mail.
Trouble is, the facts were about as close to the truth as oregano is to pot. After a quick Google search on his laptop, Raskin — the sponsor of the legalization bill that was the subject of the Senate hearing — advised the chief that the Colorado overdose story, despite its deadpan delivery, had been made up for laughs by The Daily Currant, an online comedy magazine.
“I had not seen the spoof before, but it was self-evidently a parody,” Raskin said. “In the absence of real data, Internet hoaxes are becoming marijuana Prohibition’s last stand.”
Pristoop was among more than 100 people who testified at the hearing to give their views about legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. Most witnesses said they were in favor of Raskin’s bill, which would legalize marijuana and tax and regulate its distribution and use. A separate bill, sponsored by Sens. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) and Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard), would impose a civil fine of $100 for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Late Tuesday, the chief apologized for the mistake, admitting in a news release that he had been duped.
“I apologize for the information I provided concerning the deaths. I believed the information I obtained was accurate, but I now know the story is nothing more than an urban legend,” Pristoop said. “This does not take away from the other facts presented in opposition to legalization or the good work of the Maryland Chiefs and Maryland Sheriffs Associations.”
Maj. Scott Baker said the chief and the department regretted the erroneous testimony but were also trying to take the mistake in stride, with a bit of humor.
“His numbers are up in smoke,” Baker acknowledged Wednesday — a sly tip of the hat to Cheech & Chong’s 1978 stoner movie.
Here’s an excerpt from the satirical — and totally fictional — Daily Currant article that duped Pristoop:
Colorado is reconsidering its decision to legalize recreational pot following the deaths of dozens due to marijuana overdoses.
According to a report in the Rocky Mountain News, 37 people were killed across the state on Jan. 1, the first day the drug became legal for all adults to purchase. Several more are clinging onto life in local emergency rooms and are not expected to survive.
“It’s complete chaos here,” says Dr. Jack Shepard, chief of surgery at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. “I’ve put five college students in body bags since breakfast and more are arriving every minute.
A massive machine — longer than a football field — is munching away beneath Washington like a giant earthworm. Before it’s done, it will devour about 2 million cubic yards of soil that has been sitting under the city since the days of the dinosaurs.
It is the most amazing and expensive construction project that no one ever will see.
It will come within a center fielder’s throw of Nationals Park, within a corner kick of RFK Stadium, nibble at the deepest roots from the National Arboretum, pass below the Love Nightclub and the United House of Prayer for All, go under railroad tracks that carry 1 million-pound trains into Union Station and a six-lane roadway used by 60,000 cars a day, gnaw its way under Home Depot’s doorstep and then chomp more than a mile and a half down Rhode Island Avenue toward Logan Circle.
Like the creature from a sci-fi thriller, the machine will tunnel along — six feet at a time — beneath a city largely oblivious to its existence.
“That’s the way we like it,” said James Wonneberg, DC Water’s resident engineer.
Cars race from Italy to France through a famous tunnel under the Alps. Bullet trains rocket through a tunnel under the English Channel. One day, raw sewage will roar through Washington’s tunnel.
Not so romantic, perhaps, but vital to a city that now pumps 2 billion gallons a year from its sewers and toilets directly into the Potomac, the Anacostia and Rock Creek.
With a little help from upstream neighbors, those three tributaries may one day run closer to pure. But for now, there is only that dream and a hungry machine.
The machine itself is a marvel of technology, an underground factory 443 feet long and almost six times the weight of the Statue of Liberty. It does about a dozen things at once, and it moves.
Consider just one aspect of that movement: More than 100 feet below ground, how does it know where it’s going?
With a circular face three times the width of a Metrobus, what keeps the machine always within a few millimeters of its intended path?
Separating the streams
Washington needs this new, gargantuan 13-mile long, $2.6 billion sewer tunnel because of what might be called, in hindsight, a dumb decision. Were they still alive to defend it, the city’s forefathers might respond much like the people who were wearing bell-bottoms in the 1970s or who dye their hair electric green today: It was the fashion of the day.
The “it,” in this case, was something called a combined sewage system. They were all the rage in 19th-century America. The District has one, as do more than 770 other places where a total of 40 million people live.
That is a lot of flushes, and on a rainy day, that matters.
Here’s why: In a combined sewer system, your bath water, your laundry water and whatever you flush goes into a network of sewers that also handles all the rainwater that flows down sewer grates from the street.
On a dry day, or one with a slow but steady rain, all of that combined wastewater heads obediently to the sewage-treatment plant. In the case of the District, that is the sprawling facility called Blue Plains that sits beside the Potomac River in the southeast quadrant of the city.
But in a gully-washing downpour, a serious thunderstorm or when 10 inches of rapidly melting snow gushes down the sewer grate, the system gets unruly. The path to the treatment plant becomes overwhelmed, and a filthy mix spews from 53 different outlets into the three tributaries.
Not by accident, but by design.
It’s not an occasional thing. It happens hundreds of times a year, contributing 2 billion gallons of untreated waste to Rock Creek, the Potomac and the Anacostia, which gets the worst of it. All that unhealthy mess, of course, flows down into Chesapeake Bay on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.
“By 2032, our stated goal is to have water in the Anacostia that’s swimmable and fishable,” said George Hawkins, DC Water’s general manager.
Having the Potomac turned into an open sewer appealed to no one, and perhaps least of all to Lady Bird Johnson, who is said to have berated Lyndon about it when they flew into National Airport in daylight. That factoid has relevance even today.
Though Lyndon B. Johnson had a war and civil rights on his plate in those days, the rumblings about pollution that began on his watch led his successor, Richard M. Nixon, to create the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.
Fast-forward 35 years. Everybody agreed that something had to be done about combined sewer systems, and the EPA and U.S. Justice Department ordered Washington and several other cities — including New York, Philadelphia and Seattle — to stop dumping combined sewer overflow into rivers.
That gave birth to the District’s tunnel plan, and last year, the massive machine began to dig.
They named it “Lady Bird.”
Lady Bird keeps busy, at once softening the soil in its path, lurching forward to gnaw at it, sliding the stones that will be the tunnel’s wall into place, blasting fresh surface air to the work crew, laying railroad track for the cars that carry the stone, turning the dirt into muck and dumping it on a conveyor belt headed for the tunnel mouth.
The muck will fill 205,820 huge dump trucks before the project is completed in 2025.
Though all of that is going on pretty much at once — 24 hours a day, six days a week — here’s how each facet takes place.
The round face of the machine is 26 feet across and studded with tungsten carbide scraper bits and cutting wheels. Before the device shoulders forward, a barrage of chemical mix shoots from nozzles to loosen up the earth ahead.
Then the machine heaves forward by six feet, its circular face rotating as the bits and wheels slash into the soil. What they dislodge is sucked into the machine, mixed with a compound that turns it to the consistency of toothpaste and is plopped blob by blob onto a conveyor belt that runs along the ceiling to the tunnel end.
While this is underway, massive curved slabs of concrete — they call them “stones” — have arrived on a small rail car that trundles back and forth from the tunnel mouth. They are stacked in the order in which they will be put in place. When they arrive, an electric device that looks like something you might see in an automatic carwash swoops down from above, presses its big rubber gasket against the stone’s face and literally sucks it up.
Stone in hand, the machine then rumbles to the leading edge of the tunnel, where a crew of five in hard hats uses levels and laser guidance to ease each piece into place. The slabs are connected in front and back by big plastic dowels and on top and bottom by arms that are driven into place by a worker with a compressor-fired rivet gun.
Once the precise placement is achieved, the suction machine scoots back to get the next slab until the six-foot, 80,000-pound ring is complete.
But there’s more.
The machine’s boring face is 26 feet across. The interior tunnel walls are 23 feet in diameter. The stones are 14 inches thick. There is, by design, a gap between the new tunnel exterior and the hole that Lady Bird has created.
Into the gap oozes an epoxy-like substance that will harden into a six-inch-thick casing to become the tunnel’s outer defense.
As Lady Bird rides forward through the tunnel on wheels, it lays track in its wake for the rail car that feeds stones to the growing tunnel.
Now it is time for the next push. Eighteen four-ton jacks powered by the 13.8 kilovolts of electricity nudge up against the edges of the tunnel ring that has just been set in place.
Before they fire, the operator who sits in a narrow booth watching six computer monitors studies one that shows crosshairs. Using a target fixed just behind the face of the machine, and a second target behind the machine that provides global coordinates, the operator uses a laser to line up Lady Bird’s next chomp.
“Right now, he’s within an inch of being right on the mark,” said Brett R. Zernich, construction manager, pointing to the crosshairs earlier this month.
At the push of a button, the operator sends Lady Bird surging six feet farther into the soggy soil.
Chewing down the Potomac
Lady Bird said goodbye to daylight several months ago and was lowered into a deep hole on the grounds of the Blue Plains treatment plant. Right now, the machine has chewed its way more than a quarter of a mile and is about 70 feet beneath the floor of the Potomac, skirting around the Naval Research Laboratory because the Navy wasn’t keen on having a tunnel under its testing facility.
In a few months, it will curve to the right, penetrate some rocky soil and pass under Anacostia to connect with a sewage pumping station at Poplar Point. Then it will dip under the river by the same name and make its way to another pumping station near Nationals Park.
A new tunnel will begin at the Poplar Point pumping station, cross under the river just north of the 11th Street Bridge and head toward RFK Stadium. It will pass the arboretum and make a sharp left 120 feet under Rhode Island Avenue.
Just as a river has its tributaries, so does the tunnel, with the largest going up First Street from Rhode Island. And it will have diversion chambers where waste can be stored temporarily so the system isn’t overwhelmed.
All that, for $2.6 billion. Where does the money come from?
Customers. Finding a way to pay to restore other decrepit infrastructure — notably roads and bridges — has become a knotty issue, but water utilities send out monthly bills. Although DC Water services wholesale customers in Maryland and Virginia, most of the burden will fall on their customers in the District.
The average water and sewer bill has gone up by more than 50 percent in recent years, to more than $65 a month for a single-family home.
“Our ratepayers are paying for all this,” Hawkins said. “We estimate [there will be] rate increases for the next 10 years, and maybe for 20, and most of that’s for the tunnel.”
Parts of it will begin opening in 2016, with big sections to follow in 2018 and 2022. With steel filaments embedded in its concrete walls, the tunnel should last for 100 years, they say.
“I want our ratepayers to understand that we have to do this, but it’s more important that they recognize the benefits of it,” Hawkins said. “No one will ever see this tunnel, but they’ll see that the river’s cleaner, and down stream in the Chesapeake, it will be a significant difference.”