Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Creature Actor From 'Black Lagoon' Dies

Creature Actor From 'Black Lagoon' Dies

Chapman, Who Played Land Gill-Man, Was 79
Tim Lammers, Web Staff Editor

Ben Chapman on the set of "Creature From the Black Lagoon" in 1954
* Features: Tim Lammers Interviews
POSTED: 2:31 pm EST February 27, 2008

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[Ben Chapman on the set of "Creature From the Black Lagoon" in 1954] Image
Ben Chapman on the set of "Creature From the Black Lagoon" in 1954

* Features: Tim Lammers Interviews

Ben Chapman, one of the actors who played the Gill-Man in the Universal Studios horror film classic "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," has died.

Chapman died Thursday in Honolulu with his wife, Merrilee and son, Ben Chapman III, by his side, according to a statement on the actor's Web site.

According to the statement, Chapman collapsed Feb. 12 and his health began to deteriorate. He was admitted to a Honolulu hospital Feb. 20, and died the next day after his pacemaker and life support were turned off.

Released in 1954, the "Creature of the Black Lagoon" is one of the most recognizable characters in the Universal Studios monsters stable, and is often pictured in the company of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Bride of Frankenstein, the Wolfman and the Mummy.

Chapman said in a 2000 @ The Movies interview that following in the big footsteps of such monster icons was daunting.

"Back in those days, the administration building at Universal hung pictures of Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney," Chapman recalled of the men who played Frankenstein, the Mummy and the Wolfman. "I thought to myself, 'Oh, my God, I hope I'm not the one to screw it up.'"

Another challenge was the execution of the character itself, since the latex rubber mask he wore was so limiting.

"The tough thing for me was that I couldn't use facial expressions," Chapman recalled. "I could only use body language, but evidently it worked."

Chapman played the land version of the Gill-Man, which capitalized on his imposing 6-foot-5-inch frame. Olympic swimmer Ricou Browning played the Creature in the film's underwater sequences.

In more recent years, Chapman had become a regular on the horror film and sci-fi convention circuit.

The actor's Web site said that Chapman will be cremated March 29 and his ashes will be scattered off Waikki Beach from Hawaiian outrigger canoes.

South Carolina May Recognize End Of Slavery

South Carolina May Recognize End Of Slavery

POSTED: 9:28 am EST February 27, 2008

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The House has approved a bill to officially recognize the freeing of slaves.

The bill would "Juneteenth" to commemorate the June 19th, 1865, announcement by Union soldiers arriving in Texas that the war was over and all slaves were free.

Ronald Myers with the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation says South Carolina would be the 28th state to permanently recognize the day. The state has used temporary resolutions in the past.

Spartanburg Representative Harold Mitchell says a bill would prevent the annual passages of resolutions to honor the day.

The bill was approved without debate yesterday. It could go to the Senate today after a final vote in the House.

Richard Belin with the Juneteenth Celebration Association says the effort has been going on for ten years.

Sea reptile is biggest on record

Sea reptile is biggest on record
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News

Pliosaur (Tor Sponga, BT)

A fossilised "sea monster" unearthed on an Arctic island is the largest marine reptile known to science, Norwegian scientists have announced.

The 150 million-year-old specimen was found on Spitspergen, in the Arctic island chain of Svalbard, in 2006.

The Jurassic-era leviathan is one of 40 sea reptiles from a fossil "treasure trove" uncovered on the island.

Nicknamed "The Monster", the immense creature would have measured 15m (50ft) from nose to tail.

A large pliosaur was big enough to pick up a small car in its jaws and bite it in half
Richard Forrest, plesiosaur palaeontologist
And during the last field expedition, scientists discovered the remains of another so-called pliosaur which is thought to belong to the same species as The Monster - and may have been just as colossal.

The expedition's director Dr Jorn Hurum, from the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, said the Svalbard specimen is 20% larger than the previous biggest marine reptile - another massive pliosaur from Australia called Kronosaurus.

"We have carried out a search of the literature, so we now know that we have the biggest [pliosaur]. It's not just arm-waving anymore," Dr Hurum told the BBC News website.

"The flipper is 3m long with very few parts missing. On Monday, we assembled all the bones in our basement and we amazed ourselves - we had never seen it together before."

Young girl beside pliosaur flipper (J. Hurum)

The Monster's flipper alone measures 3m in length

Pliosaurs were a short-necked form of plesiosaur, a group of extinct reptiles that lived in the world's oceans during the age of the dinosaurs.

A pliosaur's body was tear drop-shaped with two sets of powerful flippers which it used to propel itself through the water.

"These animals were awesomely powerful predators," said plesiosaur palaeontologist Richard Forrest.

A second large pliosaur has now been found on the Arctic island

Enlarge Image
"If you compare the skull of a large pliosaur to a crocodile, it is very clear it is much better built for biting... by comparison with a crocodile, you have something like three or four times the cross-sectional space for muscles. So you have much bigger, more powerful muscles and huge, robust jaws.

"A large pliosaur was big enough to pick up a small car in its jaws and bite it in half."

"There are a few isolated bones of huge pliosaurs already known but this is the first find of a significant portion of a whole skeleton of such a giant," said Angela Milner, associate keeper of palaeontology at London's Natural History Museum

"It will undoubtedly add much to our knowledge of these top marine predators. Pliosaurs were reptiles and they were almost certainly not warm-blooded so this discovery is also a good demonstration of plate tectonics and ancient climates.

Lena Kristiansen prepares specimens in the Natural History Museum, University of Oslo.

'Monster' fossil find in Arctic
"One hundred and fifty million years ago, Svalbard was not so near the North Pole, there was no ice cap and the climate was much warmer than it is today."

The Monster was excavated in August 2007 and taken to the Natural History Museum in Oslo. Team members had to remove hundreds of tonnes of rock by hand in high winds, fog, rain, freezing temperatures and with the constant threat of attack by polar bears.

They recovered the animal's snout, some teeth, much of the neck and back, the shoulder girdle and a nearly complete flipper.

Unfortunately, there was a small river running through where the head lay, so much of the skull had been washed away.

A preliminary analysis of the bones suggests this beast belongs to a previously unknown species.

Unprecedented haul

The researchers plan to return to Svalbard later this year to excavate the new pliosaur.

A few skull pieces, broken teeth and vertebrae from this second large specimen are already exposed and plenty more may be waiting to be excavated.

"It's a large one, and has the same bone structure as the previous one we found," said Espen Knutsen, from Oslo's Natural History Museum, who is studying the fossils.

Artist's impression of long-necked plesiosaur (Tor Sponga, BT)
Excavations have also yielded long-necked plesiosaurs

Dr Hurum and his colleagues have now identified a total of 40 marine reptiles from Svalbard. The haul includes many long-necked plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs in addition to the two pliosaurs.

Long-necked plesiosaurs are said to fit descriptions of Scotland's mythical Loch Ness monster. Ichthyosaurs bore a passing resemblance to modern dolphins, but they used an upright tail fin to propel themselves through the water.

Richard Forrest commented: "Here in Svalbard you have 40 specimens just lying around, which is like nothing we know.

Exacavation at the Monster site
The 2007 fieldwork took place in challenging conditions
"Even in classic fossil exposures such as you have in Dorset [in England], there are cliffs eroding over many years and every so often something pops up. But we haven't had 40 plesiosaurs from Dorset in 200 years."

The fossils were found in a fine-grained sedimentary rock called black shale. When the animals died, they sank to the bottom of a cold, shallow Jurassic sea and were covered over by mud. The oxygen-free, alkaline chemistry of the mud may explain the fossils' remarkable preservation, said Dr Hurum.

The discovery of another large pliosaur was announced in 2002. Known as the "Monster of Aramberri" after the site in north-eastern Mexico where it was dug up, the creature could be just as big as the Svalbard specimen, according to the team that found it.

But palaeontologists told the BBC a much more detailed analysis of these fossils was required before a true picture of its size could be obtained.

George Washington's hair sold for $17K

George Washington's hair sold for $17K

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — It might not even really be George Washington's hair — but it still sold for $17,000.

Four strands reportedly clipped from the first president were sold at auction Friday night to a Richmond man who declined to give his name.

Colorado resident Christa Allen said her father, a Philadelphia attorney, had given her the hair, which was pressed under glass in a locket and accompanied by a watch.

Allen told potential buyers that the hair had been handed down since it was clipped from Washington's head. The Historical Society of Montgomery County, Pa., inspected Allen's evidence and gave her its backing.

Jamie Bates, owner of Thompson & Riley, which auctioned the hair, had hoped it would bring at least $75,000.

"I've never sold George Washington's hair before; I don't know," Bates said before the auction.

The hair is believed to have been snipped from Washington when he was briefly disinterred in 1837.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Snake hunt filmed for first time

Snake hunt filmed for first time

Snake's hunting skills

The fearsome hunting skills of a wild rattlesnake have been caught on camera for the first time.

Using a specially designed camera trap, a BBC crew managed to film the snake killing and then eating his victim - a small mouse - in the wild.

The mouse died almost immediately after being stabbed and injected with the timber rattlesnake's deadly venom.

The snake hunt was filmed in New York State, US, under the guidance of rattlesnake expert Harry Greene.

He helped the crew track the snake by using radio telemetry.

The footage forms part of the BBC One series Life in Cold Blood.

Beijing takes timing to the wire

Beijing takes timing to the wire

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing
Swimming races can be tricky events to time accurately

Blood, sweat and tears offered by athletes in their efforts to go ever faster would count for nothing without one thing - accurate timekeeping.

When a fraction of a second makes the difference between winning and losing, timekeepers have to be as focused as the athletes themselves.

At the Beijing Olympics this summer, the job of timing the event's wide range of sporting competitions falls to Swiss watchmaker Omega.

It plans to introduce a series of technological innovations that will produce more accurate times than those recorded at Athens in 2004.

Swim plan

Improving timing equipment for sporting events is a constant task, said Christophe Berthaud, Omega Timing's chief executive.

You cannot say to an athlete who has just run the 1500m 'Sorry there was something wrong, can you do it again?'
Christophe Berthaud, Omega
"There is a permanent evolution with the technology," he said while in Beijing for a swimming test event at the new "water cube" Olympic venue.

"As athletes improve, performances are getting closer and closer so you have to introduce technology that is more and more accurate."

Recording performance times ever more accurately often means looking at the beginning and the end of races, according to Mr Berthaud.

"What is difficult is not measuring the time when they are in the pool - that's easy," he said, referring to swimming events.

"Having the maximum accuracy at the beginning and the end is what makes the difference."

Omega was trialling a new starting block for swimmers at the recent test event. It is being given to national teams to try out over the coming months.

This new block allows swimmers to start a race with their legs bent at 90 degrees - the angle that ensures the best start.

Every starting block will also be fitted with a speaker to ensure that each swimmer will hear the start signal at exactly the same time.

In other events at the Beijing Olympics, Omega will also present information in new ways to allow spectators to better understand what is going on.
Omega plans to use GPS to help follow sailing events
In sailing, for example, it is often difficult for spectators on shore to know what is going on in a race.

The Global Positioning System will be used to relay information to viewers about exactly where one boat is in relation to another.

And in rowing, being able to accurately position a competitor will enable Omega to work out if one boat is catching another, and whether it will do so before the finish line.

Timing trouble

Developing new technology can ensure the right competitor gets the gold medal, but it sometimes gets timekeepers into trouble.

This happened when Omega introduced touch pads -- used to stop the clock -- to swimming events in 1967.

Shortly after one event this new technology led to judges disqualifying Australian swimmers.

"That night the Swiss timekeeping officials were almost run down in the parking lot," said Joseph Panetta, a spokesman for Omega.

"They had to change hotels at midnight because people were threatening... them," he added.

"But it was because of this advent of technology that we could say they had cheated."

Future limit

Omega first began timing the Olympic Games at the Los Angeles event in 1932, when hand-held stop-watches were used.

China has been preparing for the Olympics for a long time
The firm's current contract extends until the London Olympics in 2012.

Mr Berthaud claimed there have been no mistakes while Omega has been in charge of timing, and nothing is being left to chance in Beijing.

Around 400 professional timekeepers and 1,000 volunteers will be responsible for timing performances in China.

There will be three timing systems in place: the main one and two back-ups.

"Getting a performance time is the most important thing," said Mr Berthaud, who arrived on time for his interview with the BBC.

"You cannot say to an athlete who has just run the 1500m, 'Sorry there was something wrong, can you do it again?'"

The goal of getting ever more accurate times at sports events is Mr Berthaud's passion, but even he admits there is a limit to what can be achieved.

One thousandth of a second represents about 1cm in the 100m.

"Is it worth measuring 1mm?" he said. "Probably not."

Gates Sees Diminished Role for Keyboards

Gates Sees Diminished Role for Keyboards

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- People will increasingly interact with computers using speech or touch screens rather than keyboards, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates said.

"It's one of the big bets we're making," he said during the final stop of a farewell tour before he withdraws from the company's daily operations in July.

In five years, Microsoft expects more Internet searches to be done through speech than through typing on a keyboard, Gates told about 1,200 students and faculty members Thursday at Carnegie Mellon University.

Gates also said the software that is proliferating in various branches of science, including biology and astronomy must become even more advanced.

"They're dealing with so much information that ... the need for machine learning to figure out what's going on with that data is absolutely essential," he said.

Microsoft is trying to establish ties not only with university computer science departments but also with reseachers in other scientific areas "to help us understand where new inventions are necessary," Gates said.

Gates plans to retire as Microsoft's chief software architect in July and focus on philanthropy.

Monterey Bay is a Great Place to Play

Monterey Bay is a Great Place to Play
By Bruce Stewart EmailFebruary 20, 2008 | 6:45:00 AMCategories: Environment, Field Trips, Outdoor Activities, Underwater

People_2 For those of you located anywhere in the general vicinity of northern California, I just can't recommend enough taking the family on a short trip to the Monterey Bay peninsula. While not your typical geeky fare (this trip involved no robots, legos or computers), the 4-day outing we just took there was a huge hit with both geeklings and the geekmom. Monterey is touristy and expensive, but the attractions and amazing scenery made the trip more than worthwhile. And while it may not have been particularly geeky, it was very educational.

The main attraction is of course the spectacular Monterey Bay Aquarium. I've been to many aquariums, but this one beats them all. Our 5-year-old was completely enthralled by the exhibits, our tweener was almost equally impressed, and I could have stayed at the jellyfish exhibit for hours. If at all possible it's a good idea to plan to hit the aquarium on a weekday, as it gets pretty crowded on weekends. Just a few of the highlights were watching otters play from a foot or two away, the hammer-head sharks cruising in the kelp forest, the simulated wave that kids can stand under and watch smash into a coral reef, and a new deep-sea research exhibit that feels enough like a video game to impress the most jaded teenager.

The aquarium alone would be enough to get me to make the trek down to the south bay, but there are plenty of other cool, family-friendly things to do in this area. Besides the aquarium (which the kids insisted we go to twice!) we enjoyed visiting the Monarch Butterfly preserve, where the monarchs are currently winding up their winter vacation and getting a little frisky, and going on a whale-watching cruise where many gray whales were seen up close. There are tons of harbor seals hanging out on the local beaches and rocks, including an especially impressive and feisty bunch we saw on a small protected beach not even a five minute walk down the beach south of the aquarium.

A drive down the coast to Big Sur provided truly spectacular views of this rugged coast, and several state parks to explore. We took an easy 1 mile hike through coastal redwoods to an inland waterfall at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and a little further down the coast there was an awesome 10-minute walk at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park that overlooks a sheltered cove with a waterfall dumping right out on the beach.

And just in case the little geeklings start getting restless, there is also a great Dennis the Menace playground in downtown Monterey that was a big hit with the 5-year-old. With a suspended bridge, a maze of hedges, plenty of fast and bumpy slides, an old train car to climb on, a lake with paddleboats, and even a small skateboard park, this playground got the 5-star-rating from my family. All in all it was a great trip.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Candidates on Nader

February 24, 2008, 3:53 pm
The Candidates on Nader

By Kate Phillips

The Democratic and Republican candidates have begun weighing in on Ralph Nader’s announcement this morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that yes, he has decided to run for the presidency under the mantle of the Green Party, again. While he has been derided by Democrats for taking away votes from Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race, his impact in 2004 was minimal.

But he outlined his reasons for offering himself up yet again as a choice for voters before Tim Russert earlier today, as our colleague Sarah Wheaton posted earlier. NBC also has posted the video and the transcript of its interview with Mr. Nader.

Meanwhile, the candidates, with the exception of Senator John McCain, who is on a “down day,” had a bit to say about this late-hour bid. The Times’s Julie Bosman was on the plane with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today, when the Democratic candidate was asked about Mr. Nader’s decision. Here’s her file:

Speaking to reporters on board her campaign plane, Mrs. Clinton expressed surprise at the news that Mr. Nader planned to run.

“I don’t know what to say,” she said, when a reporter asked for comment. “Wow, that’s really unfortunate. I remember when he did this before. It’s not good for anybody, especially our country.”

She added, “I didn’t know that he had said that this morning. Obviously it’s not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is. But it’s a free country and I don’t know what party he’ll run on. What did he run on last time, does anybody remember?

The Green Party, a reporter replied.

“Well, you know his being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we’ve ever had,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And I think that’s really unfortunate.”

Tim Russert, the host of M.T.P., did point out to Mr. Nader that George W. Bush won in Florida with a little more than 500 votes, as Mr. Nader siphoned more than 97,000 away from Mr. Gore, a numerical factor that left many Democrats embittered.

Another of our colleagues, Michael Powell, is traveling with Senator Barack Obama this week. He filed this report about comments the Illinois senator made yesterday and today about Mr. Nader:

When it comes to Ralph Nader, Senator Obama tends to circle him as a mongoose might a cobra.

That is, he rejects the likely three-time presidential candidate’s criticisms of him, but is careful to toss out a compliment his way before dismissing him.

“Ralph Nader deserves enormous credit for the work he did as a consumer advocate,” Mr. Obama said in Lorain, Ohio,. “But his function as a perennial candidate is not putting food on the table of workers.”

Mr. Obama, who briefly organized with a Nader-influenced group as a young man, suggested that Mr. Nader tends in recent years to assume that candidates’ are fatally flawed if they fail to recognize the wisdom of his views.

“He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work,” Mr. Obama said a day earlier.

After Mr. Nader criticized Mr. Obama on M.T.P. today, Mr. Obama responded: “I think his view is if, unless it’s Ralph Nader, that you’re not tough enough. I mean that’s been his view. He thought that there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and eight years later, I think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking about, and so, I mean honestly I’m, at this point, obviously much more concerned with winning the Democratic primary than I am to responding to those issues.”

Mike Huckabee, who enjoyed many laughs last night on “Saturday Night Live” when he refused to leave the stage — a parody, of course, of his uphill battle as he continues to campaign despite his rival John McCain’s indomitable lead among Republican candidates — also commented on Mr. Nader’s decision. On CNN’s “Late Edition” today:

Mr. Huckabee: Well, I think it always would probably pull votes away from the Democrats, not the Republicans. So naturally Republicans would welcome his entry into the race and hope that maybe a few more will join in.

CNN’s John King: As you know, there has been chatter from time to time about the prospect of a third party candidacy from the right. Have you picked that up at all in your travels? That if John McCain is the Republican nominee, perhaps there would be a significant third party challenge from the right?

Mr. Huckabee: I don’t think so. I mean, a couple of times it will get mentioned. But people will say, would you ever consider it? And my answer is emphatically no. I think it is a suicide mission, third party candidates are not going to win the election. At best they are going to take away from one of the major parties.

Of other once-possible candidates there is Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. He was asked today on CNN about Mr. Nader’s nascent candidacy and about Mr. McCain’s run.

Mr. King: Ralph Nader dropped his toe into the race today, saying he is going to run again. What is the impact of that? And is Chuck Hagel out of the mix here? Have you talked to Mayor Bloomberg lately?

Mr. Hagel: Chuck Hagel is out of the mix. I’m going to continue to focus on my job in the Senate, and do what I can do to influence the direction of our country over the next year.

As to Nader, I think it’s one of those years that is very unpredictable, and I think there will be many twists and turns with a very unpredictable current running right now. And we’ll see what happens.

But I think democracy should be about choices, and certainly people who have something to say should offer themselves as legitimate candidates for president.

Mr. King: You say Chuck Hagel is out of the mix. You are still the Republican senator from Nebraska, a fellow Vietnam veteran. John McCain is likely to be your party’s nominee.

Any question — will you support John McCain?

Mr. Hagel: Well, I’ve not been involved in the primary and I am still not involved in any of that. At the appropriate time, then I’ll have something to say about it.

Mr. King: Are you saying you might not support the Republican Party’s nominee?

Mr. Hagel: I said at the appropriate time, I’ll have something to say about it.

Mr. King: Let me ask you — let me see if it’s an appropriate time to ask you about this one. This is something you said to the Cornhusker on February 9th about one of the Democratic candidates, a man who at the moment might be considered the Democratic frontrunner, Barack Obama. You said — “I like Barack Obama a lot. He’s smart. He listens. He learns. He’s a worthy candidate for president.”

Could Barack Obama potentially get your support in a race against John McCain?

Mr. Hagel: I think he is a worthy candidate for president, as is Senator Clinton, as is certainly Senator McCain, others.

Mr. King: Others. You think we’re going to get more than Ralph Nader?

Mr. Hagel: I don’t know. You’ve been covering the campaign, I haven’t.

Mr. King: I think you might be involved in some of these conversations, I’m not.

Mike Bloomberg, anyone? Kevin Sheekey, care to weigh in now?

“Hold on ma, let me go light the radio!”

Kerosene Radio (Jun, 1956)
Filed under: Radio, Useless Tech — @ 4:03 pm
Source: Popular Science
Issue: Jun, 1956
More articles from this issue

“Hold on ma, let me go light the radio!”

Made in Moscow for use in rural areas, this all-wave radio is reportedly powered by the kerosene lamp hanging above it. A group of thermocouples is heated internally to 570 degrees by the flame. Fins cool the outside to about 90 degrees. The temperature differential generates enough current to operate the low-drain reciever. Regular listeners may want fur lined union suits, though: it works best in a room with open windows.