Category: Science


Unknown orange/red glow over Pacific Ocean – August 24, 2014

Last night over the Pacific Ocean, somewhere South of the Russian peninsula Kamchatka I experienced the creepiest thing so far in my flying career.

After about 5 hours in flight we left Japan long time behind us and were cruising at a comfortable 34.000ft with about 4,5 hours to go towards Alaska.

We heard via the radio about earthquakes in Iceland, Chile and San Francisco, and since there were a few volcanos on our route that might or might not be going off during our flight, we double checked with dispatch if there was any new activity on our route after we departed from Hongkong.

Then, very far in the distance ahead of us, just over the horizon an intense lightflash shot up from the ground. It looked like a lightning bolt, but way more intense and directed vertically up in the air. I have never seen anything like this, and there were no flashes before or after this single explosion of light.

Since there were no thunderstorms on our route or weather-radar, we kept a close lookout for possible storms that might be hiding from our radar and might cause some problems later on.

I decided to try and take some pictures of the night sky and the strange green glow that was all over the Northern Hemisphere. I think it was sort of a Northern Lights but it was much more dispersed, never seen anything like this before either.

About 20 minutes later in flight I noticed a deep red/orange glow appearing ahead of us, and this was a bit strange since there was supposed to be nothing but endless ocean below us for hundreds of miles around us. A distant city or group of typical Asian squid-fishing-boats would not make sense in this area, apart from the fact that the lights we saw were much larger in size and glowed red/orange, instead of the normal yellow and white that cities or ships would produce.

The closer we got, the more intense the glow became, illuminating the clouds and sky below us in a scary orange glow. In a part of the world where there was supposed to be nothing but water.

The only cause of this red glow that we could think of, was the explosion of a huge volcano just underneath the surface of the ocean, about 30 minutes before we overflew that exact position.

Since the nearest possible airport was at least 2 hours flying away, and the idea of flying into a highly dangerous and invisible ash-plume in the middle of the night over the vast Pacific Ocean we felt not exactly happy. Fortunately we did not encounter anything like this, but together with the very creepy unexplainable deep red/orange glow from the ocean’s surface, we felt everything but comfortable. There was also no other traffic near our position or on the same routing to confirm anything of what we saw or confirm any type of ash clouds encountered.

We reported our observations to Air Traffic Control and an investigation into what happened in this remote region of the ocean is now started.

Two photos included, hardly edited except for watermark and resize. Note that photos are taken with extremely high ISO (sensor sensitivity) so quality might be a bit poor. Also an overview of our route + marking of the location is included.

Now I’m just hoping that if a new island has been formed there, at least it can be named after me as the official discoverer. 🙂

That would be pretty cool!

Flying Dutchman



The 1492 light sighting was a sighting of unknown light during the first voyage of Christopher Columbus on October 11, 1492, by some crew members of Santa Maria, Pinta and possibly Niña shortly before the landing on Guanahani. The light was reported in Columbus’ journal, Ferdinand ColumbusVita del Ammiraglio (The Life of the Admiral), the proceedings of the Pleitos Colombinos (the long lawsuit involving the heirs of Columbus) and some other sources.

Columbus described the light as “a small wax candle that rose and lifted up, which to few seemed to be an indication of land”. He received the royal reward for the sighting. His son Ferdinand also characterized it as a candle, that went up and down.

Bartolomé de las Casas noted the event in his abstract of Columbus’s log: “A sailor named Rodrigo de Triana saw this land first, although the Admiral, at the tenth hour of the night, while he was on the sterncastle saw a light, although it was something so faint that he did not wish to affirm that it was land. But he called Pero Gutierrez, the steward of the king’s dais, and told him that there seemed to be a light, and for him to look: and thus he did and saw it”.

It was calculated that the twelve leagues, that the crew ran since 10 p.m., with the two leagues distance off the land, essentially correspond to the distance and location of Watling’s Island from Guanahani. As such, it was presumed that the light was on Watling’s Island, which was passed by Columbus. Judging by the speed of the ships, provided in naval journal, L. T. Gould supposed that the light “must have been some 35 miles or so eastward of the landfall, and well to windward of it”


An early explanation was offered by Bartolomé de las Casas, who wrote: “I feel about this is that the Indians at night throughout these islands, as they are temperate without any cold, go out or used to go out from their straw houses that they call bohios at night to comply with their natural necessities and take in hand a firebrand, or small torch, or a chink of pine or of another very dry and resinous wood which burns like a torch, when it is dark night, and with which they guide themselves back again, and in the manner could be seen the light which Christopher Columbus and the others saw the light three or four times”.

This version was supported by Morison, despite the fact that it tended to undermine his preferred landfall at Watlings Island (San Salvador). Others have advanced the hypothesis that the light might have been an Indian fishing in a canoe at night, but the very high winds imply that would have been quite unlikely.

These problems have led to the conclusion by some that the light was not on Guanahani, the island of the first landfall, but on another, more easterly island bypassed in the night.

It has been proposed that the light was caused by bioluminescent protozoa on the rocks of Mouchoir Bank. However this theory is rendered improbable due to the “small wax candle” nature of the light, which suggests a point source. A single female Bermuda fireworm Odontosyllis enopla may have separate short periods of excessive and minor brilliance, perhaps accounting for a candle-like display.

But later research has shown that Odontosyllis bioluminescent activity is confined to a few days past the full moon, which would rule out that explanation, as the Moon was near first quarter that night.

Source:  Wiki



“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant.

Together they are powerful beyond imagination.” – Albert Einstein

WellPoint and IBM Announce Agreement to Put Watson to Work in Health Care

INDIANAPOLIS and ARMONK, N.Y., Sept. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE: WLP), and IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced an agreement today to create the first commercial applications of the IBM Watson technology. Under the agreement, WellPoint will develop and launch Watson-based solutions to help improve patient care through the delivery of up-to-date, evidence-based health care for millions of Americans. IBM will develop the base Watson healthcare technology on which WellPoint’s solution will run.

Watson, named after IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, is a computing system built by a team of IBM scientists who set out to accomplish a grand challenge – build a computing system that rivals a human’s ability to answer questions posed in natural language with speed, accuracy and confidence.  Earlier this year, Watson competed and won against two of the most celebrated players ever to appear on Jeopardy!. This historic match is being rebroadcast over three days, beginning today.

Watson’s ability to analyze the meaning and context of human language, and quickly process vast amounts of information to suggest options targeted to a patient’s circumstances, can assist decision makers, such as physicians and nurses, in identifying the most likely diagnosis and treatment options for their patients.

In recent years, few areas have advanced as rapidly as health care. For physicians, incorporating hundreds of thousands of articles into practice and applying them to patient care is a significant challenge. Watson can sift through an equivalent of about 1 million books or roughly 200 million pages of data, and analyze this information and provide precise responses in less than three seconds.

Using this extraordinary capability WellPoint is expected to enable Watson to allow physicians to easily coordinate medical data programmed into Watson with specified patient factors, to help identify the most likely diagnosis and treatment options in complex cases. Watson is expected to serve as a powerful tool in the physician’s decision making process.

Medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, chronic heart or kidney disease are incredibly intricate. New solutions incorporating Watson are being developed to have the ability to look at massive amounts of medical literature, population health data, and even a patient’s health record, in compliance with applicable privacy and security laws, to answer profoundly complex questions. For example, we envision that new applications will allow physicians to use Watson to consult patient medical histories, recent test results, recommended treatment protocols and the latest research findings loaded into Watson to discuss the best and most effective courses of treatment with their patients.

“There are breathtaking advances in medical science and clinical knowledge, however; this clinical information is not always used in the care of patients. Imagine having the ability to take in all the information around a patient’s medical care — symptoms, findings, patient interviews and diagnostic studies. Then, imagine using Watson analytic capabilities to consider all of the prior cases, the state-of-the-art clinical knowledge in the medical literature and clinical best practices to help a physician advance a diagnosis and guide a course of treatment,” said Sam Nussbaum, M.D., WellPoint’s Chief Medical Officer. “We believe this will be an invaluable resource for our partnering physicians and will dramatically enhance the quality and effectiveness of medical care they deliver to our members.”

Watson may help physicians identify treatment options that balance the interactions of various drugs and narrow among a large group of treatment choices, enabling physicians to quickly select the more effective treatment plans for their patients. It is also expected to streamline communication between a patient’s physician and their health plan, helping to improve efficiency in clinical review of complex cases. It could even be used to direct patients to the physician in their area with the best success in treating a particular illness…

Watson is an artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed in IBM‘s DeepQA project by a research team led by principal investigator David Ferrucci. Watson was named after IBM’s first president, Thomas J. Watson.

In 2011, as a test of its abilities, Watson competed on the quiz show Jeopardy!, in the show’s only human-versus-machine match-up to date. In a two-game, combined-point match, broadcast in three Jeopardy! episodes February 14–16, Watson beat Brad Rutter, the biggest all-time money winner on Jeopardy!, and Ken Jennings, the record holder for the longest championship streak (75 days). Watson received the first prize of $1 million, while Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter received $300,000 and $200,000, respectively. Jennings and Rutter pledged to donate half their winnings to charity, while IBM divided Watson’s winnings between two charities.

Watson consistently outperformed its human opponents on the game’s signaling device, but had trouble responding to a few categories, notably those having short clues containing only a few words. For each clue, Watson’s three most probable responses were displayed by the television screen. Watson had access to 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage, including the full text of Wikipedia.Watson was not connected to the Internet during the game.

Watson is a question answering (QA) computing system built by IBM.IBM describes it as “an application of advanced Natural Language Processing, Information Retrieval, Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, and Machine Learning technologies to the field of open domain question answering” which is “built on IBM’s DeepQA technology for hypothesis generation, massive evidence gathering, analysis, and scoring.”

According to IBM:

Watson is a workload optimized system designed for complex analytics, made possible by integrating massively parallel POWER7 processors and the IBM DeepQA software to answer Jeopardy! questions in under three seconds. Watson is made up of a cluster of ninety IBM Power 750 servers (plus additional I/O, network and cluster controller nodes in 10 racks) with a total of 2880 POWER7 processor cores and 16 Terabytes of RAM.

Each Power 750 server uses a 3.5 GHz POWER7 eight core processor, with four threads per core. The POWER7 processor’s massively parallel processing capability is an ideal match for Watson’s IBM DeepQA software which is embarrassingly parallel (that is a workload that is easily split up into multiple parallel tasks).

According to John Rennie, Watson can process 500 gigabytes, the equivalent of a million books, per second. IBM’s master inventor and senior consultant Tony Pearson estimated Watson’s hardware cost at about $3 million and with 80 TeraFLOPs would be placed 94th on the Top 500 Supercomputers list, and 49th in the Top 50 Supercomputers list. According to Rennie, the content was stored in Watson’s RAM for the game because data stored on hard drives are too slow to access

Watson’s software was written in both Java and C++ and uses Apache Hadoop framework for distributed computing, Apache UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) framework, IBM’s DeepQA software and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 operating system. “[…] more than 100 different techniques are used to analyze natural language, identify sources, find and generate hypotheses, find and score evidence, and merge and rank hypotheses.”

The sources of information for Watson include encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri, newswire articles, and literary works. Watson also used databases, taxonomies, and ontologies. Specifically, DBPedia, WordNet, and Yago were used.

The IBM team provided Watson with millions of documents, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference material that it could use to build its knowledge. Although Watson was not connected to the Internet during the game, it contained 200 million pages of structured and unstructured content consuming four terabytes of disk storage, including the full text of Wikipedia.

Source:  Wiki


Watson at HIMSS: DeepDDX for Healthcare

YLJ: Judges in Jeopardy!: Could IBM’s Watson Beat Courts at Their Own Game?

WSJ: As Watson Shows IBM’s Agility, H-P starts to Follow


God Particles…

God Particle: Existence to be Confirmed by 2012

The Christian Post – By Simon Saavedra

Physicists directing research through the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) have announced that the existence of the sub-atomic “God particle” will be decided by the end of 2012.

For many years, scientists have speculated the existence of the particle, also called the Higgs boson particle, but have not been able to provide any proof to corroborate the fact.

However, at the International Europhysics Conference on High-Energy Physics in Grenoble, France, this past weekend, researchers presented some curious data bleeps that could hint the existence of such a particle.

So far, the physicists stated that after conducting particle-smashing tests in the LHC, reaching speeds up to 99.99 percent of the speed of light, they were only able to determine the location the particle was not found, adding that with more tests and more data they would be able to determine whether the particle exists within 18 months.

If the particle was found to exist, then it would explain how all matter, including creatures, in the universe have come to have mass. Additionally, it would complete the puzzle for the Standard Model of physics that was first established in 1970, a theory that explains the Big Bang as well.

“This experiment is one of the most significant of this third millennium,” Dr. Karl W. Giberson of the BioLogos Foundation said earlier. He called the LHC experiment an “extraordinary event for Christian to contemplate” and said it might lead to further experiments that will one day answer some of man’s deep questions regarding the universe…

Higgs boson

The Higgs boson is often referred to as “the God particle” by the media, after the title of Leon Lederman‘s book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?Lederman initially wanted to call it the “goddamn particle,” but his editor would not let him.While use of this term may have contributed to increased media interest in particle physics and the Large Hadron Collider, many scientists dislike it, since it overstates the particle’s importance, not least since its discovery would still leave unanswered questions about the unification of QCD, the electroweak interaction and gravity, and the ultimate origin of the universe.In a renaming competition, a jury of physicists chose the name “the champagne bottle boson” as the best popular name.


To make war all you need is intelligence.  But to win you need talent and material.
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ch. 9

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American author and journalist. His distinctive writing style, characterized by economy and understatement, influenced 20th-century fiction, as did his life of adventure and public image. He produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s.

He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Hemingway’s fiction was successful because the characters he presented exhibited authenticity that resonated with his audience. Many of his works are classics of American literature. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works during his lifetime; a further three novels, four collections of short stories, and three non-fiction works were published posthumously.

Hemingway was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. After leaving high school he worked for a few months as a reporter for The Kansas City Star, before leaving for the Italian front to become an ambulance driver during World War I, which became the basis for his novel A Farewell to Arms.

He was seriously wounded and returned home within the year. In 1922 Hemingway married Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives, and the couple moved to Paris, where he worked as a foreign correspondent. During his time there he met and was influenced by modernist writers and artists of the 1920s expatriate community known as the “Lost Generation“. His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, was written in 1924.

After divorcing Hadley Richardson in 1927 Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer; they divorced following Hemingway’s return from covering the Spanish Civil War, after which he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. Martha Gellhorn became his third wife in 1940, but he left her for Mary Welsh Hemingway after World War II, during which he was present at D-Day and the liberation of Paris.

Shortly after the publication of The Old Man and the Sea in 1952 Hemingway went on safari to Africa, where he was almost killed in a plane crash that left him in pain or ill-health for much of the rest of his life. Hemingway had permanent residences in Key West, Florida, and Cuba during the 1930s and ’40s, but in 1959 he moved from Cuba to Ketchum, Idaho, where he committed suicide in the summer of 1961.

Berlin Museum of Natural History

The extensive collections in the Berlin Museum of Natural History – at present numbering over 50 million specimens – were first formed in the Mineralogical, Paleontological and Zoological Museum. The latter, in turn, built upon a collection started by the Berlin Mining College in the 18th C., and was housed from 1810 in the Unter den Linden university buildings.

As a result of expeditions and gifts, such as those from Alexander von Humboldt and Adelbert von Chamisso, who took part in a Russian Pacific expedition in 1815-18, the collection grew enormously; consequently, a new museum was planned in 1875 and opened its doors on Invalidenstrasse in 1889. In 1893 the director of the British Museum in London praised it as being “a perfect example of a complete revolution in concepts of museum management.”

The Second World War put an end to the continued development. From 1941 parts of the collections were either evacuated elsewhere or stored in the cellars. Heavy bombing raids, especially in November 1943 and February 1945, destroyed large parts of the building and some of the most valuable exhibits – whole skeletons in the Anatomical Hall were destroyed, together with those of whales and other marine mammals in the Whale Hall and all but three of the large dioramas of indigenous animals.

Soon after hostilities ceased, the collections were again temporarily opened to the public and rebuilding commenced, as a result of which the Museum – which is now a part of Humboldt University – became one of the five biggest natural history museums in the world. The Museum also possesses a preparation workshop, the arboretum in Berlin- Baumschulenweg (Späthstrasse 80/81) and a library, the most valuable items in which include 545 pages of watercolors of animals by the Nuremberg doctor Lazarus Röting (1549-1614).

Lovebite partially paralyses woman – GILES BROWN

A Christchurch doctor had to treat a woman after she was partially paralysed by a lovebite from her amorous partner. Dr Teddy Wu, who is currently working in the neurology department at Christchurch Hospital, said he believed it was the first time someone had been hospitalised by a “hickey”.

An article on the case has appeared in the New Zealand Medical Journal. Wu said he saw the woman over a year ago while he was working in Middlemore Hospital in Auckland. The 44-year-old Maori woman went to the emergency department after experiencing loss of movement in her left arm. It happened while she was sitting watching television. The only injury was a lovebite on the right of her neck near an artery.

“Because it was a lovebite there would be a lot of suction. “Because of the physical trauma it had made a bit of bruising inside the vessel,” said Wu. “There was a clot in the artery underneath where the hickey was.” The clot had gone into the woman’s heart and caused a minor stroke that led to the loss of movement, he said. She was treated with warfarin, an anticoagulant. That treatment saw the clot disappear almost entirely within a week, he said.

“We looked around the medical literature and that example of having a lovebite causing something like that hasn’t been described before,” he said. If it had not been treated quickly the woman could have suffered more strokes. “Strokes have different levels of severity. But possibly patients can become paralysed.”

It was easier to live under a regime than fight it.
– Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ch. 34

Chinese Pianist Plays Propaganda Tune at White House

US humiliated in eyes of Chinese by song used to inspire anti-Americanism

Epoch Times – By Matthew Robertson

Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand.

At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The film depicts a group of “People’s Volunteer Army” soldiers who are first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military “jackals.”

The movie and the tune are widely known among Chinese, and the song has been a leading piece of anti-American propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for decades. CCP propaganda has always referred to the Korean War as the “movement to resist America and help [North] Korea.”

The message of the propaganda is that the United States is an enemy—in fighting in the Korean War the United States’ real goal was said to be to invade and conquer China. The victory at Triangle Hill was promoted as a victory over imperialists.

The song Lang Lang played describes how beautiful China is and then near the end has this verse, “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” in the song is the United States. The name of the song is “My Motherland,” originally titled “Big River.”


“My Motherland” having been played at the White House will be seen as a propaganda triumph in China.

“In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S.,” says Yang Jingduan, a Chinese psychiatrist now living in Philadelphia who was Deputy Director of science and technology development at the No. 4 Military Medical University in Xi’an in China. “It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.”

Yang sees Lang Lang choosing this tune as an expression of the deeply anti-American propaganda that is constant in China. “This deeply anti-American chauvinism has been fanned by the CCP for years; Lang Lang is expressing the feelings of this generation of angry young people,” Yang said.

A well-known example of such feelings was seen on Sept. 11, 2001, when Chinese chat rooms were filled with young people celebrating this act of terror as an American defeat. Excited at this coup, patriotic Chinese have been circulating the clip for the last several days. One netizen wrote “the right place, right time, right song!”

Humiliating the US

Whether Chinese officials intended Lang Lang to play this piece, its performance at the White House fits a general pattern of Chinese propaganda attacking the United States. Subtle details are seized on and used to humiliate the United States before the Chinese people.

When Nixon visited China, a photo was taken of him getting off the plane to greet Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Nixon has a big smile and extends his hand out to Zhou. Zhou stands with a rigid face and holds his hand close to his body.

The photo was widely used in all of the Chinese media to help support the idea that Nixon’s visit was a victory for China. Chinese schoolchildren were told, “See how long Nixon’s arm is stretched out? That shows the United States is reaching out to us.”

When President Obama visited China in November 2009, he toured the Imperial Palace. Obama exited through the Shen Wu Men, which may be translated as Gate of Divine Prowess. CCTV reported that he exited through the Shun Zhen Men, which may be translated as “Gate of Obedience and Purity.”

In fact, the Gate of Divine Prowess is the outer gate and everyone must exit through it. However, Chinese media would not accord President Obama the honor of going through the “Gate of Divine Prowess.” Neither the White House nor the Chinese Embassy responded to phone calls requesting comment on this story.

Broadband cable on its way to unplugged Cuba

Florida scholars left out of Obama’s ease on Cuba travel ban

The Obama administration’s move to ease Cuba travel restrictions won’t help Florida researchers and professors.

Herald/Times – BY JANET ZINK

Academics around the country hailed the move last week by President Barack Obama to loosen travel restrictions to Cuba. But there was no celebrating by scholars at Florida’s public universities.

A 2006 state law prohibits them from using state money or tapping into their budgets for travel to countries considered “terrorist states” by the federal government, Cuba being one. The others are Iran, Sudan and Syria.

The rule applies both to state funding and nonstate funds administered by public universities. Margaret Miller, director of the University of South Florida Institute for Research in Art, calls the law an “embarrassment.”

“I can understand trade restrictions because having an economic impact is a useful tool,” he said. “But I would want educators to share information. I wouldn’t put that in the same category as economic-related embargoes. Would I have problems with USF professors traveling to Cuba and meeting with colleagues, there? I wouldn’t.”

But Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, who sponsored the bill in 2006 and is a 2012 U.S. Senate candidate, stands by it.

“There should be three conditions before we change anything,” he said. “That is the liberation of all political prisoners, No. 2 the legalization of all political parties and an independent press, and third, of course, the scheduling of free, internationally-supervised elections.”

Hard-line positions against Cuba make for good politics in Miami-Dade County, where 72 percent of registered Republican voters are Hispanic, mostly Cuban…

Florida’s law is facing a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and faculty at the University of South Florida, the University of Florida and Florida International University.

An appeals court upheld the statute in August, forcing cancellation of an art exhibit organized by USF at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana that would have featured works by artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe and Chuck Close.

The program was to be paid for from privately-raised foundation money.The ACLU plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case…

Clint Eastwood: I do not think about Retirement

Le Figaro – By Jean-Paul Chaillet (English Translation)

…I do not believe in regrets. I operate on instinct. Once my decision, I do not procrastinate. A refusal does not mean it is estimated that the project will fail, just that it will be better suited to someone else. Examples? I could succeed Sean Connery and be the new James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service! I had the same lawyer as the producer Cubby Broccoli, who suggested that I take over in 1968.

It would have been very financially advantageous deal for me, but I had just finished a trilogy and I do not see myself signing for another in danger of being relegated to a kind and trapped in the long term. I also felt that the role should be maintained by an English-born. I would have had to work very hard to be convincing. It seems they are finally doing pretty well without me!

Later, in 1977, Frank Wells, president of Warner, asked me if I wanted to play as Superman. The idea of personifying a comic book hero does not attract me at all. It was a good concept, but not with me. So I made sweet, crazy and hard to spot, and both films were huge hits for Warner!

On several occasions, Steve McQueen and I tried to find a common project, even though every time he told me in gasping: “The problem is that you are damn great!” One day, Coppola has proposed play Willard in Apocalypse Now, but he wanted the role of Kurtz, who would have run only a fortnight for the same stamp! He therefore suggested to Francis that I play Willard in his place. It was quite a discussion with him on the phone, but as everyone knows, it failed! “

His passion for piloting

“I started in the summer of 1968 during the filming of The Paint Your Wagon, Oregon. I had rented a house in Baker City and as the main set was in the mountains 50 kilometers away, it took me by helicopter, a Bell Model 47. The pilot, certified instructor, suggested I take the handle. I have accumulated quite a few hours.

Then in June 1989, just before going to Zimbabwe to make White Hunter, Black heart, I went to the Air Show at Le Bourget, where I ordered a single-engine Ecureuil Aerospatiale. After shooting, I spent time at the training center of Aix-en-Provence, while one was developing my camera. It is parked in a hangar at the Burbank airport. In just under two hours, I can ask in Caramel. I like the anonymity it provides. Flying, we’re just a number in the sky. “


“My mother is the woman who probably has the most to me. As my grandmother. I lived with my parents when she sought work during the Great Depression in the ’30s. She was very independent and progressive. I was her favorite and she learned to drive, even leaving me behind the wheel of his car. As for Dina, my wife, I like to think that with his influence, I became a better person and more patient. There is a great complicity between us, in addition to many tastes in common: family life, our menagerie of animals, travel, golf.

His family

“Today I have an excellent relationship with all my children, which has not always been the case. When I started, obsessed with success and my career, I was often absent in the pursuit of success, film after film. Becoming a father late in life has allowed me to devote myself fully to my two youngest daughters, Francesca (18) and Morgan (15 years). They were my priority, taking precedence over the rest, although I continued to be very busy. I attended all their school activities. I think they have instilled the traditional values. “


“I certainly never imagined not last so long in this profession when I was trying desperately to make it to Hollywood in the early 50s. I was already well aware that success might be random at best temporary, and as luck would play a role. Whatever we possess an innate talent, it is a significant parameter in the equation. I have seen several stages of my career.

On the physical level, I always made sure my health: exercise regularly, watch my diet, take vitamins … I never smoked other than the camera. I always drank in moderation. Only beer and wine. I like to keep abreast of what’s happening again in the medical field. More particularly, the theoretical pathology, which I studied at a time at the University of New York.

Retirement? I do not think, even if some do it for me! With age, you appreciate things more. But I am not nostalgic or backward-looking. I’m still curious. I still learn, find new challenges. Many motivations that stimulate me. My enthusiasm is intact. And unless you are struck by senility, I intend to continue making films. Manoel de Oliveira’s centennial and is still running. As for John Huston, he directed his last film in a wheelchair and on oxygen! “

Spanish old folks still young at heart

One of the last great taboos is the sex life of the elderly. Will it be love among the ruins, or the start of a golden age?


We like to think that we live in more enlightened times: that 50 is the new 40; that 60 is the new 50; and that 70 is the new 60 — except when it comes to sex, which somehow tastefully disappears from our lives once we pass 60.

Old folks are supposed to be genderless folks. As one doctor less-than-tactfully put it to a female patient in her fifties: “nature has finished with you.” A generation on from the supposed sexual revolution of the 1960s — which didn’t reach Spain until a decade later — whether we like to admit it or not, most of us still assume that once the reproductive cycle is over, we return to an infantile state from the waist down. Tenderness, sure; even flirtation: but not predatory.

The image of an elderly couple out for a walk, hand in hand, or maybe chastely embraced in a gentle two-step at a village dance brings a warming smile to our faces. But the thought of passionate kissing, of intimate caresses, or of the pleasurable moans that precede orgasm is more likely to make us wrinkle our noses. We either assume it’s just not physically possible, or wouldn’t occur to any right-thinking retiree, or is just plain bad taste. Hence the expression dirty oldman.

Sex in old age is one of the last taboos, despite the fact that we live in an ageing society: of Spain’s 44 million inhabitants, there are more than eight million people aged over 65. And 28 percent of those are over 80. More than half still live with their partner, but in a country where women outlive men by nearly seven years, dying on average at 84 years of age, 38 percent are widows.

As a result of Spain’s demographics, there are more sexually inactive women over the age of 60 than men. That said, Spain’s situation pretty much matches the figures that emerged from a survey carried out by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 2008. The survey reported that 73 percent of Americans aged between 57 and 64 enjoyed a regular sex life.

The figure dropped to 53 percent between the 65 and 75-year-old age group, and fell more sharply to 26 percent among 85-year-olds. “Even so,” write the authors in their conclusion, “there is a significant number of people who have vaginal intercourse, oral sex, or continue to masturbate even into their nineties.”

None of which is to say that our sex lives don’t change and to varying degrees diminish as we get older, in large part due to physiological factors. Women’s estrogen levels can drop significantly with menopause, provoking vaginal dryness; at the same time, diminished blood flow to the genitals can also reduce desire, explains gynecologist Santiago Palacios, president of the Spanish Menopause

Hormonal factors are not so important in men, although their testosterone levels do drop. Physical deterioration, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes can also reduce the ability to gain or maintain an erection, and there is a general lessening of the libido, says Eduardo Ruiz Castañe, head of the andrology department at the Puigvert Foundation, a Barcelona-based nonprofit body dedicated to research into male urological and genital pathologies.

But in both sexes, overall health, the quality of sex earlier in life, good communication with one’s partner and being able to find the time and place to be intimate are more important factors than the mere ageing process…

Cuba Travel and Informational Resources


Beware a Hollow Air Force

…current plans to hollow out the Air Force are misguided and will in the long run cost far more to the nation than they will save today. Retiring 650 combat fighters before replacements are ready will necessarily reduce the availability of needed planes and thus U.S. credibility. Yet the Air Force finds itself in a Catch-22, since its fleet is superannuated. Flying airframes until they are falling apart is inexcusable in a country that can spend billions of dollars filling in potholes and repaving curbs.

No airman should be expected to fly planes that are older than he is, but today’s B-52 pilots fly airframes built in the 1960s, and F-15 pilots fly the same planes as did their fathers. The lack of progress on the Next-Generation Bomber similarly puts America’s strategic options at risk. Unless a future president wants to start lobbing ballistic missiles at enemy fortifications, a modern bomber fleet remains necessary to penetrate the heavily defended airspace of potential adversaries.

Why is all this so urgent? Because authoritarian states that seek to challenge global stability are not only getting stronger, but becoming more advanced, as well. China’s air and naval forces are giving it the confidence to stake out claims in the South China, East China, and Yellow Seas that implicitly dare the U.S. to get involved. Both Russia and China are developing two-engine fifth-generation stealth fighters, just when America has shut down F-22 production. News reports this week indicate Russia may sell its most advanced fighters, the Su-35, to China.

Iran will likely soon develop the know-how to build nuclear weapons, and has a ballistic-missile supply source in North Korea. All of these countries, moreover, have increasingly sophisticated integrated air defenses that will prevent U.S. airplanes from entering their airspace — except the F-22, whose numbers are now so low that combatant commanders will be wary of using them for fear of losing them. One doesn’t have to be a fatalist to see various scenarios in which the Air Force will be called upon to respond to a crisis, yet may be unable to do so, or succeed only at appallingly high cost in airmen’s lives.

Today, the Air Force needs to come up with a list of strategic priorities and make its case on Capitol Hill and on Main Street. As next year’s budget is being drawn up, there must be development funding for the Next-Generation Bomber, which has already been canceled once by Secretary Gates. The White House or Senate cannot be allowed to kill the production of C-17 transport planes, which ensure global reach.

Further cutting the production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will drive up the per-plane cost, as anyone with budgetary experience can attest. Equally important, Air Force leadership needs to make Congress face up to the fact that canceling the F-22 was a mistake that will limit the force’s ability to respond to a variety of high-level threats. Finally, the Air Force must ensure it receives funding resources commensurate with its unique missions of providing cyber security and space assets to America’s national-security establishment.

Secretary Gates has criticized military leaders for having “next-waritis,” arguing that they should focus on current conflicts — which today means counterinsurgency operations. But it is dangerously irresponsible for our national-security leadership to ignore state-level threats that are not merely on the horizon, but rapidly approaching. America needs to build the weapons that are necessary for defeating high-level threats, even as our armed forces must better steward their diminishing budgetary resources.

If we intend to maintain American military dominance abroad, the U.S. Air Force cannot be hollowed out and relegated to a supporting role. Nor can it be asked to maintain its global responsibilities with a sub-par force. If the United States wants to maintain the ability to be a global actor, to protect friends, and to dissuade adversaries, then a 360-degree Air Force is a prerequisite, as it has been for the last 60 years.

For its part, the Air Force must reclaim its unique spirit, recommit to core competencies in its nuclear mission, regain control of spiraling costs and procurement problems, and reassert itself in the political process and public debates. Anything less risks failure in the air and a loss of America’s unique role in the world.

– Michael Auslin is a resident scholar in foreign- and defense-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

NASA: Medium Launch Transition Strategy Leverages Ongoing Investments but Is Not Without Risk

GAO Report

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has long relied on the Delta II medium class launch vehicle to launch science missions. Delta II, however, is no longer in production, and no other vehicle in the relative cost and performance range is currently certified for NASA use. Thus, NASA faces a potential gap in the availability of medium class launch vehicles that could cause design challenges, delays, or funding issues.

GAO was asked to assess (1) NASA’s and the Delta II contractor’s, steps to ensure resources (budget, workforce, and facilities) are available to support safe Delta II operations through the last planned NASA flight in 2011; (2) NASA’s plans and contingencies for ensuring a smooth transition from current small and medium class launch vehicles to other launch vehicles for future science missions; (3) the risks associated with NASA’s planned approach to fill the medium launch capability gap; and (4) technical and programmatic implications to science missions if NASA commits to new launch vehicles before they are certified and proven. GAO identified and assessed transition plans and mitigation activities and interviewed responsible NASA and government officials.

NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is taking steps to address risks and ensure the success of the last planned Delta II launched missions through a combination of specific government approvals and targeted government insight into contractor activities and designs. For example, LSP uses government systems engineers with technical expertise to review or repeat the contractors’ engineering analyses. This is a key factor in high launch success rates.

From 1990 through 2009, LSP has achieved a 98 percent launch success rate. LSP is conducting additional reviews of launch vehicle processing to mitigate risk associated with the remaining Delta II flights. LSP has also identified several specific areas of concern with the remaining Delta II flights–including contractor workforce expertise, postproduction subcontractor support, spare parts, and launch pads–and is taking steps where possible to mitigate risks and ensure the success of the remaining missions. NASA plans to leverage ongoing investments to acquire a new medium launch capability for science missions in the relative cost and performance range of the Delta II.

The agency expects to eventually certify the vehicles being developed for space station resupply for use by NASA science missions. NASA has been in coordination with agency and contractor officials responsible for these efforts. Further, the agency revised its policy to allow for faster certification of new providers. Due to an active small class launch vehicle market and NASA’s relative low need for vehicles in this class, the agency has no plans to develop additional small class launch vehicles. Rather, the agency will acquire these services through the NASA Launch Services II Contract.

NASA’s plan has inherent risks that need to be mitigated. NASA has not developed detailed estimates of the time and money required to resolve technical issues likely to arise during the launch vehicle certification process. As these costs are currently unknown, according to Science Mission Directorate officials, NASA has not yet budgeted for them. Further, both space station resupply vehicles have experienced delays and more delays are likely as launch vehicle development is an inherently risky endeavor. Neither potential provider currently has the facilities needed to launch the majority of NASA earth science missions requiring a medium capability.

NASA medium class science missions that are approaching their preliminary design review face uncertainties related to committing to as yet uncertified and unproven launch vehicles. Launch vehicle decisions for these missions will be made before new vehicles are certified. Because changing the launch vehicle of a science mission after its preliminary design review is likely to lead to significant cost growth and schedule delays, NASA’s intention is to select a launch vehicle and accept the impacts that any delays in the certification process could have to the cost and schedule of the science mission.

NASA officials also indicated that future science missions might be asked to accommodate multiple launch vehicle possibilities if the availability of future vehicles is delayed. GAO recommends that NASA perform a detailed cost estimate based on knowledge gained during launch vehicle certification and adequately budget for potential additional costs. NASA concurred.

GAO-11-107 November 22, 2010

Highlights Page (PDF)   Full Report (PDF, 38 pages)

X-37B Shuttle’s Super Secret Mission to End Soon


Preparations underway for first landing of X-37B

30th Space Wing Public Affairs

11/30/2010 – VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Preparations for the first landing of the X-37B are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s first X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1). While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur between Friday, December 3, and Monday, December 6, 2010.

NORAD ID: 36514
Int’l Code: 2010-015A
Perigee: 284.9 km
Apogee: 295.8 km
Inclination: 40.0°
Period: 90.2 min
Semi major axis: 6,661.4 km
Launch date: April 22, 2010
Source: United States (US)
Comments: It will land on a runway originally built for the space shuttle at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Officially named the Orbital Test Vehicle. Besides saying the mission will demonstrate the craft’s high-tech capabilities, the Air Force is not releasing any information on what experiments or objectives are planned while the X-37B is in orbit.

Two Line Element Set (TLE):

1 36514U 10015A   10327.74357191  .00025051  00000-0  55503-4 0    04
2 36514  39.9869 111.4048 0008163   6.5863 353.5069 15.96830074    04

More details about OTV 1 (USA 212)


Inside The Cockpit

The exploded engine was scary enough. But in the days following the emergency landing of the Qantas A380 in Singapore, it has become clear just how dangerous the situation was. Multiple systems on the aircraft failed and a disaster was only narrowly avoided.

Rarely had so much flying expertise been assembled in one cockpit. A training pilot was sitting behind Captain Richard de Crespigny, who was completing his annual flight test. Sitting next to them was a third captain whose job was to supervise the training pilot.

Together, the Airbus A380 operated by Australia’s Qantas Airways had a total of 100 years of flying experience sitting in its cockpit. Four minutes after takeoff from Singapore, that accumulated expertise was suddenly in great demand. At an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), engine two of the double-decker aircraft exploded. The loud bang of the detonation had hardly faded away before 53 error messages appeared on the monitors.

Upon reading the matter-of-fact messages, the five pilots realized immediately how serious the situation was. Kerosene was leaking from two of the 12 fuel tanks, which meant that the plane could catch fire at any moment.

“It was unbelievably stressful. But in a situation like that, you have no choice but to keep on going,” says Richard Woodward. The captain knows what he is talking about. He also flies the A380 for Qantas, is the vice president of the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and has looked after the crew since the near-catastrophe almost two weeks ago. “The crew has dealt with this situation extraordinarily well,” Woodward reports. “They’re like horseback riders who, after a fall, are eager to get back on their horses.”

Failed to Activate

The men have given him their accounts of those dramatic moments in the air. There were no warnings before the engine exploded — no change in oil pressure, no unusual vibrations, nothing. When the explosion occurred, the captain quickly pressed an emergency button that activates an automatic extinguishing system when there is an engine fire. But the system failed to activate. “It was clear to him at that point that there must have been more damage,” says Woodward.

One of the training pilots ran back into the cabin, where he saw the holes in the wing caused by loose metal parts from the turbine. As a result, De Crespigny could not dump fuel properly to reduce the weight of the fully fueled aircraft for an emergency landing. He was also unable to pump kerosene from the back to the front of the aircraft, causing it to become increasingly unstable as kerosene escaped.

The incident raises serious questions for both engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and Airbus. “How could there have been this much loss of function?” asks Woodward.

One of the two hydraulic systems failed and important connecting cables were severed, including those leading to the outer engine one. Although the pilot could still control the engine manually, it could no longer be shut off, so that firefighters had to smother it with extinguishing foam after the emergency landing.

Bad Brakes

“This raises the question of whether the aircraft is improperly designed,” says Woodward. “Apparently certain connections are not redundant; or the two cables are positioned so close together that the shrapnel destroyed them simultaneously.”

The aircraft manufacturer is defending itself against such accusations. The aircraft, says Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath, was “controllable until the landing,” and the autopilot continued to function. “There are two separate hydraulic and electrical systems,” Schaffrath adds. But some of the brakes were no longer working properly. Luckily, the pilots were able to land in Singapore, which has a very long, 4,000-meter runway.

Another dramatic aspect of the emergency landing was that an anti-lock system also stopped working. Three tires burst when the plane touched down as a result, sending sparks into the air. “And that was with two holes in the tank!” says Woodward.

Very Conservative

At least the reason for the engine explosion is now clear. Last week, Rolls-Royce identified a defective part in the turbine, which caused an oil leak that led to the fire. Of the superjumbo jets delivered to date, 20 are affected by the problem, including three at Lufthansa. The defective engine part will gradually be replaced.

Qantas pilot Woodward is pleased that his company has made a “very conservative safety decision” to temporarily ground the A380. But he does wonder why the other airlines potentially affected by the engine defect are not taking similar precautions.

Lufthansa points out that it has such short maintenance intervals that dangerous oil leaks are bound to be discovered. But Woodward isn’t convinced, saying: “Our plane had just returned from maintenance in Frankfurt, and the accident happened nonetheless.”

Internet Source/Credit/Translation Unknown

Qantas Airbus A380 inflight engine failure

Unconfirmed Damage overview

* massive fuel leak in the left mid fuel tank (the beast has 11 tanks, including in the horizontal stabiliser on the tail)

* massive fuel leak in the left inner fuel tank

* a hole on the flap canoe/fairing that you could fit your upper body through

* the aft gallery in the fuel system failed, preventing many fuel transfer functions

* fuel jettison had problems due to the previous problem above

* bloody great hole in the upper wing surface

* partial failure of leading edge slats

* partial failure of speed brakes/ground spoilers

* shrapnel damage to the flaps

* TOTAL loss of all hydraulic fluid in the Green System (beast has 2 x 5,000 PSI systems, Green and Yellow)

* manual extension of landing gear

* loss of 1 generator and associated systems

* loss of brake anti-skid system

* unable to shutdown adjacent #1 engine using normal method after landing due to major damage to systems

* unable to shutdown adjacent #1 engine using using the fire switch!!!!!!!!

Therefore, no fire protection was available for that engine after the explosion in #2

* ECAM warnings about major fuel imbalance because of fuel leaks on left side, that were UNABLE to be fixed with cross-feeding

* fuel trapped in Trim Tank (in the tail). Therefore, possible major center of gravity out-of-balance condition for landing.

Rolls-Royce: Journey Through A Jet Engine

Related Links:

Stricken Qantas A380 jet was full of holes