Telescope Array Refunded

An assortment of 42 radio telescopes seeking signs of intelligent life in the universe has received enough funding by private donors to keep the effort going.

The array was a joint project between the SETI Institute and the UC Berkeley Astronomy Laboratory, but earlier this year was shut down due to the loss of National Science Foundation grants and state budget cuts.

Senior SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak said, “But people still think this very fundamental question – is there somebody out there as intelligent or more so than us? – is important and worth doing…”
The telescopes will be turned on again come September, they are recalibrated and will operate 24 hours a day for the rest of the year as more funds are sought.

The array costs $2.5 million a year to operate with a staff of 10 people. The SETI Institute has an $18 million budget and 140 employees. The funding comes from donors, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

SETI Institute CEO Tom Pierson told supporters it is his objective to raise $5 million so that the radio dishes may be pointed at 1,235 new so-called “exoplanets” which were announced in February by NASA’s Kepler mission.

The telescopes are not only used to search for E.T.s, but also to contribute to the research of black holes, pulsars and magnetic fields in the Milky Way.

Last June the SETI website read:

At the SETI Institute, we’ve made a name for ourselves exploring space. But it’s our community here on Earth — passionate, science-minded and creative — that truly defines us. That’s why we’re launching SETIstars, an initiative to connect us more closely than ever with the constellation of visionaries and supporters that make our work possible.

Priority one is getting the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) back online as soon as possible and once again fixing our gaze on the stars.

The ATA is a powerful field of linked radio telescopes that enable countless avenues of astronomical study, chief among them the search for evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations and insight into the nature of our cosmic origins. In the wake of a recent funding shortfall, however, this invaluable tool lies dormant and our vision of the universe around us has gone dark. With your help, we can change that.

An Oregon Surviver

Pamela SalantA hiker from Oregon, a 28-year-old nursery school art teacher who survived a 50-foot fall and broken bones, trapped in a national forest for three nights says she ate bugs and slugs to survive.
Pamela Salant was rescued on August second by an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter. She was on a camping trip with her boyfriend that began on July 30 in the Mount Hood National Forest. She got lost and took a fall.

She survived on berries and caterpillars. Wearing only a tank top and shorts, she covered herself with moss to stay warm.
Salant suffered a broken tibia and fractures in her middle back. So stunned initially by her fall, she did not realize at first how badly she was hurt until waking the next morning in a great deal of pain. Finally, she was seen in a drainage ditch at about 2 and by 3:30 pm was being pulled up by a helicopter.

Her survival instincts are commendable. With a broken leg she followed a creek in an attempt to get to the Columbia River. She scooted and crawled along on her ass.

The lead pilot, Major Neil Maunu spotted her in the ditch first from the vantage of the helicopter.

Japan’s Radioactive Beef

Japanese Radioactive BeefWorry regarding radiation-tainted beef intensified in Japan on Sunday as officials struggled to determine the problem’s scope and prevent further contamination of the meat supply.

The government is readying itself to suspend cattle shipments from Fukushima amidst a growing number of cows that eat rice straw containing high levels of radioactive cesium. This straw was harvested from rice paddies in the prefecture after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami almost wrecked cooling systems and released radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Chain operator of the supermarket giant, Aeon Co. says more than 703 pounds of this meat ended up at 14 of its outlets in Tokyo.

Aeon says it will protect consumers by strengthening its radiation testing systems for beef.

Kohei Otsuka, senior Vice Health Minister said the government could consider expanding the expected cattle restriction beyond

Fukushima. These comments came a day after Fukushima’s government said 84 head of cattle shipped from five farms were fed contaminated straw.

This issue first came up on July 8, when the Tokyo Metropolitan Government told the press it detected radiation in beef originating from a farm in Minami Soma, 16 miles north of the crippled nuclear plant.

National and local government officials say they are trying to trace the location of the suspected meat and will be improving safety checks.

The Mount Lokon Affair

Mount Lokon 2011Mount Lokon, on northern Sulawesi island, a volcano in central Indonesia experienced its most violent eruption yet last Sunday, disgorging lava and smoke thousands of feet into the air and sending screaming villagers racing to emergency shelters. The volcano erupted a few times towards the end of last week however Sunday’s incident was the most powerful, sending debris 11,400 feet into the sky.

Mount Lokon is one of some 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia. Its last major eruption was in 1991.

There are more than 33,000 people living along the slopes of Mount Lokon; there they enjoy the benefit of fertile soil to grow coffee, cloves and the likes. Some 5,000 have homes near the crater which have been relocated in recent days to mosques, schools and other makeshift shelters near the base.

Some villagers returned early Sunday morning to tend to their livestock crops despite cautions not to do so.

Then massive explosions sent them racing back down the slopes, some villagers even jumping into their nearby motorcycles and cars.

The nearby international airport in Manado was operating as scheduled.

Indonesia is especially prone to volcanoes and earthquakes as it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped line of faults which lines the Pacific Ocean.

Indian Elephants Electrocuted

Dudhwa national park

Three elephants were tragically electrocuted at a wildlife sanctuary in northern India, after they uprooted a utility pole and became entangled in its wires. The wild elephant population of India is estimated at about 26,000.

Dudhwa national parkThe charred remains of the elephants caught in the wires were discovered on Friday at the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh state. The elephants seemed to be part of a herd moving through the park in the Himalayan foothills. Relatives of the elephants did not give any statement. Local veterinarians will be conducting autopsies on the elephants before they are buried in the park.

The park is about 155 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. While the threat to elephants in India is not as dramatic as that facing tigers, the decline of their population worries wildlife activists.

China – Why So Stingy?

Only days after the World Trade Organization ruled against China on its curbing of raw material exports, Chinese state media insisted it is well within its rights, legally and morally, to limit rare earth exports, as it deems comfortable.

Last Tuesday, the WTO ruled China had violated its rules when it curbed exports of raw materials like bauxite, coke and magnesium used to produce steel, electronics and medicines. Initiated in 2009 by complaints filed by the United States, the European Union and Mexico was as a possible precedent for a future case on China’s rare earth export quotas. The World Trade Organization said China’s domestic policies didn’t honor its export duties on raw materials were to curtail pollution or conserve exhaustible natural resources.

Meanwhile, the central Chinese government slashed rare earth export quotas by 35 percent for the initial half of 2011, adding to previous quota cuts; a move which curtailed global supplies, boosted prices and angered China’s trading partners.

Besides for reiterating China’s stance, the report referred to experts who highlighted United Nations declarations on sovereignty over resources and World Trade Organization rules allowing China to make exceptions with its rare earth quotas under trade law.

Geothermal Japan

After its nuclear disaster, Japan is looking into other sources of energy, including geothermal energy which uses heat from the earth’s core to generate electricity.

Geothermal JapanThe virtue of nuclear power was put under inquisition after earthquakes and tsnuamis rocked Japan last March leaving the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in dire peril, with workers fearing for their health.

Now, as Japan begins considering alternative energy sources, geothermal power has taken its place in the spotlight. Hot springs could supply a portion of Japan’s power, partly because the energy is generated by fault lines beneath the earth.

Feasibly, Japan could replace all its planned nuclear stations over the next decade with geothermal energy. But not everything about geothermal energy is necessarily heaven sent. Harnessing the energy is quite costly, and there are concerns about possible earthquake damage. In addition to these concerns, the best geothermal resources in Japan are located in the country’s prized national parks. However, as the nation moves further away from nuclear power, they will continue on the quest for additional sources of energy, and hot springs just might be part of the solution.

The Problem with British Jelly Fish

A foray of jellyfish into a cooling water pond at a Scottish nuclear power plant kept its nuclear reactors offline last Wednesday, a phenomenon that could become more common in the future.

Two reactors at EDF Energy’s Torness nuclear plant on the Scottish east coast remained closed for one day after they were manually shut down due to masses of jellyfish blocking cooling water filters.

Power plants draw water from nearby rivers or seas to cool down their reactors, however, if the filters that keep out marine animals and seaweed are clogged up, the station shuts down to maintain its temperature and safety standards.

Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said that power plants follow a pre-planned program when such situations occur.

The most recent plant availability data from network operator National Grid showed Torness reactor 1 would be returning to service on July 5 and reactor 2, July 6, although, operator EDF Energy was unable to give a restart date.

Operators often take the opportunity presented by an unplanned stoppage to carry out maintenance work.

A spokesman for Britain’s largest nuclear power operator, EDF Energy, said:

“We are working to clear the jellyfish from the waters near the power station. This work, as well as monitoring the area for more jellyfish, is ongoing.”


Scientists say jellyfish obstructing power plants is not a common occurrence in England, though it has happened more often in other countries like Japan.

Water temperatures off the east coast of Scotland are currently 13 degrees Celsius, that is one degree above average levels for this time of the year.

Increasing global warming and fishing activity are giving jellyfish populations a boost, potentially making jellyfish invasions at nuclear power plants located near the open sea increasingly common in the future.

Chinese Pandas

China is about to engage in a once-every-ten-year count of giant pandas living in the wild.

The official China Daily reported that upwards of sixty trackers are being trained at Wanglang National Reserve in the southwestern province of Sichuan – a province that is believed to have the largest number of wild pandas in China.

Here’s what they will do to take their census:

They will start by collecting droppings for a DNA analysis that will allow zoologists to track individual pandas and accurately estimate the population, Chen Youping, the director of the reserve’s administrative department, was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

Also, the census is expected to bring to light more on living conditions, age structure and changes of habitat of the endangered species.

The last census counted 1,596 wild pandas in China, 1,206 of which were living in Sichuan.

Wild pandas are threatened by a loss of habitat, poaching and that they are poor breeders. Females in the wild normally have a cub once every two or three years.

The trackers will begin a pilot survey at the nature reserve this week which is expected to end by the beginning of the month of July.

Asteroid Time!

According to NASA a newly discovered asteroid will experience a close encounter with Earth this coming Monday; but worry not – it will not spell disaster.

NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office contends that the small space rock – called 2011 MD – will pass 7,500 miles over Earth’s surface over the southern Atlantic Ocean.

While it will come close, it is not a distance record holder. Earlier in the year, a tiny asteroid flew by even closer; that is within 3,400 miles of the Blue Planet.

The last asteroid measures 33 feet long and was discovered with New Mexican telescopes. Scientists say that asteroids this size can sail past Earth every six years.

The asteroid will briefly be seen rather brightly; well, that is bright enough such that medium-size telescopes may be able to spot it.