September 26, 2016

Paul Newman - Hollywood Legend


He was smiling… That’s right. You know, that, that Luke smile of his. He had it on his face right to the very end. Hell, if they didn’t know it ‘fore, they could tell right then that they weren’t a-gonna beat him. That old Luke smile. Oh, Luke. He was some boy. Cool Hand Luke. Hell, he’s a natural-born world-shaker. – Dragline

In just 83 years, The Mighty Paul Newman accomplished what most of us couldn’t in three lifetimes. Newman was a film actor Oscar-nominated 9 times, the director of a movie nominated for Best Picture, a respected stage actor, a war veteran, an accomplished race car driver,  a wildly successful manufacturer of a food products line, and a philanthropist’s philanthropist.

His Hollywood marriage to Joanne Woodward lasted until his death — a full half century.

Most of all, Paul Newman was a one-of-a-kind movie star who, unlike anyone else in his generation, started out in the Golden Age of the studio system and remained a top star and leading man for another five decades.


Despite all the changes in the world, Paul Newman was never an anachronism. Kirk Douglas couldn’t make the leap. Brando became a self-parody. Beatty worked too infrequently. James Dean and Monty Clift seemed awfully eager to die young, and did.

To young people in the turbulent sixties, “Harper” (1966),  “Hombre” (1967), “Cool Hand Luke” (1967), “Winning” (1969), and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) were as counter-culture and subversive as “Easy Rider.” Even with all that gray hair, Newman spoke to a restless, reckless, and ultimately lost generation.

In 1969, Paul Newman was the biggest star in the country to those who believed you should never trust anyone over 30. He was 44 years old.

Because these films were timeless (as were Newman’s performances in them), over the bridge of generations, they still speak out loud for anyone who bristles at authority or the idea of drinking someone else’s Kool-aid.

The same goes for Newman’s legendary performances that led straight into the 21st Century:  “The Hustler,” “The Long Hot Summer,” “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” “The Sting,” “Slap Shot,” “Fort Apache the Bronx,” “Absence of Malice,” “The Verdict,” “The Color of Money,” and “Nobody’s Fool.”



Newman portrayed outlaws, drunks, criminals, failures, losers, hustlers, rogues, grifters, working class bums, and outright bastards. We admired them all because beneath it all his characters were always what every man should be  — their own man.

This was true of the real Newman, a functioning alcoholic (he drank a case of beer a day) and fitness freak who decided  in his forties to take up racing. Over the decades not only would he (and his teams) win a number of prominent races, he would win something even more important to him than trophies: the respect of the other drivers who at first laughed him off as a dilettante.

In 1986 Paul Newman was a 61 year-old six-time Oscar nominee who had never taken home the gold. That year, the Academy gave Newman the consolation prize it gives to all Oscar-less legends at the end of their careers: an Honorary Oscar.

The very next year, Newman showed everyone what he was made of by winning a competitive Best Actor Oscar for “The Color of Money.” Newman would work for another two decades and go on to win two more Oscar nominations.

At the age when most of us would be longing for retirement, Newman started and built Newman’s Own into an unbelievably successful gourmet food company that went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars in profits — every cent of which has gone to charity.

Paul Newman was genetically gifted with masculine beauty and still one of the guys;  a Democrat who put his fortune where his mouth was; a classical liberal who loved America and who admired and was friends with John Wayne; a sex symbol who called his wife between takes … because he missed her.

Far from perfect, nothing close to a saint, Paul Newman was still a good man, and his own man.

In his definitive biography, Shawn Levy writes that “Just days before he succumbed [to cancer],  sitting in the garden at Westport with his daughters, he spoke his last recorded words and spoke about how he felt about it all.”

“It’s been a privilege to be here,” Newman said.

The privilege was all ours.

John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC             
With thanks to Big Hollywood



September 26th - 2016                                                                  

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September 24, 2016

Can Horses Talk? Of Course, Of Course


For thousands of years, horses have obeyed our commands.
It's why we rode them into battle, use them as farmhands, and - more recently - draw on them for therapy and rehabilitation programs

But new research into human-equine communication confirms horses aren't just able to listen to us; they're able to talk back.

A study conducted by Norwegian animal behaviour experts has found horses are able to convey their preferences to handlers by touching symbols with their noses.

The researchers trained 23 horses, of various ages and breeds, for up to 15 minutes a day on how to approach and touch a board in order to tell the handler whether whether they were too cold, too warm or just right. 

One of the symbols meant "blanket on", the second meant "blanket off" and the third symbol meant "no change".

After two weeks, the horses were all able to tell their handlers if they wanted their blanket put on or taken off by touching the corresponding symbol.

The animals were tested in all sorts of conditions, including warm weather as well as rain and snow.

"The horses not only became able to discriminate the three symbols and associate each of them with a specific outcome ... they were also able to understand the effect a change in blanketing status would have on their thermal wellbeing," the study reads.

However, before you start dreaming up scenes reminiscent of the talking horse from Mr Ed, it's important to understand horses have always communicated with humans.
Equine experts say it's just that most people don't realise the horse is trying to talk to them in the first place. 

Kim Wren, the owner of Wedgetail Rides in the Yarra Valley, said the people in this study have simply taken the time to listen to the horses involved.

"We're often talking to horses, telling them what they can and can't do," she said. 

"But a lot of horses communicate with humans and each other through body language. We need to listen by watching the body language. This is exactly what these people [the researchers] are doing - they've taught them cues."

Ms Wren has a herd of 17 horses she uses for classes with at-risk youth or people living with disabilities. 

She said her horses also tell her if they don't want to be rugged up.
"If I go to rug up the horse and the horse walks off, it's saying it doesn't want it on," she said. 

"If they walk up, they do. You listen to the horse by observing."

By Broede Carmody

With many thanks to The Age 


Bye, Bye Rosetta — We’ll Miss You!



Rosetta awoke from a decade of deep-space hibernation in January 2014 and immediately got to work photographing, measuring and sampling comet 67P/C-G. On September 30 it will sleep again but this time for eternity. Mission controllers will direct the probe to impact the comet’s dusty-icy nucleus within 20 minutes of 10:40 Greenwich Time (6:40 a.m. EDT) that Friday morning. The high-resolution OSIRIS camera will be snapping pictures on the way down, but once impact occurs, it’s game over, lights out. Rosetta will power down and go silent.

Nearly three years have passed since Rosetta opened its eyes on 67P, this curious, bi-lobed rubber duck of a comet just 2.5 miles (4 km) across with landscapes ranging from dust dunes to craggy peaks to enigmatic ‘goosebumps’. The mission was the first to orbit a comet and dispatch a probe, Philae, to its surface. I think it’s safe to say we learned more about what makes comets tick during Rosetta’s sojourn than in any previous mission.

So why end it? One of the big reasons is power. As Rosetta races farther and farther from the Sun, less sunlight falls on its pair of 16-meter-long solar arrays. At mid-month, the probe was over 348 million miles (560 million km) from the Sun and 433 million miles (697 million km) from Earth or nearly as far as Jupiter. With Sun-to-Rosetta mileage increasing nearly 620,000 miles (1 million km) a day, weakening sunlight can’t provide the power needed to keep the instruments running.

Rosetta’s also showing signs of age after having been in the harsh environment of interplanetary space for more than 12 years, two of them next door to a dust-spitting comet. Both factors contributed to the decision to end the mission rather than put the probe back into an even longer hibernation until the comet’s next perihelion many years away.

Since August 9, Rosetta has been swinging past the comet in a series of ever-tightening loops, providing excellent opportunities for close-up science observations. On September 5, Rosetta swooped within 1.2 miles (1.9 km) of 67P/C-G’s surface. It was hoped the spacecraft would descend as low as a kilometer during one of the later orbits as scientists worked to glean as much as possible before the show ends.

The final of 15 close flyovers will be completed today (Sept. 24) after which Rosetta will be maneuvered from its current elliptical orbit onto a trajectory that will eventually take it down to the comet’s surface on Sept. 30.

The beginning of the end unfolds on the evening of the 29th when Rosetta spends 14 hours free-falling slowly towards the comet from an altitude of 12.4 miles (20 km) — about 4 miles higher than a typical commercial jet — all the while collecting measurements and photos that will be returned to Earth before impact. The last eye-popping images will be taken from a distance of just tens to a hundred meters away.

The landing will be a soft one, with the spacecraft touching down at walking speed. Like Philae before it, it will probably bounce around before settling into place. Mission control expects parts of the probe to break upon impact.

Taking into account the additional 40 minute signal travel time between Rosetta and Earth on the 30th, confirmation of impact is expected at ESA’s mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, within 20 minutes of 11:20 GMT (7:20 a.m. EDT). The times will be updated as the trajectory is refined. You can watch live coverage of Rosetta’s final hours on ESA TV .

“It’s hard to believe that Rosetta’s incredible 12.5 year odyssey is almost over, and we’re planning the final set of science operations, but we are certainly looking forward to focusing on analyzing the reams of data for many decades to come,” said Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.

Plans call for the spacecraft to impact the comet somewhere within an ellipse about 1,300 x 2,000 feet (600 x 400 meters) long on 67P’s smaller lobe in the region known as Ma’at. It’s home to several active pits more than 328 feet (100 meters) in diameter and 160-200 feet (50-60 meters) deep, where a number of the comet’s dust jets originate. The walls of the pits are lined with fascinating meter-sized lumpy structures called ‘goosebumps’, which scientists believe could be early ‘cometesimals’, the icy snowballs that stuck together to create the comet in the early days of our Solar System’s formation.

During free-fall, the spacecraft will target a point adjacent to a 425-foot (130 m) wide, well-defined pit that the mission team has informally named Deir el-Medina, after a structure with a similar appearance in an ancient Egyptian town of the same name. High resolution images should give us a spectacular view of these enigmatic bumps.

While we hate to see Rosetta’s mission end, it’s been a blast going for a 2-year-plus comet ride-along.

By Bob King

With many thanks to Universe Today

September 22, 2016

Ancient Skeleton Uncovered At The Antikythera Shipwreck



Marine archaeologists have found the partial remains of a 2,000-year-old skeleton while conducting an excavation at the Antikythera shipwreck, the famous site that yielded the freakishly-advanced Antikythera Mechanism. Incredibly, the ancient remains could still contain traces of DNA. 


The remains, found just three weeks ago, were discovered by researchers from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Working at a depth of 165 feet (50 meters), the archaeologists found the partial human skeleton buried under two feet (0.5 meters) of sand and busted bits of ancient pottery. The excavation yielded a human skull (including a jaw and teeth) legs, ribs, and the long arm bones. 

The researchers will now see if they can extract DNA from the 2,000-year-old remains. Should they succeed, it will be the first time that scientists have pulled DNA from such an old underwater sample. The remains are surprisingly well preserved, and experts are encouraged that genetic material still exists within the bones.

The Antikythera shipwreck is a fascinating site, and archaeologists are eager to learn more about the ship, its cargo, and ill-fated crew. Prior to sinking sometime around 65 B.C., this impressive ship transported luxury items—including the oddly computer-like Antikythera Mechanism— from the eastern Mediterranean to other parts of Europe, likely Rome. The ship was large, consisting of multiple levels, and with many people on board. Evidence suggests the ship broke apart after a storm sent it careening into rocks, causing it to sink quickly. 

Preliminary analysis of the skeleton suggests the individual was a young man. Should DNA analysis be successful, scientists could learn details such as his hair and eye color, and even his ancestral and geographic origin. Other portions of the skeleton are still embedded in the seafloor, and the archaeologists plan a return visit to collect the rest.
“Archaeologists study the human past through the objects our ancestors created,” noted Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist with WHOI, in a statement “With the Antikythera Shipwreck, we can now connect directly with this person who sailed and died aboard the Antikythera ship.”

It’s exceptionally rare to find such ancient physical remains underwater. The Antikythera wreck was discovered in 1900 by sponge divers, and all visible artifacts were soon collected. Archaeologists suspect that much of the ship’s cargo still remains buried under the sediment. Recent excavations at the site have produced various artifacts, including large anchors, and a “war dolphin”—a teardrop-shaped lead weight that was used by the ancient Greeks as a defensive weapon to smash hostile ships.  

By George Dvorsky
With many thanks to Gizmondo


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