Joke of the Day

A young man at this construction site was bragging that he could outdo anyone based on his strength. He especially made fun of one of the older workman. After several minutes, the older worker had enough. 

“Why don’t you put your money where you mouth is?” he said. “I’ll bet a week’s wages that I can haul something in a wheelbarrow over to the other building that you won’t be able to wheel back.” 

“You’re on, old man,” the young man replied. “Let’s see what you’ve got.” 

The old man reached out and grabbed the wheelbarrow by the handles.

Then nodding to the young man, he said with a smile, “All right. Get in.”

Four Dwarfs of the Apocolypse

The shattered remains of planets that bear a striking resemblance to our own Earth have been found around white dwarf stars – offering a vision of what will one day happen to our planet.

University of Warwick astrophysicists found four white dwarves surrounded by the dust of shattered planets.

White dwarfs are the final stage of life of stars like our Sun – once the thermonuclear furnace inside a star ‘burns out’.

 Using the Hubble Space Telescope to carry out the biggest survey to date of the chemical composition of the atmospheres of white dwarf stars, the researchers found that the most frequently occurring elements in the dust around these four white dwarfs were oxygen, magnesium, iron and silicon — the four elements that make up roughly 93 percent of the Earth.

It’s evidence that the small, dense stars are surrounded by the ‘corpses’ of worlds they’ve ‘eaten’.

At least one of the stars is in the process of sucking in the planet’s core – rich in iron, nickel and sulphur – at a rate of around a million kilos a second. 

Professor Boris Gänsicke of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick, who led the study, said the destructive process which caused the discs of dust around these distant white dwarfs is likely to one day play out in our own solar system.

‘What we are seeing today in these white dwarfs several hundred light-years away could well be a snapshot of the very distant future of the Earth.

‘As stars like our Sun reach the end of their life, they expand to become red giants when the nuclear fuel in their cores is depleted.

‘When this happens in our own solar system, billions of years from now, the Sun will engulf the inner planets Mercury and Venus. It’s unclear whether the Earth will also be swallowed up by the Sun in its red giant phase — but even if it survives, its surface will be roasted.

‘During the transformation of the Sun into a white dwarf, it will lose a large amount of mass, and all the planets will move further out. This may destabilize the orbits and lead to collisions between planetary bodies as happened in the unstable early days of our solar system.

‘This may even shatter entire terrestrial planets, forming large amounts of asteroids, some of which will have chemical compositions similar to those of the planetary core. In our solar system, Jupiter will survive the late evolution of the Sun unscathed, and scatter asteroids, new or old, towards the white dwarf.

However an even more significant observation was that this material also contained an extremely low proportion of carbon, which matched very closely that of the Earth and the other rocky planets orbiting closest to our own Sun.

This is the first time that such low proportions of carbon have been measured in the atmospheres of white dwarf stars polluted by debris.

This clear evidence that these stars once had at least one rocky exoplanet which they have now destroyed, the observations must also pinpoint the last phase of the death of these worlds.

The atmosphere of a white dwarf is made up of hydrogen and/or helium, so any heavy elements that come into their atmosphere are dragged downwards to their core and out of sight within a matter of days by the dwarf’s high gravity.

Given this, the astronomers must literally be observing the final phase of the death of these worlds as the material rains down on the stars at rates of up to 1 million kilograms every second.

Not only is this clear evidence that these stars once had rocky exoplanetary bodies which have now been destroyed, the observations of one particular white dwarf, PG0843+516, may also tell the story of the destruction of these worlds.

This star stood out from the rest owing to the relative overabundance of the elements iron, nickel and sulphur in the dust found in its atmosphere. Iron and nickel are found in the cores of terrestrial planets, as they sink to the center owing to the pull of gravity during planetary formation, and so does sulphur thanks to its chemical affinity to iron.
Therefore, researchers believe they are observing White Dwarf PG0843+516 in the very act of swallowing up material from the core of a rocky planet that was large enough to undergo differentiation, similar to the process that separated the core and the mantle of the Earth.

The University of Warwick led team surveyed more than 80 white dwarfs within a few hundred light-years of the Sun, using the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph onboard the Hubble Space Telescope.

Empathetic Canines

Your dog might understand you more than you think.

It appears dogs can ‘catch’ yawns from humans – but it seems to work best when there’s a bond between dog and man.

Dogs yawn even when they only hear the sound of their owners doing the same, researchers have found.

A study found that nearly half of all dogs yawned when played a recording of a human being making such a noise.

But when the yawn played belonged to their owners, the canines were five times more likely than if the voice belonged to a stranger.

The researchers said it was further proof that dogs empathize with their owners and understand what they are going through.

In her report behavioral biologist Karine Silva, the lead researcher, said: ‘These results suggest that dogs have the capacity to empathize with humans’.

Previous studies have found that dogs are among the few non-human animals to yawn – others include macaques, baboons and chimpanzees.

When somebody ‘catches’ another person’s yawn it has long been taken as a sign you understand what they are going through – and are tired as well.

To see if canines do the same researchers from University of Porto in Portugal tested 29 dogs which had lived with their owners for at least six months.

They recorded the owners yawning and played the recordings to their dogs, along with the yawn of an unfamiliar woman and a control sound, which was a yawn noise played backwards.

The dogs were given two sessions one week apart and the number of yawns for each noise was monitored.

The results showed that when dogs heard their owners they were by far more likely to yawn than under any other set of circumstances.

Scientists who were not involved in the study said it gave new insight into human and dog relations.

Evan McLean, a Ph.D. student at Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center in Durham, North Carolina, told Science Now: ‘This study tells us something new about the mechanisms underlying contagious yawning in dogs.

‘As in humans, dogs can catch this behavior using their ears alone’.

But Ádám Miklósi, an ethologist at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, raised a note of scepticism and said that previous studies showed dogs looked guilty even when they were not.

He and said: ‘Using behaviors as indicators will only show some similarity in behavior, but it will never tell us whether canine empathy, whatever this is, matches human empathy.

‘Dogs can simulate very well different forms of social interest that could mislead people to think they are controlled by the same mental processes, but they may not always understand the complexity of human behavior.’

The research will be published in the July issue of Animal Cognition.

Attribution: Daily Mail

Joke of the Day

A couple is dressed and ready to go out for the evening. They phone for a cab, turn on a night light, cover Tweety, their pet parakeet, and put Hag, their cat, out in the back yard.

The taxi arrives, and they open the front door to leave. Suddenly the cat they put out scoots back into the house. They don’t want the cat shut in there because she always tries to eat the bird. The wife goes out to the taxi while the husband goes back in. The cat runs upstairs, with the man in hot pursuit.

The wife doesn’t want the driver to know the house will be empty. She explains to the taxi driver that her husband will be out soon. “He’s just going upstairs to say goodbye to my mother.”

A few minutes later the husband gets into the cab.

“Sorry I took so long,” he says, as they drive away. “Stupid Hag was hiding under the bed. Had to poke her with a coat hanger to get her to come out! Then I had to wrap her in a blanket to keep her from scratching me. But it worked. I hauled her fat butt downstairs and threw her out into the back yard!

The cab driver hit a parked car.

Joke of the Day

Little Emily was complaining to her mother that her stomach hurt.

Her mother replied, “That’s because it’s empty. Maybe you should try putting something in it.”

The next day, her teacher stopped by Emily’s family’s house for a visit.

Emily’s teacher mentioned that her head hurt, to which Emily immediately replied, “That’s because it’s empty. Maybe you should try putting something in it.”

Island of Mystery

A new look at a 425-year-old map has yielded a tantalizing clue about the fate of “The Lost Colony”, the settlers who disappeared from Britain’s Roanoke Island in the late 16th century.

 Experts from the First Colony Foundation and the British Museum in London discussed their findings Thursday at a scholarly meeting on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Their focus: the “Virginia Pars” map of Virginia and North Carolina created by explorer John White in the 1580s and owned by the British Museum since 1866.

“We believe that this evidence provides conclusive proof that they moved westward up the Albemarle Sound to the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers,” said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and author of a 2010 book about the Lost Colony.

“Their intention was to create a settlement. And this is what we believe we are looking at with this symbol – their clear intention, marked on the map …”

Attached to the map are two patches. One patch appears to merely correct a mistake on the map, but the other – in what is modern-day Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina – hides what appears to be a fort. Another symbol, appearing to be the very faint image of a different kind of fort, is drawn on top of the patch.

 The American and British scholars believe the fort symbol could indicate where the settlers went. The British researchers joined the Thursday meeting via webcast.

In a joint announcement, the museums said, “First Colony Foundation researchers believe that it could mark, literally and symbolically, ‘the way to Jamestown.’ As such, it is a unique discovery of the first importance.”

White made the map and other drawings when he travelled to Roanoke Island in 1585 on an expedition commanded by Sir Ralph Lane. In 1587, a second colony of 116 English settlers landed on Roanoke Island, led by White. He left the island for England for more supplies but couldn’t return again until 1590 because of the war between England and Spain.

When he came back, the colony was gone. White knew the majority had planned to move “50 miles into the marine,” as he wrote, referring to the mainland. The only clue he found about the fate of the other two dozen was the word “CROATOAN” carved into a post, leading historians to believe they moved south to live with American Indians on what’s now Hatteras Island.

But the discovery of the fort symbol offers the first new clue in centuries about what happened to the 95 or so settlers, experts said Thursday. And researchers at the British Museum discovered it because Brent Lane, a member of the board of the First Colony Foundation, asked a seemingly obvious question: What’s under those two patches?

Researchers say the patches attached to White’s excruciatingly accurate map were made with ink and paper contemporaneous with the rest of the map. One corrected mistakes on the shoreline of the Pamlico River and the placing of some villages. But the other covered the possible fort symbol, which is visible only when the map is viewed in a light box.

The map was critical to Sir Walter Raleigh’s quest to attract investors in his second colony, Lane said. It was critical to his convincing Queen Elizabeth I to let him keep his charter to establish a colony in the New World. It was critical to the colonists who navigated small boats in rough waters.

So that made Lane wonder: “If this was such an accurate map and it was so critical to their mission, why in the world did it have patches on it? This important document was being shown to investors and royalty to document the success of this mission. And it had patches on it like a hand-me-down.”

Researchers don’t know why someone covered the symbol with a patch, although Horn said the two drawings could indicate the settlers planned to build more of a settlement than just a fort.

The land where archaeologists would need to dig eventually is privately owned, and some of it could be under a golf course and residential community. So excavating won’t begin anytime soon. But it doesn’t have to, said Nicholas Luccketti, a professional archaeologist in Virginia and North Carolina for more than 35 years.

Archaeologists must first re-examine ceramics, including some recovered from an area in Bertie County called Salmon Creek, he said.

“This clue is certainly the most significant in pointing where a search should continue,” Lane said. “The search for the colonists didn’t start this decade; it didn’t start this century. It started as soon as they were found to be absent from Roanoke Island … I would say every generation in the last 400 years has taken this search on.”

But none have had today’s sophisticated technology to help, he said.

“None of them had this clue on this map.”

Attribution: Daily Telegraph