Fire the Laser

Once the stuff of science fiction and James Bond movies, the U.S. Navy is now just two years away from arming it’s ships with the first generation of ‘directed energy’ laser weapons.

The weapons are designed to track and fire on threats to a warship that could include anything from armed drones and small ‘swarm’ boats to incoming missiles and aircraft.

According to Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, the chief of the Office of Naval Research, a  series of successful tests in recent months have enabled the Navy to halve its predicted timeline for mounting laser weapons on vessels.

‘We’re well past physics,’ he told

‘We’re just going through the integration  efforts… Hopefully that tells you we’re well mature, and we’re ready to put these on naval ships.’

In April 2011 the Navy released a video of a test in which its prototype Maritime Laser Demonstrator blasted a hole in the engine of a small boat at sea off the California coast, leaving it dead in the water.

In July of this year, an officer in the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) program said the Navy believed it was ‘time to move forward with solid-state lasers and shift the focus from limited demonstrations to weapon prototype development and related technology advancement.’

Solid-state lasers are one of several  different types of laser-based weapons systems currently being developed by the Navy and other military services in conjunction with major defense contractors.

The military has spent hundreds of millions on the development of the various systems, but once installed, the government predicts they will be relatively cheap to operate since they don’t use conventional munitions.

A shot from a laser weapon is estimated to  cost the Navy the equivalent of less than a dollar, compared to short-range air-defense interceptor missiles which cost between $800,000 and $1.4 million  each.

Up until now one of the Navy’s key concerns  with lasers has been how to generate  enough energy to fill the laser gun’s magazine,  however Klunder says that it is no longer an issue.

‘I’ve got the power,’ said Klunder, who spoke during the Office of Naval Research’s biennial science and technology conference.

‘I just need to know on this ship, this particular naval vessel, what are the power requirements, and how do I integrate that directed energy system or railgun system.’

With the technology almost now in place, there does however remain a concern over funding to make the laser weapons a reality. Admiral Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, has warned that ‘research and development is part of that reduction’ in defense budgets currently scheduled to take effect in January.

Attribution: Mail Online

More “Green” Waste

Employees at Fed-Funded ‘Green’ Energy Company Openly Admit They Watch Movies, Play Cards Because ‘There’s Nothing to Do’

by:  at The Blaze

President Barack Obama in 2010 spoke at LG Chem subsidiary Compact Power, an electric battery plant in Holland, Mich., to tout his administration’s decision to pour millions and millions of taxpayer’s dollars into the clean energy industry.

“Our goal has never been to create a government program, but rather to unleash private-sector growth,” Obama said. “And we’re seeing results.”

“This is a symbol of where Michigan’s going. This is a symbol of where Holland is going. This is a symbol of where America is going,” he added.

President Barack Obama gives Gov. Jennifer Granholm a hug as LG Chem Ltd. Chairman Bon-Moo Koo, left, watches (AP)

Much like Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod’s premature Nats gloat tweet, the president’s 2010 Holland speech seems pretty ominous in retrospect.

Why? Because, according to a new report from Target 8, that same electric battery company President Obama spoke at in 2010 is an unmitigated disaster and a shameful waste of tax dollars.

For starters, there’s no work to be done. Employees, who are being paid with the $150 million the Department of Energy awarded the plant, claim they show up and sit around because there’s nothing to do. It has gotten to the point where employees spend most of their time playing cards and/or board games and watching movies to keep themselves entertained.

“There would be up to 40 of us that would just sit in there during the day,” one former LG Chem employee Nicole Merryman, who said she quit in May, told Target 8.

“We were given assignments to go outside and clean; if we weren’t cleaning outside, we were cleaning inside. If there was nothing for us to do, we would study in the cafeteria, or we would sit and play cards, sit and read magazines,” she added. “It’s really sad that all these people are sitting there and doing nothing, and it’s basically on taxpayer money.”

Two current employees claim the idling among workers continues because there’s nothing else to do.

“There’s a whole bunch of people, a whole bunch, filling their time with card games and board games,” one these current employee said.

“There’s no work, no work at all. Zero work,” another current employee added. “It is what it is. What do you do when there’s no work?”

Since the plant’s opening, more than a few workers have quit.

“I thought it might be a decent place to start a career, lots of places to move up,” one former employee, who quit this summer, told Target 8. “You can only do nothing for so long. There were days, sitting around all day doing nothing. … I didn’t play a whole lot of cards.”

“I bailed out of a sinking ship,” he added.

And as for that $150 million DOE grant: The Holland plant has already burned through $133 million, mostly for construction and equipment, with about 40 percent going to foreign companies.

Taxpayers so far have spent about $7 million training the plant’s employees (who claim they haven’t trained in months) and another $700,000 for worker’s health and dental insurance, according to Target 8.

But here’s the best part: Compact Power is furloughing its workers before the plant has even shipped a single battery, TheBlaze’s Mike Opelka reported last week. Yep, the Chevy Volt was supposed to be the plant’s biggest customer but, uh, that hasn’t really worked out.

“Workers say they made test battery cells, starting late last year, perhaps 100,000 or more, and they did a good job. They say they produced perhaps 4,000 a week, but worked ended for the most part last December,” Target 8 report.

They did, however, ship out those test batteries last spring, “apparently for recycling.”

Luckily — well, “luckily” depending on the amount of trust you have in federal bureaucrats — reports of the company’s inactivity have made their way to Washington where the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board has vowed to take action.

Once more, for good measure: “This is a symbol of where Michigan’s going. This is a symbol of where Holland is going. This is a symbol of where America is going” – President Obama.

Final Thought: As Election Day quickly approaches and these federally-funded “green” energy failures continue to stack up, it has become pretty obvious why Obama administration decided last year to stop releasing stimulus reports.

Spare Parts

A kidney-like organ grown from scratch in the lab has been shown to work in animals – an achievement that could be the prelude to growing spare kidneys for someone from their own stem cells.

Donated kidneys are in huge demand worldwide.

Christodoulos Xinaris of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Bergamo, Italy, and his colleagues extracted cells from the kidneys of mouse embryos as they grew in the mother. The cells formed clumps that could be grown for a week in the lab to become “organoids” containing the fine plumbing of nephrons – the basic functional unit of the kidney. A human kidney can contain over 1 million nephrons.

Chemical broth

Next, Xinaris’s team marinated the organoids in a chemical broth called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which makes blood vessels grow. Then they transplanted the organoids onto the kidneys of adult rats.

By injecting the rats with extra VEGF, the researchers encouraged the new tissue to grow its own blood vessels within days. The tissue also developed features called glomeruli, chambers where blood enters the nephrons to be cleansed and filtered.

The researchers then injected the animals with albumin proteins labelled with markers that give out light. They found that the kidney grafts successfully filtered the proteins from the bloodstream, proving that they could crudely perform the main function of real kidneys.

“This is the first kidney tissue in the world totally made from single cells,” says Xinaris. “We have functional, viable, vascularized tissue, able to filter blood and absorb large molecules from it. The final aim is to construct human tissues.”

“This technique could not be used clinically, but it shows a possible way forward for developing a functional kidney in the future,” says Anthony Hollander, a tissue engineer at the University of Bristol, UK. Although it will be several years before lab-grown tissues can benefit patients, the team says that the latest findings are a key milestone on the way.

Xinaris is currently working out how to add ducts to siphon urine to the bladder. So too are other groups. “We can now engineer kidneys with a proper drainage system,” says Jamie Davies at the University of Edinburgh, UK, who is a co-author on the Xinaris paper. “But we’ve not put these in animals yet.”

Cell sources needed

The other stumbling block is finding sources of human cells that will behave like the mouse embryonic kidney cells and self-assemble into complex kidney structures such as nephrons.

Obviously, says Davies, it is unethical to extract kidney embryonic cells from growing human embryos, but several potential cell sources are emerging. These include stem cells from amniotic fluid or the bone marrow, and adult cells such as skin cells converted in the lab into primitive kidney cells.

Both Davies and Xinaris are now working with human cells, incorporating them into the cultures of mouse cells that already grow into kidney tissue. Davies’s team is growing the kidneys within membranes taken from hen’s eggs, which allows them to view and manipulate the whole process.

Kidneys are the latest of several lab-grown organs and replacement parts to be developed, including livers, windpipes, parts of voiceboxes and hearts

The biggest question of all, however, is whether large enough grafts can be made to benefit patients. “We don’t know whether these little fetal kidneys could grow large enough to become fully functioning tissue in humans,” says Davies.

Attribution: NewScientist

Global Warming…Not

We’re Still Being Screwed Even Though ‘Global Warming’ Stopped 15 Years Ago


The chart below is what global warming looks like folks. Non-existent for the last 15+ years. Zero. Nada. Zilch. (Before that, in the ’70′s, it was all about the “Coming Ice Age” and where did that go?) All the while the developing world has been cranking up carbon use for manufacturing.

And in the meantime? We have energy starvation policies stuffed down our throats. And a President, in the debate, going on and on about “Green Jobs,” which are either non-existent also…or are causing bankruptcy eruptions all over the place. Not to mention the dire straights he is putting people in with regard to the energy they need to survive.

Excuse the unladylike word in my title, but the entire Al Gorebasm insanity is causing nothing but draconian, opportunistic, tyrannical thievery and controls over our very daily lives to the point of stark raving global madness.

You have been sold down the proverbial river. Sent over the cliff. Robbed blind. And screwed…totally. Americans are supposed to be smarter than this. I want to believe Americans are smarter than this. But every day, in America, bureaucrats, planners, non-profits, corporations, and politicians are spending their time, and energy, and your money, to capture you…not carbon, but you…..into their schemes of control. None of that has one whit to do with some conjured up fiction that you are causing the global temperatures to rise. You aren’t. You never did. But they won’t let a little thing like the truth stop them from their central control of your energy use.

Some food for thought:

“Industries are already leaving Germany, and more will soon follow. The loss of energy and jobs will damage the German economy almost as much as the exploding cost of new infrastructure required to deal with the intermittent unreliables. And the cost — THE COST!!! Hundreds of thousands of lower class workers in Germany already cannot afford to pay their skyrocketing power bills. That number will only grow larger.”

From the Telegraph – UK

“The shift to renewable energy is also taking a toll on family budgets. On Monday Germany’s electrical grid operators announced that a special tax levied on consumers to finance subsidies for green energy would increase by almost 50 per cent.”

The EU is going straight down the road to serfdom….again, I might add. (Note Spain’s 17%+ unemployment after converting to a “Green” economy. Throw in a little Greece, Italy, and the rest…and what do you have?) How many times in history have European nations been sucked into the central planning models of either Monarchs or Dictators. I thought we fought and won a revolution to get out of that mold of ignorance.

Townhall Finance asks,

“Remember last summer- and the summer before that, and the summer before that- when droughts and tornadoes were pinned to global warming by a compliant media? Or when we were told that 100 million people would die in the next twenty minutes, or twenty years- is there really a difference?- because of global warming? And that of course women and children would bear the brunt of those deaths? Or last year when we were told about the wave of Polar Bear cannibals terrorizing the animal kingdom in the great white north?”

Too bad Candy Crowley never got to the Global Warming issue in the debate. Too bad….
If Romney and Ryan have the facts on this, we might be saved from the economic devastation that Europe is facing right now. God bless them both.

Disregard the Science

7 Scientific Facts That Will Ruin Movies for You

1) Viral Inoculation Takes Years to Develop

Outbreak (1995):

7 Scientific Facts That Will Ruin Movies for YouPlot: Before he was hanging out with Ace Ventura, Spike the monkey was shipped to the USA chock full of something called the Motaba virus. It’s Dustin Hoffman’s job to stop the virus, prevent an outbreak and foil Donald Sutherland’s plan to firebomb a small town.

The Real Science: The problem with this movie is time. Like Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day, Hoffman whips up a cure sooner than it takes me to understand the joke in a New Yorker Magazine cartoon (my record is three hours). Normally it would take a team of virologists weeks or even months to study the virus, go through the appropriate tests and create a cure for distribution.

Unless, of course, you’re this guy:

Because new elements apparently only take him an afternoon.

Then again, if the Motaba virus is anything like Ebola (it pretty much is), there would really be no need to quarantine the entire town or produce a cure because everyone would be dead within 48 hours. Including the Morgan Freeman character probably.

7 Scientific Facts That Will Ruin Movies for You“That’s right; you’re reading this in my voice. Rubber baby buggy bumpers.”

2) There’s No Way We Can Miss a Texas-Sized Asteroid

Armageddon (1998):

Plot:An asteroid the size of Texas is hurdling towards Earth at about the same speed it takes for me to buy a gun in the aforementioned state. NASA decides to get Bruce Willis and his rag-tag team of oil drillers (think The Expendables brought by way of British Petroleum) to eat Animal Crackers off Liv Tyler’s tummy, fly into space, drill a hole in the asteroid, drop a nuke, blow up the rock and fly back.

The Real Science: Here’s the deal: there’s so many inaccuracies in this movie it’s hard to pick one; however, there a few key problems that make this movie ridiculous.

Number one is that we would most definitely see an asteroid the size of Texas well before the last minute. The United States alone has a number of observers including JPL’s Near Earth Asteroid Tracking and the Air Force’s Maui Space Surveillance Site, not to mention private citizens like this guy. Not only would we know about and be tracking an asteroid that size floating in the main belt, but we would see it coming far sooner than the movie led us to believe.

“Don’t worry Hawking, I got this.”

Oh, and their plan of drilling a hole 800 feet and placing the nuclear bomb into it is hardly likely to work (even with the stupid fissure). If the asteroid is the size of Texas it would be about 870 miles across. 800 feet to something that size is the equivalent to scratching the surface of a volleyball. And don’t counter with the movie’s “fissure will crack the rest of it in half” argument; that’s what we call a Deus Ex Machina and this list is about bad movie science not bad writing.

Seriously, this movie is so bad that NASA even used the movie during management training to see if the trainee was able to find all 168 inaccuracies.

3) DNA Has An Expiration Date

Jurassic Park (1993):

Plot:A small group of people get trapped in a theme park that is overrun with dinosaurs. Think of it as the last movie in a trilogy that includes “Westworld” and “Futureworld”, but instead of Yul Brynner you get a group of Velociraptors that can open doors.

And I know you’re thinking, “But Yul Brynner wasn’t in ‘Futureworld!'”

The Real Science: If we wanted to clone something the DNA has to be perfect and even DNA trapped in 65 million-year-old amber would be way past its expiration date. Also, contrary to what Mr. DNA tells you, we can’t substitute other species (like, say, from a frog) to complete the chain.

Even if we could hypothetically extract a perfect strand of DNA that wasn’t tainted by the insect’s DNA or horribly degraded, could we do it? Hell no. You see, we would need a viable, living dinosaur egg for implantation. Since the whole point was to create a dinosaur because they’re extinct then we’re kind of at an impasse.

7 Scientific Facts That Will Ruin Movies for You“T-REX HUNTS BY MEMES! RUN!”

4) Humans Can’t Survive Immense Pressure

The Core (2003):

7 Scientific Facts That Will Ruin Movies for YouPlot: The Earth’s inner core stopped rotating, our magnetic field is tearing apart, microwave radiation is ripping through out atmosphere and the world is thrown into chaos! Up is down, right is left, birds drop dead, pace makers stop working and I embrace the term “YOLO!” Hillary Swank and her intrepid crew of “terranauts” must drill into the center of the earth and activate a nuclear bomb to kick-start the core.

The Real Science: Let’s forget the problems actually getting to the center of the earth, all the overlooked science (how in the heck did they stay in radio contact so far under the surface?) or the terribly conceived hurdles the team overcomes (how are they able to walk outside their craft in the recycled space suits from “Sphere” when the temperature would be thousands of degrees and the pressure would be immense?).

Rather, let’s just focus on two huge oversights: 1) The earth’s magnetic field has little effect on microwave radiation. 2) Sure, the sun lobs plenty of microwaves (electromagnetic radiation), but that is just light. The worst we’re looking at is our radios and cell phones fizzling out.

In essence, there isn’t really a disaster in this disaster movie.

“… and in the center past the mole people, we find creamy nougat.”

5) It’s Impossible for a Volcano to Form Under L.A.

Volcano (1997):

7 Scientific Facts That Will Ruin Movies for YouPlot: Ancient mammals from the Pleistocene era decide to get their revenge on modern day Los Angeles by generating a super volcano in the La Brea Tar Pits. Tommy Lee Jones reprises his role as “ornery-old-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold-that-mumbles-a-lot” and joins forces with seismologist Dr. Anne Heche to save the day.

The Real Science: The San Andreas Fault traveling through the west coast is a “strike-slip” fault; that means the Pacific plate and the North American plate creates a fault line that only slide past each other. In order for a volcano to form, two plates need to “subduct:” i.e, one plate slides underneath another allowing magma to move to the surface. The plates in Los Angeles and the rest of the southern California area do not subduct; that really only happens further north.

“A handy place to put your copy of ‘Volcano’ is right in the crack…”

Therefore, we have a better chance of Anne Heche giving me my money back for “Six Days Seven Nights” than a volcano erupting in Los Angeles.

6) There’s No Way We Could Decipher Alien Technology

Independence Day (1996):

Plot:A highly advanced alien race invades the planet and destroys all of the Earth’s major landmarks. With the help of Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum was able to upload his computer virus into the alien mother ship and save the day in time to fire up that bar-b-q and knock back a few brews.

“And make sure you don’t leave any smudges on the mirrors this time, Carlton.”

The Real Science: This one is relatively easy to point out: how in the hell did Jeff Goldblum figure out how the alien computers work, let alone design a computer virus to infect them? I mean, sure; we had that scout craft for 50 years, but if Data couldn’t work it out, then how did Jeff Goldblum do it in an hour? We’re also pretty lucky that the aliens installed a USB or parallel port so we have easy access to their controls.

Maybe the aliens should have switched to iPads.

7 Scientific Facts That Will Ruin Movies for You“I guess we could just duct tape a joystick on the dashboard and see if it flies.”

7) Earth is 70 Percent Water

Signs (2002):

Plot:Aliens decide to invade our planet and only Bravehart, Johnny Cash and a group of weird kids can stop them from ruining their crops. Thank god our heroes discover their only weakness… water!

The Real Science: Now, let’s take a moment and imagine you’re on a spaceship ready to invade a planet:

Commander: “Do you have the planet’s readouts?”

You: “Yes Sir. 70% of the planet is covered in a substance that will seriously harm and eventually kill our species. The flora, fauna and atmosphere is also composed of the same substance. I really don’t think this plan is—”

Commander: “Perfect. (TURNS TO THE REST OF THE SHIP) Gentlemen! Let us not forget our proud warrior cry!”


Seriously, did they not notice about 70% of the world’s surface is covered in water, 3,100 cubic miles of water is floating around the atmosphere and 2,000,000 cubic miles of water is stored within a half mile of the earth’s surface?

Even if they did and continued with their invasion, whose bright idea was it to plop down of the surface with no protective gear? That would be like us mounting an invasion to a planet that’s covered in acid wearing nothing but tinfoil hats.

“Prepped for the surface, captain.”

Attribution: Charlie Knauf

Wandering Luggage

As any frequent flyer knows, hauling around a passport, carry-on luggage and suitcase while navigating through an airport can be a real hassle, and the situation is made worse if the traveler in question has any physical health issues. Madrid-based designer Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez has come up with an ingenious solution to this issue: a smart carry-on suitcase named Hop! which follows the traveler around automatically.

Hop! contains three receivers which communicate with an app running on the traveler’s smartphone, via Bluetooth. The Bluetooth data is processed by a micro-controller which calculates the position of the smartphone it is tasked to follow. The same micro-controller also directs a dual caterpillar track-type system on the underside of the smart-suitcase.

Hop! can be configured to follow a number of other Hop! units in a line, and should the smartphone signal be lost or interrupted somehow, the user will receive an alert, and the suitcase locks itself. In an age of increasingly security-conscious airports, there’s some obvious issues to an automatic hands-off carry-on ambling around an airport, but should the relevant authorities allow it, one can imagine such a device proving indispensable for disabled travelers, and convenient for the rest of us.

The smart luggage is manufactured to meet most airline cabin space requirements, measuring 55 x 40 x 20 cm (roughly 21 x 15 x 8 inches). Further to this, Gonzales states that the internal mechanism of his device doesn’t increase the weight of the case significantly, though we’ve received no hard figures on this.

While Hop! is still in development, Gonzalez tells us that he plans to mature his prototype and complement it with a larger suitcase, with a view to eventually bringing both to market.

The promo video below gives a sense of what using Hop! would be like.

Walk Assist

A spinoff from robotic space technology may someday help astronauts stay fit in space and help paraplegics walk on Earth, Nasa says.

The U.S. space agency and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) have jointly developed a robotic exoskeleton called X1.

The 57lb device is a robot that a human could wear over his or her body either to assist or inhibit movement in leg joints.

In the inhibit mode, the X1 exoskeleton would be used as an in-space exercise machine to supply resistance against leg movement.

The same technology could be used in reverse on the ground, potentially helping some individuals walk for the first time.

The X1 is based on the technology behind Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space, which is currently working with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

‘Robotics is playing a key role aboard the International Space Station and will be critical in our future human exploration of deep space,’ said Michael Gazarik, director of Nasa’s Space Technology Program.

‘What’s extraordinary about space technology and our work with projects like Robonaut are the unexpected possibilities space tech spinoffs may have right here on Earth.

‘It’s exciting to see a Nasa-developed technology might one day help people with serious ambulatory needs to begin to walk again, or even walk for the first time.

Worn over the legs, with a harness that reaches up the back and around the shoulders, X1 has four motorized joints at the hips and the knees, and six passive joints that allow for sidestepping, turning and pointing, and flexing a foot.

There also are multiple adjustment points,  allowing the X1 to be used in many different ways.

Nasa is examining the potential for the X1 as an exercise device to improve crew health both aboard the space station and during future long-duration missions to an asteroid or Mars.

Without taking up valuable space or weight during missions, X1 could replicate common crew exercises, which are vital to  keeping astronauts healthy in zero gravity.

In addition, the device has the ability to measure, record and stream back data in real-time to flight controllers on Earth, giving doctors better insight into the crew’s health.

X1 could also provide a robotic power boost to astronauts as they work on the surface of distant planetary bodies. Coupled with a spacesuit, X1 could provide additional force when needed during surface exploration.

Here on Earth, IHMC is interested in developing and using X1 as an assistive walking device. It has the potential to produce high torques to allow for assisted walking over varied terrain, as well as stair climbing.

‘We greatly value our collaboration with Nasa,’  said Ken Ford, IHMC’s director and CEO. ‘The X1’s high-performance capabilities will enable IHMC to continue performing cutting-edge research in mobility assistance and expand into rehabilitation.’

The potential of X1 extends to other applications, including rehabilitation, gait modification and offloading large amounts of weight from the wearer.

Preliminary studies by IHMC have already shown X1 to be more comfortable, easier to adjust, and easier to put on than older exoskeleton devices.

Researchers now plan on improving on the X1  design by adding more active joints to areas such as the ankle and hip to  increase the potential uses for the device.

Attribution: Damien Gayle

Need a New Fridge?

If you just want a refrigerator that accommodates your magnet collection, then this probably isn’t the one for you.

A manufacturer has launched a  state-of-the-art fridge, which costs more than the average kitchen, at up to $41,500.

The  Meneghini La Cambusa unit can be custom-fitted with a range of gizmos including a coffee maker, ice-maker, temperature controlled pantry and even a flat-screen television.

Looking more like a piece of antique furniture than a household appliance, the fridge is  aimed at the super-rich.

Indeed, one retailer, Robey’s, in the UK,  admits that they ‘do not sell hundreds a week’.

As well as refrigerating food, the La Cambusa three-door model includes spaces that can be customized to meet clients’  need.

The price can vary enormously because each  one is custom-made in Italy.

After shelling out $26,000 for the wooden frame, which can be painted in more than 500 colors,  clients will then have to pay extra for brass handles, glass shelving and the fridge and freezer units.

For those wanting all of the cool extras, a number of other devices can be installed.

A Miele coffee system, costing from around  $3,000 is a popular pick, while flat screen televisions are frequently requested.

New York  Magazinewrites that the ice-maker has also been a  hit, and customers have seen it as the perfect addition for ‘poolside parties,  because, yes, some, clients have put these units poolside.’

A microwave oven and steam oven, by Miele are  other optional extras.

Celebrity endorsement: Nigella Lawson is said to be a  fan of the state-of-the-art Meneghini fridges

The centrepiece of the appliance is a Liebherr refrigerator system, which starts at $1,200. The Swiss-based company will also construct a temperature-controlled pantry for dry storage.

The three-door La Cambusa, measures 8.2ft  wide, weighs 1,100 pounds and includes 26.6 cubic feet of storage space.

There are cheaper versions in the Meneghini range, and the Food Networks Nigella Lawson owns a cream version of the $13,000 La Ghiacciaia.

The website writes: ‘We’re set upon purchasing a Meneghini fridge/freezer in yellow when our lottery boat comes to harbor.’

‘At that cost, we’d consider it the start of a family heirloom to pass along to generations; at least the design is worthy of the designation.’

Attribution: Sadie Whitelocks

Forever Young

Marine animals could hold the key to looking young

Sea urchins could hold the key to youth

Sea urchins could hold the key to youth

Sea cucumbers and sea urchins are able to change the elasticity of collagen within their bodies, and could hold the key to maintaining a youthful appearance, according to scientists at Queen Mary, University of London.

The researchers investigated the genes of marine creatures such as sea urchins and sea cucumbers, known as echinoderms. They found the genes for “messenger molecules” known as peptides, which are released by cells and tell other cells in their bodies what to do.

The study was published online in the journals PLOS One and General and Comparative Endocrinology.

Project leader Professor Maurice Elphick, from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: “Probably the most exciting discovery from our research was finding genes encoding peptides that cause rapid stiffening or softening of collagen in the body wall of sea cucumbers.

“Although sea urchins and sea cucumbers may not look much like us, we are actually quite closely related to them. As we get older, changes in collagen cause wrinkling of our skin, so if we can find out how peptides cause the body wall of a sea cucumber to quickly become stiff or soft then our research might lead to new ways to keeping skin looking young and healthy.”

The scientists analyzed the DNA sequences of thousands of genes in the purple sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and the edible sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus and specifically searched for genes encoding peptide messenger molecules. Rapid advances in technology used to sequence genes made the research possible.

“When the human genome was sequenced over a decade ago it cost millions of pounds – now all of the genes in an animal can be sequenced for just a few thousand pounds,” Professor Elphick said.

“We also found that sea urchins have a peptide that is very similar to calcitonin, a hormone that regulates our bones to make sure that they remain strong,” Professor Elphick said.

“So it will be fascinating to find out if calcitonin-type peptides have a similar sort of role in spiny-skinned creatures like sea urchins.”

“These types of advances in basic science are fascinating in their own right but they are also important because they underpin the medical breakthroughs that lead to improvement in the quality of people’s lives.”

Attribution: Real Clear Science

Mystery Solved

The mighty drone of 600 bombers filled the night air as they flew the length of eastern England. As planes thundered overhead, people peeped through their blackout curtains to see if they could  glimpse what was then one of the largest bombing forces ever assembled.

On board the Lancasters, Stirlings, Halifaxes and Wellingtons were more than 4,000 airmen — and all knew they stood a very  good chance of not returning to base the following morning.

Among that awesome mass of metal pounding  through the dark sky was a Lancaster bomber with the marking  ED427.

Fallen hero: Pilot F O Alec Bone
Fallen hero: Sergeant Norman Foster
Fallen heroes: Respected Flying Officer Alec Bone, upper,  piloted the plane which had seven crew members including flight engineer  Sergeant Norman Foster, lower
Target: The men in the Lancaster Bomber were attacking factories in the Czech brewing town Pilsen

Target: The men in the Lancaster Bomber were attacking  factories in the Czech brewing town Pilsen

As part of 49 Squadron, the bomber and its  seven crew had taken off at precisely 21.14 on the evening of April 16, 1943,  from Fiskerton airfield five miles east of Lincoln. It was the second time the  plane’s crew had flown together, and they were hoping this raid would go as  successfully as their bombing of Stuttgart two nights before.

The Lancaster was piloted by Flying Officer  Alexander ‘Alec’ Bone, who, at 31, was by far the oldest and most experienced of  the crew.

An instructor who had taught many Battle of Britain pilots to fly, Bone was one of the most respected and able pilots in all of Bomber Command. A champion fencer, tall and charming, Bone was what we would  today call an alpha male.

The rest of the seven-strong crew — flight  engineer Norman Foster, navigator Cyril Yelland, wireless operator Raymond  White, bomb aimer Raymond Rooney, air gunner Ronald Cope and air gunner Bruce  Watt were aged 19 to 23, and all looked up to Bone.

One of six brothers, his father described him  as ‘the pick of the bunch’, and he was well qualified to command of a bomber  crew.

As he sat at the controls, Bone’s mind might  well have wandered temporarily from the mission to his own recent tragedy. Just  four months earlier, he had lost his wife, Menna, 22, to tuberculosis. He had  received the news of her illness when stationed in Canada, but by the time he  had returned, Menna was already dead and buried.

On board: Sergeant Ronald Cope
Sergeant Cyril Yelland
On board: Air gunner Sergeant Ronald Cope, pictured  upper, and navigator Sergeant Cyril Yelland, lower

The planes that night had two targets. Fewer  than half the aircraft were heading for various factories in and around Mannheim  some 40 miles south of Frankfurt. Bone’s Lancaster, however, was part of the  larger element heading more than 200 miles further east to the Czech brewing  town of Pilsen, where they were to attack the massive Skoda works that produced  armaments for the Nazis.

After a flight of nearly 800 miles, in which Bone successfully outwitted night fighters and dodged numerous flak batteries,  ED427 safely arrived over what he presumed was the target at around 1.30am on April 17.

Below was a hellish inferno, and Bone would  have felt confident he was dropping his two 1,000lb bombs and one 4,000lb ‘Cookie’ bomb — made of a thin steel casing to carry more explosives, and  devastating in its impact — in the right place.

However, unknown to him, the leading Pathfinder aircraft had dropped their flares which indicated the target in the wrong place: they fell on the harmless village of Dobrany five miles to the south-west of Pilsen.

To make matters more tragic, a nearby psychiatric hospital had been mistaken for the Skoda works, and it took the  brunt of the raid. According to a German casualty report, some 300 patients were killed, and some 1,000 German soldiers and 250 civilians were killed or wounded.

Unfortunately for the Allies, the Skoda works were untouched, and the entire raid — called Operation Frothblower in  recognition of Pilsen’s brewing history — was one of Bomber Command’s biggest  failures.

The men were part of a 600 strong squadron of RAF Lancaster bombers - at that time, one of the largest bombing forces ever assembled

The men were part of a 600 strong squadron of RAF  bombers – at that time, one of the largest bombing forces ever assembled
Air gunner Bruce Watt
Wireless operator Raymond Charles White, aged 21
Lost: Air gunner Bruce Watt, upper, and Wireless operator  Raymond Charles White, aged 21, lower

This would of course have been unknown to Bone and his crew, who had dropped their payload and were now bearing west for the five-hour flight home.

They were looking forward to breakfast and some sleep, as well as Easter the following weekend. However,  the men of ED427 were never to enjoy another breakfast.

At some point during the flight something went badly wrong, and the Lancaster failed to return. In  the squadron’s operations records book, the bald statement was simply typed: ‘Missing without trace.’

Until last week, nearly 70 years after the raid, the fate of ED427 was still a mystery. But now, thanks to an archaeological excavation in Germany, the truth of what happened can finally be told.

The story that emerges from the German soil is a heart-wrenching tale not only of tragedy, but of incompetence and an unforgiveable bureaucratic slip-up which kept the families of the crew in the dark for decades.

A week after the raid, Wing Commander Johnson of 49 Squadron wrote to Bone’s mother, telling her ‘so far we have received no news of any kind, but you can be sure that as soon as any is received, it will be passed to you immediately’.

No concrete news was ever to come. According  to Bone’s brother, Arthur ‘Alf’ Bone, 91, their mother suspected the worst. ‘I  think she knew he had gone in her mind,’ he says, ‘and I think I did,  too.’

Pieces of history: The team sorted the fragments they found into boxes at the site

Pieces of history: Sixty-nine years after their burning  plane plunged to the ground after being shot by German anti-aircraft fire the  remains of most of the Lancaster bomber crewmen have been recovered.The team  sorted the fragments they found into boxes at the site
Burnt out: The remains of a scorched parachute

Burnt out: The remains of a scorched parachute. The site  was discovered by a British military historian and a team of German  archaeologists who spent hours digging a muddy field looking for the RAF crew  after an eye-witness who saw the plane crash guided them to the precise  spot.
Damage: The crater made by the impact of the engineDamage: The crater made by the impact of the engine. A  Rolls Royce engine and landing gear of the World War Two aircraft was found  followed by ‘hundreds’ of fragments of human bones in what would have been the  cockpit

Alf was an RAF pilot as well, and heard  about his brother when he was about to take a Wellington up in a  practice  flight. A telegram was delivered to the cockpit a few minutes  before take off. ‘For the first time, I felt a panic attack,’ Alf  recalls. ‘Alec was so dear to  me. Normally I liked the smell of the  inside of a Wellington, but on that  occasion I just smelled death.’

Alf  idolized Alec. The last time he saw him was in Canada in 1941. ‘I was stationed  at an airfield called Swift’s Current,’ Alf says. ‘One day Alec flew his  two-seater Harvard 120 miles from Moosejaw to pay me a surprise visit.’ Alec told Alf to put on a parachute, and took his brother up in the training  aircraft. ‘We did lots of acrobatics,’ Alf remembers. ‘We dived, climbed, looped  the loop — you name it. I loved it.’

In October 1943, the family received a letter  informing them the Air Council had determined that ‘they must regretfully  conclude that he has lost his life’, and that Alec’s death was presumed to have  occurred on April 17.

For the rest of her life, Alec’s mother lived  in what Alf described as ‘a vacuum’, in which she was never to know what had  happened to her son. Officials of every stripe simply told the families of the crew they had no idea what had happened to ED427.

However, it now emerges the RAF did know what  had happened to the plane and the bodies of its crew but, disgracefully, the families were never told. In October 1946, Squadron-Leader Philip  Laughton-Bramley of the RAF’s Missing Research and Enquiry Unit was investigating the fates of crashed aircraft in the Mannheim area.

Fatal flight: A graphic of the site in Laumersheim, Germany, where the Lancaster crashed 69 years ago

Fatal flight: A graphic of the site in Laumersheim,  Germany, where the Lancaster crashed 69 years ago
Birds eye view: An aerial Luftwaffe picture showing the crash site at Laumersheim, GermanyBirds eye view: An aerial Luftwaffe picture showing the  crash site at Laumersheim, Germany

His research took him to the village of  Laumersheim, 14 miles west of Mannheim, where a former police constable told him that on April 16-17 a ‘four-engined aircraft crashed in flames  200 yards  east of the village and exploded on contact with the ground’.

According to the German, the trunk of one body was  found, along with the remains of some six or seven men. The body parts were  removed, but nobody could remember where they had been taken. Laughton-Bramley was persistent, and continued to hunt.

Eventually, he found two graves in the military section of the Mannheim cemetery, whose inscriptions stated that they  contained the bodies of ‘Unknown British flyers shot down in  Laumersheim  17.4.43’, and who were buried on 24 April — the same day Wing Commander Johnson  had written to Mrs Bone.

One can only imagine the terrifying last  moments of ED427. It was almost certainly hit by the flak battery at Frankenthal, five miles from the  crash site. Flying at around 200 miles per  hour, and at a height of  perhaps 10,000 feet, it may well have taken over two minutes to have plummeted to the ground.

Alec Bone, if he had survived the impact of  the flak, would have used all  his considerable skill to try to keep the plane  steady enough to allow the crew to bail out. If anybody could have done it,  Bone could. But clearly the flak battery had done its work too well. Death  would have been instantaneous as the plane ploughed five metres deep into the  soft  earth.

Volunteers dig within the crater, exhuming the fateful planes remains

Excavation: Volunteers dig within the crater, exhuming  the fateful planes remains. The team dug five metres deep in a 100 square metre  area and found sections of the fuselage, cockpit, landing gear, a tyre, a burnt  parachute, tools and ammunition
Commemoration: A minutes silence was held in respect by the volunteers. Members of the Bundeswehr reserve, part of the German army, are in uniform

Commemoration: A minutes silence was held in respect by  the volunteers. Members of the Bundeswehr reserve, part of the German army, are  in uniform
It is thought the remains of the men will be buried in the same coffin in a single grave at a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Germany.

Respect: A poppy memorial was erected as a mark of  remembrance. It is thought the remains of the men will be buried in the same  coffin in a single grave at a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Germany

On May 15, 1947, Laughton-Bramley filed his  report to the Air Ministry in London, in  which he concluded that the bodies  were the crew of ED427, and that the  plane had been shot down by flak. For some inexplicable reason —perhaps  simply an oversight — the information was never passed on to the families as it should have been. And so the crew’s poor relatives remained in ignorance.

Light was only shed on the case when, in  2006, military historian Peter  Cunliffe found a copy of the report in  the  Canadian Archives while  researching the raid for his book. A Shaky Do, in the  file of Pilot  Officer Bruce Watt, a Canadian member of ED427’s crew.

Cunliffe made a copy of  Laughton-Bramley’s report, and passed it to the German archaeologist Uwe Benkel, who had been investigating the fate of ED427. It jibed with  the story told by Peter Menges, now 83, who was a child in the next village when the plane was shot down.

‘Peter saw the plane coming down on fire,’ says Mr Benkel, ‘and saw the explosion. His parents didn’t allow him to go and see the plane that night. He went the next morning and the German military were there. From what he saw the majority of the body parts were on the surface and taken away.’

Last week, Benkel and his team unearthed the  remains of Lancaster ED427. Contrary  to Bramley-Laughton’s report, which suggested all the bodies had been  recovered by the Germans in the war, Benkel  says that there were still  body parts in the cockpit. Benkel concludes that they were those of Alec Bone.

For Alf, this finally ends the mystery of what happened to his beloved brother. ‘You  have closed the missing page of our memory book,’ he told Uwe Benkel.

Sacrifice: 53,573 members of Bomber Command were killed during the Second World WarSacrifice: 53,573 members of Bomber Command were killed  during the Second World War
Momentous: The men of Bomber Command were witness to events that have shaped our historyMomentous: The men of Bomber Command were witness to  events that have shaped our history

‘My mother would have been so relieved that we at last know something,’ he says.

‘I now want to go and pay my last respects on behalf of the family. My brother was a real professional — we were all amateurs.  He was a gentleman and a gentle man.’

Families of other crew members share that sense of a chapter finally being closed. ‘It is a great relief to know what did happen,’ says Hazel Snedker, 72, the daughter of Sergeant Norman Foster, the plane’s Flight Engineer.

‘At least he will now have a grave with a  headstone.’

The plan is for the remains of all the crew  to be buried together. ‘They flew together and died together,’ says Mr Benkel. ‘It is only right that they should stay together.’

Attribution: Mail Online