Galahgate: Indonesian bird nappers fly free as Tony Abbott refuses to ruffle feathers |

INDONESIAN military officials caught trying to smuggle galahs and parrots on a plane Australia had gifted the island nation were allegedly let off because customs staff deemed it \”government-related\”.

A Sydney bird store owner who on Wednesday sold the galahs to the Indonesians last night made the claim after an Indonesian national received only a warning when caught trying to leave the country in a decommissioned C-130 Hercules aircraft.

via Galahgate: Indonesian bird nappers fly free as Tony Abbott refuses to ruffle feathers |

A Morning at Fishing Creek Marsh

So peaceful.

Flights of Wonder

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It was a quiet morning at Fishing Creek Marsh. A lone Bufflehead swam around in the general vicinity of the resident Mallards. A Belted Kingfisher followed me up and down the creek, allowing me close enough to get a few photos. He even did a flyby, giving me the chance to practice moving photos with a VERY quick subject! The Kingfisher looks so top heavy when perched, but in flight, he shows just how aerodynamically he’s built.

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And a Northern Mockingbird posed ever so patiently, giving me the prettiest photos of the day.

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Painting America’s Imaginary Past

The Dish

James Parker reviews Deborah Solomon’s American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, which tells the story of how “this rather strange, marginal-feeling man contrived to represent the inner life of a mass audience” – a less straightforward portrayal of “simpler times” than you might surmise:

The secret, clearly, is that Rockwell’s productions, his tableaux of American innocence, are notNorman_Rockwell-_Scout_at_Ships_Wheel simple at all. If they were, we would have forgotten them by now. Instead they are loaded with unconscious energy, with nervous hum and erogenous gleam. The grotesque, like some goblin field of gravity, seems to bend and warp even his most conventional subjects. Shiny noses, stringy throats, eyes too avid or too dull; a freakish quiddity in his rendering of shoes, elbows, baskets, bricks. Which to us, post-Freudians that we all inevitably are, can mean only one thing: repression! Rockwell’s preference for the company of boy models…

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Three Questions About Comet ISON | NASA

What is so interesting about comet ISON?

There’s great interest in comet ISON for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it’s coming from the very edge of our solar system so it stills retains the primordial ices from which it formed four-and-a-half billion years ago.  It’s been traveling from the outer edge of the solar system for about five-and-a-half million years to reach us in the inner solar system, and it\’s going to make an extremely close approach to the sun and hence could become very bright and possibly a very easy naked-eye object in early December.

via Three Questions About Comet ISON | NASA.

Comet ISON vs. the Solar Storm – NASA Science

Nov. 24, 2013: In 2007, astronomers were amazed when a solar storm hit Comet Encke. NASA STEREO spacecraft watched as a CME coronal mass ejection struck the comet head on and ripped off its tail.imageA CME strikes Comet Encke in April 2007. Movie, Full storyThe same thing could be in store for Comet ISON–only worse.On Nov. 28th, Comet ISON will pass through the sun\’s atmosphere, flying little more than a million kilometers above the sun\’s surface. It will be ~30 times closer to the sun than Encke was in 2007 and more likely to encounter a ferocious solar storm.\”For one thing,\” says Angelos Vourlidas of the Naval Research Lab and a participant in NASA\’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign CIOC, \”the year 2007 was near solar minimum. Solar activity was low. Now, however, we are near the peak of the solar cycle and eruptions are more frequent.\”

via Comet ISON vs. the Solar Storm – NASA Science.

Toxic Lakes From Tar-Sand Projects Planned for Alberta – Bloomberg

Canada is blessed with 3 million lakes, more than any country on Earth — and it may soon start manufacturing new ones. They’re just not the kind that will attract anglers or tourists.The oil sands industry is in the throes of a major expansion, powered by C$20 billion $19 billion a year in investments. Companies including Syncrude Canada Ltd., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. affiliate Imperial Oil Ltd. are running out of room to store the contaminated water that is a byproduct of the process used to turn bitumen — a highly viscous form of petroleum — into diesel and other fuels.By 2022 they will be producing so much of the stuff that a month’s output of wastewater could turn an area the size of New York’s Central Park into a toxic reservoir 11 feet 3.4 meters deep, according to the Pembina Institute, a nonprofit in Calgary that promotes sustainable energy.

via Toxic Lakes From Tar-Sand Projects Planned for Alberta – Bloomberg.

NASA Spacecraft Begins Collecting Lunar Atmosphere Data | NASA

NASA\’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer LADEE is ready to begin collecting science data about the moon.On Nov. 20, the spacecraft successfully entered its planned orbit around the moon\’s equator — a unique position allowing the small probe to make frequent passes from lunar day to lunar night. This will provide a full scope of the changes and processes occurring within the moon\’s tenuous atmosphere.LADEE now orbits the moon about every two hours at an altitude of eight to 37 miles 12-60 kilometers above the moon\’s surface. For about 100 days, the spacecraft will gather detailed informati

via NASA Spacecraft Begins Collecting Lunar Atmosphere Data | NASA.

NASA Sees Watershed Cosmic Blast in Unique Detail | NASA

On April 27, a blast of light from a dying star in a distant galaxy became the focus of astronomers around the world. The explosion, known as a gamma-ray burst and designated GRB 130427A, tops the charts as one of the brightest ever seen.A trio of NASA satellites, working in concert with ground-based robotic telescopes, captured never-before-seen details that challenge current theoretical understandings of how gamma-ray bursts work.

via NASA Sees Watershed Cosmic Blast in Unique Detail | NASA.

A Reinvented Skillet, From a Cookery Guru and Obama’s Logo Designer | Wired Design |

Cast-iron cook pots were first used in China, circa 500 BC, and didn’t change much as they made their way across the centuries to the West Coast of the United States in time for the gold rush of 1849. Even today, a pan at Williams-Sonoma would be easily recognizable to a rice farmer from the banks of the Yangtze or a cowboy on the plains. But a Portland-based startup called Finex is trying to bring modern design to the 2,500-year-old cooking vessel.

via A Reinvented Skillet, From a Cookery Guru and Obama’s Logo Designer | Wired Design |

Microbiological Magic: Why Single Cell Genomes are a Game Changer – Wired Science

Microbes are a vast and varied bunch, responsible for an extraordinary range of transformations.  They create rivers of acid, eat arsenic, and made the first oxygen that led to animals like ourselves.  But figuring out just who is doing what – and possibly applying those findings for useful purposes – has long been the holy grail of microbial ecology.

Traditionally, standard operating procedure for figuring this out called for the bulk acquisition of data.  Just purify a sample’s DNA and sequence like crazy.  That way, when you line up the bits that convincingly overlap, you can piece genes together, assembling a catalog of potential biological function of the constituent microbes.

via Microbiological Magic: Why Single Cell Genomes are a Game Changer – Wired Science.