Tonight is the night of the Yule moon, also called the “wolf moon” (the first new full moon of the year), and coincidentally will be the largest and brightest full moon of 2010. This is because the Moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse, with its nearest point to Earth some 31 thousand miles closer than its furthest. And occasionally the full moon will coincide with this closest approach, which is enough for the moon to appear 14% larger and 30% brighter than at any other time this year. Incidentally, this also means the previous new moon was very nearly the smallest it could have been, which is why – along with occurring with Earth at its nearest to the Sun – the solar eclipse on January 15th was annular (Space.com).
Also watching the skies tonight may be Luchezar Filipov, Deputy Head of Space Exploration at the Bulgarian Academy of Science. However, Filipov’s interest is not the Moon, but aliens, who he believes are living among us on Earth at this very moment. Filipov and his team claim to be in telepathic contact with the aliens, who he says are friendly, but could not establish a coherent conversation because of our “lack of evolution”. This lack of coherence appears to have only been one way however, as Filipov was still able to state that the aliens were critical of our immoral behaviour, environmental destruction and use of cosmetics and artificial insemination, which they condemned as unnatural – unlike space travel one presumes. The next meeting of minds between Filipov and the aliens is scheduled for sometime in spring this year (Sofia Echo).
But perhaps the aliens are backing the wrong species, because it’s move over Iron Man and make way for Iron Snail. The scaly-foot snail is certainly well protected for its kind, with an iron rich outer layer that deters piercing, a thick organic middle that dissipates the force of an attack and a calcified inner layer that gives the shell sufficient rigidity to resist attempts to crush it. The snail’s armour is so good that it’s attracted the interest of the Department of Defense, who are seeing if any useful lessons could be learned for application in the man-made versions (MIT).
Someone else who could have benefited from some armour is “Macho B”, who was – until his death in February last year, the last known wild jaguar in South West America. Perversely, it wasn’t poachers who did for him in the end but Arizona’s own Fish and Game Department, who deny it was their intention to capture the jaguar despite setting snares around his territory. Now a federal inquiry has concluded that Macho B was trapped deliberately, and the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to bring charges (NY Times).
But even as the jaguar takes one step nearer joining the dinosaurs in extinction, scientists are one step closer to bringing them back, in our imaginations at least. For the first time, a team from China, the United Kingdom and Ireland have determined the colours and pattern of a dinosaur, a metre-long feathered carnivore called Sinosauropteryx. Turns out the bird-like bipeds were orange, with white striped tails and a “mohawk” display crest on their heads. Despite the feathers, Sinosauropteryx was a flightless reptile who most likely used its feathers primarily for display (CBC).
In one of the most ignorant decisions I've ever heard of, a South Carolina high school will no longer allow any attendance at both boys and girls varsity sporting events. Due to fighting in the parking lot and surrounding neighborhoods following games only players, coaches, other game personnel, school administrators, police and media will be allowed to attend the games. If there is that little control of students behavior then perhaps all extra curricular sports at the school should be indefinitely suspended. Maybe all extra curriculars should be discontinued period, at least till the kids start acting like human beings, the adults figure out how to get control of the situation, or a set of normal children move up into the high school grades. Now, I wonder why the jails are full.
Totally awsome tattoos ruined by misspellings, what a tradgedy! Slideshow at the link.
Today, January 27 is National Chocolate Cake Day! There is a yummy sounding chocolate cake recipe at the link.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.