Monday, February 27, 2012

Down and Out for Awhile

I've been hit hard by some sort of flu bug this weekend, so I haven't been able to do my weekly post. My apologies to all of you, and I hope to back to blogging next weekend.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Photos of an Abandoned Six Flags Amusement Park

A collection of 75 photographs of the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans. From the web-site:
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and ripped the heart of fun and the amusement out of this park. Almost six years later, Six Flags in New Orleans is unnaturally silent, no lines and no laughter. This 140-acre surreal setting has morphed into a nightmarish land of twisted dreams. It seems as if the post-apocalyptic atmosphere might be the perfect place to make a zombie movie. As if lured by a distant echo of scattered screams and the ghost of good times, urban explorers venture out of curiosity and capture the moments and crumbling scenes. They share with us in a virtual urban exploration tour of this creepy abandoned amusement park – Six Flags New Orleans. Most of these photos are very recent, as in taken during 2011, nearly six years after Hurricane Katrina tried to swallow New Orleans and Six Flags. A special thank you to the urban explorers who risked arrest, and possible zombie attack, to go in and shoot these current shots of Six Flags, and then gave us permission to use their copyright photos. This is about twice the size of a normal post here, so we hope you really enjoy this virtual urban exploration tour into the defunct amusement park Six Flags New Orleans.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Ethics of "Killing" a Zombie

Zombies are a strange source of ethical inspiration, but as I mentioned to io9′s Lauren Davis, if academic ethicists get to spend all day talking about trolleys, I see no reason we can’t banter about the ethics of the undead.

Lauren posed the following query: When is it ok to kill a zombie? Should zombies be killed on sight, or quarantined as sick humans? As an answer, she has an excellent post up that has a some other cool responses to the questions and is worth a full read.

I responded as follows:

To answer your question, I think there are some things we simply can’t know in a realistic situation, so we have to make a couple assumptions for the sake of argument.

Assumption 1: We live in a materialistic universe. Zombies, therefore, are not the result of necromancy, demons, possession, or souls escaping from hell.

Assumption 2: We are discussing “classic” zombies – seek flesh, stimulus-response function, and the condition is communicable through bodily fluids (i.e. saliva to blood).

Both assumptions allow us to discuss most zombies, including those from The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, and World War Z.
Unfortunately, the author never reaches an answer, stating that it just depends:
So, to answer your initial question: I would need to know the state of the infection and the possibility of recovering full consciousness based on the criteria of preserving a person’s dignity.
Actually, I think it is pretty simple. In a zombie apocalypse, zombies will (a) be trying to kill and eat you (or eat you, anyway, with death being an unfortunate side effect) and/or (b) are dead. If (b) is true, then you can't really "kill" them, so the point is moot. In event, (a) is going to be true no matter what type of zombie, so the right to self-defense and moral duty to help perpetuate the human race would justify killing them.

The Zombie Hordes are Coming!!!

Fans eagerly awaited last Sunday's midseason return of "The Walking Dead," AMC's popular post-zombie apocalypse series that follows a group of people struggling to survive amid the hordes of living dead.

But there's more flesh-eating fun ahead. Hollywood will be churning out several zombie movies this year, and a few more releases -- including sequels "28 Months Later" and "Zombieland 2" -- are in the works for 2013.
... The film adaptation of "World War Z," starring Brad Pitt, is set to be released in late December.
And apparently there are plans for a second "I Am Legend" movie.
Naturally, an I Am Legend sequel wouldn't have that much pull without the presence of star Will Smith. But logically, an I Am Legend sequel couldn't really exist with Smith since, as I hope you all know by now, he dies at the end. This notwithstanding, a new I Am Legend film is being planned, with Smith sought to return to the Robert Neville: Zombie-Doctor role he played back in 2007. So are we in for a prequel?
Well, not necessarily. In the alternate ending, Smith's character did not die. And when has something like the inconvenient death of a character stopped Hollywood writers before?

Rifles for TEOTWAWKI

Getting Started in Emergency Preparedness has a couple articles very briefly reviewing rifles for preppers/survivalists. The first article discusses common bolt-action mil-surplus rifles. The second article discusses semi-automatic rifles.

FYI: Bolt-actions are too slow to fire or reload for use against a horde of zombies.

Xombie Rocket Passes NASA Landing Test

Okay, wrong type of "zombie," but still interesting.

On Feb. 2, Masten Space Systems' Xombie rocket rose 164 feet (50 meters) off a launch pad in the California desert, moved sideways the same distance, and then landed softly on another pad. The entire flight lasted just 67 seconds.

The brief test flight demonstrated a new control system called the Guidance Embedded Navigator Integration Environment (GENIE), which was developed by the nonprofit Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass. NASA's Flight Opportunities Program sponsored the recent flight, in the hopes that GENIE will enable more ambitious landing demonstrations in the future.


Masten is developing a variety of reusable, unmanned vertical-takeoff and –landing vehicles for suborbital spaceflight. The company also hopes to build robotic spaceships for orbital missions eventually.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Wow! Signal

The 'Wow! signal' was received at 11.16pm on August 15, 1977 ... as a radio telescope in Ohio swept its gaze through the constellation of Sagittarius.

It lasted 72 seconds and was earned its name because of the message of disbelief Jerry Ehman, a researcher with the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programme, scrawled next to the printout recording it.

The characteristics of the signal - a rise and fall in its 'loudness' were exactly what the alien-hunters had been told to look out for.

Eighteen years previously, researchers had put themselves in E.T.'s shoes and tried to work out the best way to attract our attention.

They decided that the most noteworthy signal would be a radio signal at exactly 1,420 MHz. This is the vibration frequency of hydrogen, the most common molecule in the universe.

Everyone agreed that it would be the most widely intelligible way of saying, 'We're here - are you?' When the Wow! Signal came in, its frequency was 1,420 MHz.

But with such a massive area of space to cover, the SETI programme had adopted the strategy of sweeping the sky with their radio receivers, meaning that they could only spend a few seconds looking at each spot.

They worked on the assumption they may find an alien 'beacon' or broadcast that was on all the time, and that all they would have to do is survey the sky to find it.

Mr Gray, an economist by trade, told that he believes the conventional search for an alien 'beacon' that is always transmitting is misguided.

Such a transmission would require vast amounts of energy to operate, the equivalent of thousands upon thousands of Earth-style power plants.

He said: 'They might use some other cheaper strategy - brief periodic broadcasting, a sweeping lighthouse beam, or other methods.'

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More On the Lake Vostok Expedition

By now you have undoubtedly heard that contact had been reestablished with the Russian scientist near the South Pole at Lake Vostock, and that they've successfully bored a hole into the subsurface lake.
Academics say they have found ‘the only giant super-clean water system on the planet’. They forecast the extraordinary 5,400 cubic kilometres of pristine water will be ‘twice cleaner than double-distilled water’, and any life will have developed in total isolation.

‘We're not talking a new Loch Ness Monster - though we actually cannot really predict what to expect,' an expedition source told Ria Novosti. ‘The lake water is a moving body, and despite being almost 4 km under the ice, there is an oxygen supply, and microorganisms have already been found in the ice drilled from close to the roof of Lake Vostok.’

Professor John Priscu told in an email that the crews had been working ‘round the clock’ to finish the project before the Antarctic summer ended, which meant no planes could fly from the remote Vostok Station, where temperatures are currently around minus 66C.

'If they were successful, their efforts will transform the way we do science in Antarctica and provide us with an entirely new view of what exists under the vast Antarctic ice sheet,' he said.

Geothermal heat under the ice keeps the lake liquid, and its conditions are often described as 'alien' because they are thought to be akin to the subterranean lakes on Jupiter's moon Europa.

'I think we'll find unique organisms,' Professor Priscu, a microbiologist at the University of Montana, and a veteran Antarctic researcher who is on the trip told Scientific American.
But this is not all, according to the article.
But it was revealed this may not be the only surprise from sub-glacial Lake Vostok, a body of water as large as Lake Ontario.

As scientists began the search for new life, a state-run news agency in Russia claimed that an extraordinary cache of Hitler's archives may be buried in a secret Nazi ice bunker near the spot where yesterday's breakthrough was made.

‘It is thought that towards the end of the Second World War, the Nazis moved to the South Pole and started constructing a base at Lake Vostok,’ claimed RIA Novosti, the Russian state news agency.

It cited Admiral Karl Dontiz in 1943 saying ‘Germany's submarine fleet is proud that it created an unassailable fortress for the Fuehrer on the other end of the world’, in Antarctica.

According to German naval archives, months after the Nazis surrendered to the Allies in April 1945, a U-530 submarine arrived at the South Pole from the Port of Kiel.

The crew are rumoured to have constructed a still undiscovered ice cave ‘and supposedly stored several boxes of relics from the Third Reich, including Hitler's secret files’.

A later claim was that a U-977 submarine delivered remains of Hitler and Eva Braun to Antarctica in the hope they could be cloned from their DNA. The submariners then went to Argentina to surrender, it was claimed.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Full Metal Jousting

Fox reports on an old/new sport to be aired on the history channel -- actual jousting, although the armor looks updated. (Story and video here).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Apparently Molasses Isn't So Slow in January

The molasses tidal wave of 1919 was the result of an explosion at a 50-foot-high steel tank, owned by United States Alcohol Company, which held 2.3 million gallons of molasses. The tank burst 12:40 pm on Wednesday, January 19, 1919, and the contents ultimately coated two city blocks with 14,000 tons of the thick syrup.

One 1983 Smithsonian reporter described the scene that unfolded in the 10 minutes prior:

"At about 12:30, with a sound described as a sort of muffled roar, the giant molasses tank came apart. It seemed to rise and then split, the rivets popping in a way that reminded many ex-soldiers of machine-gun fire. And then a wet, brown hell broke loose, flooding downtown Boston."

And the carnage that came next:

"The great brown wave caught and killed most of the nearby laborers. The fireboat company quarters was splintered. A lorry was blasted right through a wooden fence, and a wagon driver was found later, dead and frozen in his last attitude like a figure from the ashes of Pompeii."

Most of the information about what had caused The Great Molasses Flood was discovered through the numerous lawsuits following the incident. Litigation lasted six years and involved 3,000 witnesses.

The Ruins of Detriot

Some videos (with music) of the ruins of Detroit, here, here, and here. A video exploration of an abandoned office tower, here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ruins of New York's Leper Colony

A slide-show of the ruins of a former leper colony in New York City.

Contact Lost with Team of Antarctic Scientists

You may remember prior posts about a team of Russian scientists drilling into a subsurface lake in Antarctica. It is now reported that all contact with the team has been lost.
A group of Russian scientists plumbing the frozen Antarctic in search of a lake buried in ice for tens of millions of years have failed to respond to increasingly anxious U.S. colleagues -- and as the days creep by, the fate of the team remains unknown.

"No word from the ice for 5 days," Dr. John Priscu professor of Ecology at Montana State University, told via email.

The team from Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) have been drilling for weeks in an effort to reach isolated Lake Vostok, a vast, dark body of water hidden 13,000 ft. below the ice sheet's surface. The lake hasn't been exposed to air in more than 20 million years.

Priscu said there was no way to get in touch with the team -- and the already cold weather is set to plunge, as Antarctica's summer season ends and winter sets in.

"Temps are dropping below -40 Celsius [-40 degrees Fahrenheit] and they have only a week or so left before they have to winterize the station," he said. "I can only imagine what things must be like at Vostok Station this week."

The team's disappearance could not come at a worse time: They are about 40 feet from their goal of reaching the body of water, Priscu explained, a goal that the team was unable to meet as they raced the coming winter exactly one year ago.

When the winter arrives in the next few weeks, the temperature can get twice as freezing. Vostok Station boasts the lowest recorded temperature on Earth: -89.4 degrees Celsius (-129 degrees Fahrenheit).
This is beginning to sound even more like The Thing or At the Mountains of Madness.