Tornado hits fair in Spain, flood deaths reach 10v By JOSEPH WILSON | Associated Press – 7 hrs ago BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A tornado swept through a fairground in a Spanish town, knocking down a Ferris wheel and injuring 35 people, while the death toll from flooding in the same southern region of the country rose to 10, authorities said Saturday.Friday’s tornado damaged several rides and cut electricity in the temporary fair set up in the main square of Gandia, according to its town hall website. It said 15 of the injured were seriously hurt, all of whom were treated on site.Local media reported the fair in Valencia province was closed to the public at the time of a thunderstorm and that all the injured were fair workers.Just inland from the Mediterranean coastal town, five more victims of Friday’s flash floods southwest of Gandia were found overnight. They included a middle-aged woman in the town of Lorca.Last summer, Lorca was hit by Spain’s deadliest earthquakes in more than 50 years, leaving nine dead.A spokeswoman for the regional government of Andalucia told The Associated Press on Saturday that the heavy downpours and resulting high waters had claimed the lives of five people in the province of Murcia, three in Almeria and two in Malaga.The spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy, said a 52-year-old British woman was missing in Almeria as well as one homeless man. Five people originally declared missing had been found alive.Local media reported that hundreds of citizens had to be evacuated throughout the region.The flooding disrupted high-speed train service between Madrid and Valencia, and various regional lines, while bridges and roads were also made impassible.The heavy rains which started Friday morning were expected to continue throughout Saturday, with the front moving north toward Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.
Asteroid Dust Could Fight Climate Change on Earth By Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor | LiveScience.com – 14 hrs ago To combat global warming, scientists in Scotland now suggest an out-of-this-world solution — a giant dust cloud in space, blasted off an asteroid, which would act like a sunshade for Earth.The world is warming and the climate is changing. Although many want to prevent these shifts by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that trap heat from the sun, some controversially suggest deliberating manipulating the planet’s climate with large-scale engineering projects, commonly called geoengineering.Instead of altering the climate by targeting either the oceans or the atmosphere, some researchers have suggested geoengineering projects that would affect the entire planet from space. For instance, projects that reduced the amount of solar radiation Earth receives by 1.7 percent could offset the effects of a global increase in temperature of 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C). The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted climate models suggest average global temperatures will likely rise by 2 to 11.5 degrees F (1.1 to 6.4 degrees C) by the end of this century.”A 1.7 percent reduction is very small and will hardly be noticeable on Earth,” said researcher Russell Bewick, a space scientist at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. „People sometimes get the idea of giant screens blocking the entire sun. This is not the case … as [the device] is constantly between the sun and the Earth, it acts merely as a very light shade or filter.”Shading Earth-One proposal to shade the Earth from the sun would place giant mirrors in space. The main problem with this concept is the immense cost and effort needed either to build and launch such reflectors or to construct them in outer space — the current cost to launch an object into low Earth orbit runs into thousands of dollars per pound. Another would use blankets of dust to blot out the sun, just as clouds do for Earth. These offer the virtue of simplicity compared with mirrors, but run the risk of getting dispersed over time by solar radiation and the gravitational pull of the sun, moon and planets. [Top 10 Craziest Environmental Ideas]Now instead of having a dust cloud floating by itself in space, researchers suggest an asteroid could essentially gravitationally anchor a dust cloud in space to block sunlight and cool the Earth.”I would like to make it clear that I would never suggest geoengineering in place of reducing our carbon emissions,” Bewick told LiveScience. Instead, he said, „We can buy time to find a lasting solution to combat Earth’s climate change. The dust cloud is not a permanent cure, but it could offset the effects of climate change for a given time to allow slow-acting measures like carbon capture to take effect.”The idea would be to place an asteroid at Lagrange point L1, a site where the gravitational pull of the sun and the Earth cancel out. This point is about four times the distance from the Earth to the moon.The researchers suggest outfitting a near-Earth asteroid with a „mass driver,” a device consisting of electromagnets that would hurl asteroid-derived matter away from the giant rock. The mass driver could serve both as a rocket to push the asteroid to the L1 point and as an engine to spew out sun-shielding dust. [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]The researchers calculate that the largest near-Earth asteroid, 1036 Ganymed, could maintain a dust cloud large enough to block out 6.58 percent of the solar radiation that would normally reach Earth, more than enough to combat any current global warming trends. Such a cloud would be about 11 million-billion pounds (5 million-billion kilograms) in mass and about 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) wide.Ganymed has a mass of about 286 million-billion lbs. (130 million-billion kg). An asteroid of this size might make one think of disaster movies, such as „Armageddon”; however, „rather than destroying the Earth, it could be used to help mankind,” Bewick said.Asteroid dust challenges-The main challenge of this proposal would be pushing an asteroid the size of Ganymed to the sun-Earth L1 point.”The company Planetary Resources recently announced their intention to mine asteroids,” Bewick said. „The study that they base their plans on reckons that it will be possible to capture an asteroidwith a mass of 500,000 kilograms (1.1 million lbs.) by 2025. Comparing this to the mass of Ganymed makes the task of capturing it seem unfeasible, at least in everything except the very far term. However, smaller asteroids could be moved and clustered at the first Lagrange point.”Safety is another concern.”A very large asteroid is a potential threat to Earth, and therefore great care and testing would be required in the implementation of this scenario,” Bewick said. „Due to this, the political challenges would probably match the scale of the engineering challenge. Even for the capture of much smaller asteroids, there will likely be reservations from all areas of society, though the risks would be much less.”Also, there’s no way to fully test this dust cloud on a large scale to verify its effectiveness before implementing it, „something that is common to all geoengineering schemes,” Bewick said. „On the global scale, it is not possible to test because the test would essentially be the real thing, except probably in a diluted form. Climate modeling can be performed, but without some large-scale testing, the results from these models cannot be fully verified.”Still, if geoengineers did use asteroids to generate clouds, they could drastically reduce how much dust the projects spew out „should any catastrophic climate response be observed,” Bewick said, „with the cloud dispersing naturally over time.”
Mars rover Curiosity finds signs of ancient stream By ALICIA CHANG | Associated Press – Fri, Sep 28, 2012 LOS ANGELES (AP) — The NASA rover Curiosity has beamed back pictures of bedrock that suggest a fast-moving stream, possibly waist-deep, once flowed on Mars — a find that the mission’s chief scientist called exciting.There have been previous signs that water existed on the red planet long ago, but the images released Thursday showing pebbles rounded off, likely by water, offered the most convincing evidence so far of an ancient streambed.There was „a vigorous flow on the surface of Mars,” said chief scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology. „We’re really excited about this.”The discovery did not come as a complete surprise. NASA decided to plunk Curiosity down inside Gale Crater near the Martian equator because photos from space hinted that the spot possessed a watery past. The six-wheeled rover safely landed Aug. 5 after a nail-biting plunge through the Martian atmosphere. It’s on a two-year, $2.5 billion mission to study whether the Martian environment could have been favorable for microbial life.Present day Mars is a frozen desert with no hint of water on its radiation-scarred surface, but geological studies of rocks by previous missions suggest the planet was warmer and wetter once upon a time.The latest evidence came from photos that Curiosity took revealing rounded pebbles and gravel — a sign that the rocks were transported long distances by water and smoothed out.The size of the rocks — ranging from a sand grain to a golf ball — indicates that they could not have been carried by wind, said mission scientist Rebecca Williams of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz.Though Curiosity did not use its high-tech instruments to drill into the rocks or analyze their chemical makeup, Grotzinger said scientists were sure that water played a role based on just studying the pictures.It’s unclear how long the water persisted on the surface, but it easily could have lasted „thousands to millions of years,” said mission scientist Bill Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley.Curiosity chanced upon the dried-up streambed while driving to Glenelg, an intriguing spot where three types of terrain meet. Its ultimate destination is Mount Sharp, a mountain rising from the center of crater floor, but it was not expected to travel there until the end of the year.Finding past water is a first step toward learning whether the environment could have supported microbes. Scientists generally agree that besides water and an energy source such as the sun, organic carbon is a necessary prerequisite for life.While an ancient streambed holds promise as a potentially habitable environment, scientists don’t think it’s a good place to preserve the carbon building blocks of life. That’s why the rover will continue its trek to the foothills of Mount Sharp where there’s a better chance of finding organics._Alicia Chang can be followed at http://twitter.com/SciWriAlicia
Is the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife a Forgery? By Natalie Wolchover | LiveScience.com – 5 hrs ago A scrap of papyrus from the early Christian era that refers to Jesushaving a wife has met with extreme skepticism since its unveiling 11 days ago. Many scholars have declared the so-called „Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” a modern forgery — one that probably postdates Dan Brown’s 2003 novel, „The Da Vinci Code.” Others say that conclusion is too hasty.What are the experts’ arguments for and against its authenticity? And will the world ever know for sure whether this dogma-defying artifact is real?The torn, business card-size fragment found instant fame when Harvard historian Karen King announced its discovery last Tuesday (Sept. 18), because it bears the startling line: „Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'” The manuscript is written in Coptic, the language of early Christians living in Egypt. Although the beginning and end of each line of the manuscript are missing, it could be interpreted as a record of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples, in which the disciples tell Jesus: „Mary [Magdalene] is not worthy of it,” and Jesus responds that his wife — presumably Mary — „will be able to be his disciple.”King has tentatively dated the artifact to the fourth century, and thinks it may be a copy of a gospel (an account of Jesus’ life) written in Greece in the second century, when there was controversy among Christians over the discipleship of Mary Magdalene. If authentic, the gospel suggests some early Christians believed Jesus and Mary were married. [Translation of Papyrus]A sloppy fake–However, scholars have identified several peculiarities that have led many to believe the manuscript is a forgery. They say the text was written sometime in the last 50 years, and probably the last decade, upon a blank piece of ancient papyrus that the forger could easily have picked up on the antiquities market.First, the writing is sloppy. Compared with authentic Coptic papyri, in which letters are written with varying thickness and subtle curves and details, the letters in the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife are formed by rigid, straight strokes of equal thickness. In a YouTube video posted Friday (Sept. 28), Christian Askeland, a Coptic scholar based in Germany, explained that the letters look unnatural, as if written by someone with a very limited knowledge of the language.If a forgery, it’s clearly not the work of a professional, but Askeland doesn’t think it was written by a fourth-century amateur, either. „He’s obviously not writing in a really formal kind of way, but he’s not doing the kind of idiosyncrasies you see in a typical informal hand or in a semi-literary text or something like that,” he said.Second, several experts have pointed out that the scribe does not seem to have used either of the writing instruments common to the time period: a stylus (Roman metal pen) or a calamus (Egyptian reed pen). The blotchiness of the letters and what look like brushstrokes in one place suggest the author instead used a paintbrush — an unorthodox writing tool in ancient Egypt. (Other experts have countered that the pen may simply have been dull.)Third, the textual content raises questions. Despite much of the manuscript being cut off, its meaning is „too easy” to decipher, Askeland said. „If you look at which parts of the manuscript have the subject and the verb staring right at us, it’s most of the manuscript.” The center-alignment of all the key phrases seems atypical.Askeland concludes, „It is very probable that it’s a fake.” [Did Leonard da Vinci Copy His Famous ‘Vitruvian Man’?]Also regarding the textual content of the piece, the New Testament historian Francis Watson of the University of Durham points out that all the snippets in the text except for „my wife” also appear in the Gospel of Thomas, an authentic Coptic gospel that was discovered in Egypt in 1945; the snippets from Thomas have simply been rearranged to create a new meaning. Watson considers it unlikely that an ancient scribe would have borrowed each of his phrases from a contemporary work. „It’s much easier to see how a modern compiler with limited ability in Coptic might gratefully avail him- or herself of material extracted from existing Coptic texts,” Watson wrote in an article published on his website.A translation of the Gospel of Thomas was published in 1956. Watson thinks the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife must have been forged sometime since then. „I have a suspicion it’s post-2003 as well. That was the year the „Da Vinci Code” was published, and this could have provided the inspiration,” he wrote. (In Dan Brown’s novel, Jesus is married to Mary Magdalene.) [Who Was Jesus, the Man?]Answers written in ink–Not everyone is ready to trash the scrap of papyrus. „While these are interesting arguments, I certainly don’t think they’re conclusive,” Paul Dilley, a scholar of early Christianity at the University of Iowa working on non-canonical literature and Coptic, told Life’s Little Mysteries.For one thing, the scribe who wrote the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife could simply have had bad penmanship. To the argument that the phrases in the gospel are cut-and-pasted from the Gospel of Thomas, Michael Peppard, assistant professor of theology at Fordham University, rejoins that most of the phrases were in common usage, and so their appearance in both texts is just a small but unsurprising coincidence.Furthermore, „there is one word that does not match its use in the Gospel of Thomas or its first entry in Coptic dictionaries, and it’s the crucial word under discussion: ‘wife’ (hime),” Peppard writes on his blog. „The most common version of this word is s-hime (with an aspirated ‘h’),” he writes.It would be odd for a modern forger to choose a less common version of the „headline-grabbing” word.And Peppard said it would also be odd for a modern forger to manage to fade and fray the papyrus fragment authentically enough to convince Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University and one of the world’s most respected papyrologists. Bagnall says the absorption of the ink by the papyrus, especially in faded and damaged areas, stands up to scrutiny. „It’s hard to construct a scenario that is at all plausible in which somebody fakes something like this,” he told the New York Times. „The world is not really crawling with crooked papyrologists.”With compelling arguments on both sides, the marital status of Jesus — or, at least, early opinions on the subject — may come down to chemistry. The chemical composition of the manuscript’s ink will be tested at Harvard in mid-October.”I think that the results of an ink test would be conclusive,” Dilley wrote in an email. „A carbon dating of the papyrus would not be conclusive, because if it is a modern forgery, the forger could have obtained an ancient papyrus fragment relatively easily, and then written over it. It would be far more difficult to reproduce ancient ink accurately.”An authentic Coptic manuscript would most likely be written in carbon-gum ink, made from carbon soot and gum arabic (made from the sap of acacia trees). But even if the tests reveal the right kind of ink of the right age, naysayers have argued that a clever forger could have bought an ancient scrap of papyrus, burned part of it to produce carbon soot, used the soot to make ink, then used the ink to write the phony gospel on the remaining fragment.