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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Which is it, Pop or Soda? The Results are In.

When on a hot summer’s day you buy a carbonated beverage to quench your thirst, how do you order it? Do you ask for a soda, a pop or something else? That question lay at the basis of an article in the Journal of English Linguistics (Soda or Pop?, #24, 1996) and of a map, showing the regional variation in American English of the names given to that type of drink.

The article was written by Luanne von Schneidemesser, PhD in German linguistics and philology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and senior editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English. And although there might be weightier issues in life (or even in linguistics) than the preferred terminology for a can of soft drink, there’s nothing trivial about this part of the beverage industry.

“According to an article last year in the Isthmus, Madison’s weekly newspaper, Americans drink so much of the carbonated beverages sold under such brand names as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, Mountain Dew, and 7-Up that consumption averages 43 gallons per year for every man, woman, and child in the United States,” Von Schneidemesser begins her article. “The Statistical Abstract of the United States (1994) confirms this: 44.1 gallons per person in 1992, compared to the next most consumed beverages: beer (32.7 gallons), coffee (27.8 gallons), and milk (25.3 gallons).”

It must be that ubiquity of soft drinks that has made this pop vs soda map the single-most submitted map to this blog, sent in by over 100 contributors. The map details the areas where certain usages predominate.

  • coke: this generic term for soft drinks predominates throughout the South, New Mexico, central Indiana and in a few other single counties in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. ‘Coke’ obviously derives from Coca-Cola, the brand-name of the soft drink originally manufactured in Atlanta (which explains its use as a generic term for all soft drinks in the South).
  • pop: dominates the Northwest, Great Plains and Midwest. The world ‘pop’ was introduced by Robert Southey, the British Poet Laureate (1774-1843), to whom we also owe the word ‘autobiography’, among others. In 1812, he wrote: A new manufactory of a nectar, between soda-water and ginger-beer, and called pop, because ‘pop goes the cork’ when it is drawn. Even though it was introduced by a Poet Laureate, the term ‘pop’ is considered unsophisticated by some, because it is onomatopaeic.
  • soda: prevalent in the Northeast, greater Miami, the area in Missouri and Illinois surrounding St Louis and parts of northern California. ‘Soda’ derives from ‘soda-water’ (also called club soda, carbonated or sparkling water or seltzer). It’s produced by dissolving carbon dioxide gas in plain water, a procedure developed by Joseph Priestly in the latter half of the 18th century. The fizziness of soda-water caused the term ‘soda’ to be associated with later, similarly carbonated soft drinks.
  • Other, lesser-used terms include ‘dope’ in the Carolinas and ‘tonic’ in and around Boston, both fading in popularity. Other generic terms for soft drinks outside the US include ‘pop’ (Canada), ‘mineral’ (Ireland), ‘soft drink’ (New Zealand and Australia). The term ‘soft drink’, finally, arose to contrast said beverages with hard (i.e. alcoholic) drinks.

This map was found here at the popvssoda website, dedicated to gathering info on the usage of pop, soda, coke and other variant terms throughout the US.

The future of gaming is all in the mind

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Be excited, but be scared. A world of mind-blowing possibilities is suddenly being thrust upon the world of video gaming.

Detecting your thoughts: the EPOC headset is a breakthrough in brain - computer interfaces.

Detecting your thoughts: the EPOC headset is a breakthrough in brain - computer interfaces.

The era of thought controlled games has arrived, and soon you could be required only to 'think' to operate a video game. Maybe you'll even have the chance to be completely immersed in a video game 'world'.

The Emotiv EPOC headset - the first Brain Computer Interface (BCI) device for the gaming market is the technology behind the revolution -- and the company claims to have already mastered thought control.

The EPOC detects and processes real time brain activity patterns (small voltage changes in the brain caused by the firing of neurons) using a device that measures electric activity in the brain.

In total, it picks up over 30 different expressions, emotions and actions.

The leap in technology has been met with excitement amongst many gamers. Singapore enthusiast Samuel Lau has even made a video showing his hopes for the future of gaming.

But, for the creators, what possibilities does this open up for future video games? Photo View gallery of gaming through the years »

According to experts, the sci-fi scenarios depicted in The Matrix, and Star Trek's 'Holodeck' are now comprehendible realities in the future.

President and co-founder of Emotiv Systems, Tan Le, said the brain-to-computer interface was undoubtedly the future for video games.

"Being able to control a computer with your mind is the ultimate quest of human-machine interaction. When integrated into games, virtual worlds and other simulated environments, this technology will have a profound impact on the user's experience." What do you think video games of the future will look like?

Le envisaged the lines between games and reality continuing to blur.

"In the long run, the user's interactions with machines will more closely mimic our interactions with other humans. Our technology will ultimately bring communities of people closer together to richly share their experiences," he said.

Rick Hall, production director at the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, is also open-minded about possibilities in future gaming.

Hall, who has worked across machines such as the N64, Sony PSP, PS2, and Nintendo DS, told CNN that some of the concepts in The Matrix were now "eerily reaching towards theoretical possibility".

"If we can interpret basic control thoughts now, it isn't far off where we'll be able to interpret more complex thoughts, even potentially things you're not consciously thinking of. If we can now do it in a non-invasive fashion, it probably won't be long before we can read these things from across the room.

And if we can "read" complex thoughts, then shouldn't we also be able to "write" thoughts into a person's brain?

"So add that up: a wireless, remote, brain reading/writing device that can scan, interpret, and communicate with someone across the room, without them even knowing it. Connect that to the Internet... and talk about brainwashing possibilities. What if some hacker could figure out how to write viruses to people's brains? It's actually a little scary."

But, it's not all optimism and imagination for the technology.

American gaming analyst Todd Greenwald believes it may be some time yet before brain to computer interfaces reach a marketable standard, saying it is "a bit too far out and speculative to say with any confidence".

University of Ulster video gaming lecturer Darryl Charles told CNN he was also uncertain whether Emotiv's technology would take off.

"It's a little bit harder to see. It's quite a complex thing to force your thought on a television screen."

However, Emotiv's Le strongly defended the headset, saying it "works on a vast majority of people and can adapt to a wide variety of thought patterns. Emotiv has carried out tests with hundreds of people and so far we have had success on every single person," Le said.

While the speed of the revolution pushing the gaming world is hotly debated, one thing all experts agree on is the underlying themes of future games.

Gamers can be certain that social interaction and strong storylines will strengthen to form the core of games.

Tan Le told CNN, "The one thing that we believe will be core to the future of gaming is the social experience. Nothing a game developer can program can match the random nature of actually participating in a scenario with other live people."

Le said the social aspect was the key to growth of the industry, as it was opening the door to fresh markets. He acknowledged the new level of immersion offered with the Wii's interactive control had helped send the industry in the right direction.

Charles believed a move closer towards the movie and television entertainment realm was also imminent.

"The big blockbuster game is going to compete more with Hollywood movies. They will be a lot more competitive in storylines... there is a lot of production values already coming from cinema."

Greenwald said downloading games straight from the producer could soon become a reality. A market where simple games could be downloaded for free and then add-ons to significantly improve the game were sold at a premium, could be a more financially rewarding for the makers, he said.

Designed like headgear, the EPOC contains multiple sensors to measure electrical activity in the brain.

Designed like headgear, the EPOC contains multiple sensors to measure electrical activity in the brain.

Popular hallucinogen faces growing legal opposition in U.S.

Nathan K. calls his use of salvia "just a very gentle letting go, a very gentle relaxing." (Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

DALLAS: With a friend videotaping, 27-year-old Christopher Lenzini of Dallas took a hit of Salvia divinorum, the world's most potent hallucinogenic herb, and soon began to imagine, he said, that he was in a boat with little green men.

Lenzini quickly collapsed to the floor and dissolved into convulsive laughter.

When he posted the video on YouTube this summer, friends could not get enough. "It's just funny to see a friend act like a total idiot," he said, "so everybody loved it."

Until a decade ago, the use of salvia was largely limited to those seeking revelation under the tutelage of Mazatec shamans in its native Oaxaca, Mexico. Today, this mind-altering member of the mint family is broadly available for lawful sale online and in head shops across the United States.

Though older Americans typically have never heard of salvia, the psychoactive sage has become something of a phenomenon among the country's thrill-seeking youth. More than 5,000 YouTube videos - equal parts "Jackass" and "Up in Smoke" - document their journeys into rubber-legged incoherence. Some of the videos have been viewed half a million times.

Yet these very images that have helped popularize salvia may also hasten its demise and undermine the promising research into its possible medical uses. Pharmacologists who believe salvia could open new frontiers for the treatment of addiction, depression and pain fear that its criminalization would make it burdensome to obtain and store the plant, and difficult to gain government permission for tests on human subjects.

In state after state, however, including here in Texas, the YouTube videos have become Exhibit A in legislative efforts to regulate salvia. This year, Florida made possession or sale a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. California took a gentler approach by making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute to minors.

"When you see it, well, it sure makes a believer out of you," said Representative Charles Anderson of Texas, a Waco Republican who is sponsoring one of several bills to ban salvia in the state.

When the U.S. government this year published its first estimates of salvia use, the data astonished many: some 1.8 million people had tried it in their lifetimes, including 750,000 in the previous year.

Among males 18 to 25, where consumption is heaviest, nearly 3 percent reported using salvia in the previous year, making it twice as prevalent as LSD and nearly as popular as Ecstasy. Recent studies at college campuses on both coasts have yielded estimates as high as 7 percent. The herb's presence on military ships and bases has prompted enough concern about readiness that the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology was tasked to develop the first urinalysis for salvia, and is now testing 50 samples a month.

Though research is young and little is known about long-term effects, there are no studies suggesting salvia is addictive or susceptible to overdose or abuse. Indeed, a salvia experience can be so intense, and at times so unsettling, that many try it just once, and even devotees use it sparingly.

Reports of salvia-related emergency room admissions are virtually nonexistent, probably because its effects typically vanish in just a few minutes.

With little data at its disposal, the Drug Enforcement Administration has spent more than a decade studying whether to add salvia to its list of controlled substances, as is the case in several European and Asian countries. In the meantime, 13 states and several local governments have banned or otherwise regulated the plant and its chemically enhanced extracts.

Known on the street by nicknames like Sally D and Magic Mint, salvia can have vastly different effects depending on dose, potency and the mind-set and tolerance of its users, according to researchers and experienced smokers (though bitter, it also can be chewed or consumed as a tincture). Dozens of online vendors sell mild extracts for as little as $5 a gram, and, more than $50 for the strongest, at up to 100 times the potency of the raw leaf.

Users often report a sudden dissociation from self, as if traveling through time. The experience tends to be solitary, introspective and sometimes fearful: a 2003 bulletin from the Department of Justice concluded that salvia was unlikely to ever become a party drug.

"I've used several psychedelics and salvia's definitely the most intense experience that I've had," said Brian Arthur, founder of Mazatec Garden, which sells salvia and other herbs online from a nondescript house in Houston. "Salvia takes you out of the world and puts you in a different place."

Regular users say it can be a restorative, even spiritual tonic, and recall their visualizations with precision.

One night in August, Nathan K., a 29-year-old father of three from Waco, stretched back in his blue recliner and took a long, purposeful drag from his pipe. As he closed his eyes, he found himself transported into a dream state, he said, as if drifting down a rain forest river. A beatific smile spread lightly across his face.

The effects dissipated after five minutes, leaving him with a sense of well-being. It was, he said, as if a masseuse had rubbed out the knots in his psyche. "Just a very gentle letting go, a very gentle relaxing," Nathan said on the condition that he not be fully identified.

Those who support the contemplative use of salvia disdain the YouTubers for disrespecting the herb's power and purpose.

"They're not really taking it as a tool to explore their inner psyche," said Daniel Siebert, a Californian who pioneered the production of salvia extracts. "They're just taking it to get messed up."

There have been rare claims of salvia-related deaths, but the linkages are speculative.

In 2006, Brett Chidester, 17, described by his family as a model student with no history of mental illness, committed suicide in Delaware at a time when he apparently was smoking salvia several times a week. Entries in his journal, provided by his mother, suggest his salvia use influenced feelings that "our existence in general is pointless."

Several months later, a medical examiner changed Chidester's death certificate to list his salvia use as a contributing factor.

The Delaware Legislature immediately banned salvia by passing a measure it called Brett's Law.

Such laws could pose a substantial burden to researchers at universities like Harvard and the University of Kansas who are convinced that salvia's active compound, Salvinorin A, will aid in the development of new lines of pain and psychiatric medications, and holds great promise.

In 2002, Dr. Bryan Roth, now of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that Salvinorin A, perhaps uniquely, concentrates on a single receptor in the brain, the kappa opioid receptor. LSD, by comparison, concentrates on about 50 receptors.

Though Salvinorin A, because of its debilitating effects, is unlikely to become a pharmaceutical agent itself, its chemistry may enable the discovery of valuable derivatives. "If we can find a drug that blocks salvia's effects, there's good evidence it could treat brain disorders including depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, maybe even HIV," Roth said.

Many scientists said that they believe salvia should be regulated like alcohol or tobacco but worry that criminalization would encumber their research before it bears fruit.

Worlds First Magnetic Bus Goes On A Test Run

California's dream of using self-steering buses to fight traffic congestion made headway in San Leandro on Friday when UC Berkeley researchers conducted their first test on a public street of a bus guided by magnets. A driver removed his hands from the wheel of the moving bus on East 14th Street to signal that a computer had taken over, steering i

read more | digg story

Marijuana Ingredients Show Promise In Battling Superbugs

Substances in marijuana show promise for fighting deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections, including so-called "superbugs," without causing the drug's mood-altering effects, scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom are reporting. (Credit: iStockphoto/Karin Lau)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2008) — Substances in marijuana show promise for fighting deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections, including so-called "superbugs," without causing the drug's mood-altering effects, scientists in Italy and the United Kingdom are reporting.

Besides serving as infection-fighting drugs, the substances also could provide a more environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic antibacterial substances now widely used in personal care items, including soaps and cosmetics, they say. 

In the new study, Giovanni Appendino and colleagues point out that scientists have known for years that marijuana contains antibacterial substances. However, little research has been done on those ingredients, including studies on their ability to fight antibiotic resistant infections, the scientists say.

To close that gap, researchers tested five major marijuana ingredients termed cannabinoids on different strains of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a "superbug" increasingly resistant to antibiotics.

All five substances showed potent germ-killing activity against these drug-resistant strains, as did some synthetic non-natural cannabinoids, they say. The scientists also showed that these substances appear to kill bacteria by different mechanisms than conventional antibiotics, making them more likely to avoid bacterial resistance, the scientists note. At least two of the substances have no known mood-altering effects, suggesting that they could be developed into marijuana-based drugs without causing a "high."

Journal reference:

  1. Appendino et al. Antibacterial Cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: A Structure−Activity Study. Journal of Natural Products, 2008; 71 (8): 1427 DOI: 10.1021/np8002673

The Art and Science of Wheelchair Basketball


Published: September 8, 2008

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Minutes before the cries of “Box left! Box left!” fill the floor, before players collide in ferocious crashes of aluminum and titanium, and before his United States teammates continue their quest for the gold medal in men’s basketball at the Paralympic Games in Beijing on Tuesday, Paul Schulte will take a long, hard look at his opponents’ wheelchairs.

Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Paul Schulte, with the ball, scored 9 points for the United States in a 76-53 victory over Israel in a preliminary-round game Sunday at the Paralympics in Beijing.

Wes Frazer for The New York Times

Schulte and the U.S. team worked out at a pre-Paralympic camp last month in Birmingham, Ala.

Axle width, wheel tilt, seat angle, height — Schulte, the United States’ best Paralympic basketball player, can examine an empty chair and immediately discern its owner’s style, strengths and moves. All players know something about equipment, but Schulte has an almost eerie clairvoyance when it comes to wheelchairs.

For good reason. He has designed many of them. As a mechanical engineer for Invacare Top End, a world leader in the manufacturing of sports wheelchairs, Schulte has a unique role in these Paralympics: when the United States team is not carried by his play, it will be by his chairs.

“See, it all depends on your center of gravity, and how much control you want versus speed,” Schulte said last month, making a chair schematic spin in three dimensions on a computer screen. “You want maneuverability, but you want acceleration. And you have to take into account the forces on the joints of the chair and the shearing of the welds.”

Schulte scored 29 total points in lopsided wins for the United States over Israel on Sunday and Brazil on Monday in the preliminary round at the Paralympics. The team faces Britain on Tuesday, China on Wednesday and Australia on Thursday before the quarterfinalists are determined.

Meanwhile, Schulte has found himself pulled aside by several opponents in the athletes’ village.

“They’re asking me, ‘Hey, while you’re here, can you measure me for a chair?’ ” Schulte said with a laugh. “I have to tell them: Uh, I’ve got to go practice right now. But maybe later.”

This will probably be Schulte’s last chance for a Paralympic gold medal. He won bronze at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics, then sat out the 2004 Games to focus on finishing his degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington and developing his engineering career.

Schulte’s considerable name in wheelchair basketball had already been built at the quadrennial world championships. He was the leading scorer for the United States when it won gold in 1998. In 2002, he helped the team win gold again, making six 3-pointers in one game and being named most valuable player of the tournament.

The next year, Top End named a wheelchair after him, the Paul Schulte Signature Series Basketball Chair. It later hired him as a design engineer.

Schulte, now the United States team’s old man at 29, says he wants to build chairs that can stand up to the serious international game, which requires finesse and the ability to dole out punishment.

“Put it this way,” Schulte said with a mischievous glint in his eye, “picks are a whole lot more effective in wheelchair basketball.”

At the United States team’s pre-Paralympic camp in Birmingham last month, it was clear that most aspects of wheelchair basketball are the same as the able-bodied game: same court, same scoring, same rules against traveling. (Touching your wheel is the equivalent of taking a step.) Players run fast breaks, make backdoor cuts and flip no-look passes as often as in any sneaker-squeaking basketball game.

In wheelchair basketball, height plays a less obvious role, but players with longer torsos and arms often rebound and shoot more effectively. Because of this, players are frequently measured by their arm spans, not body length.

Chairs cannot move left or right, only forward and back. That makes defense a fascinating exercise of players’ positioning their wheels perpendicular to those of the ball carrier, allowing for more responsive movements.

Defense is Schulte’s strength. He can zip one way or another, stop and make half or full spins with such speed and precision that he and the player he is guarding look like synchronized swimmers. Beyond his 6-foot-5 arm span, he can perform the wheelchair player’s version of a jump — tilting his chair on one of its large wheels to reach a few inches higher and block a shot.

As the shooting guard for the United States team, Schulte has a deft outside touch but excels at spreading what can become a congested floor. During a scrimmage last month, he led a fast break down the left side, dribbled and curled around the left wing, then suddenly stopped, spun and zipped a one-hand pass to a teammate for an easy layup.

“He’s superfast, his chair skills are some of the best in the world and he sees the floor tremendously well,” United States center Joe Chambers said.

Coach Steve Wilson said, “Paul definitely takes his intelligence out onto the floor; so much of play is wheel position, forces and angles.”

And speed, which is what originally drew Schulte to wheelchair basketball. An automobile accident the day after his 10th birthday fractured a vertebra, bruised his spinal cord and left him with no feeling from his midthighs down. He tried crutches but hated their clumsiness. He eventually found he could go faster in a chair and do many of the athletic movements he already loved.

“My friends, when they played touch football, they made me the quarterback so I didn’t have to move too much — but they told me if I didn’t get rid of it in three-Mississippi, they’d come get me,” said Schulte, who grew up in Manchester, Mich. “They pushed me and helped me to enjoy sports again. They made it fun and made it cool.”

By high school, Schulte was distinguishing himself as a top-notch basketball player. He attended Texas-Arlington on a full wheelchair basketball scholarship; the university has one of the nation’s more advanced programs, along with Illinois and Arizona. The team won the national collegiate title in 2002, with Schulte being named the M.V.P.

Whereas able-bodied basketball players are generally stratified by height, players in wheelchair basketball use a formal ranking system, based on physical capabilities. Players cannot rise out of their chairs; they are strapped in tight, if only for the inevitable crashes. But different disability groups have varying levels of midsection muscle control, allowing for greater reach, leaning and hands-free steering.

A player who is minimally disabled, like a single-foot amputee with otherwise full physicality, is ranked a 4.5; the scale decreases in half-point increments to 1.0, for a player paralyzed from the chest down.

Schulte is a 3.0, but he is so technically sound that he can match up against 4.5s — not unlike a small forward who can guard a center.

Schulte says he takes players’ limitations into account when designing chairs for them. Moving the player’s center of gravity by shifting the seat height or depth plays a critical role in steering and speed. Depending on the players’ style of defense, they may prefer greater axle width or an extra back stabilizing wheel — something Schulte popularized in chair design.

“The most important thing is quickness, for boxing out and avoiding picks,” said Schulte, whose personal model costs $3,800 before extra adjustments. The cost appears worth it. Members of the Brazilian national team call Schulte Homem de Gelo, which is Portuguese for the Ice Man.

They do not seem to dislike Schulte too much, though. As Erick Silva of Brazil said, “He made my chair.”

The Sexiest Collision of Sports and Lingerie

A Lingerie League of their Own

A league of lingerie-clad women playing football is no longer a fantasy, it’s a reality. Lingerie Football is back, better and bigger than ever. Based on the Super Bowl halftime gimmick of the same name, Lingerie Football is now a league and it’s expanding.

Next year, the LFL will consist of 10 teams across the nation. The teams will consist of the Los Angeles Temptation, Phoenix Scorch, Seattle Mist, San Diego Seduction, Dallas Desire, New England Euphoria, Chicago Bliss, Atlanta Steam, Miami Caliente and Tampa Breeze. The games are set to air on cable television, making their debut in Fall 2009.

Now this is the true meaning of fantasy football.

A Lingerie League of their OwnA Lingerie League of their OwnA Lingerie League of their OwnA Lingerie League of their Own

A Lingerie League of their OwnA Lingerie League of their OwnA Lingerie League of their Own

A Lingerie League of their Own
A Lingerie League of their OwnA Lingerie League of their OwnA Lingerie League of their Own

10 Incredible Underground Lakes and Rivers [pics]

Reed Flute Cave

Reed Flute Cave in Guilin, China was discovered during the Tang Dynasty almost 1,300 years ago. Image by Ian Sewell

Far below the Earth’s surface, where the sun rarely penetrates, is a world of twinkling glow worms, precious gems and limestone caves and mountains, a land inhabited by nature alone. Within this world are visions to rival many landscapes decorating our horizon; lakes lie still and calm, great networks of caves know no borders and rivers and rivulets carve an ever-evolving terrain.

We invite you to explore this remarkable subterranean domain through these incredible images we’ve complied for your viewing pleasure.

1. Cheddar Gorge is Britain’s biggest canyon and is found within the Cheddar Caves, where the UK’s oldest complete human skeleton was found in 1903. Known as the Cheddar Man, the remains were estimated to be 9,000 years old.
Cheddar Gorge

2. Hamilton Pool Preserve, in Austin, Texas, was created quite naturally when the dome of an underground cave collapsed revealing this stunning natural pool. It is now frequented by day-trippers and naturalists. That’s naturalists not naturists, although no doubt someone has tried to go skinny dipping at one point!
Hamilton Pool
Van Sutherland

3. Hamilton Pool from another perspective. When there’s been heavy rainfall, 45ft waterfalls cascade from the rim of the cavern. It must be pretty spectacular when you’re bathing.
Hamilton Pool
Stuck in Customs

4. Stalagtites adorn the roof of Luray Caverns, Virginia, the still waters throwing a perfect reflection.
Luray Caverns
Ashley Dinges

5. Legend has it that early cavemen inhabited Wookey Caves in Somerset, England.
Wookey Hole
Wookey Caves

6. This underground lake in Mellisani Caves, near Kefalonia, was found when the roof of the cave collapsed after an earthquake in 1953.
Mellisani Caves
Liana Photography

7. Lechuguilla Cave, in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico is the fifth longest cave discovered yet at 120 miles (193 km) long and measures 489 metres (1,604 ft) deep, making it the deepest in continental United States.
Lechuguilla Cave
Dave Bunnell

8. This underground lake near Macan Ché on the Yucatán Peninsula is one of many that are considered to be gifts from the gods by the Mayans, and therefore sacred.
Macan Che

9. The limestone flow feeding into this underground lake in Mexico resembles a waterfall turned to stone. Maybe the Ice Queen is privy to this particular cavern?

Cavern Lake Mexico

10. How long must it have taken for this little waterfall in Banff, Canada, to make this underwater lake?
Underwater Cave Banff

New Apple Premium In-Ear Headphones With Dual Drivers Only $79

To go with the Skittles smorgasbord of new iPod nanos, Apple's got a bunch of new accessories. By far the most exciting are their new premium in-ear headphones. They've got dual drivers (woofer + tweeter), a setup you don't see until about the $200 mark with say, Ultimate Ears' 5 Pro or Shure's E4c-n set, which used to be over $300. And these have got a built-in remote and mic. Yet they're only $79. The first iPod earbuds that don't suck—amazing. Not so amazing: It appears that their remote and mic only work with the iPods launched today.

Ars indicates that mayyyybe the playback controls will work. (Laaaame.) They come with three sizes of silicon tips—which could be a problem, since great isolation headphones gotta have a perfect seal, otherwise they can sound flat. It's why Shures come with a ridiculous number of tips. There's also a carrying case in the box.

Also on the menu are new headphones and armbands. They've got an in-line control feature with volume and playback control (next, prev, play pause) from the button as well. There’s a microphone on the back that works with the voice recording apps, but as with the premiums, the expanded features only work with the new iPods. They'll be $29 next month. [Apple, Apple, Apple]

420 goes 24/7: Pot users share high times online


Dave Warden self-medicates on L.A. pot show "The Weed Report." (Credit:

By the time we began the interview, Bong Rip had absorbed quite a bit of THC.

I’d been watching the 30-year-old host of “BongTV,” a live Internet show that features Mr. Rip traveling around the Southland in his ’88 Rolls Royce limo, rapping with guests and friends — and smoking more pot than I thought was possible. On screen, he’d made short work of four big joints, demonstrated repeatedly and convincingly why his name is Bong Rip and otherwise had not gone three minutes without a quick lung full from his glass pipe.

I was surprised he could maintain consciousness, let alone speak. But this is what he does every day — live, on the Internet — from 4:20 p.m. to 4:20 a.m.

“It’s like a virtual party, right in your computer,” he told me with impressive coherence. “I have over 100 people watching that I take with me in my limousine — they don’t make a mess, they don’t cause any trouble and they don’t smoke my weed.”

“BongTV” has a small but dedicated following — Bong Rip calls them the Stoner Army. People watch the show on multi-way video chat services and Because it’s live, viewers get to chat, joke and toke with Bong Rip in real time. But a warning to those easily offended: This show exists only because there are no ratings on the Internet.

Die-hard fans are awarded ranks by Gen. Rip for being loyal, reading about marijuana legalization and helping him advertise his show around the Web. You can ascend from private to captain, be named senator or governor (OK, those two are not military ranks, but, geez, don’t kill Bong’s buzz!), and if you really impress him, he’ll make you a major.

Whenever Bong decides it’s time to light up, he calls out “420 in the chat room if you’re smoking!” Within moments, dozens of viewers have eagerly chimed in. “420!” they type — and they’re not just posturing — among the 10 or 20 viewers that are running their own webcams, a healthy number can be seen reaching for an implement and joining right in.

Once a largely invisible subculture, the pot community has harnessed online video and social networking to “come out of the grow closet” and into the open. Not to be left out of the Web 2.0 movement, like-minded users (that’s “users” in both senses) are taking advantage of the Internet to connect and socialize semi-anonymously, and from a distance.

“These are people who are really looking for a venue to express how much they love it, or love growing it or just like having it around,” said Dave Warden, who hosts “The Weed Report,” an online video magazine on which Warden visits Los Angeles dispensaries, glass galleries and his own home, reviewing oddly named strains of cannabis along the way. The snappily edited show is entertaining and even contains some pretty funny sketches by Warden, who was formerly the Gadget Guy on the DIY Network’s “Lawn Care Workshop” and has several Hollywood directing and producing credits to his name.

“The Weed Report” routinely scores tens of thousands of views on YouTube and other sites and even has its own bong-making company as a sponsor. The show’s modest success spurred Warden to create a kind of pot video social network, in which aficionados from several countries have uploaded 125 pot-related videos of various levels of sophistication (read: Most are nothing more interesting than people getting high).

Many of the videos on come from Canada, where the legal climate is considerably more relaxed. “If there was a marijuana video war, the Canadians would be winning,” Warden said. Warden pointed to online pot-smoking shows like “Chronic604” (where a bunch of guys smoke in different places), “Baked in BC” (where a bunch of pretty girls do) and Pot TV, the leading online cannabis network.

Bong Rip of Bong TV Live. (Image courtesy Bong Rip)

Pot TV is a large repository of videos, including serial shows, pot documentaries and snippets of “real” TV segments on legalization and politics. The site is run by Greg “Marijuana Man” Williams and produced by Mark Emery, the publisher of Canada’s Cannabis Culture magazine and one of the pot world’s most celebrated and notorious figures. Emery, Williams and colleague Michelle Rainey were arrested in 2005 on drug trafficking and money laundering charges related to their online seed-selling business. The case has become a rallying point in the pot world since the trio was arrested in Canada for allegedly breaking U.S. law. They’re awaiting extradition hearings.

Williams, who hosts “The Grow Show” on Pot TV, agreed that the Web has been a watershed for pot culture. “The revolution may not be televised,” he quipped, “but it is alive and kicking on YouTube.

“People do this because they know what they are doing is not really going to hurt them or anyone who might follow their lead. If you have a law that needs constant enforcement and it is openly defied, it is a pretty good indication that the people do not want that law.”

Speaking of laws, one might wonder how illegal it is to post videos of oneself smoking pot — with or without a California prescription, which Warden and Bong Rip say they have.

Well, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles Police Department agree that, barring obviously felonious activity like dealing or possession of large amounts, this kind of stuff is small potatoes.

“If it’s just a person smoking marijuana in a residential-looking environment, there’s really no law violation there,” said LAPD Sgt. Kevin Kurzhals of the narcotics division. “We legally couldn’t just break down the door and do anything.”

Special Agent Sarah Pullen of the DEA offered a similar statement. “The DEA’s focus is to pursue those traffickers that have the biggest impact. We typically don’t go after that level of user.”

So it appears that our pot video stars are safe for now, which is a good thing for Bong Rip, who seems almost more addicted to broadcasting himself to the Stoner Army than he is to any banned substance. As my interview with Bong concluded, he offered me an unexpected bonus.

“What’s your first name again, man?”

“David ..... ”

“Dave, you are now officially a major in the Stoner Army as recognized by Bong Rip and the Stoner Army worldwide.”

Major Dave ..... I could get used to that.

Times staff writer Charlie Amter contributed to this report.  

The Yankees season in a nutshell

If this doesn't sum up the Yankees season than I don't know what does. I mean this Yankee fan couldn't even get two words out of his mouth before the cop grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and tossed him out on his ass like the piece of garbage that he is. This contest was over before it even began just like their season. Regardless the moral of this story is that even New York cops know it's illegal for Yankee fans to talk trash right now. Sit down and be quiet or go to jail.

Seth Rogen May Be Kevin Smith's Ranger Danger

Seth Rogen May Be Kevin Smith's Ranger DangerIt was back in July at Comic Con that Kevin Smith hinted at the possibility of a science fiction movie as one of his next projects. At the time, it sounded like he might be doing something set in space. Now talking to Sci-Fi Wire, he says it’s a superhero movie.

Smith says, “I'm going to do the science fiction superhero movie. It's going to be an original superhero that I've created. It's stewing right now. I want to do it, though, and, God willing, it will star Seth Rogen.” Rogen and Smith work magic together in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, just imagine them letting loose on an effects heavy superhero flick, or even better a superhero flick set in space.

It seems likely that the movie Kevin’s talking up is the long rumored Ranger Danger and the Danger Rangers, an idea teased in the form of a t-shirt worn by Randall in Clerks. When it’s discussed, Ranger Danger is usually talked about as being in the vein of Flash Gordon, and the teaser artwork on Randall’s shirt makes the character look a lot like an outer space version of The Rocketeer. If that’s what he’s talking about here, Seth Rogen may be the man to strap on a rocket pack and become Ranger Danger. 

Abandoned Train Station in Gagra, Abkhazia

Gagra was a very popular resort back in the Soviet days and now that Abkhazia no longer has to live under the constant threat of Georgian aggression, it should become a great tourist destination again.

Chevy Equinox Hydrogen

Not an hour after my chat with Tom Williams, another driver of a 2008 Chevrolet Equinox FCEV as part of GM Project Driveway, he leaves a message on my cell phone:

"When I drove up to downtown L.A. from Orange County today, I got 60 miles to the kilogram. I don't know about you, but I love that."

It's the kind of excitement I'm used to hearing from truly motivated Prius owners. By any standard, the hydrogen-fueled Chevy Equinox fuel cell electric vehicle qualifies as alternative-fuel exotica, as rare and fascinating as it is expensive and impractical.

You can call it the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox FCEV (FCEV as in fuel cell electric vehicle), but this is no production vehicle. Only General Motors knows what it costs to build these SUVs, but each of these prototypes is probably worth the equivalent of 10 Tesla Roadsters.

For the next 72 hours, though, I'm going to drive our Chevrolet Equinox FCEV test vehicle like it's an ordinary, $30,000 Chevy Equinox LTZ. Of course, the FCEV's 150-mile range prevents me from leaving the green dreamland of Southern California. A Chevrolet dealership will probably never be more than five miles away, and specially trained OnStar advisors are waiting to take my call.

As a participant in the hydrogen-powered GM Project Driveway, I even have my own Driver Relationship Manager. She tells me I can call her cell any time, day or night. Not even my mom wants to talk to me that often.

Free Lunch, but It's Lowfat
Every time I fill up at the Shell station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Federal Avenue in West Los Angeles, I enter a special PIN that automatically debits a GM corporate account at $5 per kilogram. This isn't the market rate for compressed hydrogen. Rather, it's a fixed price agreed upon by Shell and the auto manufacturers that patronize the pump, and subsidized by Uncle Sam.

One wrinkle is that Shell's pump only dispenses hydrogen at 350 bar or 5,000 psi. This isn't surprising, as most hydrogen retailers certify civilians like me to pump only at this pressure level. If you score a Honda FCX Clarity, it's a nonissue as the Honda stores its hydrogen at 350 bar.

But the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox fuel cell stores 4.2 kilograms of the stuff at a denser 700 bar (10,000 psi). A 350-bar pump and the three carbon-fiber tanks of the Equinox can work out their differences, but for reasons of physics, you'll never come away with more than half a tank. Also for reasons of physics, you can't refuel the Equinox FCEV at one of these stations until its fuel gauge reads below the halfway mark.

So now I'm looking at 75 miles of real-world range.

It's Like Driving a Hybrid, Only Not
As of Saturday morning, our Equinox is fresh off a 700-bar refueling session, and I have seven-eighths of a tank.

At Santa Monica's farmer's market on Arizona Avenue, this hydrogen-fueled SUV receives exactly zero attention. It's like they don't even hear the robotic snorting, grunting and, yes, farting as the Equinox FCEV goes through its meticulous shutdown process. It's like they don't even see its whimsical water-molecule decals.

Raul, my favorite tomato farmer, owns a Toyota Camry Hybrid and a first-gen Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

"It's like driving your Camry Hybrid if it never went out of electric mode," I tell him.

"So it's normal," he says.

"But it's kind of weird to be driving around and realize you don't have an engine under the hood," I insist.

"Yeah, that's how we're programmed," he replies. He sighs. Guess there won't be any deals on the heirloom tomatoes this week.

Up to Speed
I point the fuel cell Equinox toward the Los Angeles Coliseum, the final stop on the Hydrogen Road Tour, organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Department of Energy, along with the California Fuel Cell Partnership and the National Hydrogen Association. I should meet some of my hydrogen-crazed peeps there.

Accelerating up to a 75-mph pace on the freeway is easier than you'd expect in a 4,357-pound SUV that has no explosions going on under its hood. The fuel cell Equinox definitely isn't slow, unlike the early hybrids. In our instrumented tests, it hits 60 mph in a respectable 9.6 seconds (or 9.3 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip) and goes through the quarter-mile in 17.2 seconds at 79 mph.

At the same time, the front-wheel-drive Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell doesn't move off the line very aggressively, considering all the torque that should be instantaneously available from its electric motor, which is rated at 236 pound-feet of torque (along with 126 horsepower).

Ben Lee, owner of a 1996 Chevy Impala SS and a 2008 Pontiac G8 GT, is another driver in temporary custody of an Equinox FCEV. "When we first got the fuel cell Equinox," he says, "it was almost 100 percent torque. But GM retuned it to feel more like a normal car. Every time we would take it into GM's Burbank training center, they would update the programming — braking, steering and drivetrain.

"A Sport mode option would be an awesome upgrade for the future," Lee adds. "If there were a switch that allowed you to choose to use more hydrogen if you wanted to, that would be great."

The Wheels Go Round and Round
Above 40 mph, the whirring and chirping of the compressor forcing hydrogen into the fuel cell stack fades into the background. But maybe it's only because there's now enough road noise to fool my ears.

Otherwise, the drive reminds me of commuting in a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The ride is composed and well-isolated from the bumps, though expansion joints can be jarring, with much suspension thwack invading the cabin. The steering uses electric assist and has the same 19.4:1 ratio as an Equinox LTZ. There's not much feedback from the tires, but the wheel feels secure in my hands at 85 mph.

Instead of a transmission, the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell has a single reduction gear that syncs up the electric motor with the front wheels. Shift from "D" and "L" and you won't get a different gear ratio, merely a change in the vehicle's regenerative braking characteristics.

All of the Equinox FCEV drivers I meet comment on the smooth, effortless feel of the SUV's power delivery, uninterrupted as it is by conventional shift points. "It feels almost like you're driving a supercharged golf cart," Jackie Lee, wife of Ben, tells me.

Not Athletic, but Not Bad
On the way home, I drive through the Hollywood Hills. This 4,357-pound electric vehicle is not exactly athletic, but its manners are fairly refined. If its P225/60R17 Goodyear Integrity tires offered anything resembling grip, its handling would be pretty good. As it is, the hydrogen Chevy's 60.4-mph speed through our slalom and 0.71g performance on the skid pad are average for an SUV in this weight class.

The Equinox Fuel Cell's 134-foot 60-0 braking distance isn't bad either, but even in normal traffic, I can tell it would stop a lot better with tires that aspired to more than low rolling resistance.

That said, the regenerative braking system used to recharge the Equinox's supplemental nickel-metal hydride battery pack is a bigger annoyance. There's an abrupt change in pedal feel when regen mode activates. Under harder braking, there's a low-tech thunk from the back of this million-dollar SUV prototype.

High Anxiety
Then I realize I've got something bigger to worry about. I roll up to Shell's hydrogen pump with 25 miles left on the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell's distance-to-empty counter. I enter the PIN and get a warning that says, "Hose leak detected." The upshot is I can't refuel here. What to do?

I drive home and plot out a route to GM's Burbank training center. It's only 23 miles away, but the Equinox tells me that it has only 23 miles to go before the tank is empty.

"Do you think I'll make it?" I ask my Driver Relationship Manager. "Yes" is the answer but I hear doubt in her voice. She offers a tow if I want it, but I decide to see this through. If I succeed, I will declare hydrogen the greatest fuel on earth.

Traffic is light. Once the Equinox slips below 15 miles of range, the trip computer switches to a message that reads, "Range Low." But I'm too stubborn to turn back. Besides, this is a tad thrilling.

Just as I'm pulling into GM's driveway, the display changes to "Propulsion Power is Reduced." This means the hydrogen fuel cell stack is no longer powering the electric motor, and all juice is coming from the battery pack. It's like a limp-home mode.

An hour of very slow 700-bar refueling ensues. This is what happens when you run the tanks completely dry, the engineers tell me. But the stressful commute apparently drained some other life force from the Equinox because its fuel cell stack won't reboot.

An identical Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell is pulled from the stock of perhaps 25 prototypes in the parking lot. It's my ride home.

Will Hydrogen Change Your Life?
During our test of the two examples of the 2008 Chevrolet Equinox FCEV, Shell's hydrogen pump lets us down a half-dozen times. One evening when the pump is working, I wait in line as a Honda FCX Clarity lessee refuels. His car has more range than the fuel cell Equinox, but he's as frustrated as I am. "This station was down for three weeks when I first got the car," he says.

I wonder, then, if the real significance of the Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell lies not in its exotic propulsion system, but in its image of environmental sustainability.

Few of the Project Driveway participants, for example, are ready to rush out and buy a new hybrid. "My Mazda 6 and Saturn Vue both have about 40,000 miles on them," says project participant Neil Smith, "and I can get another seven years with those cars, and when GM's fuel cell vehicle comes on the market, I will buy one. I won't dump my current cars, because that doesn't make economic sense."

The Lees started carpooling to work during their three-month Equinox FCEV loan just so they could both experience the vehicle. Yet the loan ended four months ago, and they're still doing it. "This vehicle made us greener without even trying," Ben Lee says.

Stogie Guys Review Macanudo 1968

“Rich, dark, and unexpected.” That’s the tag line of the new Macanudo 1968. The newest extension of General Cigar’s best-selling Macanudo brand was introduced at the IPCPR trade show in July and began hitting cigar stores in mid-August. The blend celebrates 40 years since Ramón Cifuentes began developing Macanudo, which was eventually released in 1971.

This five inch by 50 ring gauge Robusto retails for $8.50, and is one of four sizes. The line also comes in a Toro (6x 54), a Churchill (7x 49) , and a Gigante (6x 60)—a size being emphasized by General in a number of different blends.

According to General Cigar’s promotional materials, the 1968 features tobacco “grown by General Cigar or cultivated for the company under an agreement of exclusivity…aged in tercios and charcoaled wooden barrels to further enrich its flavor.”

The blend features a Dominican and Nicaraguan filler that includes tobacco grown on the Nicaraguan island of Ometepe, volcanic land known for its rich soil that rises out of Lake Nicaragua. The binder is Connecticut Habano, wrapped in a Honduran San Agustin leaf.

Before lighting the classically proportioned Robusto, I find a highly aromatic cigar filled with leather and earth. The wrapper is oily with only a few small veins, and with classic Macanudo construction the cigar is firm to the touch with no soft or spongy areas.

Once lit, I was greeted with lots of leather, burnt cedar, and roasted coffee. The taste is distinctly chewy, and the finish had muted licorice flavors with a very subtle pepper spice. There is also an underlying salty characteristic to the 1968 that leaves your mouth dry.

Like most Macanudo sticks I’ve smoked, the physical properties are nearly flawless. The burn was even, the ash steady, and the draw firm but never difficult. The only construction complaint I have is that a few times the Macanudo 1968s I sampled for this review seemed to go out prematurely, requiring relights to enjoy the cigar as the burn neared the attractive black band.

Despite being billed as the fullest Macanudo, I would be more inclined to call the Macanudo 1968 medium- to medium-full. It reminded me of a slightly toned down Partagas Black, although the 1968 is a far more complex smoke.

Overall the Macanudo 1968 is a nice addition to the line. It will go a long way towards combating Macanudo’s reputation among smokers as simplistic or as a beginner’s cigar (a reputation I don’t think is always deserved.) The flavors won’t be enjoyed by all, but it is a unique, interesting, and complex profile that I found quite pleasant. The Macanudo 1968 Robusto earns a rating of four out of five stogies.

Stogie Guys

BAM !!

Ask a Ninja


Being a ninja is serious business.

Just ask Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine, creators of the award-winning video podcast Ask a Ninja, which features the hilarious witticisms of a masked martial artist.

Luckily for non-ninjas who aspire to be inducted into the International Order of Ninjas, The Ninja Handbook, which hits shelves Tuesday, can serve as a sherpa through the rigorous learning process. Read the book to discover how to build a proper ninja clan, execute deadly kicks and defeat vampire pumpkins. (What Ninja Handbook won't teach you is how to jump from a successful web video series into a movie deal, a feat that Nichols and Sarine have pulled off -- they're working on an Attack of the Killer Tomatoes remake.)

Ninja Handbook is no slapdash rehash of the web videos, according to Nichols. "It's all original material written by myself and Douglas [Sarine]," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "We really wanted to expand upon the world we've thought about and imagined, and play to that."

With Nichols' help, wrangled The Ninja himself away from his busy duties in the International Order of Ninjas to give us a few tips to help us on our path to ninjahood. (Watch a video, after the jump, of the Ninja going into more detail about the book.) We're just grateful he didn't kill us. How can we join The International Order of Ninjas?

The Ninja: If you want to become a true ninja you have to start training at six weeks old. This book is the second-best way. And even then, if you want to become a full-fledged ninja you have to enter a ninternship. But only two people have every survived: Joan of Arc and Ben Franklin. And this kid from Montana. It's a very rigorous process. What would be a good ninja weapon for beginners?

The Ninja: Ninjas can kill people with practically any object, even atoms of salt. So for non-ninjas who want to live, start out with something considerably less sharp. Like a water bottle. Or a chair that your mom doesn't really care about. What's the first step?

The Ninja: A good clan name. It should be a collection of things that confuse and scare people. It's kind of like a lethal Mad Libs process of picking a noun, verb and action. Like the Clan of the Very Deadly Shoebox. Be honest. What are our chances of surviving The Deadly Path to Ninjadom?

The Ninja: There's nothing to ensure that. I can guarantee this book will be the book of their lives. Either they will embrace it and, perish the thought, become an actual ninja, or it will kill them. Either way, it will be a seminal moment in their lives. Just some lives will be longer than others. Is there anything we can do to increase our shot at survival?

The Ninja: Being very quiet and very quick. Even when you think you're being completely silent, your body is making sounds. You will need to do things like explore every sound your body makes and categorize them, fight beasts and make flags out of felt. It's all very deadly stuff.

Hadron Collider- Best and Worst Case Scenarios


OMG! Have you heard that huge atom smasher in Europe powers up for the first time tomorrow?

Of course you have. You've also heard it repeated over and over that the Large Hadron Collider is the biggest, most expensive scientific instrument in history and that it's going to change our fundamental understanding of the universe.

Well, great, but what does that mean?

We break down how five major physics theories -- and the theorists who've spent their lives developing them -- may be impacted by the discoveries that could emanate from the LHC. We also provide answers to all your LHC FAQ in 140 characters or less, so you can send them to your friends on Twitter.

Basically, the collider is a series of tubes intended to guide protons as superconducting magnets propel them close to the speed of light. You can think of the LHC as the Disneyland of physics experiments. A host of different detectors have been designed to test which theoretical physicists' math fits the real world.

Over the last few decades, physics has followed a path of increasing strangeness. Theory after theory about the fundamental nature of the universe has arisen: string theory, universes composed of multiple universes and many dimensions, and matter we can't see and can hardly detect. Now, that generation of theoreticians will have their ideas put to the test deep underground on the border of France and Switzerland.

Here's how the LHC could bolster or banish five of those theories:

LHC FAQ in 140 Characters or Less

Particle physics is complicated. Tweets are not. So, naturally, answering your questions about the Large Hadron Collider in Twitter format, i.e. 140 characters or less, could help you understand some physics.

Q: WTF is a Large Hadron Collider?
A: Hadrons are the parent family for protons and neutrons. The collider will smash protons together to see what they're made of.

Q: What are ATLAS and CMS and all these other acronyms?
A: They are particle detectors. ATLAS and CMS are the big ones. Each detector is designed to carry out a set of experiments.

Q: How does the Large Hadron Collider work?
A: It smashes particles moving at near the speed of light together. Then, detectors look for very rare particles in the wreckage.

Q: Is smashing things together to look for progressively smaller and rarer particles really how particle physics is done?
A: More or less: yes. Theoretical physicists work out the math. The experiments get run to see whose math matches the world.

Q: Gimme the stats on the Collider? Factoid stats.
A: 17 miles around. 9,000 magnets. 7,000 scientists. $10 billion. Operating temp: -456.25 F. Power used: 120 MW. Network: 1.8+Gb/s.

Q: Who paid for the Large Hadron Collider?
A: You did! But not nearly as much as your European cousins. The US contribution stands at $531 million. Total cost: $10 billion.

Q: How does a particle detector work?
A: They work like digital cameras with 150 megapixels taking snapshots 600 million times a second! Then algorithms look for interesting stuff.

Q: Is there an end 'product/goal' that the average Joe will eventually see from these experiments? ie:teleportation?
A: Not directly, but confirmation that physicists understand the universe would be nice. And you never know. The engineering can lead to other things.

Q: When you smash particles at nearly the speed of light isn't that going to release a lot of energy?
A: Yes. The highest-energy collisions will reach 14 trillion electron volts.

Q: How many particles are actually colliding?
A: Hacked Wikipedia: The beam pipes contain 1.0×10-9 grams of hydrogen, which
would fill the volume of one grain of fine sand.

Q: Is the Large Hadron Collider a threat to human civilization and the existence of the Earth?
A: No. Einstein's relativity says it's impossible. And, just in case, studies of highly-energetic cosmic rays hitting earth rule it out, too.

The Big Bang Theory

Best Case: The Large Hadron Colliders' ALICE experiment successfully creates quark-gluon plasma, a substance theorized to have existed just milliseconds after the Big Bang. By generating temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the sun, scientists hope to watch as this particle goo cools and expands into the particles that we know. That could help scientists answer why protons and neutrons weigh 100 times more than the quarks they're made of.

Worst Case: Scientists inadvertently make a micro black hole, and the earth is quickly erased from existence. Just kidding: scientists at CERN and elsewhere have ruled out the possibility that the LHC will create any kind of doomsday scenario. The black holes that the LHC could theoretically create don't even have enough energy to light up a light bulb. On the other hand, the U.K.'s Astronomer Royal put the odds of destroying the world at 1 in 50 million (which puts it in the realm of possibilities but still not as likely as hitting the lottery).

String Theory

Best Case: Scientists detect certain types of supersymmetric particles, aka sparticles, which physicist Michio Kaku calls, "signals from the 11th dimension." This would show that string theorists have been on the right path and that the universe really is made up of the four dimensions we experience and then seven others that unite the forces of nature.

Worst Case: String theory's basic assumptions are violated. The LHC will be the first particle accelerator capable of allowing scientists to study W bosons, the elementary particle responsible for the weak force. If they don't scatter in certain ways, it'll be back to the drawing board for a generation of string theorists, or as one physicist told New Scientist, "If we see these violations, people will start working very feverishly on some sort of alternative that will produce these violations."

The "Our Universe Is Not Alone" Theory

Best Case: If scientists find a long-lived gluino, the postulated supersymmetric partner of the gluon, one group of scientists argues that it can be seen as a "messenger from the multiverse" and will lend support to the theory that our universe is just one of many. (Keep in mind though: not everyone is buying this interpretation.)

Worst Case: Our universe really is alone. Or even worse: it's lonely.

The Dark Matter of the Universe Theory

Best Case: Astrophysicists currently believe that 96 percent of the universe is made up of dark matter and energy that we can't see and can barely detect. Dark matter alone is estimated to compose 26 percent of the universe, only we have no idea what it's made of. It has been postulated that the neutralino is the best candidate for dark matter. Many physicists hope that the neutralino -- which, if it exists, will be relatively easy to produce -- will make an appearance in the debris inside the CMS or Atlas detectors, confirming the theory of dark matter.

Worst Case: Proudly, physicists announce that they've observed dark matter's unmistakable signature inside one of the LHC's detectors. But over the next few weeks, the reality sinks in that they've actually made a measurement mistake. Some physicists don't think that the LHC will be precise enough to measure any dark matter that it's lucky enough to create.

The Standard Model of Particle Physics

Best Case: With the standard model so well elucidated, perhaps a curveball is in order. Sean Carroll of Cosmic Variance notes, "There is almost a guarantee that the Higgs exists, or at least some sort of Higgs-like particle," so perhaps the best scenario would be finding the Higgs-like particle rather than the Higgs itself. That wouldn't be such a radical break from the model such that all previous work is too highly devalued, and at the same time it could open new physics frontiers.

Worst Case: The Higgs boson -- the long-postulated particle that is supposed to give mass to particles -- is finally confirmed. Sure, discovering the Higgs at the LHC would be neat, but it would basically just confirm a lot of what physicists already know, without really pushing the science: Boring. Some scientists have even said that their worst case scenario for the entire collider project would be finding the Higgs and just the Higgs.

Balckberry Pearl Flip

Pearl Flip is first BlackBerry that folds up

NEW YORK (AP) -- Research in Motion Ltd., the maker of BlackBerry phones, is set to reveal Wednesday a phone that folds in half, a departure from the slab-like design that has defined its products.

The long-rumored phone will be called the BlackBerry Pearl Flip, and will be available from T-Mobile USA and with overseas carriers later this year, at an undisclosed price.

The "flip" or "clamshell" design, where the display and keyboard are separated by a hinge, is a popular one for conventional cell phones, particularly in the U.S. Jim Balsillie, co-chief executive of RIM, said 70 percent of handsets in the country have this shape.

"Bringing this form factor to the smart phone category is, we think, very special," Balsillie said.

"Smart" phones expand the features of a regular phone with applications like Web browsing and e-mail access, which is RIM's forte.

The Flip is the successor to the BlackBerry Pearl, which launched two years ago. It has a standard "candybar" shape. Both models have 20 keys and double up some letters on each key, in contrast to the wider, more professionally oriented BlackBerries that have more keys, and assign only one letter to each key.

RIM has done very well with the Pearl, which was its first entry into the consumer smart phone market. It turned the BlackBerry from an accessory for corporate e-mail slaves into a hot item for consumers who wanted a bit more from their phones.

Figures from research firm IDC showed that RIM nabbed 53.6 percent of the U.S. market for smart phones in the second quarter, though that figure was likely inflated because buyers looking at getting an iPhone from Apple Inc. were holding off in the quarter, waiting for a new model to arrive.

In a research note Monday, analyst Tavis McCourt at Morgan Keegan said it was particularly important for RIM to attract new customers by expanding its range of phone designs, or "form factors" in industry parlance. The company is widely expected to unveil a keypad-less touch-screen phone soon, to compete with the iPhone.

The Flip will complement T-Mobile USA's relatively slow data network with Wi-Fi capability, and will even be able to place calls over Wi-Fi, which can alleviate problems with poor network coverage in homes and offices.

Balsillie said T-Mobile USA will be the exclusive carrier for the phone in the U.S. at least through the end of the year. Usually, BlackBerry's phones start on one carrier and are later picked up by the other national carriers.