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Friday, October 10, 2008

The Top 10 Hottest College Gymnasts

The Top 10 Hottest College Gymnasts
Kristina BaskettAlicia SacramoneNastia LiukinCorey HartungKarin WurmThe Top 10 Hottest College GymnastsTiffany TolnayTasha SchwikertRicki LebegernDaria Bijak

They are barely legal. They wear tight, skimpy outfits. They can arch their backs and straddle like it’s their job, and well, it kind of is, They’re college gymnasts, and we love them. It’s hard not to obsess over these college athletes in all their spandexed, flexible glory. Read on to see CollegeOTR’s Top 10 Hottest College Gymnasts.

1) Nikki Child may have graduated from University of Georgia last year, but she’s such a 10, we couldn’t keep her off the list.

2) UCLA’s Tasha Schwikert won her second all-around title at the 2008 NCAA National Championships and competed for the 2001 World Gymnastics Championships winning team. We’re all for being a team player.

3) Kristina Baskett of the University of Utah is a seven-time All-American who competes in the all-around and is all-around hot.

4) Many thought Alicia Sacramone made a mistake in choosing to balance studying at Brown University with a competitive gymnastics career, but with a World Championships win in the floor routine in 2004, she could just stand around being her hot self and still be hugely accomplished.

5) In 2007, Karin Wurm scored a 9.9 out of 10 on the uneven bars in a gymnastics competition at Illinois-Chicago, thus helping the University of Arizona Wildcats score a victory. We wish Wurm would lend us a helping hand.

6) UF Gator tri-captain Corey Hartung gives spectators a Hart-on.

7) Southern Methodist University team member Nastia Liukin is a nasty little gymnast, having won four gold medals at the World Championships.

8) Ricki Lebegern of the University of Alabama became the SEC Balance Beam champ as a freshman. Now that’s what we call an Alabama Slammer.

9) As a twelve-time All-American, Tiffany Tolnay of the University of Georgia can only be described as insatiable.

10) According to the University of Utah website, Olympian Daria Bijak’s favorite book is Man and Boy, and this talented gymnast is a favorite amongst both men and boys.

10 Most Incredible Waterfalls of Ice

Image: Herman Erberr

ice climbers

We’re used to seeing stunning images of cascading waterfalls in all their fluid glory, but have you ever wondered how they would look if Jack Frost was let loose on them? Well, you need wait no longer as we have compiled a range of fantastic frozen waterfalls.

1. This enchanting image of an ice waterfall perfectly captures the force and flow of the water underneath the ice, making it hard to comprehend how it ever manages to freeze.
photogapher unknown

2. Ice climbers flock to The Fang in Vail, Colorado. The enormous ice pillar forms from the cascading waterfall only on exceptionally cold winters, and when it does the column can measure up to 50 meters high and has been known to have a base measuring 8 meters wide.
the fang
photographer unknown

3. If you think climbing an ice waterfall is scary, imagine the fear factor when part of the cascade breaks off and collapses to the ground mere meters from you and your buddy. That’s exactly what happened climbers Albert Leichtfried and Markus Bendler on their ascent of a frozen waterfall near Hokkaido, Japan. Their friend managed to capture the frightening moment on camera. Both climbers made it to safety soon after.
ice climbers
Image: Herman Erberr

4. Thick layers of ice sit on St Louis Falls in Beauharnois, Quebec. The area is home to one of the largest hydroelectric generating stations in the world.
St louis
Image: Eric Begin

5. This fantastic shot shows the waterfall freezing from outside in; there’s still a considerable waterfall flowing within the ice lume.
ice lume
Image: hightechredneck

6. Undulating waves and nodules of ice give this waterfall in Starved Rock State Park, Illinois, such wonderful texture.
marshmallow ice
Image: leroidude

7. This random waterfall was discovered on the road side of a seldom travelled road near Hamilton, Canada.
Image: Martin Cathrae

8. The folds at the bottom of this waterfall demonstrate how slowly waterfalls can freeze, and are in stark contrast to the jagged, spiky icicles hanging from the edge of the rock.
spikes and folds
Image: slieb25

9. This great image was taken in Oak Creek Canyon near a place called Temple of Mother Earth on the West Fork Trail, Sedona, Arizona.
Image: Eileen Nauman

10. A simply fabulous shot from the bottom of the ice waterfall looking up. Just look how the ice has built up from the spray on surrounding twigs. That’s what you call natural beauty.
looking up
Image: Stefan Gara

This post was written by:

Linda McCormick - who has written 98 posts on Environmental Graffiti.

Linda is a writer and editor, currently based in London. Growing up in N Ireland, she craved sunnier climes so set off around the world, forever chasing the sun. On her travels she discovered she was much more passionate about the environment than she realised – although never quite got the whole tree-hugging thing – and has always had a penchant for the unconventional and creative side of life, so working at Environmental Graffiti suits her just fine.

Contact the author

7 Unexpected Moments of Guitar Awesomeness

by Adam Brown

The interweb tubes are stuffed with lists heralding the high fallutin' achievements of all those "greatest of all time" type guitar players that the mainstream media throw in your face everyday. Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Kirk Hammett, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Morrello, Slash...they've all done some pretty impressive stuff. But you know what? They aren't the only people that play the damn guitar. In fact, there are several artists who, on any given night, can burn any given venue to the GROUND using nothing more then their guitar shredding abilities. For example...

  • 7. John Mayer (Live)

    Hey, you know what's fun to do? Make fun of John Mayer. What a tool, right! I mean, he's got that dorky blog that everyone likes and that killer sense of humor and he's bedded all those hot chicks and he kicks ass on guitar and...wait. What the hell is going on here? Is John Mayer secretly awesome? While some signs point to a definitive "No" (looking at you, "Your Body Is a Wonderland"), there are even more signs that point to a solid "Maybe?"

    One thing that isn't open for debate is this... John Mayer can play the damn guitar. His songs don't go to any great lengths to show it, but it's the truth. YouTube is littered with videos just like the one below if you don't believe me.

  • 6. Kurt Cobain on "The Priest They Called Him"

    Kurt Cobain did more with noise, mistakes and catastrophe than most guitarists could with years of training and flawless playing. He once said something along the lines of "I could never play like Segovia, but Segovia could never play like me either." It's debatable whether Segovia would have wanted to play the guitar like Kurt Cobain, really. But thank God someone wanted to. Without the noise filled intro of "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" or the perfectly-out-of-tune strumming of "Polly" and "Something In the Way," the world would be a much lesser place.

    If Kurt ever embarked on a "tour-de-force" of guitar work, it would be on "The Priest They Called Him," a William Burroughs' spoken word piece that featured Cobain on guitar. To hear it, check out the video below. Or, if the mood strikes, seek out a copy of the ridiculously cool 10" picture disc release that features etchings of Burroughs' and Cobain's signatures. It's cheaper than you think.

  • 5. Jonny Greenwood on 'Go To Sleep' (Live)

    With their penchant for experimentation, it's easy to forget that at their most basic, Radiohead is a great guitar rock band. But where a lesser person could find themselves disappointed with their primary instrument's diminished role in their band's music, Greenwood rolls with the punches. And by "roll with the punches" I mean he "plays" a portable radio onstage.

    But it's not all theremins and didgeridoos for Jonny Greenwood. When it comes time to rock, he's as good as it gets. Employing a Max/MSP patch based guitar setup, Jonny strangles enthralling guitar sounds out of a simple Telecaster every bit as well as the much more heralded Tom Morello. And his lead singer is far less annoying. Kind of. Anyway, to see Jonny Greenwood tear shit down, check the solo at the end of the video below.

  • 4. John Frusciante with Red Hot Chili Peppers (Live)

    Maybe you can chalk it up to this past history of off stage shenanigans, including once recording a solo album mainly as a means to score drug money, but for some reason John Frusciante's name rarely comes up when the best guitar players of today are discussed.

    Maybe it's just because the Chili Pepper's songs don't really extend into jamtastic solo territory on record, lest they ease up on Anthony Kiedis' "wang dang dong ding dong" stream of consciousness rambling. Whatever the case may be, John Frusciante deserves more credit than he receives.

  • 3. Lindsey Buckingham on 'Big Love'

    How proficient is Lindsey Buckingham on guitar? Consider this. When he bolted Fleetwood Mac on the eve of a world tour, they hired TWO people to replace him. Now compare that to your current station in life. If the majority of us left our day jobs, it's debatable whether they would even bother replacing our shiftless asses at all. But Lindsey Buckingham? It took two mortal men to carry the axe load of this one unsung rock guitar giant.

    Choosing a solo acoustic version of a famous Mac song to demonstrate his unheralded guitar abilities may seem like an odd choice. But on this tune, Lindsey leaves no doubt as to why it took a village to replace him.

  • 2. Neil Young on 'Keep on Rockin' The Free World' (w/ Bruce Springsteen)

    No guitar player on Earth can possibly sound exactly like Neil Young. That's a big claim, but in his case, it's true. You see, there are a lot of great players out there who use a certain guitar/amp/effects set up with the knobs tweaked to precise positions and, if you can find the info, you can copy them. You may not have the same rhythm or timing or luxurious crotch bulge, but you can have their tone.

    Not so with Neil Young. When you see him stomp on that big ass red contraption that sleeps at his feet during every show, understand this, he built that bitch! He wired the circuits, he fashioned the metal casing, he probably sploshed the red paint on it, he did it all. And the sound he gets from it is unspeakably unique. In the video below, it takes about three minutes for Neil Young to steal the show and turn this duet with Bruce Springsteen from 2004's "Vote For Change Tour" into a Neil Young guitar party. If you can't wait that long for the magic to happen, the terrorists have already won.

  • 1. Prince on 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' (Live George Harrison Tribute)

    Prince is the greatest guitar player on Earth. There. I said it. I've probably shed a good six years off my lifespan arguing that point with various strangers and associates. It's just a personal opinion, and it's fine if you disagree. I expect that. What else am I going to do while I'm drunk if I'm not arguing about music? You may not agree that Prince is THE greatest six string assassin walking the streets today, but if you know anything about the guitar, you at least know he deserves to have his name mentioned amongst the best. Top five, top twenty, top fifty, whatever. He gets a spot.

    That's how I feel anyway. Rolling Stone, apparently, does not. And they said so when they released their list of the top 100 guitar players of all time just weeks before both Prince and Rolling Stone Magazine founder Jann Wenner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In their opinion, Prince wasn't even in the top 100.

    Is there any proof that Prince's molten-hot solo on that hall of fame induction night's all-star jam performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" had anything to do with him being snubbed from that list? No. But come on now, this is Prince. He doesn't just show up for no reason. Until it came time to destroy the stage with that solo, most people didn't even know Prince was onstage at all. On this night, Prince was on a mission.

Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle – new video

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ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle
Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (artist's impression)

Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle – new video
9 October 2008
In 2012, Vega will carry ESA’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle into space. The vehicle will then return to Earth to test a range of enabling systems and technologies for atmospheric re-entry. A new video with computer generated animations of the vehicle and its mission is now available.

Part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme has been devoted to optimising a long-term European roadmap for in-flight experimentation with atmospheric re-entry enabling systems and technologies. The Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV) project is the next core step of this effort.

The IXV project objectives are the design, development, manufacturing, and on-ground and in-flight verification of an autonomous European lifting and aerodynamically controlled re-entry system. Among the critical technologies of interest, special attention is being paid to:
  • advanced instrumentation for aerodynamics and aerothermodynamics
  • thermal protection and hot-structures solutions
  • guidance, navigation and flight control through a combination of jets and aerodynamic flaps
The project is particularly focussed on technology integration at the system level for in-flight verification.

As indicated by its name, the IXV is designed to be the ‘intermediate’ element of a technology-effective and cost-efficient European programme for in-flight verification of technologies necessary for future operational systems.

The IXV design activities are well under way, with the system preliminary design review planned for November 2008, which will allow the start of the full development (Phase-C/D) by the beginning of January 2009.

IXV will be launched in 2012 from Europe’s spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, using the new Vega small launch vehicle. After re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere and being slowed down by air drag, IXV will descend by parachute and land in the Pacific Ocean to await recovery and post-flight analysis.

The Double Alaskan Rainbow-------------WOW!!!

click on pic for high resolution

Crazy Sprinkler Lady

This is what's wrong with America ;-)

Best of the Summer - "And another thing, every fall all the leaves on my oak tree fall off. Explain that, government."

Video of the First 24 Hours of an Embryo's Cells

By Betsy Mason Email

For the first time, it is possible to actually watch the initial 24 hours of the life of an embryo at the cellular level.

With a newly developed microscope that uses a sheet of light to scan a living organism from many different dimensions, scientists were able to track the complex cellular organization of a zebrafish embryo as it grows from a single cell to 20,000 cells.

"Imagine following all inhabitants of a town over the course of one day using a telescope in space," Philipp Keller of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, said in a press release.

"This comes close to tracking the 10 thousands of cells that make up a vertebrate embryo."

Zebrafish embryos grow much faster than human embryos, which have just eight cells after three days.

Previously, scientists had only been able to piece together the first hours of a couple invertebrate organisms with only a few hundred cells such as a nematode worm -- work that resulted in a Nobel Prize. But doing the same for a vertebrate animal was essentially impossible.

The montage (above) of three-dimensional images taken at 10-minute intervals shows cells dividing and moving around the embryo to form specialized tissues from two different angles. The new research was published today in Science.

"The digital embryo is like Google Earth for embryonic development," Jochen Wittbrodt of the University of Heidelberg said in a release. "It gives an overview of everything that happens in the first 24 hours and allows you to zoom in on all cellular and even subcellular details."

The new technique, called Digital Scanned Laser Light-Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy, could be used on other animals such as mice, chicken and frogs, which would could help researchers better understand evolution at the cellular scale.

Already, the research has shown that the initial stages of heart development do not happen as scientists thought.

Video: European Molecular Biology Laboratory

The Five Oldest Banks in the World

With so much focus on the demise of banks of all sizes, its easy to imagine the worst doomsday scenarios and wonder if your own bank is next. However, some banks have continued operations throughout civil wars, world wars and economic depressions without going under. These are not the first banks in the world, which trace back to early lending from priests to merchants in 18th century B.C. Babylon and up through the Roman empire, but rather these are five of the oldest surviving banks in the world, and they each tell a story.

Bank of New York (now Bank of New York Mellon)

New York, New York (Founded 1784)

Bank of New York(Source)

It began with a press release in the New York Packet, announcing the plan to form New York’s first bank in 1784. Alexander Hamilton, a respected attorney at the time, drafted the bank’s constitution and led The Bank of New York through its formation and early years. Eight years later, it was the first company to be traded publicly when the New York Stock Exchange opened in 1792. There is also an abundance of history behind Mellon Financial Corporation dating back to the Industrial Revolution, who merged with Bank of New York in 2007 to become Bank of New York Mellon. Today, it is the oldest bank in the United States, and they get to have One Wall Street as their address to prove it.

The Bank of Scotland (now Halifax Bank of Scotland)

Edinburgh, Scotland (Founded 1695)

(Photo Courtesy of HBOS plc Group Archives)

Although the concept of currency and bank notes wasn’t necessarily new to Scotland in the 17th century, the Bank of Scotland was the first to print its own paper currency. Further, it was unique in the sense that it was set up to help businesses, whereas the Bank of England, established one year earlier, existed primarily to finance government defense spending. Early on, it faced fierce rivalry from the Royal Bank of Scotland, and in one instance, RBS (the “new” bank) began hoarding the bank notes issued by Bank of Scotland (Old Bank) in order to present them at once, forcing old Bank of Scotland to call their loans and cease payments for six months. This didn’t sink them though, and this old resilient bank has remained as the only existing commercial institution created by the Parliament of Scotland. The Bank of Scotland merged with Halifax Bank to become HBOS in 2001.

C. Hoare & Co.

London, England (Founded 1672)


Before modern street numbering, people used signs to locate a shop, and Sir Richard Hoare couldn’t have chosen a much better symbol than the Sign of the Golden Bottle, as gilded bottles were a sign of luxury and wealth commonly used by the goldsmiths who shaped the precursors to more modern banking systems and paper currency. This private banking institution has proven to be remarkably resilient. Of note is the fact that their building was evacuated during World War II and saved from a fire by a few brave employees. Furthermore, the bank is still completely family-owned and managed by direct descendants of Sir Richard Hoare.

Berenberg Bank

Hamburg, Germany (Founded 1590)


Formed in 1590 by Hans and Paul Berenberg, two brothers who ran a cloth trading and import/export business, the company was very lucky to be growing during a time of prosperity in Hamburg, Germany. The city quickly grew as a hub of financial and trading activity, and they were able to thrive along with other members of a small, tight-knit group of Dutch people that didn’t even have full citizenship rights in Hamburg. Berenberg Bank today has offices throughout Europe, and remains Germany’s oldest private bank today.

The Oldest Bank in the World: Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena

Siena, Italy (Founded 1472)


Originally formed as The Monte di Pietà, or Monte Pio, to make loans to the poor out of charity, this is the longest running bank in the world. “Monte,” meaning “heap” or “pile,” referred to the collection of money used for charitable distribution, and the bank truly served to benefit the city’s economy. One interesting historical note is that the citizens of Siena put up income from the land as guarantees against loans for farming and city infrastructure, which led to it being referred to as Monte dei Paschi in reference to the land. Today it stands out as the oldest existing bank in the world by far, and remains an esteemed bank that has branches throughout Italy.

Iron Man Ultimate 2-Disc Edition - Worth the Extra Money?

We all know that this is one of the best selling video releases of all time, but should you empty your wallet for the super duper extra expensive "Ultimate 2-Disc Edition"? Or should you stick to the regular plain old opposite of ultimate 1-disc normal edition?


read more | digg story

Snake River [PIC]

The Snake River is a major tributary of the Columbia River in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The name "Snake" possibly derived from an S-shaped (snake) sign which the Shoshone Indians made with their hands to mimic swimming salmon. Picture taken by legendary photographer Ansel Adams.

Click here to see large High Resolution Pic | digg story

10 Famous People and Their Drug Habits

by Stacy Conradt - October 9, 2008 - 2:26 PM

New book recommendation! Assuming you’ve already pre-ordered the mental_floss History of the World, that is. It’s called Genius and Heroin, by Michael Largo, who is the same guy that wrote Final Exits. It’s also a super-interesting read, if you haven’t heard of it. Genius is full of stories about famous people and what they were addicted to – drugs, sex, work, food. It’s really fascinating, and it’s perfect Quick 10 Material.

I’m going to stick to drugs today… ummm… that didn’t come out quite right.

Today’s list will focus chiefly on drug addictions, but don’t be surprised if there’s a Quick 10 around the corner about non-drug addictions. Errol Flynn was apparently a sex fiend. Anyway. On with the list!


1. Sigmund Freud – cocaine. At first, his interest was medical. He wrote papers about the feelings associated with the substance, saying that it provided exhilaration and euphoria just minutes after taking cocaine. His buddy, Ernest von Fleischl, had a pretty bad morphine habit – to help him kick it, Freud prescribed cocaine and said it was a safe alternative. Fleischl became addicted, of course, and started spending more than $10,000 a month on the drug. Like any good scholar, Freud recorded his friend’s increasingly negative side effects (the feeling of bugs crawling under the skin, hallucinations, etc.). In 1891, Freud’s friend became the first person in history (that we know of) to die of a speedball when he mixed heroin and cocaine. But enough about him. Back to Freud. He was more or less a casual user but during a three-year period in the mid 1880s, he wrote so many papers about the drug that it’s easy to assume he was using pretty regularly.

2. Andy Warhol – Obetrol. Obetrol isn’t really uncommon – it’s actually marketed today as Adderall. But Andy popped them like Paulie Bleecker popped Tic Tacs. The difference between Adderall and Obetrol seems to be time options – Adderall is made and sold in immediate-release tablets and time-release tablets, but Obetrol comes only in an immediate release option.

3. Miles Davis – Heroin. Miles was hooked on heroin for about four years, but managed to kick the habit because he was inspired by Sugar Ray Robinson’s dedication.

4. Balzac - Caffeine. Bad. I mean, lots of us say we’re addicted to caffeine – I certainly get a headache if I don’t get a Diet Coke or a coffee soon enough in the morning. But that’s nothing compared to Balzac. It wasn’t uncommon for him to write for 48 hours nonstop, aided by cup after cup after cup of coffee. He drank so much caffeine that it enlarged his left heart ventricle, which possibility contributed to his death. These days, that kind of addiction is called caffeinism. It can result in lots of not-fun effects, including nervousness, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, ulcers, esophagitis, muscle twitching and respiratory alkalosis. So, I’m totally reconsidering my mid-morning cup of coffee right now.


5. Lewis Carroll – Opium. Well, at the time it was called Laudanum, and lots of people took it for tiny little ailments like headaches. It’s no surprise that lots of people got addicted to it – including Lewis Carroll (AKA Charles Dodgson). He suffered terribly from migraines, and some people thought he took it because it relaxed him and helped ease his stutter. Whatever the reason, he was hooked. And he also liked to partake in magic mushrooms and weed, too. But come on, look at Alice in Wonderland. Are you surprised?

6. Edith Piaf – everything? Poor Edith Piaf. In 1951, she was in a car accident that left her with a broken arm and two broken ribs. She had two more car crashes afterward, and all of the resulting medication proved to be a bad thing: she got hooked on morphine, various pills, and alcohol. She refused to stop performing, though, and pushed herself to carry on with the show no matter what. She even spit up blood while singing at the Waldorf Astoria.

7. Did you guys know Faulkner was a drunk? And so was Fitzgerald? And Hemingway? And Dylan Thomas? And Poe? And Sinclair Lewis? Yeah, of course you did. Seems like alcohol was the drug of choice for a lots of writers. Not just men, either – Dorothy Parker and Edna St. Vincent Millay were also known for their love of the drink.


8. Maria Callas – Quaaludes. She used to be a zaftig woman, and then suddenly lost a ton of weight at the height of her career. It’s rumored that she got hooked on Quaaludes because they helped her keep her weight down, but she always said her weight loss was due to a sensible diet (don’t they always say that?).
9. Truman Capote – Lots of drugs. He had a pretty good alcohol habit for a while, but managed to kick it by taking up drugs. When he died of liver disease, he had barbiturates, Valium, anti-seizure medication and painkillers in his system.

10. Humphry Davy – Nitrous Oxide. Davy was an important chemist of the 1800s, which explains how he had access to the nitrous. Once, he inhaled five pints of the gas, promptly fell to the floor and remained blacked out for nearly three hours. He kept trying it, though, for scientific purposes (of course). He decided it was better than alcohol, because there was no hangover afterward. You can tell when he started getting addicted, because his papers are filled with poetic descriptions of the stuff, such as when he suggested that nitrous must be the air in heaven.

No sex is secret to long life, says 105-year-old Clara, Britain's oldest virgin

By Luke Salkeld

Clare Meadmore

Just too busy: Clara Meadmore says sex seemed a 'hassle' and she's glad she did without it

Over the years many a centenarian has delivered their secret for a long life.

Not smoking, daily exercise, moderate drinking, being married (and sometimes not being married) have all had their champions.

But, at the ripe old age of 105, Clara Meadmore could trump the lot: a life of celibacy.

Miss Meadmore says she has always been too busy for relationships and thought of physical intimacy as a 'hassle'.

The former secretary, who will celebrate her birthday tomorrow, said she had no regrets about remaining a virgin and had turned down several marriage proposals.

Miss Meadmore said: 'People have asked whether I am a homosexual and the answer is no. I have just never been interested in or fancied having sex.

'I imagine there is a lot of hassle involved and I have always been busy doing other things. I've never had a boyfriend - I've never been bothered about relationships.'

She added: 'When I was a girl you only had sex with your husband - and I never married.

'I've always had lots of platonic friendships with men but never felt the need to go further than that or marry.

'Everything seems so fast these days. I don't know a lot about young people or the way they do things. I'm sure it's very different. I made my mind up at the age of 12 never to marry and I've not gone back on that.'

Miss Meadmore was born in Glasgow in 1903, two years after the death of Queen Victoria. She remembers hearing about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the outbreak of the First World War. Her family emigrated when she was seven, first to Egypt, then Canada and later New Zealand. But Miss Meadmore returned to Britain alone in her twenties and worked as a secretary and housekeeper.

Clara Meadmore

She said: 'I grew up in an era where little girls were to be seen and not heard so I had to learn to stand up for myself and earn my own living.

'Some men don't like that in a woman and before long I was too old to marry anyway.'

Instead of boyfriends, Miss Meadmore filled her time with reading, gardening, cooking and listening to the radio.

Yesterday her friend and former neighbour Josie Harvey, 72, said: 'When she was a little girl she told her mother that she would never marry and for Clara no marriage meant no sex. She is fiercely independent.

'Maybe never having a man to get under her feet has kept her young all these years. She has her hobbies and her friends and that is all she needs.

'She has always believed in doing things her own way and that has allowed her to live a long life. Clara listens to Radio 4 all day long and knows what is going on in the world better than most people in their 30s.'

Miss Meadmore trained as a secretary and served in the Army, undertaking administrative duties in Egypt during the Second World War. She was one of the first members of the Youth Hostel Association and a keen member of the Women's Institute.

Her only surviving family are two nieces in New Zealand who keep in touch by post.

Miss Meadmore will celebrate reaching 105 with a card from the Queen and a glass of wine with her friends at the Perran Bay nursing home in Perranporth, Cornwall.

But she is determined not to let things get out of hand. 'I'm hardly likely to get drunk and do something silly at my age,' she said.

ABC to Premier Dancing With The Guards

Reby Sky (on probation for resisting arrest) is an early favorite.

It’s no secret that ABC’s primetime ratings suck. It’s also no secret that one of their biggest hits is the reality show Dancing With The Stars, which features C-list celebrities, actors, singers and jocks doing ballroom dancing. And ABC airs this thing several nights a week.

But that’s just not enough to save the network. They needed something else to save them from the poor ratings. Then last week, that something happened. Indy race car driver Helio Castroneves was arrested and indicted for tax fraud. Castroneves, for the uninitiated, is also a former winner of Dancing With The Stars.

Thus was born ABC’s new program, to premier in November, Dancing With The Guards, a dancing reality show which will follow various C-list celebrities, actors, singers and jocks in a jailhouse dancing competition. And thanks to our contacts with ABC, here’s a list of the competitors.

Heather Locklear: The actress and former star of Dynasty and Melrose Place was arrested for DUI last week. If she gets cleaned up, she should provide a little sex appeal.

Ryan O’Neal: Ironically, the former Oscar nominee actor, whose last role was of the prison-bound father of the Temperance Brennan character on Bones, was recently arrested and charged with drug possession. And he just happens to be the father of actress Tatum O’Neal, who besides having her own drug arrest problems, is also a former Dancing With The Stars contestant.

Mindy McCready: The former mistress of Roger Clemens and failed country singer was recently sentenced to 60 days behind bars for violating her probation arising from a 2004 drug possession conviction. She has some experience with swaying behind a microphone and could surprise if she gets the Rocket’s support.

Travis Henry: The former NFL running back was arrested last week for conspiring to distribute cocaine. He must have been trying to find someway to pay the child support for all of his kids. If he can get the votes of his kids, he could be a surprise underdog.

Amy Winehouse: The songstress may not want to go to rehab, I say no, no, no. But she’s been arrested a few times, and there are probably a few more arrests yet to come. There’s no telling what she can do if she’s sober.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson: The former heavyweight Ultimate Fighting Champ was arrested and charged with several felony counts for fleeing arrest after wrecking into several vehicles. Big men generally don’t do well in this contest, so he’ll probably be an early elimination.

Lisa Nowak: She’s everybody’s all-time favorite astronaut who supposedly attempted to kidnap a woman who was dating the guy who Nowak was having an affair with. And if she’s crazy enough to wear diapers while driving so that she wouldn’t have to stop, then there’s no telling what she will do to win this competition.

O.J. Simpson: Everybody’s favorite Heisman trophy winner was found guilty of kidnapping and armed robbery last week in a bizarre case involving memorabilia which once belonged to Simpson. Simpson was known for his evasive moves on the playing field, and the courthouse, so he should be a favorite in the competition.

Reby Sky: I know you’re asking, but there’s always someone in this competition who nobody knows. Sky is a former Playboy model who is also supposedly an actress and dancer. She’s also the QB for the Lingerie Football League’s Tampa Breeze. And she’s currently on probation for resisting arrest last December. This is the odds-on early favorite among the women.

Helio Castroneves: He’s not in jail, yet. But as a favor to ABC, he’s agreed to compete – besides, he might need the extra cash for the IRS. As a former Dancing With The Stars champion, he’s the easy favorite.

-- John Royal

22 of the World's Most Creative Alphabets

There are so many crazy ways to write the ABC's. It's a great creative exercise - it would do me well to try my own when I hit a creative slump. I'm amazed at the ingenuity of some of these. This collection of alphabets was gathered from the portfolios of artists, photographers and design students around the world.

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Mysterious DNA Found to Survive Eons of Evolution

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Staff Writer

Scientists have discovered mystery snippets of mammal DNA that have survived eons of evolution and yet have no apparent purpose. The finding reveals just how much we don't know about the secrets hidden in our genome and that of other animals.

Most genes change throughout evolution via mutations; useless ones eventually get weeded out of the population while the helpful modifications take hold. However, about 500 regions of our DNA — the body's instruction code made up of base pairs of molecules — have apparently remained intact throughout the history of mammalian evolution, or the past 80 million to 100 million years, basically free of mutations.

"Mutations are introduced into these regions just as they are everywhere else, but they're swept out of the genome much more quickly," said researcher Gill Bejerano, professor of developmental biology and computer science at Stanford University. "These regions seem to be under intense purifying selection — almost no mutations take hold permanently."

And what's more, many of those sequences do not appear to code for any obvious function, or phenotype, in the body. Researchers suspect they do serve an important purpose, but have yet to figure out exactly what that purpose is. (These sequences are not the same as most non-coding or "junk" DNA, for which no function has been identified, because those sections are not so well-preserved.)

Ultraconserved regions

The researchers call these mystery snippets "ultraconserved regions," and found that they are about 300 times less likely than other regions of the genome to be lost during the course of mammalian evolution. Bejerano and his graduate student Cory McLean detailed the finding in the journal Genome Research.

The fact that these segments haven't been weeded out by natural selection implies that they serve an important function in mammals. Yet mice in the lab bred to lack four of these DNA strands appear healthy and don't seem to be missing any vital genes.

Wondering if the odd results were simply some fault of the lab experiment, and perhaps the mice really weren't as well off as they seemed, the researchers investigated whether any other mammals were also blithely living without these regions.

Amazingly, they found that was not the case. The researchers compared ultraconserved sequences of at least 100 base pairs shared by humans, macaques and dogs with the DNA of rats and mice. They found that less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the segments shared among the primates and dogs were missing in the rodents. In contrast, about 25 percent of regular, not ultraconserved, regions in the first group were absent in the mice and rats.

"What's striking about this research is that [the regions] really are almost never lost," Bejerano told LiveScience. "You're asking if a species can live without these regions, and the resounding answer from our paper is that they seem to have an effect that is strong enough that evolution would weed [individuals without the regions] out of an evolving population."

Potential purposes

Scientists have some guesses about what these strange segments might be used for. Perhaps these DNA strands actually code for multiple layers of information, Bejerano suggested. In that case, each layer could be redundant, with other segments serving the same purpose in other contexts, but together they provide a vital backup system.

Or, they could be crucially important, but only at specific times in a species' history.

"Imagine that these regions somehow protect you from a disease that only strikes the population every once in a while," Bejerano said. "Once every 10,000 years you have this cleansing event, and only those with the region would actually stick around. That's one guess."

Mysterious DNA

For all the major advances in genome science in the last decades, there are still many basic questions left to be answered.

For one thing, though researchers have made strides in understanding what many genes do, there are many more areas of DNA that remain baffling.

"If you pick a particular region in the genome at random and ask me, 'What does this region do?' there is a very high likelihood that I would tell you, 'I don’t know,'" Bejerano said in a phone interview. "That makes for a lot of mysteries that are still out there."

In addition to particular sequences of DNA that puzzle scientists, there are many basic questions about the workings of DNA for which answers have so far eluded researchers.

"We have very good guesses, but how the genome does its thing is by and large yet to be revealed," Bejerano said. "It's exactly the same in every one of our cells, but each cell behaves very differently. There's a lot more we have to understand in the relationship between genomics and developmental biology."

The research was supported by a Stanford Bio-X graduate fellowship and an Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. Foundation junior faculty grant. Bejerano is a Sloan research fellow and a Searle scholar