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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Times Square Unveils A Dazzling LED New Year’s Ball

by Evelyn Lee

New Year

This New Year’s Eve Times Square in New York is set to debut a dazzling new LED-encrusted New Year’s ball! Composed of 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs, the 12-foot wide energy-efficient orb weighs in at 11,875 pounds, making it twice the size of any ball previously dropped overhead in Time Square. A marriage of tradition and new technology, the stunning new sphere will be ringing in the 100th anniversary of the New Year’s Eve ball.

New Year

Size certainly matters when designing an orb descending from the heavens high above the heads of those gathered in the cold of Times Square, but that’s not to say we still can’t cut back on the energy consumption. The new ball is 20 percent more efficient than last year’s, consuming roughly the same amount of energy needed to power two consumer ovens through a holiday feast.

All of the LEDs will combine to create more than 10 million different colors and billions of different patterns, making it a spectacular sight for onlookers in the streets and on TV. If you’re not within sight of Times Square or won’t have your eyes glued to the television on New Year’s, no worries - the new ball is slated to become a year-round addition to the lights of Times Square, with various different programs built-in to commemorate additional holidays and special events.

We’re hoping the dropping of the New Year’s Ball will bring forth another great year full of sustainable innovations. Stay tuned to Inhabitat to find out just what 2009 has in store.

+ Philips Luxeon

Via Cleantechnica

New Year

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110 Most Remote and Remarkable Inhabited Islands

From islands populated by the descendants of mutineers to islands so tiny their inhabitants reside in boats nearby, the world is studded with thousands of beautiful islands that are remote, rare, and unique. Here are ten remarkable examples of breathtaking atolls, islands within lakes within islands, and other captivating and unusual islands that humans have managed to call home.

Tristan da Cunha: Most Remote Island on Earth

(Images via Google Maps)

The most remote inhabited island group in the world, Tristan de Cunha in the southern Atlantic Ocean, is so tiny its main island has no airstrip. Home to 272 people sharing just 8 surnames, inhabitants suffer from hereditary complaints like asthma and glaucoma. Annexed by the United Kingdom in the 1800s, the island’s inhabitants have a British postal code and, while they can order things online, it takes a very long time for their orders to arrive. But then, that’s the trade off for having your own island settlement some 2,000 miles from the nearest continent.

Vulcan Point: Island in a Lake in an Island in a Lake in an Island in a…

(Images via elbruz and Google Maps)

Winning the M.C. Escher award for geography, the Vulcan Point of the Philippines is a popular tourist destination. Located on the island of Luzon, it’s actually an active volcano (Taal Volcano). This gives Vulcan Point the distinction of not only being an island in a lake on an island, but a volcano in a lake on a volcano. Spread the word…if you can keep it straight.

Isola Tiberina

(Images via diario di bordo and Google Maps)

Isola Tiberina is the only island in the Tiber River, which runs through Rome. This tiny island (or ait) is rich in legend. One myth holds that the island rose out of the river after the locals threw the tyrant Tarquinius Superbus into the Tiber in revolt. Since 293 B.C.E. at least, the island has been alternatively considered a place of healing and divine power (the Greeks built a temple) and darkness (for a time in the Middle Ages it was the holding place of criminals and other undesirables. Remnants of basilicas, monuments and a modern obelisk all can be seen on this tiny boat-shaped island accessible by two small bridges.


(Images via Republic of Nauru and Google Maps)

From WebUrbanist: “Nauru is the smallest independent island country in the world. This Pacific island is only 8 square miles, and is the third smallest country in the world next to Monaco and Vatican City. Once its natural reserves of phosphate were depleted, this once-rich island nation first became a haven for money laundering and then had to seek aid from Australia. The island has since become a way station for asylum seekers looking to enter the land Down Under.”


(Images via birdguides, wikipedia and Google Maps)

Foula is the most remote British island to be inhabited year round. Part of the Shetlands, the 30 residents cling to the coast and make a living from wool production and a little fishing. Originally settled by Norsemen in the 800s C.E., the Scots colonized the island in the 1500s, but the culture is still strongly Nordic.

Easter Island

(Images via sacredsites, bugbog, intute and Google Maps)

This famous and remote Polynesian island in the Southern Pacific (just “off” the coast of Chile by 2,200-odd miles) is home to some of the most mysterious carvings on earth. Through famines, wars, disasters, epidemics, the inhabitants of one of the world’s most remote islands are famous to many, and Rapa Nui (the true name of Easter Island) is a popular tourist destination. There is disagreement about when it was settled (estimates range from 200-1200 C.E.) but the numerous dramatic events threatening the population - such as mass abductions that wiped out half the population in the 1800s - have made a permanent mark on history.

Pitcairn Island

(Images via travelimages, lizasreef, oceandots and Google Maps)

The Pitcairn Islands are famous for being the home of the descendants of the mutineers of the notorious ship Bounty. Though not its own country, it is a sovereign jurisdiction. It’s also the tiniest one on earth, with only 48 residents from 9 original families. The culture was once famously strict and religious, but now the social rules have loosened a bit (alcohol is consumed) and only 8 residents attend church.


(Images via alternativeculture, Twip and Google Maps)

The Surin Islands off of Thailand are so undeveloped and relatively remote, sea gypsies (the only full time inhabitants) reside in boats in the waters surrounding the two biggest islands. However, the North and South islands, which are divided by a small channel, are popular during parts of the year as camping and diving destinations for tourists.


(Images via cookislands, wikipedia, ntlworld and Axel)

The Suwarrow Atoll, part of the Cook Islands, was only temporarily inhabited. It’s been sporadically visited (and named) by different European and Russian explorers, but it was the New Zealand hermit Tom Neale who finally took up residence, for 15 years, in the 1950s. He wrote a book about the experience, but the Suwarrow is actually more famous as an actual Treasure Island. Many chests of gold coins and other treasure have been found throughout the centuries at Suwarrow.

An Island of Your Own?

Perhaps after seeing all these islands people call home, you’re thinking of taking up residence on your own patch of sand or rocky outcrop. Keep it convenient and rent out Singer Castle on Dark Island. No, it’s not remote (perfect for those commutes to the city for work), but it’s certainly unusual. From WebUrbanist: “The island sits in the St. Lawrence river between Ontario, Canada and New York, USA. Dark Island isn’t known for its tropical jungle or white sand beaches. The real gem is the 100 year old castle on the island. It was originally built in 1905 as a hunting lodge family retreat by Fredrick Bourne (Then president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company). With towers and secret passages abounding you could literally be your own King of the Castle. The island would be a great getaway from the hustle and bustle, and is still only a short helicopter ride away from New York or Toronto, but it is currently only available for rent. Price: Available upon request - for rent.”

New Year’s Eve Around the World

By: Brie Cadman (View Profile)

For some, New Year’s Eve is the worst night of the year to go out and celebrate; for others, it’s the best. Either way, it is the one holiday that is celebrated—at home with friends and family or out in large crowds of strangers—around the world. Fireworks, champagne, and a midnight smooch are the usual, but various locales put their own unique twists on this festive night, making them the best in their category.

Best Place to Bless Water, Before Drinking a Caipirinha
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In Rio de Janeiro, December 31 isn’t just NYE, it is also the Fiesta de Iemanjá, or celebration of the Goddess of the Ocean. Traditionally, locals dress in white and flock to the Copacabana beach to watch fireworks and offer gifts of flowers and floating candles to the goddess; they also stay on the beach to party throughout the night.

Best Place to Do What You Can’t in the U.S.
Reykjavik, Iceland
Fireworks: everyone loves them, but here in the safety zealous U.S., we can’t personally set off much more than a sparkler or two. (Unless you live in my neighborhood in Oakland, and then you shoot off huge ones from your roof at least twice a year.) But in Reykjavik on NYE, fireworks are allowed, if not encouraged. Almost all families have a firework display; the city also sets up large bonfires around the town to add to the festive light show.

Best Sparkly Ball
New York City, NY
The most anticipated ball drop in the world is in New York City, and it’s no surprise. This year’s ball is twice the size of previous year’s, weighing 11,875 pounds, consisting of twelve-foot geodesic spheres, and covered in 2,668 Waterford Crystals. It is also supposedly capable of creating more colors than ever before, so it will look much like a kaleidoscope lighting up Times Square. But be warned: the masses flock to this sparkly globe, so prepare for elbow jabs and unsolicited grabs.

Best Spot for Grape Eating
Madrid, Spain
To ring in Nochevieja in Madrid, it’s tradition for crowds to gather in the Puerta del Sol plaza. As the clock on the Casa de Correos chimes, everyone eats twelve grapes to go along with the twelve strokes of midnight. The eating of grapes happens in other parts of Spain too and in some parts of Mexico.

Best Place for a NYE Meal
Paris, France
If watching fireworks explode behind the Eifel Tower isn’t spectacular enough, the traditional NYE French feast, called le Reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre, is also one of the most decadent. It includes such specialties as foie gras, lobster, oysters, and champagne (locally brewed in Champagne, France). Rumor has it that it even Parisians have a hard time finding a seat at crowded restaurants, so crashing a well-stocked party might be the way to go.

Best and First Big City
Sydney, Australia
Although Australia isn’t the first major place to ring in the New Year (the Christmas Islands, Tonga, New Zealand, and parts of the Pacific beat it), Sydney probably has the biggest “first” celebration. The party starts early around Sydney harbor, where crowds gather to watch hourly aerial flyovers. The Sydney Harbor bridge lights up with a pyrotechnic display and two sets of fireworks go off in the evening.

Best Place to Watch a Rerun
In America, we have Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life; in Germany, they have the 1920’s cult classic Dinner for One. Although the British skit isn’t popular in its home country, it’s caught on in Germany and in other parts of Europe, and has become a New Year’s tradition. Although the real party in Germany is happening at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, many people will be at home chiming in with the sketches’ repeating refrain: “The same procedure as every year.”

Don’t agree with my picks? You can go to and bet virtual money on your “biggest New Year’s Eve party locations” pick. (Currently in the lead: NYC, Rio, and “other.”)

Although many people revel with close friends and family for New Year’s, others are rubbing elbows and cheering with thousands when the clock strikes twelve. Whichever you chose, here’s to a safe, fun night and a wonderful new year!

FINALLY! A trailer for the upcoming live action Thundercats movie!

Well… not exactly.

But this fan-made trailer is just fine by me. This is EXACTLY the kind of excitement I want to have when I see a trailer for a movie that is about a cartoon (an awesome one at that) from my adolescent years.

Check it out!

For those of you who don’t know… this is what I really appreciate: people’s imagination and combining them with skills to make that dream a reality. And that is what this guy did. He had a vision in his mind of what he wanted a live action Thundercats movie trailer to look like, and made it a reality. Just like that April Fool’s day joke of the Zelda movie, the trailer was made beautifully even though it has nothing to do with the real release. I have to give this guy/gal BIG credit for taking the time to edit this. This person edited the effects FRAME by FRAME in Photoshop. This guy has some PATIENCE! Then spliced it all together in Adobe Premiere, a video editing software. Gotta give this guy LOTS of props.

Oh! And if you haven’t figured it out, he just used some clips from other movies/tv shows and added his effects to have the Thundercats atmosphere. So now… without cheating by looking at the description… how many movies/tv shows can YOU spot that he used??? And if you can find the spot where a clip of the Power Rangers movie is… I’ll give you 100 internets!


European Neanderthals had ginger hair and freckles

Neanderthals living in Europe were fair skinned, freckled and had ginger hair, a study has revealed.

European Neanderthals had ginger hair and freckles
The gene known as MC1R suggests the Neanderthals had fair skin and even freckles like redheads.

In a major breakthrough, Spanish scientists have discovered the blood group and two other genes of the early humans who lived 43,000 ago.

After analysing the fossil bones found in a cave in north-west Spain, the experts concluded they had human blood group "O" and were genetically more likely to be fair skinned, perhaps even with freckles, have red or ginger hair and could talk.

The investigating team from Spain's government scientific institute, CSIC, used the very latest forensic techniques to remove the bones for analysis to prevent them getting contaminated with modern DNA.

Carles Lalueza, an evolutionary biologist with the investigation, said: "What we were trying to do was to create the most realistic image of the Neanderthals with details that are not visible in the fossils, but which form part of their identity."

The report, published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, concludes that: "These results suggest the genetic change responsible for the O blood group in humans predates the human and Neanderthal divergence" but came "after humans separated from their common ancestor ... chimpanzees."

The Spanish scientists also describe how they also discovered two other genes.

One gene known as MC1R suggests the Neanderthals had fair skin and even freckles like redheads.

Another, a variety of FOXP2, is related to speaking and the capacity to create a language and therefore suggests they could communicate orally.

Neanderthals are believed to have numbered about 15,000 and lived in Europe and Asia for about 200,000 years until they became extinct about 30,000 years ago.

Since 2000, archeo-paleontologists, wearing special sealed white suits, masks and helmets have been painstakingly sifting through 1,500 bone fragments found in the "Tunnel of Bones" in the Sidrón cave complex in Borines, Asturias, north-west Spain.

Unnatural striations in the bones suggest that the Neanderthals practised cannibalism and broke the bones to pick out succulent bone marrow.

But why this group died, without wild animals discovering and contaminating their remains, or why indeed the Neanderthals in general became extinct, still remains a mystery.

"Really we can't establish a direct relation with why the Neanderthals disappeared," says Antonio Rosas.

One theory is that they succumbed to an ice age or another, more sinister, is that they were wiped out by the arrival of our more direct human ancestors from Africa.

N.Y. Boy Scout earns all 121 merit badges

N.Y. Boy Scout Shawn Goldsmith earned all 121 merit badges, like these seen here, a rare feat.
By Douglas C. Pizac, AP
N.Y. Boy Scout Shawn Goldsmith earned all 121 merit badges, like these seen here, a rare feat.
NEW YORK (AP) — A Long Island teenager has earned all 121 merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America. It's an accomplishment the local arm of the organization calls "an almost unheard-of feat."

Oceanside resident Shawn Goldsmith earned his final badge — for bugling — in time for his 18th birthday in November. He far surpassed the 21 badges required to achieve the elite rank of Eagle Scout.

He says he took about five years to earn his first 62 badges and then nearly doubled that number in a matter of months. He did it with the encouragement of his grandmother, who died shortly before he reached his goal.

The Binghamton University freshman was awarded his final badges on Dec. 19. He says he hopes to become a businessman and politician.