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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Spectacular Spectrums: 10 Amazing Rainbows

By Steve

Gloriously hued and ephemeral in nature, rainbows are one of the most beautiful sights the skies have to offer. They come in a wide variety of shapes, styles, sizes and yes, even colors. These ten amazing arcs show what happens when Mother Nature gets out her paintbox.

Classic Rainbows

Rainbow over the Muldrow Glacier(image via: Rock The Seesaw)

Most everyone has seen a classic, garden-variety rainbow – sometimes in their gardens while watering their plants with a misting spray.

Rainbows_1b(images via: A Womens Circle and Hawaii Pictures)

Natural rainbows are made up of 6 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. The intensity of each color may vary due to atmospheric conditions and the time of day (more on that later).

Circular Rainbows


Rainbows_2b(images via: Dot Photo and Getty Images)

The rainbows most of see are actually arcs of perfect circles (with radii of exactly 42 degrees, according to Descartes), though viewing a complete rainbow is difficult as the ground has a habit of getting in the way.

Rainbows_2c(image via: Neatorama)

The advent of powered flight and aerial photography has enabled the magnificence of circular rainbows to be revealed to an awestruck public. Of course, if an airplane isn’t available a really high mountain will do.

Secondary Rainbows



Rainbows_3c(images via: Little Dreamers Daycare, Grzegorz Blachuta/TrekEarth and Royer Oaks Observatory)

Primary rainbows are often accompanied by secondary rainbows that are usually thinner and dimmer than the main rainbow. Here’s a bit of trivia that may come in handy at parties or around the water cooler: the area between primary and secondary rainbows that appears darker than the surrounding sky is called “Alexander’s Band”.

Rainbows_3x(image via: CuriousLee)

Secondary rainbows are remarkable for one particular characteristic: they display the spectrum in reverse order from that of a primary rainbow. It’s not something most people are familiar with, as is seen in the photoshop rendering above. Though sketched from the artist’s memory of an actual event, the repeated structure of both rainbows shows that it’s not an accurate portrayal.

Red Rainbows


Rainbows_4b(images via: Mark Kilner, Unexplained Mysteries and Earth Science)

Red rainbows are usually seen at sunrise or sunset when the thickness of the earth’s atmosphere filters out blue light leaving more red or orange light for water droplets to reflect and refract. The result is a rainbow with the more reddish end of the spectrum greatly enhanced.


Rainbows_5a(images via: The Weather Doctor, Kan Ahaw and W7ftt)

Sundogs are not rainbows per se, but share many of their visible attributes. Most commonly seen low in the sky on a bright winter’s day, sundogs are created when sunlight shines through ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Sundogs are red on the inside and violet on the outside with the rest of the spectrum crammed in between. The thicker the concentration of ice crystals in the air, the more defined the structure of a sundog and its associated arcs becomes.

Rainbows_5b(image via: G.Dargaud)

Moonlight can be acted on by ice crystals to form – you guessed it – “moondogs”. The image above was taken in Antarctica where, due to frigid air temperatures and blowing snow, sundogs and moondogs are extremely common.


Rainbows_6a(image via: WWU Planetarium)

Fogbows are much rarer than rainbows because certain narrow parameters must align to create them. For one, the light source must be behind the observer and low to the ground. Also, any fog to the rear of the observer must be very thin so that sunlight can shine through to the thicker fog in front.

Rainbows_6b(images via: Extreme Instability, Space Weather and STOLspeed)

Many fogbows display paler colors compared to rainbows and some are mainly white. This is due to the fog being composed of exceedingly fine water droplets.

Waterfall Rainbows


Rainbows_7b(images via: Environmental Graffiti and Canada Photos)

Waterfalls kick a constant stream of mist into the air and the atmospheric saturation goes on constantly, regardless of the weather. This makes waterfalls excellent photographic companions to rainbows! The above selection of images pairs some of the world’s most famous waterfalls with some equally stunning rainbows.

Rainbows_7x(image via: Schools Wikipedia)

A variation of waterfall rainbows are “spray bows”, formed on sunny days when wind kicks up ocean or lake waves and the air becomes saturated with mist and moisture.

Fire Rainbows

Rainbows_8(images via: ABC3340weather, Sujathafan and Crystalinks)

Fire rainbows are not actually rainbows and have no connection with fires. The true name for this exquisitely beautiful optical effect is “circumhorizontal arc”.

Rainbows_8x(image via: Opacity)

The phenomenon can only be viewed under certain precise conditions: the cirrus clouds that act as prisms must be at least 20,000 feet high and the sun must strike them when it is at an elevation of 58 to 68 degrees. Fire rainbows are never seen at locations situated more than 55 degrees north or south.


Rainbows_9x(images via: COLOURlovers)

Moonbows, like moondogs, are the lunar counterpart to rainbows. They’re also much more difficult to witness due to the requirement of a passing rainstorm and, ideally, a bright full moon unblocked by clouds.

Rainbows_9a(image via: Night Sky Hunter)

In the spectacular image above, the photographer used a 30-second exposure at 4:34am in the morning, the moon being nearly full. The bright star under the moonbow is the orange supergiant Arcturus.

Unearthly Rainbows

Rainbows_10a(image via: Utah Skies)

Are rainbows strictly a terrestrial phenomenon? No reason why they should be – the laws of physics (and optics) are universal after all. So far, however, the only off-earth rainbows we’ve glimpsed have come as the result of wishful thinking or through the visionary illustrations of science fiction artists. Pity… wouldn’t it be cool if the Bay of Rainbows on the Moon (above, top of image) actually had rainbows?

Rainbows_10b(image via: NASA)

A rainbow on Saturn? Not quite – what appears to be a rainbow on the brightest part of Saturn’s magnificent rings is merely an “artifact” of the Cassini spacecraft’s imaging system.

Rainbows_10c(image via: Celestial Matters)

There is one place in the vicinity of Saturn where rainbows of the classic variety may be found, however, and that is on it’s largest moon, Titan. Observations have confirmed the existence of liquid in the form of methane rain and lakes on the cloudy, chilly moon though a methane rainbow might look a little different than the ones we know here on Earth. Someday, someone will be the first to see one!

Rainbows_11(image via: Kansasphoto)

Truly rainbows have earned their reputation for being the crowning touch for any scene of natural beauty. Like snowflakes, every rainbow is unique and one-of-a-kind… and somewhat sadly, all too temporary. Perhaps the true pot of gold is to be found not at the end of the rainbow, but by having the privilege to view one from the beginning.

Background Checks For All With BeenVerified’s iPhone App

by MG Siegler

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at 4.01.41 PM

Back in September, we wrote about a new iPhone app that would allow you to run a background check on a new lover. It’s mildly creepy, but also kind of interesting. Unfortunately, that app, DateCheck, also charged an arm and a leg to run the checks. A new one gives you some background checking ability for free.

The aptly named Background Check App does exactly what it says: Using data from the site BeenVerified, it allows you to do background checks on people via name queries or their email addresses. And it even allows you to check your contacts on your iPhone with just one click. Just imagine the fun that will bring.

But it’s not all free fun. Unfortunately, you only get three free queries a week. After that, you’re prompted to sign up for a BeenVerified account and pay to get unlimited access. Currently, that will cost you $8-a-month.

Beyond looking up things such as age, address history, and relatives, Background Check App gives you access to criminal records, the properties associated with a person (and their values), and even scans the social networks to find data about the person there, such as pictures of them.

Background Check App is a free download in the App Store. Find it here.

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at 3.59.08 PM 1 Screen shot 2009-12-22 at 4.00.47 PM

Darth Vader Opens Wall Street

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Darth Vader and a number of Storm Troopers from the Star Wars Saga rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. They, along with R2-D2, were there as representatives of Lucasfilm Ltd. (Dec. 22)

Michael Jackson FBI files reveal extortion, death threats The files were just released by the FBI and reveal a great deal of personal drama in the King of Pop's life.

From: FBI

Michael Joseph Jackson

Michael Joseph Jackson, a celebrity pop star, was born on August 29, 1958. He died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.

Between 1993 and 1994 and separately between 2004 and 2005, Mr. Jackson was investigated by California law enforcement agencies for possible child molestation. He was acquitted of all such charges. The FBI provided technical and investigative assistance to these agencies during the cases. The Bureau also investigated threats made against Mr. Jackson and others by an individual who was later imprisoned for these crimes.

This release consists of seven separate files, as described below:

9A-LA-142276: 1992 to 1993, 196 pages

This file details a Los Angeles field office investigation into extortion threats against Michael Jackson and others in 1992. The subject of this investigation pled guilty and was sentenced to prison in 1993.

A total of 111 pages were withheld to prevent duplication of material already released or to protect personal privacy, the identity of sources that provided information to the FBI in confidence, and internal rules and practices. Some information was referred to the U.S. Secret Service.

62D-LA-162715: September 16, 1993 to August 8, 1994, 56 pages

This file involves a Los Angeles field office investigation opened to assist local authorities with a child molestation case in 1993. The case never went to trial.

Ninety-five pages were withheld to prevent duplication of material already released or to protect personal privacy, the identity of sources that provided information to the FBI in confidence, and internal rules and practices.

62D-L0-11779: September 2, 1993 to October 22, 1993, 9 pages

This file was opened by the FBI’s legal attachĂ© office in London when it assisted local authorities with a child molestation investigation in 1993.

Thirteen pages were withheld to protect personal privacy and the identity of sources that provided information to the FBI in confidence.

95A-HQ-1148159: October 30, 1995 to January 24, 1997, 8 pages

This file details a request made to the FBI to analyze a VHS videotape provided by the U.S. Customs Service as part of a child pornography investigation.

Some information was redacted to protect personal privacy. Four pages were referred to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement for a release determination.

62D-LA-236081: January 15, 2004 to April 27, 2004, 41 pages

Our Los Angeles field office opened this file when it was asked by local authorities to provide forensic computer analysis assistance in a child molestation investigation in 2004. The examination of evidence in this case was conducted by the FBI’s Computer Analysis and Response Team (CART). Mr. Jackson was ultimately acquitted of these charges in a California court.

One hundred and twenty-three pages were withheld to protect personal privacy, the identity of sources that provided information to the FBI in confidence, and internal rules and practices or to prevent the disclosure of techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.

305B-LA-239204: September 14, 2004 to December 9, 2004, 5 pages

This Los Angeles field office file was opened in 2004 to investigate child molestation allegations. Due to lack of witness cooperation, the case was closed.

252B-IR-6808: March 1, 2004 to June 29, 2005, 18 pages

This file involves a request made of the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group to provide advice and assistance to local authorities concerning a child molestation investigation in 2004.

Some information was redacted to protect personal privacy and internal rules and practices.



The cool thing about being a ridiculously wealthy celebrity is that if you like a movie, you can just put your kid in it, like movie karaoke. On that note, here’s the first trailer for Jaden Smith/Jackie Chan’s THE Karate Kid (the ‘The’ is very important), which the soundtrack promises will Linkin Pork you in the ears. The plot is that Jaden’s mom moves him to Beijing, where he soon finds out that Chinaman no rikey reedo brack boy, and old women are always elbowing him in the ribs on the subway (I’m just speculating here). So Jackie Chan comes and teaches him Kung Fu. Or maybe Karate. It’s a little unclear. What’s the one where Asian dudes kick each other?

And then at the end, Jaden Smith sees Jackie Chan trying to catch flies with chopsticks, and he’s all “It’s like Star Wars and you’re Yoda.” No, dumbf-ck, it’s more like Karate Kid.


(”Stay out my store!”)

Ford makes buyout offer to workers, including 200 at St. Paul plant

Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

Ford Motor Co. is offering a buyout to all of its 41,000 hourly workers in the United States, according to media reports.

Ford officials wouldn’t say how many of those workers might accept the offer, which includes $50,000 plus the choice of either a $25,000 voucher to buy a car or an extra $20,000 in cash. Workers need to have worked at least a year for the automaker to qualify.

Out 760 employees at Ford’s Ranger pickup truck plant in St. Paul, 200 would be able to take the buyout, a United Auto Workers official at the factory told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The buyout offer comes after union workers across the company rejected a cost-cutting agreement. The majority of workers at the St. Paul plant had approved the deal.

Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford (NYSE: F) has shown itself to be more financial stable than the other two major U.S. automakers, Chyrsler and General Motors, avoiding bankruptcy and government bailout money. But company officials still say there are too many workers.

When Ford made a similar buyout offer earlier this year, only 1,000 workers took it. | (612) 288-2107

Hit Girl Trailer - Kick-Ass Red Band

Kick-Ass Red Band Hit Girl Trailer - Watch more Funny Videos

Gunman for iPhone lets you take down your friends in augmented reality

Gunman for iPhone (screenshot 003)

Who would you rather shoot at: Real-life rouge agents played by your friends or abstract pixels? Enter Gunman, the first augmented reality shooter for the iPhone

that taps the enemy recognition technology to take care of the body count.

The iPhone OS 3.1 update brought along a sought-after new capability enabling developers to create the so-called augmented reality programs. Basically a cross between the virtual and real world, augmented reality comes to life when live video feed is overlaid with a computer-generated imagery, such as shopping information, building stats, etc. In the case of Gunman, a unique urban paintball-like shooter that puts you in the crossfire, augmented reality is its killer feature. Instead of chasing virtual foes and waste time playing preloaded levels, Gunman liberates the gameplay from the confines of your device and takes it to the real-life. As a result, you and your friends are put directly in the line of fire.

The seemingly simple idea opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Suddenly, everyday objects like chairs, lockers, trees, buildings, and trashcans become quick hiding place where you dig in before the shots start flying. You can play against a friend in one on one mode or connect with up to four friends via WiFi for hardcore mayhem. When you select a mode, you are required to pick the shirt color of your enemy (red, green, blue, gray, and white), and the match duration (2 minutes, 5 minutes, and unlimited). When you’re all set, hit the “Start Mission” button and you’ll get transported to – the real world.

Use the live video coming from your iPhone’s built-in camera to track your friends. If they’re too far, pinch zoom the scope. When you have the enemy inside a crosshair overlay, tap the “Fire” button (shake the device to reload). Each hit buzzes the enemy’s device and vice versa. The game saves a screenshot after each hit so you can review them in case of any ambiguities. You can also save your favorite shots to the camera roll and tweet images of your best hits. Both hits and misses are counted so keep in mind that accuracy matters.

Does it really work?

If the above concept sounds too futuristic, don’t worry – Gunman works flawlessly. The game uses a nifty trickery based on the color detection technology to determine whether you have hit your enemy – that’s why you have to pick your opponents’ shirt colors. Gunman then uses this information when analyzing the live video feed in order to determine if a guy was inside a crosshair when the shoot had been fired. The developer “trained” the algorithm, but warned its accuracy varies depending on the lighting conditions.

In order to test the limits of the engine, I asked a friend of mine to “shoot” me with my iPhone 3G outdoors at around 8pm, when only street lights lit the scene. As shown in the images below, it was snowing outside and I was wearing the red jacket and black cap. Much to my surprise, Gunman detected all hits, although I was standing some 30 yards away from a friend who had to pinch-zoom his scope to the max.

Gunman for iPhone (dujkan in sight 001)Gunman for iPhone (dujkan in sight 002)Gunman for iPhone (dujkan in sight 003)
I’m hiding behind a tree (left). Lookie who’s here (middle) – but a friend still doesn’t have a clear shot, so he pinch zooms (right) a scope.

I had less success under artificial lights indoors. As you know, the iPhone’s camera produces yellow-tinted, grainy images under low-light conditions or artificial light sources. As a result, accuracy of the color detection technology did drop notably. If you’re playing the game in daylight or under acceptable lighting conditions, the aforementioned caveats won’t apply to you the tiniest bit.

Needless to say, the game plays the best on a speedy iPhone 3GS due to a higher frame rate of its camera and faster processing that makes all the difference for the color detection engine. I have only played the game on my iPhone 3G, but a net buddy who purchased Gunman for his iPhone 3GS swears by his name he experienced none of the occasional jerkiness that I did on my device. Iit is my subjective estimate that Gunman maintains 12-15 frames per second in daylight on the iPhone 3G, which is in line with the video recording apps for the jailbroken iPhone 3Gs.

Conclusion: A whole new playing experience

The next Gunman update that’s already in development will support geolocation features and online leaderboards. It’ll also add achievements and badges in mulitplayer and new weapons like semi-automatic rifles and grenades. Gunman is, to my knowledge, the first augmented reality shooter for your iPhone and a damn fine one, too. Of course, there’s no point in playing this game if you don’t add your friends to the mix. Truth be told, the game sports the Pro mode where you take aim at innocent bystanders, but it simply saves the first 30 shots for your review at the end of the match and doesn’t use the color detection technology so it gets old after a while.

That said, if you were looking for a single player shootout, Gunman probably isn’t for you. But if you do have real life friends who own the iPhone, I strongly recommend you all take a break from playing games alone in your bedrooms. Instead, grab a copy of Gunman and take your iPhone for a spin outdoors. You’ll enjoy incredible and real-life fun, you’ll socialize, and your atrophied muscles will thank you. Gunman is being developed by Shadowforce and it works only on the iPhone due to the lack of built-in camera on the iPod touch

. The game requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later and is a $2.99 download from the App Store.

Medical marijuana sparks up local debate

Essex Sheriff Frank Cousins

LYNN - The topic of medicinal marijuana is one that can go up in smoke according to Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins and state Rep. Robert Fennell.

To date, four sheriffs in Massachusetts have come out in support of the bill: Carmen Massimiano of Berkshire County, Robert Garvey of Hampshire County, Richard Bretschneider of Nantucket County, and Andrea Cabral of Suffolk County.

But Cousins, however, said he considers marijuana and alcohol to be gateway drugs and is not in favor of marijuana being decriminalized for medicinal purposes.

“What we are finding are people trying to get off of prescription drugs and illegal drugs, and that is what scares me about this medical marijuana,” he said. “People say, I have Zoloft, Xanax and Vicodin from a doctor that is prescribed. When they abuse it, that is where the problems come in like a ladder, going to more potent drugs and that is not acceptable to me.”

Last month, the Massachusetts Bar Association’s House of Delegates voted in favor to support a bipartisan medical marijuana bill that was introduced in the State House earlier this year.

The bill would regulate the medical use of marijuana by patients approved by physicians and certified by the department of public health.
Former Massachusetts Bar Association president David White, who introduced the measure, said the MBA supports the legislation because it affirms the rights of patients to be treated with medical marijuana, while including important regulations to deter improper use.

“Provisions like state-issued ID cards for patients, state certification of a limited number of dispensaries and rules governing secure growing sites, ensure that only patients who have their doctor’s recommendation can obtain medical marijuana,” he said.

Cousins said he has noticed an alarming number of people who are released from prison that go through re-entry programs and are found to be addicted to prescription drugs.

“My goal is to get people drug and alcohol free when incarcerated and to keep them that way,” he said.

Rep. Robert Fennell
To date, 13 states have passed medical marijuana laws, including Rhode Island and Vermont, with legislation being considered in 14 other states including New York and New Jersey.

Despite those states approving the bill, Fennell said he has identified certain flaws and lack of safeguards to prevent people from illegally sharing or selling the drug.

“As history has shown us, opening up this Pandora’s box would be doing more harm to our society in the long term,” he said. “In the late 1800s, cocaine was considered an acceptable pain relief medication, but after the United States government took note of the 5,000 deaths due to overdoses of this drug, it was banned under the Harrison Act of 1914. I am confident that a safer alternative to medical marijuana can be used as well, that is as effective, but does not pose the same negative social impact.”

The entire text of the bill can be read at :