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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tornado in Springfield, Mass. looks like a scene from X-Men

Tornado On Connecticut River downtown Springfield Massachusetts 

Uploaded by jonah70757

On 06/01/2011 early evening a Tornado formed and was a frightening sight, no deaths have been reported. Reports are coming in of widespread damage in Springfield, MA, after a tornado touched down. The heavy damage is concentrated in the Downtown and South End areas of Springfield. An aide to the mayor says the National Guard has been called in to help with emergency response. Firefighters are trying to track down residents to ensure their safety. Traffic in the area is snarled due to downed trees on major routes. Route 5 is actually closed in places due to downed trees. There is a report of an overturned tractor-trailer on the Memorial Bridge, backing up traffic.

Drivers are being asked to stay off roadways to keep them clear for police and fire. Check with for more information on this developing story.

Why X-Men: First Class is the Best X-Men Film Yet

Why does it work? What's in store? Spoiler-free for your enjoyment!


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Bryan Singer's first two X-Men films were solid. They did a good job of wrangling a lot of different characters, their motivations and back-stories together. It took liberties with the details, but it made for a more realistic portrayal of superherodom. The third film? Well, erm, two out of three ain't bad. It lacked the finesse of the first two, instead falling back on forgettable action sequences and, honestly, it overdosed on superheroes and villains. It lacked storytelling grace. X-Men Origins: Wolverine? That never happened, okay? Move along.

X-Men: First Class is the best of the X-Men films, hands down. It draws on real-world conflicts to form the backbone of the threat in the story, which does wonders for context and a sense of realism. More than that though, it gets the balance of exposition and explosions just right.

After my first viewing, I felt X-Men: First Class was at first a familiar film – but an entirely different beast at heart from its predecessors. It is a mostly patient screenplay, taking its time with character development and feels balanced and compelling as a result.

That's the critical difference; as an origin story for Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), the entire crux of the story has immense emotional weight. These are two men on opposite sides of the same coin – and Singer's story, while retreading some of Magneto's tormented childhood – does an amazing job of fleshing out his background.

For all their mutant bravado, these are human tales – very simple ones, too. Erik seeks revenge; one of the oldest motivators in drama. His tragic upbringing is given a lot of screen time, and that was the right decision. Not only does his early oppression at the hands of Nazi scientists provide a great comparison to the treatment of mutants by humans years later, but it also hints at somewhat rational motivations for his stance on the superiority of mutants.

Magneto's core story is about mutant segregation and superiority. That's the Nazi party line, in a manner. However, in Bryan Singer's first X-Men films, this is only hinted at. The parallels are drawn on thickly in First Class.

Superhero movies as a genre have advanced to the point where they can't afford to be hokey and lightweight.
Standing (well, sitting) opposed is Xavier; he is motivated to achieve peace through knowledge – and sharing that understanding with society. With First Class' Xavier, we see a totally different portrait to that of Patrick Stewart's poised and restrained interpretation. Here we see a swinging party guy; debonair and cheeky – and his charm carries the story beautifully.

There's still a team of mutants – some familiar, some new faces – to fill sequences with all kinds of eye-popping daring and effects work glory. But the balance is different. It's matured. It's better—and I think it's a sign of good things on the way.

In truth, I think superhero movies as a genre have advanced to the point where they can't afford to be hokey and lightweight. Audiences are too spoilt for quality now; they demand a lot more – and the original text deserves more too. Christopher Nolan's Batman rebirth pointed the way forward and it showed that audiences were as engaged by compelling story and artfully crafted filmmaking as spectacular stunts and dozens of characters on screen. In that way, there are two schools of approach today: the traditionalist and the modern.

The traditional approach apes the flow of a comic book arc and lifts dialogue and tone from the source. The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men 3 and Ang Lee's Hulk all subscribe to this approach. They're bubblegum, colourful and aimed squarely at fans of the series above all others. And that's cool. It is. But it's not going to win any awards or turn heads that weren't already excited to begin with.

We're as relieved as you are that this turned out to be great.

That's why the 'modern approach', on the other hand, is so vital right now. It's about breaking preconceptions about superhero films; taking clichés and breaking them down. Nolan's Batman took a costumed character tale and turned it into edgy, almost noir crime drama. Iron Man played up the humour and sex appeal – and played the stunts for laughs, making it much more digestible for non-comic book reading viewers. At the same time, it rooted its conflicts and technology within the realm of the plausible. Watchmen uses alternate-history America and wartime violence to flesh out archetypal heroes – and in doing so, makes them human beings who are very flawed and definitely not super.

In X-Men: First Class, it puts superheroics at the secret core of the Cuban missile crisis. It also touches on race relations, equal rights and, tantalizingly, government conspiracies. The link back to Nazism adds further complexity – but it's tied so nicely to the core story that it creates real empathy with the quasi-villain.

What lies ahead for X-Men – specifically the 60s-era First Class? This is the opening chapter of Xavier and Magneto's loose friendship and tighter opposition. As the set-up for the main event, it was fantastic. Fans of the comics will appreciate the ending – and we'll not dare spoil that for you. But it almost doesn't matter what the overarching threat is in the inevitable sequel, because the action is still secondary to the drama between Xavier and Magneto.

This interplay, sitting above the action, is how it should be. If the sequel wants to retain the sense of quality, urgency and emotional impact, keep the drama high and central. Keep the set pieces, of course – I mean, this is an action movie above all. But never neglect that it's the characters (and the audience's feelings towards them) that drive the action. It's what keeps us coming back for more.
Movie Details

X-Men: First Class

  • Release Date:
  • US (wide): June 3, 2011
  • Produced By: Bryan Singer, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg
  • Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
  • Genre: Super-Hero
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Language: English
Click Here for More Movie Info
X-Men: First Class

Next Mars Rover Will "See" in 3-D Color


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Two digital color cameras on the mast of NASA's next Mars rover will complement each other in showing the surface of Mars in exquisite detail.  They are the left and right eyes of the Mast Camera, or Mastcam, instrument on the Curiosity rover of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, launching in late 2011.

The right-eye Mastcam looks through a telephoto lens, revealing details near or far with about three-fold better resolution than any previous landscape-viewing camera on the surface of Mars. The left-eye Mastcam provides broader context through a medium-angle lens. Each can acquire thousands of full-color images and store them in an eight-gigabyte flash memory. Both cameras are also capable of recording high-definition video at about eight frames per second. Combining information from the two eyes can yield 3-D views of the telephoto part of the scene.

The motivation to put telephoto capability in Curiosity's main science imaging instrument grew from experience with NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and its studies of an arena-size crater in 2004. The science camera on that rover's mast, which can see details comparably to what a human eye can see at the same distance, showed intriguing patterns in the layers of Burns Cliff inside Endurance Crater.

"We tried to get over and study it, but the rover could not negotiate the steep slope," recalled Mastcam Principal Investigator Michael Malin, of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "We all desperately coveted a telephoto lens." NASA selected his Mastcam proposal later that year for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.

The telephoto Mastcam, called "Mastcam 100" for its 100-millimeter focal-length lens, provides enough resolution to distinguish a basketball from a football at a distance of seven football fields, or to read "ONE CENT" on a penny on the ground beside the rover. Its images cover an area about six degrees wide by five degrees tall.

Its left-eye partner, called "Mastcam 34" for its 34-millimeter lens, catches a scene three times wider -- about 18 degrees wide and 15 degrees tall -- with each exposure.

Researchers will use the Mastcams and nine other science instruments on Curiosity to study past and present environments in a carefully chosen area of Mars. They will assess whether conditions have been favorable for life and favorable for preserving evidence about whether life has existed there. Mastcam imaging of the shapes and colors of landscapes, rocks and soils will provide clues about the history of environmental processes that have formed them and modified them over time. Images and videos of the sky will document contemporary processes, such as movement of clouds and dust.

Previous color cameras on Mars have taken a sequence of exposures through different color filters to be combined on Earth into color views. The Mastcams record color the same way consumer digital cameras do: They have a grid of tiny red, green and blue squares (a "Bayer pattern" filter) fitted over the electronic light detector (the charge-coupled device, or CCD). This allows the Mastcams to get the three color components over the entire scene in a single exposure.

Mastcam's color-calibration target on the rover deck includes magnets to keep the highly magnetic Martian dust from accumulating on portions of color chips and white-gray-balance reference chips. Natural lighting on Mars tends to be redder than on Earth due to dust in Mars' atmosphere. "True color" images can be produced that incorporate that lighting effect -- comparable to the greenish look of color-film images taken under fluorescent lights on Earth without a white-balancing adjustment. A white-balance calculation can yield a more natural look by adjusting for the tint of the lighting, as the human eye tends to do and digital cameras can do. The Mastcams are capable of producing both true-color and white-balanced images.

Besides the affixed red-green-blue filter grid, the Mastcams have wheels of other filters that can be rotated into place between the lens and the CCD. These include science spectral filters for examining the ground or sky in narrow bands of visible-light or near-infrared wavelengths. One filter on each camera allows it to look directly at the sun to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere, a key part of Mars' weather.

"Something we're likely to do frequently is to look at rocks and features with the Mastcam 34 red-green-blue filter, and if we see something of interest, follow that up with the Mastcam 34 and Mastcam 100 science spectral filters," Malin said. "We can use the red-green-blue data for quick reconnaissance and the science filters for target selection."

When Curiosity drives to a new location, Mastcam 34 can record a full-color, full-circle panorama about 60 degrees tall by taking 150 images in about 25 minutes. Using Mastcam 100, the team will be able to broaden the swath of terrain evaluated on either side of the path Curiosity drives, compared to what has been possible with earlier Mars rovers. That will help with selection of the most interesting targets to approach for analysis by Curiosity's other instruments and will provide additional geological context for interpreting data about the chosen targets.

The Mastcams will provide still images and video to study motions of the rover -- both for science, such as seeing how soils interact with wheels, and for engineering, such as aiding in use of the robotic arm. In other videos, the team may use cinematic techniques such as panning across a scene and using the rover's movement for "dolly" shots.

Each of the two-megapixel Mastcams can take and store thousands of images, though the amount received on Earth each day will depend on how the science team chooses priorities for the day's available data-transmission volume. Malin anticipates frequent use of Mastcam "thumbnail" frames -- compressed roughly 150-by-150-pixel versions of each image -- as an index of the full-scale images held in the onboard memory.

Malin Space Science Systems built the Mastcam instrument and will operate it. The company's founder, Michael Malin, participated in NASA's Viking missions to Mars in the 1970s, provided the Mars Orbiter Camera for NASA's Mars Global Surveyor mission, and is the principal investigator for both the Context Camera and the Mars Color Imager on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The science team for Mastcam and two other instruments the same company provided for Curiosity includes the lead scientist for the mast-mounted science cameras on Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity (James Bell of Arizona State University); the lead scientist for the mast camera on NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander (Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University); James Cameron, director of such popular movies as "Titanic" and "Avatar"; and 17 others with expertise in geology, soils, frost, atmosphere, imaging and other topics.

The Daily Galaxy via You can follow the mission on Facebook at and on Twitter @marscuriosity . A full listing of JPL social media accounts is at: .
This color image at the top of the page is a three dimensional (3D) view of a digital elevation map of a sample collected by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander's Atomic Force Microscope (AFM).

The image shows four round pits, only 5 microns in depth, that were micromachined into the silicon substrate, which is the background plane shown in red. This image has been processed to reflect the levelness of the substrate. A Martian particle -- only one micrometer, or one millionth of a meter, across -- is held in the upper left pit.

The rounded particle -- shown at the highest magnification ever seen from another world -- is a particle of the dust that cloaks Mars. Such dust particles color the Martian sky pink, feed storms that regularly envelop the planet and produce Mars' distinctive red soil.

The particle was part of a sample informally called "Sorceress" delivered to the AFM on the 38th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (July 2, 2008). The AFM is part of Phoenix's microscopic station called MECA, or the Miscroscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer.

The AFM was developed by a Swiss-led consortium, with Imperial College London producing the silicon substrate that holds sampled particles.

 Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

Major breast cancer breakthrough made in Irish University

Trinity College scientists use new method to restrict tumors

Trinity College researchers believe they have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer
Trinity College researchers believe they have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer

Trinity College researchers believe they have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer.
The Dublin college scientists have discovered that blocking a particular stress response can reduce the spread of breast cancer.

The research was based on a study of women with breast cancer in Ireland between 2000 and 2007 with the results just published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers discovered that those taking drugs that blocked a particular hormone related stress pathway had a much lower risk of dying from their cancer.
Dr Ian Barron, a Health Research Board postdoctoral fellow at TCD, led the research team.

“For patients with cancer, higher levels of stress are associated with more frequent disease recurrence, faster disease progression and higher rates of death from cancer,” Dr Barron told the Irish Examiner.

“Studies have suggested how stress hormones such as adrenaline and oradrenaline could play a role in this process, but this is the first study in humans to show blocking the stress response greatly reduces the risk of cancer spreading or metastasizing.”

The results of the research suggest that, when compared to control groups, women taking the stress hormone blocking drugs in the year prior to their cancer diagnosis were less likely to be diagnosed with invasive or metastatic breast cancer than women who were not taking it.

It also argues that women continuing to take the drugs after their diagnosis were considerably less likely to die from the disease in the five years following diagnosis.

3 of the FBI's real life X-Files investigated

3 of the FBI's real life X-Files investigated
A memo from FBI agent Guy Hottel that many believe proves Roswell's crashed saucer (more on that below).
It's one of many FBI docs now available.

From World's Drug Capital to Green Oasis: The Incredible Story of Medellin, Colombia (Slideshow)

by Paula Alvarado, Buenos Aires
Medellin Urban Planning Transformation Slideshow Photo
Photo: Medellin Public Works Office.

Medellin, Colombia: This city's name used to strike fear in peoples' hearts. In the 80s and early 90s, it was known as the drug capital of the world and the most violent city on the planet.

But Medellin has come a tremendous distance in less than a decade, thanks to a massive urban planning scheme, head up by the Movimiento Cívico Independiente since 2004.

Its main focus? The greening and improvement of public space to encourage community building.
Main points of the plan include every green urbanite's dream: improvement of diminished neighborhoods, library-parks, new schools and kindergartens, social housing, pedestrianization and greening of streets, new public transport and better security.

Here are 12 of our favorite new architectural endeavors in this city.
Drug Capital Of The World Turns Into Queen Of Architecture And Green Public Space: Medellin's Transformation Slideshow