Tuesday Reads: A Little Bit of This and ThatPosted: April 22, 2014 Filed under: morning reads, nature, open thread, science | Tags: big bang theory, Boston Marathon, Einstein's brain, Loch Ness monster, mastodon tooth, Meb Keflezighi, Philip Stoll, public ignorance, Rita Jeptoo, Tyrannosaurus Rex 37 Comments
Just because I feel like it, I’m going to avoid the depressing news today and give you a mixture of stories that interested me.
By now everyone knows about the 15- or 16-year-old boy who on Sunday flew from California to Hawaii in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 jet and survived.
It turns out he ran away from home after some kind of argument, climbed over a fence at San Jose Mineta International Airport, and hid in the wheel well of the first plane he saw. Authorities are trying to figure out how he evaded multiple layers of security and how he survived a trip that could have killed him.
“He got very lucky that he got to go to Maui but he was not targeting Maui as a destination,” Simon said.
The boy is also lucky to be alive, given that wheel-well stowaways rarely surviving flight conditions. At 38,000 feet, the percentage of oxygen is a fraction of that at sea level, and the temperature ranges from minus-50 to minus-85 degrees….
The plane landed in Hawaii. About an hour later, at 10:20 a.m. Hawaii time, crews were startled by the teen coming out of the wheel well, Maui Airports District Manager Marvin Moniz said.
“He was weak. He hung from the wheel valve and then he fell to the ground and regained some strength,” Moniz said.
He passed out in the air and didn’t regain consciousness until an hour after the plane landed in Hawaii, Simon said. When he came to, he climbed out of the wheel well and was immediately seen by airport personnel who escorted him inside where he was interviewed by the FBI, Simon said.
It was not immediately clear how the boy stayed alive in the unpressurized space, where temperatures at cruising altitude can fall well below zero and the air is too thin for humans to stay conscious. An FAA study of stowaways found that some survive by going into a hibernation-like state.
According to Simon, the boy doesn’t have any memories of the flight. Some experts are questioning whether the story is even true.
News of the incident was met with suspicion and scrutiny. Most wheel-well stowaways don’t survive, falling victim to frigid temperatures and lack of oxygen. The chances of survival of a wheel-well stowaway on a commercial aircraft are about 24 percent, according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute.
ABC News aviation consultant John Nance is skeptical that the teen could have survived the 2,300-mile flight in the wheel well without an oxygen source.
“I just don’t believe it,” Nance said.
Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, said in order to survive inside a wheel well during a flight, the body has to fall into a hibernation-like state, with the heart only beating a couple times a minute.
“It’s near impossible, almost miraculous, and maybe there’s more to the story,” Besser said.
Besides, how did this kid manage to evade security, including “multiple layers of security, including wide-ranging video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers?” Back to the Daily Mail:
San Jose International Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes says airport employees monitor security video feeds from throughout the 1,050-acre airport around the clock. However, she said no one noticed images of an unidentified person walking on the airport ramp and approaching Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 in the dark until security agents reviewed the footage after the plane had landed in Hawaii and the boy had been found.
The airport, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is surrounded by fences, although some sections do not have barbed wire and could easily be scaled.
The boy found his way onto the tarmac during the night, ‘under the cover of darkness,’ Barnes said.
Hours later, surveillance video at Kahului Airport showed the boy getting out of the wheel well after landing, according to a statement from Hawaii’s Department of Transportation.
The boy isn’t being charged with a crime, and will be returned to his parents, where he’ll have a quite a story to tell. I guess we’ll learn more in the next few days.
Yesterday’s Boston Marathon came off without a hitch, and an American won the men’s race for the first time in more than 30 years. The New York Daily News reports: American Meb Keflezighi wins Boston Marathon a year after bombing.
With the names of the murdered written on his runner’s bib, American Meb Keflezighi raced to victory Monday in the Boston Marathon, becoming a living symbol of resilience from the dark days of terror.
Keflezighi, 38, a member of the New York Athletic Club, said his triumph was fueled by a city that refused to buckle in the face of hate.
“It was not about me. It was about Boston Strong,” said Keflezighi, who broke down in tears as he became the first American in 31 years to win the race. “When the bomb exploded, every day since I’ve wanted to come back and win it.”
The Eritrea-born Keflezighi, who became an American citizen in 1998, crossed the finish line to chants of “U-S-A!” a mere 11 seconds in front of Kenya’s Wilson Chebet. He won the elite men’s race with a time of 2:08:37, a personal best and the second-fastest for an American man at Boston.
“When the Red Sox won (the World Series) and put the trophy right there,” he said, pointing to the Boylston St. finish line, “I wanted to win it for the people of Boston.”
Keflezighi came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 12 years old. He attended public schools in San Diego, where he first started running. He graduated from UCLA, where he won multiple championships and awards. He won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics, and in 2009 he became the first American man to win the New York City Marathon since 1982.
In the women’s race, 2013 winner Rita Jeptoo won again, setting a course record of 2:18:57–also a personal best. Jeptoo is from Kenya.
I guess this next story is a little bit depressing, but it’s mostly ridiculous. From UPI: Majority of Americans doubt the Big Bang theory.
In a new national poll on America’s scientific acumen, more than half of respondents said they were “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that “the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang.”
The poll was conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications.
Scientists were apparently dismayed by this news, which arrives only a few weeks after astrophysicists located the first hard evidence of cosmic inflation.
But when compared to results from other science knowledge surveys, 51 percent isn’t too shameful — or surprising.
Other polls on America’s scientific beliefs have arrived at similar findings. The “Science and Engineering Indicators” survey — which the National Science Foundation has conducted every year since the early 1980s — has consistently found only about a third of Americans believe that “the universe began with a huge explosion.”
Okay, maybe the notion of a giant explosion setting the universe in motion is a little surprising. But it’s certainly more believable than the biblical explanation that a godly being created the universe in seven days by making pronouncements like “Let there be light!”
Now an example of what some people are willing to believe: Has the Loch Ness Monster been spotted on Apple Maps?
Members of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club claim they have studied an image seen on Apple’s global satellite map application that shows the allegedly 100-foot-long creature, CNet .com reports, citing London’s Daily Mail. They say if you zoom in on Apple images from space you can even see the monster’s giant flippers.
News of the sighting has fans of Nessie — as she’s affectionately called — buzzing because there hasn’t been a Loch Ness sighting in 18 months. Legend has it she’s been cruising the area of Loch, just south of Dores, Scotland, for some 90 years, but so far, there’s no definitive proof she exists.
Nessie’s fan club devotees say they have ruled out all other possibilities for the grainy image, including a floating log or a giant seal. But one skeptic, deep-sea biologist Andrew David Thaler, debunks the theory on his websiteSouthernFriedScience.com, saying that the image shows the wake of a boat.
I have a few more interesting science stories for you.
From National Geographic: The Tragic Story of How Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen and Wasn’t Even Special.
My headline may be a bit misleading. Albert Einstein, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who gave the world the theory of relativity, E = mc2, and the law of the photoelectric effect, obviously had a special brain. So special that when he died in Princeton Hospital, on April 17, 1955, the pathologist on call, Thomas Harvey, stole it.
Einstein didn’t want his brain or body to be studied; he didn’t want to be worshipped. “He had left behind specific instructions regarding his remains: cremate them, and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters,” writes Brian Burrell in his 2005 book, Postcards from the Brain Museum.
But Harvey took the brain anyway, without permission from Einstein or his family. “When the fact came to light a few days later, Harvey managed to solicit a reluctant and retroactive blessing from Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, with the now-familiar stipulation that any investigation would be conducted solely in the interest of science,” Burrell writes.
This story is so weird that there is no way I can do it justice with excerpts. You need to read the whole thing. Just to whet your appetite, I’ll tell you that Beat writer William Burroughs makes a cameo appearance. The comments are interesting too.
I just love this story; it’s the kind of thing I dreamed would happen to me when I was a kid: 9-year-old Michigan Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth near Home.
“I was walking down at the creek last summer. I felt something that I stepped on so I picked it up and everybody in the neighborhood thought it was pretty cool,” Philip Stoll told CNN on Friday….
“It felt weird,” he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “I had to see what it was. I pulled it out and brought it to my mom.”
Stoll…took the six-peaked, 8-inch foreign object to his Windsor Township house and washed it in his kitchen sink to get a better look. Mom Heidi Stoll was also brought in for consultation.
“I didn’t even think that it could have been a tooth until I started checking online for some kind of match,” she said. “We saw a picture of a Mastodon tooth and said ‘there it is.'”
The Stoll family eventually reached out to James Harding, a herpetologist – an expert on reptiles and amphibians, at nearby Michigan State, who confirmed their suspicions.
“This is indeed a mastodon tooth,” Professor Harding verified in an email, CNN reports. “Apparently (it is) the upper surface, broken off at the roots.”
Wow, that is one lucky kid! Philip told CNN he has dreamed of becoming a paleontologist when he grows up.
Did you hear about how the Smithsonian acquired a nearly-complete skeleton of a Tyranosaurus Rex and had it delivered from Montana by FedEx? From the Guardian: Rare T rex bones arrive at Smithsonian Museum after cross-country journey.
For the first time since its dinosaur hall opened in 1911, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will have a nearly complete T rex skeleton. FedEx delivered the dinosaur bones in a truck carrying 16 carefully packed crates.
The T rex, discovered in 1988 on federal land in Montana, is about 80-85% complete. It’s one of about half a dozen nearly complete T rex skeletons that have been uncovered. This specimen could become the most prominent with its new home in one of the world’s most-visited museums. About 7 million people visit the natural history museum each year, and it offers free admission.
Like the mastodon tooth that Philip Stoll found, this skeleton was discovered by amateurs.
Kathy Wankel, a Montana rancher who discovered the bones in 1998 during a camping trip, said she was proud to see the specimen in a national museum. Initially, Wankel spotted about 3 inches of bone sticking out of the ground, and she and her husband dug out a small arm bone.
“We were so thrilled we had found a bone; we called that a mega find,” she said at the museum. “But I think now this is a mega find.”
Paleontologists from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Mont., excavated the fossil, and it’s been housed there for the past 25 years. At the Smithsonian, the skeleton will be mounted upright for the first time.