The Grim Reefer writes: Actor Jerry Doyle, best known for his role in the sci-fi series Babylon 5, has died at the age of 60. Doyle appeared in all five series of the 1990s show as Chief Warrant Officer Michael Garibaldi.
He also made guest appearances on other popular shows, such as Beverly Hills 90210, NYPD Blue and Martial Law, and was the host of a nationally-syndicated daily radio show in the US.
A spokesman for Doyle's family said the cause of his death was not yet known.
Fellow Babylon 5 actor Bruce Boxleitner tweeted that he was "so devastated at the news of the untimely death of my good friend", while astronaut Scott Kelly said the news was "very sad to hear".
The Grim Reefer writes: IRVING, Texas, Sept. 16 (UPI) — A Texas teen who made a digital clock and brought it to school, only to end up being arrested and accused of a bomb scare, has been invited to the White House to show off his creation.
@POTUS Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.
Ahmed Mohamed, 14, faces no charges after he was arrested in Texas for bringing to school a homemade clock teachers and administrators mistook for a bomb — a detention some claim was due to his Muslim background.
Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd said the event was a "naive accident," adding that the department is "confident" the clock is not a bomb and that the case is closed.
The Grim Reefer writes: Anyone who pays even cursory attention to the evening sky has surely noticed that the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, have been drawing closer together in the west in the evening twilight. At the beginning of June, the two planets were 20 degrees apart in the sky, about twice the width of your fist held at arm's length. Week by week, Jupiter and the stars behind it have gradually slipped lower in the evening twilight. But Venus, due to its rapid orbital motion around the Sun, has stayed high up.
But now the spectacle is taking an even more dramatic turn — one you just can't miss. For eight nights beginning June 27th, these two bright planets will be within 2 degrees of each other — close enough to cover both with the thumb of an outstretched hand. In the midst of that weeklong run, on June 30th, Venus and Jupiter will appear so close together — just 1/3 of a degree apart — that they'll look like a tight, brilliant double star in the evening sky. You'll be able to cover both with the tip of an outstretched pinky finger.
The Grim Reefer writes: How do you build anticipation for the Paris Air Show?
If you're Boeing, you release a video that shows off one of your 787-9 Dreamliners in an impressive flight display. A a remarkably steep climb immediately after takeoff is perhaps the video's top highlight.
Boeing says the video offers "the public a first look at the demonstration Boeing is scheduled to fly" next week at the Paris Air Show. The event, which alternates years with the Farnborough Airshow near London, is one of the biggest annual events in the aviation industry.
The company has already recalled airbags used in about 18 million vehicles for the problem. This move will bring that number up to about 34 million autos. That is nearly one out of every seven cars on U.S. roads today.
The recall is one of the largest consumer product recalls ever.
At least five U.S. deaths and one in Malaysia have been tied to the faulty airbags. But Japanese auto parts maker Takata, the world's No 4 maker of airbags, has previously resisted demands by regulators to get all the affected airbags off the road.
The Grim Reefer writes: NASA's eagle-eyed Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has captured a view of the space agency's Curiosity rover trundling across the Red Planet.
The new MRO photo was taken by the spacecraft's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE) on April 8. It shows the car-size Curiosity rover cruising through a valley called Artist's Drive in the foothills of Mount Sharp.
The Grim Reefer writes: Scientists working off the coast of the US have found something pretty incredible — the second pocket shark ever discovered, some 36 years after the first one was spotted off the coast of Peru.
The team, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), say the tiny creature — which measures just 13 cm (5.5 inches) long — was caught off the coast of Louisiana, where they were observing the feeding habits of sperm whales. It belongs to the genus Mollisquama, which has earned itself the nickname 'pocket shark', not because of its pocked-sized dimensions, but because of the unique and rather mysterious orifice it has above its pectoral fin.
The Grim Reefer writes: NASA's Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers) from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet's gravity at about 4:39 a.m. PST (7:39 a.m. EST) Friday.
Mission controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36 a.m. PST (8:36 a.m. EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.
"Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," said Marc Rayman, Dawn chief engineer and mission director at JPL. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres, home."
In addition to being the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, Dawn also has the distinction of being the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. From 2011 to 2012, the spacecraft explored the giant asteroid Vesta, delivering new insights and thousands of images from that distant world. Ceres and Vesta are the two most massive residents of our solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
The Grim Reefer writes: Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have synthesized crystalline materials that can bind and store oxygen in high concentrations. Just one spoon of the substance is enough to absorb all the oxygen in a room. The stored oxygen can be released again when and where it is needed.
We do fine with the 21 per cent oxygen in the air around us. But sometimes we need oxygen in higher concentrations; for example lung patients must carry heavy oxygen tanks, cars using fuel cells need a regulated oxygen supply. Perhaps one day in the future even sunlight-driven "reversible" fuel cells will be made. With these we will have to separate oxygen from hydrogen in order to recombine them in order to get energy.
Now Professor Christine McKenzie and postdoc Jonas Sundberg, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark have synthesized a material that absorb oxygen in large quantities and store it.
"In the lab, we saw how this material took up oxygen from the air around us", says Christine McKenzie.
The new material is crystalline, and using x-ray diffraction the researchers have studied the arrangement of atoms inside the material when it was filled with oxygen, and when it was emptied of oxygen.
The Grim Reefer writes: Today many plastic products, from sippy cups and blenders to Tupperware containers, are marketed as BPA-free. But CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner's findings—some of which have been confirmed by other scientists—suggest that many of these alternatives share the qualities that make BPA so potentially harmful.
Those startling results set off a bitter fight with the $375-billion-a-year plastics industry. The American Chemistry Council, which lobbies for plastics makers and has sought to refute the science linking BPA to health problems, has teamed up with Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical—the maker of Tritan, a widely used plastic marketed as being free of estrogenic activity—in a campaign to discredit Bittner and his research. The company has gone so far as to tell corporate customers that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected Bittner's testing methods. (It hasn't.) Eastman also sued CertiChem and its sister company, PlastiPure, to prevent them from publicizing their findings that Tritan is estrogenic, convincing a jury that its product displayed no estrogenic activity. And it launched a PR blitz touting Tritan's safety, targeting the group most vulnerable to synthetic estrogens: families with young children. "It can be difficult for consumers to tell what is really safe," the vice president of Eastman's specialty plastics division, Lucian Boldea, said in one web video, before an image of a pregnant woman flickered across the screen. With Tritan, he added, "consumers can feel confident that the material used in their products is free of estrogenic activity."
The Grim Reefer writes: The Arctic isn't nearly as bright and white as it used to be because of more ice melting in the ocean, and that's turning out to be a global problem, a new study says.
With more dark, open water in the summer, less of the sun's heat is reflected back into space. So the entire Earth is absorbing more heat than expected, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
That extra absorbed energy is so big that it measures about one-quarter of the entire heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide, said the study's lead author, Ian Eisenman, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.
The Arctic grew 8 per cent darker between 1979 and 2011, Eisenman found, measuring how much sunlight is reflected back into space.
"Basically, it means more warming," Eisenman said in an interview.
The Grim Reefer writes: Groupon is honoring Presidents Day by giving customers an Alexander Hamilton — $10 off $40 spent on a deal for any local business.The promotion, which began this weekend, allows customers to "honor our money-minded Commander-In-Chief." "The $10 bill, as everyone knows, features President Alexander Hamilton — undeniably one of our greatest presidents and most widely recognized for establishing the country's financial system," Chicago-based Groupon says on its webpage. But, there's just one flaw in the promotional plan: Hamilton was never president. Hamilton is considered a Founding Father and was the country's first Secretary of the Treasury. He led the development of the economic policies of President George Washington, one of today's actual honorees, and the nascent nation. It's just too bad there isn't Treasury Secretary Day to have sales in his honor. An inquiry on Monday morning garnered this response from a spokesman: "Groupon is always very serious about helping our customers save money, and saving $10 is no laughing matter." The spokesman later confirmed the mistake was an intentional stunt.
The Grim Reefer writes: For five decades ILC Dover, an engineering firm in Delaware farm country, has been outfitting astronauts for space — everyone from Neil Armstrong to Sunita Williams, who performed a space walk outside the International Space Station (ISS) in 2012. And yet ILC (which was founded as International Latex Corp.) has never before embarked on its latest mission: to make a fashion-forward suit for NASA.
The prototype is called Z-2. A new palette will be chosen when, early this year, NASA unveils three designs by Philadelphia University fashion and industrial design students. The public gets to pick a winner. Each design will draw on one of three themes: NASA's history, sports and superheroes, and nature. NASA officials hope that the campaign will rekindle excitement for the space program. "Part of this came from the fact that commercial space flight is gearing up," says Amy Ross, a top space-suit engineer at NASA, "and part of what they want is for their space suits to look cool."
The Grim Reefer writes: Before the transcontinental race in "Cannonball Run," the starter tells the gathered racers, "You all are certainly the most distinguished group of highway scofflaws and degenerates ever gathered together in one place."
Ed Bolian prefers the term "fraternity of lunatics."
Where the 1981 Burt Reynolds classic was a comedic twist on a race inspired by real-life rebellion over the mandated 55-mph speed limits of the 1970s, Bolian set out on a serious mission to beat the record for driving from New York to Los Angeles.
The mark? Alex Roy and David Maher's cross-country record of 31 hours and 4 minutes, which they set in a modified BMW M5 in 2006.
Bolian, a 28-year-old Atlanta native, had long dreamed of racing from East Coast to West. A decade ago, for a high school assignment, Bolian interviewed Brock Yates, who conceived the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, aka the Cannonball Run.