Friday, March 06, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

NASA Dawn Probe Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres - March 6, 2015

The year of the dwarf planet has begun.

NASA's Dawn probe arrived at Ceres today (March 6) at about 7:39 a.m. EST (1239 GMT), becoming the first spacecraft ever to orbit a dwarf planet. Dawn's observations over the next 16 months should lift the veil on Ceres, which has remained largely mysterious since it was first spotted more than two centuries ago.

"Since its discovery in 1801, Ceres was known as a planet, then an asteroid and later a dwarf planet," Dawn mission director and chief engineer Marc Rayman, who's based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "Now, after a journey of 3.1 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) and 7.5 years, Dawn calls Ceres 'home.'"

NASA officials got a signal from Dawn confirming that it's healthy and in orbit at about 8:36 a.m. EST (1336 GMT) today.

The milestone comes just four months ahead of another highly anticipated dwarf-planet encounter: On July 14, NASA's New Horizons probe will zoom through the Pluto system, giving scientists their first good looks at that faraway dwarf planet and its five known moons.

Dawn of the solar system

The $473 million Dawn mission launched in September 2007 to study Vesta and Ceres, the two largest objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Vesta's diameter is 330 miles (530 km), while Ceres is about 590 miles (950 km) wide.

Both Vesta and Ceres are leftovers from the solar system's early days, planetary building blocks that would likely have kept growing if not for the interfering influence of Jupiter's immense gravitational tug.

The two bodies are "intact protoplanets from the very dawn of the solar system," Dawn Deputy Principal Investigator Carol Raymond, also of JPL, said during a news conference Monday (March 2)." So they're literally fossils that we can investigate to really understand the processes that were going on at that time."

Dawn orbited Vesta from July 2011 through September 2012, when the probe departed for Ceres. So today's arrival made history in another way as well: Dawn became the first spacecraft ever to orbit two objects beyond the Earth-moon system.

The mission's spaceflight feats are made possible by Dawn's innovative propulsion system, which accelerates xenon ions out the back of the spacecraft. This process generates tiny amounts of thrust; it would take Dawn four days to go from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h), team members have said.

But Dawn's ion drive is about 10 times more efficient than traditional chemical systems. So the engines can keep firing for weeks, months and years, accelerating Dawn to tremendous speeds.

"With the 1,000 lbs. [454 kilograms] of xenon propellant that was loaded on board, Dawn has already accomplished more than 24,000 mph [38,624 km/h] of velocity change," Dawn project manager Robert Mase of JPL said during Monday's news conference. "To put that in context: That's more than it takes to get a vehicle from the surface of the Earth up to the International Space Station."

Thanks to ion propulsion, Dawn crept up on Ceres slowly and gradually. The probe eased into orbit today without the need for any harrowing make-or-break maneuvers.

The Mysteries of Ceres

Ceres is an intriguing world that in many ways looks more like the icy moons of the outer solar system, such as Jupiter's satellite Europa and the Saturn moon Enceladus, than its rocky neighbors in the asteroid belt.

For example, the dwarf planet is thought to consist of 25 to 30 percent water by mass, mostly in the form of ice. Ceres may also once have had (and might even still possess) an ocean of liquid water beneath its surface, as Europa and Enceladus are thought to. Indeed, some researchers believe Ceres may be capable of supporting microbial life.

"It's really going to be exciting to see what this exotic, alien world looks like," Rayman told Space.com in late January. "We're finally going to learn about this place."

Dawn is not equipped to search for signs of life. But the probe might be able to spot evidence of an underground ocean (if it exists), if it burbles up in places to interact with surface rocks, Rayman said. Measurements of Ceres' surface temperatures, when coupled with models of heat transportation through Ceres, could also shed light on the question of underground liquid water, said Dawn principal investigator Chris Russell of UCLA.

Dawn will also investigate two Ceres mysteries that have cropped up in the past year or so. Mission scientists will try to figure out just what is producing Ceres' mysterious bright spots, and they'll attempt to confirm and characterize a tenuous water-vapor plume spotted recently by researchers using Europe's Herschel Space Observatory.

Overall, Dawn will characterize the dwarf planet in detail, mapping out its surface and determining what Ceres is made of, among other tasks.

"We'll do typical planetary geology, more similar to what we do on Mars than what we did with Vesta," Russell told Space.com.

This work will not start immediately; Dawn will spend the next six weeks spiraling down to its initial science orbit, getting there on April 23. The probe will then begin taking Ceres' measure from an altitude of 8,400 miles (13,500 km). Dawn will study the dwarf planet from a series of increasingly closer-in orbits until the mission ends in June 2016.

Sizing up Dwarf Planets

While Ceres and Pluto are both dwarf planets — a category created by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006, when it demoted Pluto from a full-fledged planet in a decision that remains controversial today — they're quite different from each other, Russell said.

"Pluto formed differently, formed at a different time and formed out of different materials" than Ceres, he said.

Pluto is also more than twice as wide as Ceres and lies more than 14 times farther from the sun than the queen of the asteroid belt does. So the data returned by Dawn and New Horizons will likely not paint a unifying picture of just what it means to be a dwarf planet, Russell said.

"The legacy [of the two missions] is freeing these bodies from arbitrary labels based on their size or their ability to scatter other objects, or whatever the IAU had going through its head," he said. "These bodies are being liberated from classification, and we now can understand them in their own right."

Check out the article at Space.com.

I can't wait to see the new photos!!! Check out the live updates:

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Live Long and Prosper!

Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 - Live Long and Prosper!

Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 - Live Long and Prosper!

Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 - Live Long and Prosper!

Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 - Live Long and Prosper!

StarTrek.com is deeply saddened to report the passing of Leonard Nimoy. The legend -- an actor, writer, producer, director, poet, host, voiceover artist, photographer, husband, father and grandfather, as well as Star Trek's beloved Spock -- died today at the age of 83 at his home in Los Angeles. Nimoy succumbed to the end stages of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), an illness that resulted from years of smoking and which afflicted him despite having quit smoking three decades ago. In 2014, he announced via Twitter that he was battling COPD and urged fans to stop smoking before it was too late.

Nimoy's career spanned generations. Born and raised in Boston, he started acting as a boy, but moved to Los Angeles at age 18 to give it a go on a professional level. He worked his way up from small roles in the likes of Queen for a Day, Zombies of the Stratosphere and Them! to major guest star turns in such shows as Broken Arrow, Dragnet, Sea Hunt, Twilight Zone, Wagon Train and The Outer Limits. At one point, he acted in an episode of The Lieutenant, a show written and created by a rising behind-the-scenes talent named Gene Roddenberry, and he acted in an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with a young Canadian by the name of William Shatner.

It wouldn't be long before their lives intersected again. Roddenberry created Star Trek: The Original Series, tapping Nimoy to play Spock and Jeffrey Hunter to play Captain Pike. NBC rejected the pilot, but asked Roddenberry to try again. The second pilot once again featured Nimoy as Spock, but after Hunter opted out of his contract, Roddenberry hired Shatner to play Captain Kirk. DeForest Kelley, who'd turned down the role of Spock, came on board to portray Dr. McCoy, and that unforgettable trio -- complemented by Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei and, starting with season two, Walter Koenig -- formed the cast that would see Star Trek through three seasons of the original show, 20-plus episodes of an animated series and six feature films, not to mention numerous television commercials and countless convention appearances.

Nimoy at times waged an internal battle when it came to Spock. He titled his first autobiography I Am Not Spock. Twenty years later, though, he wrote I Am Spock. He turned down the proposed Star Trek: Phase II series, but returned for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Spock died in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, only to be resurrected for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which Nimoy directed. He also directed Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and produced and developed the story for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and, as a tie-in, he guest starred as Ambassador Spock on two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And in 2009, after 18 long years, Nimoy helped J.J. Abrams reboot the Star Trek franchise by playing Spock Prime in Star Trek (2009), passing the torch to Zachary Quinto, who became a close friend. He also voiced Spock for Star Trek Online, made a cameo in Star Trek Into Darkness and was reportedly in talks to appear in the upcoming Star Trek film at the time of his death.

Beyond Star Trek, Nimoy's many film, TV and stage credits included Mission: Impossible, A Woman Called Golda, In Search Of..., Equus, Never Forget, Vincent, Standby: Lights! Camera! Action!, The Simpsons, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Fringe. With his friend and TNG's Q, John de Lancie, he created Alien Voices, which staged and recorded radio play-style productions of classic and original sci-fi/fantasy stories. And yes, who could forget Nimoy's music pursuits, which included such tunes as "Proud Mary" and "The Legend of Bilbo Baggins"? Nimoy joined Twitter in 2010 and gave William Shatner a run for his money, tweeting more than 1,700 times and amassing more than one million followers.

He was also a friend to StarTrek.com, helping re-launch the site in 2010 with an opening statement, granting an extensive, career-spanning interview in 2011, contributing a guest blog in 2012 about his creation of the split-fingered Vulcan greeting, and checking in with us often over the years for interviews and with updates on his current projects, as well as to answer specific questions about Star Trek as they came up. He ended his emails to us as he did every tweet to the public, with the acronym LLAP... Live Long and Prosper.

Back in May 2012, StarTrek.com teased Nimoy about being the busiest retired man in history. Asked if he truly considered himself retired, Nimoy replied, "Yeah, I do. I am. Look, I liken myself to a steamship that's been going full-blast and the captain pulls that handle back and then says, 'Full stop,' but the ship doesn't stop. It keeps moving from inertia. It keeps moving. It keeps moving. It'll start slowing down, but it doesn't stop. It doesn't come to a dead stop. That's the way I am. I still have a few odds and ends things that I enjoy doing. I don't want to get up in the morning and have nothing to do that day. That would be boring." Perfectly logical, right? And in his final tweet, which he posted on Feb. 23, Nimoy wrote, "A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP."

Nimoy leaves behind his wife, Susan Bay, two children and several grandchildren. Please join StarTrek.com in offering our condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and millions of fans around the galaxy.

Check out the article at StarTrek.com.

R.I.P. Spock!

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Monster Black Hole is the Largest and Brightest Ever!

Monster Black Hole Is the Largest and Brightest Ever Found

Monster Black Hole Is the Largest and Brightest Ever Found

Astronomers have discovered the largest and most luminous black hole ever seen — an ancient monster with a mass about 12 billion times that of the sun — that dates back to when the universe was less than 1 billion years old.

It remains a mystery how black holes could have grown so huge in such a relatively brief time after the dawn of the universe, researchers say.

Supermassive black holes are thought to lurk in the hearts of most, if not all, large galaxies. The largest black holes found so far in the nearby universe have masses more than 10 billion times that of the sun. In comparison, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way is thought to have a mass only 4 million to 5 million times that of the sun.

Although not even light can escape the powerful gravitational pulls of black holes — hence, their name — black holes are often bright. That's because they're surrounded by features known as accretion disks, which are made up of gas and dust that heat up and give off light as it swirl into the black holes. Astronomers suspect that quasars, the brightest objects in the universe, contain supermassive black holes that release extraordinarily large amounts of light as they rip apart stars.

So far, astronomers have discovered 40 quasars — each with a black hole about 1 billion times the mass of the sun — dating back to when the universe was less than 1 billion years old. Now, scientists report the discovery of a supermassive black hole 12 billion times the mass of the sun about 12.8 billion light-years from Earth that dates back to when the universe was only about 875 million years old.

This black hole — technically known as SDSS J010013.02+280225.8, or J0100+2802 for short — is not only the most massive quasar ever seen in the early universe but also the most luminous. It is about 429 trillion times brighter than the sun and seven times brighter than the most distant quasar known.

The light from very distant quasars can take billions of years to reach Earth. As such, astronomers can see quasars as they were when the universe was young.

This black hole dates back to a little more than 6 percent of the universe's current age of 13.8 billion years.

"This is quite surprising because it presents serious challenges to theories of black hole growth in the early universe," said lead study author Xue-Bing Wu, an astrophysicist at Peking University in Beijing.

Accretion discs limit the speed of modern black holes' growth. First, as gas and dust in the disks get close to black holes, traffic jams slow down any other material that's falling into them. Second, as matter collides in these traffic jams, it heats up, emitting radiation that drives gas and dust away from the black holes.

Scientists still do not have a satisfactory theory to explain how these supermassive objects formed in the early universe, Wu said.

"It requires either very special ways to quickly grow the black hole or a huge seed black hole," Wu told Space.com. For instance, a recent study suggested that because the early universe was much smaller than it is today, gas was often denser, obscuring a substantial amount of the radiation given off by accretion disks and thus helping matter fall into black holes.

The researchers noted that the light from this black hole could help provide clues about the dark corners of the distant cosmos. As the quasar's light shines toward Earth, it passes through intergalactic gas that colors the light. By deducing how this intergalactic gas influenced the spectrum of light from the quasar, scientists can deduce which elements make up this gas. This knowledge, in turn, can provide insight into the star-formation processes that were at work shortly after the Big Bang that produced these elements.

"This quasar is the most luminous one in the early universe, which, like a lighthouse, will provide us chances to use it as a unique tool to study the cosmic structure of the dark, distant universe," Wu said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the Feb. 26 issue of the journal Nature.

Check out the article at Space.com.

Cool stuff!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Happy Mardi Gras!!!

Krewe of Muses - Saints Spin the Bottle 2015

Krewe of Okeanos - Skinz and Bonez

Krewe of Thoth - Hell Float

Krewe of Bacchus - Bacchagator

Krewe of Bacchus - Bacchawhoppa

Krewe of Orpheus - Smokey Mary

Krewe of Orpheus - Trojan Horse

Krewe of Orpheus - Leviathan

Krewe of Zulu

Krewe of Zulu

Krewe of Rex - The Boeuf Gras

A boa served as a weathervane on Lundi Gras evening (Feb. 16), its feathers flying sideways as local and visiting New Orleanians gathered to kick off Mardi Gras with the traditional Spanish Plaza ritual: the mayor handing over the key to the city to Rex, King of Carnival, for a day of revelry.
After a cloudy, warm day, the forecast called for cold rain any minute. Everyone just prayed it wouldn't turn as cold and wet as last Mardi Gras, when people's lips turned as blue as their wigs. As the Soul Rebels Brass Band played, "I Can't Go for That."

A flock of brown paper napkins skirled across the pavement but the daiquiris still flowed even though the fountains didn't -- management had to turn off the water jets after the wind started blowing them into people's faces, attendees said.

Still, "rain or shine, people want their daiquiris," said Fat Tuesday staffer Amber Arceneaux.
Also, many had come from places up north where a forecast of 45 degrees sounded downright balmy. "To know my friends are at home getting 12 inches of snow ..." gloated Amy Graf, from Louisville, Ky.

"For them, this is springtime," said Vernon Coy, her father's old friend. He said he'd attended every single Spanish Plaza Lundi Gras celebration and pooh-poohed the forecast -- then admitted bad weather might curtail his Mardi Gras plans. Usually he and his friends from Kentucky stand at St. Charles and Napoleon but if it rains, "we stay in my house and play cards."

Perhaps the river was choppy, but no one knew and it didn't matter: For the first time in more than a century, Rex was to arrive by rail. The Ya-Ya Sisters stood on a bench overlooking the train tracks, wands held aloft.

The three friends, all in their 60s and born within 13 months of each other, had to shelve their three-foot-tall headdresses due to the wind. But you'd never know anything was missing, bedecked as they were in sequins, animal prints, feathers, bling and dangles.

"Since the hurricane, we all moved away so this is how we get together," said Wanda Punch, her blue curls blowing around her face. "Each parade is a new suit," she said -- all, she clarified, made from recycled materials. She beckoned a man over for a photo, saying, "We need some beef for our sandwich."

After a few false alarms -- including a streetcar holding barely more than a lone woman, who waved gamely at the crowds -- an ear-splitting whistle sounded and the train chugged into view. Two heralds squeezed themselves onto the back platform to play a fanfare for Rex, Christian :Christy" Brown.

Brown threw his arms open wide like a victorious quarterback, beaming and saying, "What a wonderful way to arrive."

He was hustled up to the stage for the reading of his Mardi Gras proclamation and the exchange of gifts with King Zulu, Andrew "Pete" Sanchez. The plumes on his attendants' helmets blew half-horizontal as Brown proposed a cessation from work, school, governance and ordinary selves.

Despite the gold robes, he was a Rex more jovial than regal: Sanchez greeted him by his real name.

Brown also gave a weather forecast.

"Tomorrow will be clear skies. And wonderful temperatures and big crowds! I hope you will come out," he declared.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu praised Brown and Sanchez' contributions to the city, saying, "Can you think of another place you would rather live in the world than New Orleans?" Cheers drowned out his answer.

"We've asked the mayor to consider Rex' proclamation," emcee Errol Laborde said, as the wind whipped off his ball cap. Would he give over the streets?

"Because Rex asked me to suspend belief," Landrieu said, "I'll do it on the condition that you return the streets to me with all of the potholes filled." He handed over the key and shouted, hoarsely, "All hail Rex!"

As fireworks reflected off the windows of the high-rises and a plane shot off gold sparks overhead, Brown waved again and again. All the dignitaries left as swiftly as they had come, leaving the plaza to the partiers.

Even after decades on the Spanish Plaza, "It never gets old, never grows old," said Coy, the local with Kentucky friends. "Nothing but the best and no rain." He shook his beer and his hips, singing, "Mardi Gras mambo, mambo, mambo."

And people danced around the stilled fountain for just a few minutes, until those green-purple-and-gold umbrellas were needed for real.

Check out the article at Nola.com.

Here are some Mardi Gras headlines:


HAPPY MARDI GRAS!!!

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015 - St. Valentine's Day Masquerade

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015 - St. Valentine's Day Masquerade

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015 - St. Valentine's Day Masquerade

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015 - St. Valentine's Day Masquerade

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015 - St. Valentine's Day Masquerade

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015 - St. Valentine's Day Masquerade

Spanish Town Mardi Gras 2015 - St. Valentine's Day Masquerade

A 35-year tradition in Baton Rouge, the Krewe of Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade seems to get more irreverent as it ages. The Krewe of Partylons is no different.

Joining together in 1998, a group of thespian friends named its new krewe after Mary and Buford Bordelon, who were dubbed Mary and Buford “Partylon” as they frequently entertained large groups spontaneously at their home.

Now remarried, Mary Pittman said that since Buford Bordelon’s death in 2001, the Krewe of Partylons, a group he loved, gives a toast in his honor before each parade. Then, it’s down the route for the celebration, with thousands of screaming patrons hoping to catch a string of disco-ball beads.

Now preparing to ride in the Spanish Town parade for its 17th year, the krewe, best known for its huge disco ball-bedecked float, are ready to take this year’s parade theme, “St. Valentine’s Day Masquerade,” to a new level of raunchy with their “Tainted Love” installment.

Noting the well-known political incorrectness of the parade, Pittman said that she and her krewe will be depicting the “love” between people like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Bert and Ernie, Kermit and Miss Piggy, Morticia and Gomez Addams and more.

“The tainted love is sort of warped lovers and couples,” Pittman said.

But it isn’t as warped as her krewe has gotten over the years.

They’ve been “The Plank Road Personnel,” portraying pimps and ladies of the evening in accordance with Spanish Town’s 1999 “Leathers and Feathers” theme. They have also been mad scientists as “The Jury-rigging formula for Edwin Edwards.”

And while masking up may be a good time for anyone, what makes the costuming most fun for the krewe is the escape from their day jobs.

Riders, who must be at least 18, work in varying professions, from professor to priest, two architects, a church secretary, a welder, an engineer, a paralegal, a claims adjuster and many more. The variety of careers is also a reason why krewe members rarely see each other outside of their Spanish Town duties.

Pittman said they begin meeting each year just after the SPLL (Society for the Preservation of Lagniappe in Louisiana), the board who facilitates the annual parade, reveals its upcoming theme.

“The planning process is so much fun because we make a party out of everything,” Pittman said.

When the krewe first joined the parade, Pittman said lots of hiring-out was being done to create decorations for the float, but now the Partylons have a graphic designer onboard.

This year’s float will also carry a live DJ to make the disco ball all the more fitting.

Pittman also said the krewe often covers its float and travels with decorations and items to be used as judge-bait, but unfortunately the group has never won any awards at the parade. However, it did snag its first-ever Spanish Town-related win on Jan. 31 for best table decor at the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Ball.

At the end of Mardi Gras season, Pittman said all the decorations are recycled for later use, as the Partylons also ride in the Baton Rouge Halloween Parade.

But, there are never any throws left to save.

“Throws never make it past parade day,” Pittman said, laughing.

Construction along River Road and surrounding areas has created a change in this year’s parade route (see accompanying map). This year’s court is Queen Johanna Smith and Grand Marshal Allen Kirkpatrick. Honorary King is the late Shelby Holmes.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

It's Party Time!!!

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Congratulations Odell Beckham, Jr.

LSU's Times Square Billboard Tribute to Odell Beckham, Jr. - February, 2015

LSU's Times Square Billboard Tribute to Odell Beckham, Jr. - February, 2015

LSU has celebrated former Tiger and current New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year with a billboard in Times Square.

Beckham, an All American at LSU where he played from 2011-13, was selected with the 12th pick in the 2014 draft by New York, had 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing the first four games of the season. He was the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The billboard is located above the Good Morning America Studio on the 1500 block of Broadway at 43rd and 44th avenues. It’s scheduled to run through at least Thursday.

The sign was designed by Krystal Bennett-Faircloth of the LSU Sports Information Department. It features Beckham’s one-handed catch that he made against Iowa in the 2014 Outback Bowl along with one of his New York Giants action shots. A LSU football helmet along with the slogan, “Born on the Bayou” is featured on the sign as well as the LSU football Twitter handle @LSUfball.

Check out the article at The Advocate.

Congratulations Odell Beckham, Jr.! Geaux Tigers!!!

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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Battle of New Orleans Centennial Anniversary

Battle of New Orleans Centennial Anniversary - January 8, 2015

Battle of New Orleans Centennial Anniversary - January 8, 2015

Battle of New Orleans Centennial Anniversary - January 8, 2015

Battle of New Orleans Centennial Anniversary - January 8, 2015

Today marks the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans, the last great salvo in the War of 1812, also known as our “forgotten conflict.” If you know anything about the conflict, it’s likely that it is some of the famous events that led up to the end of the war, such as the burning of the White House and the successful defense of Fort McHenry (which inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner”).

But our “forgotten conflict” left an indelible mark. The War of 1812 not only launched America, then a fledgling republic, onto the world stage as a force to be reckoned with, but also made famous our nation’s seventh president, then Major General Andrew Jackson, who led a modest group of volunteers to victory against a battle-tested British army in the Battle of New Orleans. The War of 1812 was fought to win greater respect for American rights at sea, which the British routinely violated in their search for victory against France in the Napoleonic Wars. But the European contest ended in 1814, and thereafter the British were able to concentrate on the United States and had the young republic on the ropes.

The aim of Britain’s Gulf Coast campaign was to occupy territory that might be used as a bargaining chip in the peace negotiations then underway at Ghent in modern-day Belgium. The main target was New Orleans, the largest city in the West and the outlet for virtually all farm commodities produced for export beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Confident that they could easily defeat the “dirty shirts,” as they called Jackson’s army of amateurs, the British were eager to bring matters to a head. But Jackson, who had an instinctive grasp of military strategy and tactics and an iron will, slowed the British down in three preliminary battles before they launched their main attack on Jan. 8, 1815.

At 6 a.m. on that cold and misty January morning, a Congreve rocket fired into the air south of New Orleans was the signal for some 5,000 British troops to advance against Jackson’s army, about the same size, behind a well-fortified line that was stretched from the Mississippi River in the west to an impenetrable cypress swamp in the east. The battle lasted less than 30 minutes, and the result changed America and stunned the world. By the time the smoke had cleared, the British had sustained 2,000 killed, wounded, missing or captured. Jackson’s own losses were only 71. This was the most lopsided defeat ever suffered by a British army. News of the battle spread like wildfire across the United States and immediately transformed the entire war into a glorious American victory.

For the rest of the century, many Americans celebrated Jan. 8 as much as July 4, and Jackson’s triumph quickly became encrusted in myth and legend. One myth held that the U.S. victory had produced a favorable peace settlement, although the peace treaty, which did not mention the maritime issues that had caused the war, was signed two weeks before, on Dec. 24, 1814. Later this notion was replaced by a more plausible (and persistent) myth that the battle was fought after the war was over. But this, too, was untrue because it took six weeks for the treaty to cross the Atlantic, and the war ended only after it was ratified by the United States on Feb. 16, some five weeks after Jackson’s victory.

Other myths have been equally persistent. Among these are the notion that the Kentucky rifle won the battle (it was mainly artillery); that Jean Lafitte and his pirates played a central role (an exaggeration based on a combination of the romantic appeal of pirates and a fake Lafitte diary that surfaced in the 1950s); that the British planned to sack the city if they won – known as the “beauty and booty” myth – (there is no credible evidence for this); and that the British would not have surrendered southern Louisiana if they had prevailed (again, no evidence). These myths have endured because they endow the victory with greater meaning, foster an appealing self-image and promote a notion of unconventional Yankee success that Americans still find attractive.

The real significance of the battle is not that it spared New Orleans or preserved Louisiana but that it shaped how Americans remembered the war. In celebrating Jackson’s victory, Americans have chosen to ignore that the peace treaty was silent on the neutral rights for which they were contending. They have also forgotten how close the young republic came to military defeat, economic collapse and national bankruptcy (the Treasury having defaulted on the national debt in 1814). Instead, Americans prefer to remember how Jackson’s ragtag frontier army that included free blacks as well as French and Spanish residents decisively defeated the conquerors of Napoleon and the Mistress of the Seas.

The victory made Jackson the hero of the age, catapulted him into the presidency and launched a buoyant postwar era that is still called the Age of Jackson. The victory boosted American self-confidence and gave added meaning to a war whose legacy was destined to be profound and lasting. The War of 1812 opened the door to territorial expansion, marked the birth of the American military establishment, shaped the political landscape until the Civil War and forged a national identity. “Don’t give up the ship” and “We have met the enemy and they are ours” entered the American lexicon. “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a popular tune that Congress made our national anthem in 1931. The war also produced an iconic ship, the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), and gave the Kentucky rifle an inflated reputation as a war-winner and game-changer.

The War of 1812 may have seemed a small and inconclusive contest, and Jackson’s great victory may have had no impact on its course; but both the battle and the war played a central role in shaping the nation.

Check out the article at US News & World Report.

For a complete list of events commemorating the Battle of New Orleans Centennial, check out www.battleofneworleans2015.com

I'm fascinated by history, and by how much can be forgotten in such a relatively short period time. The details fade away and only legend remains. I always look forward to such an anniversary, for the opportunity to examine the specifics more closely.

For more information on the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans, check out the following:

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

LSU vs. Notre Dame in Music City Bowl

LSU vs Notre Dame - Music City Bowl - December 30, 2014

LSU vs Notre Dame - Music City Bowl - December 30, 2014

LSU vs Notre Dame - Music City Bowl - December 30, 2014

LSU vs Notre Dame - Music City Bowl - December 30, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – LSU coach Les Miles said Monday that the two most important games to win during a season in his mind is the first game of the year and the last one. The Tigers will look to accomplish that on Tuesday when 23rd-ranked LSU faces Notre Dame in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl here at LP Field.

LSU, which opened its 10th season under Miles back in late August with a 28-24 win over Wisconsin in an NFL venue in Houston, will look to win its 9th game of the year on Tuesday. The Tigers, who are appearing in a bowl for a school-record 15th straight season, have won at least eight games for 15 consecutive years, the longest streak of any school in a Power 5 Conference.

LSU is 8-4 overall, while Notre Dame is 7-5. The Irish have lost four straight and five their last six after starting the year 6-0.

Kickoff between LSU and Notre Dame is scheduled for 2:02 p.m. at the home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans – LP Field – where a crowd of 60,000 is expected to be on hand. Both LSU and Notre Dame sold its entire allotment of tickets for what will be the first meeting between the teams since the Tigers posted a 41-14 win over the Irish in the 2007 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

Tuesday’s game will be televised on ESPN with Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore and Jessica Mendoza on the call. The game will also be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network and in the GeauxZone on LSUsports.net with Jim Hawthorne, Doug Moreau and Gordy Rush calling the action.

Against Notre Dame, the Tigers will face an Irish team that has opted to go with sophomore Malik Zaire at quarterback. Zaire will be making his first career starter and has played in just six games during his brief career, completing 9-of-20 passes for 170 yards and no touchdowns. The Irish are also expecting for senior Everett Golson to see action at the position tomorrow. Golson, who led the Irish to the national championship game in 2012, has started all 12 games this year, throwing for over 3,300 yards and 29 touchdowns.

“We recognize the challenge that Notre Dame presents with the two quarterbacks,” Miles said. “Both guys are really good players who are very talented and capable of making big plays. We will expect to see a similar offense with both guys; we just have to do a good job of defending them and play our style of defense.

“Watching film on them, they both can make plays with the ball whether it’s scripted or not. It’s going to be a challenge for us to slow them down.”

The Irish go into the LSU game averaging 33 points and 444.6 total yards per game (150.8 rushing, 293.8 passing).

The Tigers bring the Southeastern Conference’s No. 1 rated defense into the contest as LSU is allowing 305.8 total yards (143.5 rushing, 162.3 passing) per game. LSU ranks No. 2 in the SEC in both points allowed (16.4) and passing yards.

One of the keys for LSU’s defense success has been the emergence of sophomore linebacker Kendell Beckwith. Since being inserted into the lineup for the Florida game in week 6, Beckwith and the Tiger defense has allowed only 273.8 total yards (102.7 rushing, 171.2 passing) and 15.2 points during that span.

Beckwith finished the regular season with 68 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Junior linebacker Kwon Alexander leads a balanced LSU defense with 71 tackles, followed by senior safety Ronald Martin (66 tackles, 2 interceptions) and junior defensive end Danielle Hunter (64 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks).

Offensively, the Tigers will continue to rely on running the football behind its massive offensive line. The Tigers are averaging 219.5 rushing yards a game and they are led by true freshman Leonard Fournette's 891 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Terrence Magee is second on the team with 545 yards and three scores.

LSU’s running game will get a boost on Tuesday as senior Kenny Hilliard is expected to see action for the first time since injuring his shoulder against Alabama in early November. Hilliard has 431 yards and six touchdowns to his credit.

Sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings will make his second bowl start, and 13th overall, in the Music City Bowl. Jennings, who is 9-3 as a starter, has tossed for 1,460 yards and 10 touchdowns this year. Backup quarterback Brandon Harris could see action as well against the Irish.

“This is a young team that is maturing as we go,” Miles said. “We have had 12 practices and I think we are better than we’ve been. I think we have taken another step as a team. I’m looking forward to watching us play and see how the team that plays compares with the one that last played at Texas A&M in late November.”

LSU played perhaps one of its best offensive games of the season in its last outing, a 23-17 win over Texas A&M at the end of November. In that game, LSU accumulated 491 total yards, including 384 on the ground, while possessing the ball for 41 minutes during the game.

Against the Aggies, Fournette rushed for a career-best 146 yards and a TD, while Jennings added a career-best 119 yards on the ground to go along with 107 passing yards and a TD.

The Tiger offense will face a Notre Dame defense that is allowing 29.2 points and 401.5 total yards per game (161.7 rushing, 239.8 passing).

“There’s nowhere to hide against a team like LSU,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said on Monday. “They have an offense that has rushed for 300 yards in three SEC games this year. That’s very formidable. We are going to have be ready to handle that.”

Tuesday’s matchup is one of the most attractive during all of bowl season, pitting two of the most successful programs in college football history. LSU and Notre Dame have split its 10 previous meetings in a series that dates back to 1970 when the then-No.2 Irish blanked the then-No. 6 Tigers, 3-0, in South Bend.

“The matchup is strong,” Miles said. “These are two marquee college football teams meeting in a bowl game in a major city. I think our guys are fired up and I’m sure Notre Dame is as well. It’s two historic programs that have had a great deal of success and it should make a for a great bowl game.”

Check out the article at LSU Sports.

Geaux Tigers!!!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ESA Philae Probe Makes Space History!

Philae Probe Makes Space History - November 12, 2014

Philae Probe Makes Space History - November 12, 2014

The European Space Agency's Philae lander has made space history by successfully reaching the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The landing, which took place at 11:03 a.m. ET, was accompanied by rapturous scenes at the ESA’s control room in Darmstadt, Germany.

Philae is the first probe to land on a comet.

"This is a big step for human civilization," said ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain, during a press conference in the Darmstadt control room.

Just before 1 p.m. ET ESA released an image of the comet taken by Philae during its descent, when the lander was about 2 miles above the surface of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Earlier on Wednesday, the ESA released the first image of its Philae lander separating from the Rosetta mothership on its ambitious mission toward the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The separation, which took place around 4 a.m. ET, marked the start of a 7-hour journey to the comet’s surface. The Rosetta spacecraft and its Philae lander have been on a decade-long mission through the solar system to rendezvous with the comet.

The comet, which is about 2.5 miles wide, travels at speeds up to 84,000 miles per hour.

The washing machine-sized lander was designed to drift down to the comet and latch on using harpoons and screws. During the descent, scientists were powerless to do anything but watch, because the vast distance to Earth — 311 million miles — made it impossible to send instructions in real time.

“The harpoon is going down, we’re sitting on the surface,” said an ESA official in the agency’s control room, shortly after 11 a.m. ET.

Later, however, Philae's telemetry data suggested that the probe experienced something of a bumpy landing.

Indications were that the spacecraft touched down almost perfectly, save for an unplanned bounce, said Stephan Ulamec, head of the lander operation.

Thrusters that were meant to push the lander onto the comet's surface, and harpoons that would have anchored it to the comet failed to deploy properly. Initial data from the spacecraft indicated that it lifted off again, turned and then came to rest.

"Today we didn't just land once; we maybe even landed twice," said Ulamac.

Scientists were still trying to fully understand what happened but so far most of the instruments are working fine and sending back data as hoped, he added.

The plan is that Rosetta and Philae will accompany the comet as it hurtles toward the sun and becomes increasingly active as it heats up. Using 21 different instruments, they will collect data that scientists hope will help explain the origins of comets and other celestial bodies.

The $1.6 billion mission launched in 2004.

Check out the article at Fox News.

Technology is awesome! Be sure to check out the Rosetta page at the European Space Agency website

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

F-35C Completes First Arrested Carrier Landing

F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter Makes Aviation History with First Arrested Carrier Landing - November 3, 2014

F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter Makes Aviation History with First Arrested Carrier Landing - November 3, 2014

F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter Makes Aviation History with First Arrested Carrier Landing - November 3, 2014

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Navy made aviation history Nov. 3 as an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant Joint Strike Fighter conducted its first arrested landing aboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of San Diego.

Navy test pilot Cmdr. Tony Wilson landed F-35C test aircraft CF-03 at 12:18 p.m. aboard USS Nimitz's (CVN 68) flight deck.

The arrested landing is part of initial at-sea Developmental Testing I (DT-I) for the F-35C, which commenced Nov. 3 and is expected to last two weeks.

"Today is a landmark event in the development of the F-35C," said Wilson, a Navy test pilot with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23. "It is the culmination of many years of hard work by a talented team of thousands. I'm very excited to see America's newest aircraft on the flight deck of her oldest aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz."

Commander, Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. David H. Buss, was aboard Nimitz to witness the milestone event.

"What a historic day today is for Naval Aviation. With the first traps of the F-35C Lightning II aboard an aircraft carrier, we begin the integration of the next generation of warfighting capability into our carrier-based air wings," said Buss. "This important milestone is yet another indicator of Naval Aviation's ongoing evolution to meet future threats and remain central to our future Navy and National Defense Strategy."

DT-I is the first of three at-sea test phases planned for the F-35C. During DT-I, the test team from the F-35 Lightning II Pax River Integrated Test Force (ITF) has scheduled two F-35C test aircraft from Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Patuxent River, Maryland to perform a variety of operational maneuvers, including various catapult takeoffs and arrested landings. ITF flight test operations also encompass general maintenance and fit tests for the aircraft and support equipment, as well as simulated maintenance operations.

As with the initial testing of any new aircraft, the goal is to collect environmental data through added instrumentation to measure the F-35C's integration to flight deck operations and to further define the F-35C's operating parameters aboard the aircraft carrier.

The ITF test team will analyze data obtained during flight test operations, conduct a thorough assessment of how well the F-35C operated in the shipboard environment, and advise the Navy to make any adjustments necessary to ensure that the fifth-generation fighter is fully capable and ready to deploy to the fleet in 2018.

"Our F-35 integrated test team has done an amazing job preparing for today. This will be one landing out of thousands more that will happen over the next few decades," said Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, F-35 Program Executive Officer. "For months, we've been working with the Nimitz crew, Naval Air Forces, and our industry partners, Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney, as well as their suppliers, to prepare and train for this event. We plan on learning a lot during this developmental test and will use that knowledge to make the naval variant of the F-35 an even more effective weapons platform."

The F-35C combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fused targeting, cutting-edge avionics, advanced jamming, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment. With a broad wingspan, reinforced landing gear, ruggedized structures and durable coatings, the F-35C is designed to stand up to harsh shipboard conditions while delivering a lethal combination of fighter capabilities to the fleet.

The F-35C will enhance the flexibility, power projection, and strike capabilities of carrier air wings and joint task forces and will complement the capabilities of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which currently serves as the Navy's premier strike fighter.

By 2025, the Navy's aircraft carrier-based air wings will consist of a mix of F-35C, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers electronic attack aircraft, E-2D Hawkeye battle management and control aircraft, MH-60R/S helicopters and Carrier Onboard Delivery logistics aircraft.

The successful recovery of the F-35C represents a step forward in the development of the Navy's next generation fighter and reinforces Navy-industry partnership goals to deliver the operational aircraft to the fleet in 2018.

Check out the article at Navy Live.

This is one awesome piece of technology! Despite the haters' legit points about the drawbacks of a single-engine fighter-bomber over open ocean and limited maneuvering abilities in dogfight situations. No worries, they'll still have the Hornets to bail them out for a while yet!

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Monday, November 03, 2014

World Trade Center Reopens for Business!

World Trade Center is open for business - November 3, 2014

World Trade Center is open for business - November 3, 2014

One World Trade Center - New York Building Height Comparison

World Trade Center sitemap - November 3, 2014

Thirteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attack, World Trade Center is opening for business again.

Conde Nast will start moving Monday into One World Trade Center, a 104-story, $3.9 billion skyscraper that dominates the Manhattan skyline.

It's the centerpiece of the 16-acre site where the decimated twin towers once stood and where more than 2,700 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, buried under smoking mounds of fiery debris.

"The New York City skyline is whole again, as One World Trade Center takes its place in Lower Manhattan," said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that owns both the building and the World Trade Center site.

He said One World Trade Center "sets new standards of design, construction, prestige and sustainability; the opening of this iconic building is a major milestone in the transformation of Lower Manhattan into a thriving 24/7 neighborhood."

With the construction fences gone, America’s tallest building is considered by Conde Nast CEO Chuck Townsend as the, “most secure office building in America.”

About 3,000 employees will join the 170 expected to move in Monday in 2015. The publishing giants will take over five floors of the building.

The building is 60 percent leased, with another 80,000 square feet going to the advertising firm Kids Creative, the stadium operator Legends Hospitality, the BMB Group investment adviser, and Servcorp, a provider of executive offices.

The tower overlooks the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Its aim is to honor those who died in the terrorist attacks.

For years, the grisly pit where workers found mostly body parts was dubbed the "ground zero" of the aerial terror attack.

At night, the incandescent steel-and-glass behemoth can be seen from vessels in New York Harbor approaching Manhattan.

Soon, an observation deck will be open to the public.

The eight-year construction of the 1,776-foot high skyscraper came after years of political, financial and legal infighting that threatened to derail the project.

The bickering slowly died down as two other towers started going up on the southeast end of the site: the now completed 4 World Trade Center whose anchor tenant is the Port Authority, and 3 World Trade Center that's slowly rising.

Check out the article at Fox News.

This building is a work of art! Even better, it is a bold statement to the terrorists that you can't keep us down... we just come back stronger!!!

NEVER FORGET 9-11!!!

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!!!

Iron Maiden's Live After Death

Iron Maiden's Live After Death

Iron Maiden's Eddie as the Grim Reaper

The Headless Horseman

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in).

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.

The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

Check out the article at History.com.

Happy Halloween!!!

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