The Birdmen


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Will people finally be able to fly long distances without a plane? John Andres investigates

People have dreamt of flying since written history began. In the 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci drew detailed plans for human flying machines. You might have thought the invention of mechanised flight would have put an end to such ideas. Far from it For many enthusiasts, the ultimate flight fantasy is the jet pack, a small piece of equipment on your back which enables you to climb vertically into the air and fly forwards, backwards and turn. Eric Scott was a stuntman in. Hollywood for about a decade and has strapped jet packs to his back more than 600 times and propelled himself hundreds of metres into the air. Now he works for an energy-drink company that pays him to travel around the world with his jet pack. As Scott says: `I get to do what I love and wherever I go I advertise Go Fast drinks. Existing packs work for little more than 30 seconds, but people are working on designs which let you fly around for 20 minutes. That would be amazing,’ says Scott.

Paramotoring is another way of getting into the, air. It combines the sort of parachute used in paragliding with a small engine and propeller and is now becoming popular. Chris Clarke has been flying a paramotor for five years. ‘Getting about is roughly comparable with driving a petrol-powered car in terms of expense. The trouble is that paramotoring is ill-suited to commuting because of the impossibility of taking off in strong winds,’ says Clarke.

Another keen paramotorist recently experienced a close call when in the air. ‘I started to get a warm feeling in my back’ says Patrick Vandenbulcke. thought I was just sweating. But then I started to feel burning and I realized I had to get to the ground fast. After an inspection of the engine later, I noticed that the exhaust pipe had moved during the flight and the harness had started melting.’ This hasn’t put Vandenbulcke off, however, and he is enthusiastic about persuading others to take up paramotoring. However he warns: Although it seems cheaper to try to teach yourself, you will regret it later as you won’t have a good technique.’ A training course will cost over £1,000, while the equipment costs a few thousand pounds. You may pick up cheaper equipment secondhand, however. There was one pre-used kit advertised on a website, with a bit of damage to the cage and tips of the propellers due to a rough landing. `Scared myself to death,’ the seller reported, ‘hence the reason for this sale.’

Fun though it is, paramotoring is not in the same league as the acrobatics demonstrated by Yves Rossy. He has always enjoyed being a daredevil showman. He once parachuted from a plane above Lake Geneva and intentionally skimming the top of a fountain as he landed, he ,descended to the lake where he grabbed some water ski equipment and started waterskiing while the crowd watched open-mouthed.

Rossy, who has been labelled ‘the Birdman’, was born in 1959 in Switzerland. After flying planes for the air force from the ages of 20 to 28, he went on to do a job as a pilot with a commercial airline from 1988 to 2000. The cockpit of a plane is the most beautiful office in the world,’ he says, but I didn’t have any contact with the air around me. It was a bit like being in a box or a submarine under water.’ From then on, he therefore concentrated on becoming the first jet-powered flying man.

In May 2008, he stepped out of an aircraft at about 3000 metres. Within seconds he was soaring and diving at over 290 kph, at one point reaching 300 kph, about 104 kph faster than the typical falling skydiver. His speed was monitored by a plane flying alongside. Rossy started his flight with a free fall, then he powered four jet turbines to keep him in the air before releasing a parachute which enabled him to float to the ground. The jet turbines are attached to special wings which he can unfold. The wings were manufactured by a German firm called JCT Composites. Initially he had approached a company called Jet-Kit which specialised in miniature planes, but the wings they made for him weren’t rigid enough to support the weight of the engines. Rossy says he has become the first person to maintain a stable horizontal flight, thanks to aerodynamic carbon foldable wings.’ Without these special wings, it is doubtful he would have managed to do this

Rossy’s ambitions include flying down the Grand Canyon. To do this, he will have to fit his wings with bigger, more powerful jets. The engines he currently uses already provide enough thrust to allow him to climb through the air, but then he needs the power to stay there. In terms of the physical strength involved, Rossy insists it’s no more difficult than riding a motorbike. But even the slightest change in position can cause problems. I have to focus hard on relaxing in the air, because if you put tension in your body, you start to swing round.’ If he makes it other fliers will want to know whether they too will someday be able to soar. The answer is yes, possibly, but it is unlikely to be more than an expensive hobby.

Snake Oil


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Back in the days of America’s Wild West, when cowboys roamed the range and people were getting themselves caught up in gunfights, a new phrase — ‘snake oil’ — entered the language. It was a dismissive term for the patent medicines, often useless, sold by travelling traders who always claimed miraculous cures for everything from baldness to snakebite.

Selling ‘snake oil’ was almost as risky a business as cattle stealing; you might be run out of town if your particular medicine, as you realised it would, failed to live up to its claims. Consequently, the smarter ‘snake oil’ sellers left town before their customers had much chance to evaluate the ‘cure’ they had just bought.

The remarkable thing about many of the medicines dismissed then as ‘snake oil’ is not so much that they failed to live up to the outrageous claims made for them — those that weren’t harmless coloured water could be positively dangerous. What’s remarkable is that so many of the claims made for some of these remedies, or at least their ingredients, most of them plant based, have since been found to have at least some basis in fact.

One, Echinacea, eventually turned out to be far more potent than even its original promoter claimed. Echinacea first appeared in ‘Meyer s Blood Purifier’, promoted as a cure-all by a Dr H.C.F. Meyer — a lay doctor with no medical qualifications. ‘Meyer’s Blood Purifier’ claimed not only to cure snakebite, but also to eliminate a host of other ailments.

Native to North America, the roots of Echinacea, or purple coneflower, had been used by the Plains Indians for all kinds of ailments long before Meyer came along. They applied poultices of it to wounds and stings, used it for teeth and gum disease and made a tea from it to treat everything from colds and measles to arthritis. They even used it for snakebite.

Settlers quickly picked up on the plant’s usefulness but until Meyer sent samples of his John ‘blood purifier to Lloyd, a pharmacist, it remained a folk remedy. Initially dismissing Meyer’s claims as nonsense, Lloyd was eventually converted after a colleague, John King, tested the herb and successfully used it to treat bee stings and nasal congestion.

In fact, he went much further in his claims than Meyer ever did and by the 1890s a bottle of tincture¹ of Echinacea could be found in almost every American home, incidentally making a fortune for Lloyd’s company, Lloyd Brothers Pharmacy.

As modern antibiotics became available, the use of Echinacea products declined and from the 1940s to the 1970s it was pretty much forgotten in the USA. It was a different story in Europe, where both French and German herbalists and homeopaths continued to make extensive use of it.

It had been introduced there by Gerhard Madaus, who travelled from Germany to America in 1937, returning with seed to establish commercial plots of Echinacea. His firm conducted extensive research on echinacin, a concentrate they made from the juice of flowering tops of the plants he had brought back. It was put into ointments, liquids internal and external use, and into products for injections.

There is no evidence that Echinacea is effective against snakebite, but Dr Meyer — who genuinely believed in Echinacea — would probably be quite amused if he could come back and see the uses to which modern science has put ‘his’ herb. He might not be surprised that science has confirmed Echinacea’s role as a treatment for wounds, or it has been found to be helpful in relieving arthritis, both claims Meyer made for the herb.

He might though be surprised to learn how Echinacea is proving to be an effective weapon against all sorts of disease, particularly infections. German researchers had used it successfully to treat a range of infections and found it to be effective against bacteria and protozoa².

There are many other intriguing medical possibilities for extracts from the herb, but its apparent ability to help with our more common ailments has seen thousands of people become enthusiastic converts. Dozens of packaged products containing extracts of Echinacea can now be found amongst the many herbal remedies and supplements on the shelves of health stores and pharmacies. Many of those might be the modem equivalents of ‘snake oil’, but Echinacea at least does seem to have some practical value.

Echinacea is a dry prairie plant, drought-resistant and pretty tolerant of most soils, although it does best in good soil with plenty of sun. Plants are usually grown from seed but they are sometimes available from nurseries. Echinacea is a distinctive perennial with erect, hairy, spotted stems up to a metre tall. Flower heads look like daisies, with purple rayed florets and a dark brown central cone. The leaves are hairy; the lower leaves are oval to lance-shaped and coarsely and irregularly toothed.

There are nine species of Echinacea in all but only three are generally grown for medicinal use. All have similar medicinal properties. Most European studies have used liquid concentrates extracted from the tops of plants, whereas extraction in the USA has usually been from the roots. Today most manufacturers blend both, sometimes adding flowers and seeds to improve the quality.

For the home grower, the roots of all species seem equally effective. Dig them up in autumn after the tops have died back after the first frost. Wash and dry them carefully and store them in glass containers. You can harvest the tops throughout the summer and even eat small amounts of leaf straight from the plant.

Even if you don’t make your fortune from this herb, there are few sights more attractive than a field of purple coneflowers in all their glory. And with a few Echinacea plants nearby, you’ll never go short of a cure.

¹ a liquid containing a special ingredient

²  a type of micro-organism

STUDYING IN SYDNEY, – AN OVERVIEW FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS


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A

Australia has been a popular choice for thousands of international students over many years. Australia’s universities and colleges have become increasingly recognised overseas for their exceptionally high standard. In addition, Australia is conveniently close to South-East Asia (Jakarta, the capital of Australia’s closest Asian neighbour, Indonesia, is only 5506 kilometres from Sydney). Revised entry procedures for overseas students have made it possible for an increasing number to study in Australia. Sydney, the largest Australian city, is the principal port of call for international airlines with services operating to Australia.

B

Named after an ex-Governor of New South Wales, Sydney is the State’s capital city. Located on the south-east coast of Australia in the temperate zone, it enjoys a mild climate, averaging 14.5 hours of sunshine per day in summer and 10.25 hours in winter. It is also the largest, oldest, and perhaps most beautifully situated city in Australia. First established by the British as a convict settlement in 1788, it is a modern cosmopolitan city that has developed into one of the nation’s major industrial, business, and manufacturing centres.

C

Sydney is home to nearly 4.9 million people (as of 2010). The suburbs reach out from the city centre and harbour some 55 km to the north, 35 km to the west and 30 km to the south, creating a metropolitan area of about 3000 square kilometres. The 57 square kilometre harbour is one of the largest in the world, and famous for the unmistakable 134 metre high arch of the Harbour Bridge and the graceful sails of the Opera House. It is a busy waterway with ferries, freighters, hydrofoils and pleasure craft.

D

Not far from the city centre are the attractive old residential suburbs of Balmain, Glebe, and Paddington, where many people live in smart terraced houses.  Art galleries, pubs, and restaurants abound in the cosy streets that tend to be quite narrow, whereas the suburbs surrounding the city’s colleges and universities consist mainly of family homes and multi-unit blocks – an ideal situation for students looking for a homestay, or to rent. Sydney’s newer suburbs now have a large multicultural population, and local shopping centres reflect the influences of many cultures.

E

Sydney is home to the State Art Gallery of New South Wales, the State Conservatorium of Music, the Australian Opera, the Sydney Dance Company, and the Australian Ballet. The world-class Sydney Symphony Orchestra offers superb classical music all year round. Local theatre is innovative and well supported, and large-scale overseas productions tour regularly.

F

As well as scores of cinemas and theatres throughout the city and suburbs, there are numerous clubs which appeal to people of all ages, and cater for all tastes. Pubs are the venue for smaller modern bands, while the big-name popular music artists, both local and international, attract capacity audiences at the huge Entertainment Centre in the heart of the city.

Dining Out

In Sydney, a vast array of ethnic and local restaurants can be found to suit all palates and pockets. In summer, café patrons often sit outside at tables under umbrellas, and enjoy the passing parade of shoppers. Students who prefer to cook at home can choose from several large weekend markets, where fresh fruit, fish, and vegetables may be bought more cheaply than at the local supermarket. Sydney also has its own Chinatown.

Shopper’s Delight

In the heart of the city are several big department stores linked by enclosed over-the-street crossings and underground walkways. Most noticeable are the towering Centrepoint complex and the Queen Victoria Building, both containing many shopping arcades, coffee shops and restaurants. Out of town, in the suburbs, there are huge regional shopping centres. At the weekend markets, bargains can be had when shopping for clothing as well as for a wide range of assorted goods.

Sporting Facilities

Australia is recognised as one of the most sports-conscious nations in the world. Sydney boasts an impressive number of facilities for all types of indoor and outdoor sporting activities. Wherever one goes, there are golf courses, cricket pitches, football ovals, tennis and squash courts, and, of course, indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Avid ice-skating and ten-pin bowling fans will find that these activities are also popular and inexpensive.

Conclusion

Whatever a student is interested in, it is certain to be available somewhere in Sydney. Outside the colleges and universities the scope for filling the leisure hours is enormous, while on campus the choice is equally varied.

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Leadership and its various forms


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Leadership styles vary vastly, very observable differences being seen not only between companies and institutes but also within such bodies. On a more global basis, these types of leadership styles are used to govern countries the world over. Whether one particular leadership style is more effective than another, is dependent on whether the needs of a particular organisation or country are being met and those of the individuals who are subject to the authority or governing bodies concerned. In addition, as needs change, certain leadership styles may no longer be appropriate, necessitating the adoption of a new approach. Below the five main types of leadership styles are set out.

 Laissez-Faire

A laissez-faire leader does not directly supervise employees and does not set great store by regular feedback to those under his supervision. Whilst highly experienced and trained employees may thrive under this leadership style, those employees requiring supervision will tend to flounder when placed in this situation. The real downside to the laissez-faire approach is the lack of leadership and supervision that can result in an escalation of costs, poor production and lack of control.

Autocratic

Epitomising this type of leadership style are the countries of Cuba and North Korea. Autocratic leadership denies the right of the individual to challenge the authority of the leader who imposes their will on those around him. It is deemed unacceptable to challenge the leader’s decisions. In a working environment, those who respond best to this kind of leadership are individuals requiring clear guidance and decisions made on their behalf. Those least suited to the autocratic leadership style are creative employees who require a considerable degree of autonomy.

Participative

Participative leadership is synonymous with the democratic leadership style. Unlike autocratic style leaderships, the contribution of team members and peers is welcomed. The participative leader will, however, have the final say in any decision-making process. This style of leadership has the effect of boosting employee morale since employees are free to make contributions to the decision-making process-which in turn makes them feel valued by the company concerned. Since the leadership-employee role is more interactive in other forms of leadership, changes within a company are more readily accepted by employees since they play a role in the process.

Transactional

This leadership style is highly results-oriented. Input from employees amounts to setting predetermined goals with team managers, employees then following the direction and leadership of the manager to accomplish those goals. A system of rewards and punishments is set up by team managers to ensure tasks are satisfactorily completed.

Transformational

Whilst this type of leadership is goal-oriented as with transactional styles of leadership, transformational leaders play a more prominent role in the workplace, ensuring goals are attained by employees. Managers who adopt this type of leadership role, maintain a high visibility and open communication with employees, acting as motivators and enhancing productivity to meet goals. Such managers will tend to delegate smaller tasks to the team to accomplish goals.

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London Walking Tours – Infomative


London Architecture Walks

A professional interest is not a prerequisite to enjoy this leisurely tour of London’s most prominent buildings. Taking in a range of architectural designs spanning several centuries, this tour will delight young and old alike. Routes vary so please call in advance for details of daily departure points.

Tel: 020 4578 8894

Contact: londonarchitecturewalks.co.uk

Jack the Ripper Walks

Retrace the final steps of the Ripper’s with renowned Ripper expert, David Thomson. Places are limited and tickets are sold on a first-come-first-served basis. Concessions available for under 14s. Tours weather-permitting.

Daily departures from Aldgate East underground station at 19:00

  • Original London Sightseeing Walks

This well-established tour is always well-subscribed. Come rain or shine, we will take you on what is the most comprehensive tour of London. Taking in the familiar sights as well as the more tucked-away treasures of the capital, you will improve your knowledge of London as well as be entertained by our knowledgeable, fully-qualified guides en route. Combined tickets for city walk and bus tour available with special discount.

 

London Duck Tours

See London from an entirely new perspective as you plunge into the River Thames on your semi-submersible World War II DUKW vehicle. Cruise past major London landmarks before re-emerging upstream at Westminster Bridge for our land-based tour. Multiple daily departures from 10.30am.

 

Contact: londonducktours.co.uk

Departure point: Waterloo railway station

Big Bus Tours

Non-stop multilingual tours from 9am-7pm around the city’s very best sights. A hop-on hop-off ticket with 50 stops. Tickets valid for 24 hours, plus three free walking tours and a River Thames Cruise pass included.

Departure: Charing Cross underground and railway station.

Tel: 020 4635 8896

Indian fashion and textile industries


During the 1950s, the Indian fashion scene was exciting, stylish and very graceful. There were no celebrity designers or models, nor were there any labels that were widely recognized. The value of a garment was judged by its style and fabric rather than by who made it. It was regarded as perfectly acceptable, even for high-society women, to approach an unknown tailor who could make a garment for a few rupees, providing the perfect fit, finish and style. They were proud of getting a bargain, and of giving their own name to the end result.

The 1960s was an era full of mischievousness and celebration in the arts, music and cinema. The period was characterized by freedom from restrictions and, in the fashion world, an acceptance of innovative types of material such as plastic and coated polyester. Tight-fitting kurtas and churidars and high coiffures were a trend among women.

The following decade witnessed an increase in the export of traditional materials, and the arrival in India of international fashion. Synthetics became trendy, and the disco culture affected the fashion scene.

It was in the early 80s when the first fashion store ‘Ravissant’ opened in Mumbai. At that time garments were retailed for a four-figure price tag. American designers like Calvin Klein became popular. In India too, contours became more masculine, and even the salwar kameez was designed with shoulder pads.

With the evolution of designer stores came the culture of designer fashion, along with its hefty price tags. Whatever a garment was like, consumers were convinced that a higher price tag signified elegant designer fashion, so garments were sold at unbelievable prices. Meanwhile, designers decided to get themselves noticed by making showy outfits and associating with the right celebrities. Soon, fashion shows became competitive, each designer attempting to out-do the other in theme, guest list and media coverage.

In the last decade of millennium, the market shrank and ethnic wear made a comeback. During the recession, there was a push to sell at any cost. With fierce competition the inevitable occurred: the once hefty price tags began their download journey, and the fashion-show industry followed suit. However, the liveliness of the Indian fashion scene had not ended – it had merely reached a stable level.

At the beginning of 21st century, with new designers and models, and more sensible designs, the fashion industry accelerated once again. As far as the global fashion industry is concerned, Indian ethnic designs and materials are currently in demand from fashion houses and garment manufacturers. India is the third largest producer of cotton, the second largest producer of silk, and the fifth largest producer of man-made fibres in the world.

The Indian garment and fabric industries have many fundamental advantages, in terms of cheaper, skilled work force, cost-effective production, raw materials, flexibility and a wide range of designs with sequins, beadwork and embroidery. In addition, that India provides garments to international fashion houses at competitive prices, with a shorter lead time, and an effective monopoly on certain designs, is accepted the whole world over. India has always been regarded as the default source in the embroidered garment segment, but changes in the rate of exchange between the rupee and the dollar has further depressed prices, thereby attracting more buyers. So the international fashion houses walk away with customized goods, and craftwork is sold at very low rates.

As far as the fabric market is concerned, the range available in India an attract as well as confuse the buyer. Much of the production takes place in the small town of Chapa in the eastern state of Bihar, a name one might never have heard of. Here fabric-making is a family industry; the range and quality of raw silks churned out here belie the crude production methods and equipment. Surat in Gujrat, is the supplier of an amazing set of jacquards, moss crepes and georgette sheers – all fabrics in high demand. Another Indian fabric design that has been adopted by the fashion industry is the ‘Madras check’, originally utilized for the universal lungi, a simple lower-body wrap worn in southern India. This design has now found its way on to bandannas, blouses, home furnishings and almost anything one can think of.

Ethinic Indian designs with batik and hand-embroidered motifs have also become popular across the world. Decorative bead work is another product in demand in the international market. Beads are used to prepare accessory items like belts and bags, and beadwork is now available for haute couture evening wear too.

The world’s largest organism – Fungus


If you are asked what the largest organism in the world is, what would your answer be? A blue whale or a redwood tree? Or perhaps a giant squid? You would be wrong. But this is understandable because the world’s largest organism is largely hidden from sight and was discovered only relatively recently in 1998 in the soil of Oregon’s Blue Mountains. It is a fungus nearly ten square kilometers in area and one metre deep. It may be not only the largest single organism in the world but also one of the oldest. Based on its current rate of growth, the fungus is thought to be around 2,400 years old; however it is also possible that it has been growing for the past 8,650 years. Commonly known as the honey mushroom, the only visible evidence for the organism on the surface is groups of golden mushrooms that grow in forests during autumn.

The discovery of organism came about when Catherine Parks, a scientist at the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Oregon, heard about trees dying from root rot in a forest east of Prairie City. Using aerial photographs, she identified an area of dying trees stretching over a 5.6 kilometre area. She then collected samples from the root of these trees. When she looked at the samples, Parks were able to confirm that many of the samples were infected by the same organism; the fungus had grown bigger than any other creature known to science. A combination of good genes and stable conditions has enabled it to spread. In addition, the dry climate of the region makes it difficult for new fungi to establish themselves and compete with established fungi.

The technique of identifying the fungus was developed in 1992, when the first gigantic fungus was discovered in Michigan. A PhD biology student, Myron Smith, discovered it in a hardwood forest, when he and his team were trying to find the boundaries of individual fungi. After a year of testing, they still had not found the boundary of a particular fungus. The next things they did was develop new genetic tests to see if the DNA from the samples was from a single individual fungus and not closely related to individuals. Eventually, they realized that they had found a 1,500-year-olde fungus that weighted over 90 metric tonnes.

The honey mushroom fungus is the cause of a root disease that kills many trees in the US and Canada. It has fine filaments or tubes that grow along tree roots and connect together to form a mat. The mat then slowly consumes the food source: it produces chemicals that digest carbohydrates from the tree and interfere with the tree’s ability to absorb water and nutrients, eventually leading to the death of the host organism. As well as producing feeding filaments, the honey fungus is able to spread by producing string-like growths that reach out to find new potential food sources. The fungus spread very slowly over hundreds of years, seeking out food and killing its victims. Not surprisingly, forest service scientists are interesting in learning to control the fungus but they also realize that it has an important role to play in the forest’s ecology.

Fungi have both beneficial and harmful effects. They are essential because they decompose or break down waste matter on the forest floor and recycle nutrients. They are also central to many processes that are important to humans: they are vital to the process of making many kinds of food, including cheese bread and wine. They have been used in the production of medicines and particularly antibiotics. Even the golden mushrooms produced by the honey mushroom fungus are edible, though apparently not very tasty. On the other hand, fungi also form a major group of organism harmful to plants and animals. Some mushrooms produced by fungi, such as the death cap mushroom and the fool’s mushroom, are extremely poisonous to humans. Fungi can spoil food which has been stored, and of course they can kill trees and other plants.

Although to humans the idea of an enormous organism silently growing underground seems very strange, Tom Volk, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, explains that this may be in the nature of things for a fungus. ‘We think that these things are not very rare,’ he says. ‘We think that they’re in fact normal.’

The Kuiper Belt


Located in a region of the Solar System beyond the planets (from 30 AU at Neptune’s orbit to circa 55AU from the Sun), the kuiper Belt, or Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt as many scientists prefer to c…

Source: The Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt


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Located in a region of the Solar System beyond the planets (from 30 AU at Neptune’s orbit to circa 55AU from the Sun), the kuiper Belt, or Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt as many scientists prefer to call it, is similar to an asteroid belt though for greater in size, being 20 times as wide and potentially 200 times as massive. Like asteroid belts, the Kuiper is composed of small celestial bodies, the scattered remnants – the leftover junk if you like from the formation of the Solar System, but unlike asteroid belts whose objects are largely composed of rock and metal, the Kuiper’s objects consist of what are termed ‘frozen volatiles’: methane, ammonia and water in ice form, for example. Another significant differentiating factor between the Kuiper and asteroid belts is the presence in the former of at least four dwarf planets, the most well-known of which is Pluto, which, until 2006, was actually classed as a planet in its own right. The belt has also previously been home to other large objects such as Saturn’s moon Phoebe and Neptune’s Triton, which originated in the region before coming under the influence of the gravitational forces of their respective planets.

Though the existence of a phenomenon like the belt had been hypothesised for some time, its existence wasn’t officially confirmed until 1992, since when over one thousand Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) have been officially observed. On the basis of what we know about the region, it is speculated that the actual number of KBOs measuring over 100km in diameter is far in excess of the 1000 objects already confirmed and closer to a figure in the region of 70,000. Initially, it was speculated that the Kuiper region was responsible for the appearance of most periodic comets (comets whose orbit lasts less than 200 years), but studies conducted in the mid-90s appear to contradict this assumption and cast the Kuiper region as one which is dynamically stable and, thus, not the repository of periodic comets it was originally assumed to be. Instead, the true source of periodic comets is now thought to be in the father regions of the Solar System outside of the Kuiper Belt in an area referred to as the scattered disc, thought to have been created by the outward motion of Neptune several billion years ago. Scattered-disk objects are KBO-like bodies with orbits which take them as far as 100 AU from the Sun, far beyond the 50 AU boundary of the Kuiper Belt itself.

Pluto is the largest-known Kuiper Belt object and also the tenth most massive body observed directly orbiting the Sun. It was reclassified a Dwarf Planet after it was discovered to be more similar compositionally to KBOs than the major planets, being comprised of rock and ice. Its orbital period is also identical to that of another group of KBOs, referred to as plutinos in its honor. Alongside Pluto, a further three dwarf planets have now been observed within the Kuiper Belt, and these are collectively referred to as plutoids: another planet tribute to the former planet.

The Kuiper’s close proximity to Neptune has a profound effect on its structure due to the consequent orbital resonance (gravitational influence) at work on it. Neptune’s gravity destabilises the orbits of objects lying within certain regions of the Kuiper, doing one of two things: either sending them farther out into the scattered disc region of interstellar space, or into the linear Solar System. For this reason, the Kuiper is characterised by a series of pronounced gaps in its current layout, similar to the gaps present in the asteroid belt on which gravitational forces are also constantly at work.

The classical belt is the region of the kuiper between 42-48 AU. Here the gravitational influence of Neptune is negligible, so KBOs can exist in their original orbits, largely unmolested. This region accounts for about two-thirds of all KBOs observed to date. Within the classical belt are two distinct populations of KBO defined by their differing orbits. The ‘dynamically hot’ population is characterised by more pronounced elliptical orbits. Not only are the populations at odds in their orbits, they are also compositionally distinct. The cold population has red hue not evident in the hot population (the names cold and hot are not in any way indicative of temperature). It is thought that the hot population therefore formed in a different region near Jupiter before being ejected outward by movements among the gas giants, whereas the cold formed roughly where it is still situated, just outside of the orbital range of Neptune.

Man vs Man – Black & White


Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. He had an older sister, Willie Christine King, and a younger brother Alfred Daniel Williams King. Growing up in Atlanta, king attended Booker T. Washington High School. He skipped ninth and twelfth grade, and entered Morehouse College at age fifteen without formally graduating from high school. From the time that Martin was born, he knew that black people and white people had different rights in certain parts of America. If a black family wanted to eat at a restaurant, they had to sit in a separate section of the restaurant. They had to sit at the back of the cinema, and even use separate toilets. Worse, and perhaps even more humiliating still, in many southern states, if a black man was on a bus and all the seats were taken, he would have to endure the indignity of relinquishing his own seat to a white man. King could never understand the terrible injustice of this. In 1948, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. Later, King began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955. King married Coretta Scott, on June 18, 1953 and they had four children.

Returning to the South to become pastor of a Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King first achieved national renown when he helped mobilise the black boycott of the Montgomery bus system in 1955. This was organised after Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man – in the segregated south, black people could only sit at the back of the bus. The 382-day boycott led the bus company to change its regulations, and the Supreme Court declared such segregation unconstitutional.

In 1957 King was active in the organisation of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference (SCLC), formed to co-ordinate protests against discrimination. He advocated non-violent direct action based on the methods of Gandhi, who led protests against British rule in India culminating in India’s independence in 1947. In 1963, King led mass protests against discriminatory practices in Birmingham, Alabama, where the white population were violently resisting desegregation. The city was dubbed ‘Bombingham’ attacks against civil rights protesters increased, and King was arrested and jailed for his part in the protests.

After his release, King participated in the enormous civil rights march, in Washington, in August 1963, and delivered his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, predicting a day when the promise of freedom and equality for all would become a reality in America. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel peace Prize. In 1965, he led a campaign to register blacks to vote. The same year the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act outlawing the discriminatory practices that had barred blacks from voting in the south. 

As the civil rights movement became increasingly radicalised, King found that his message of peaceful protest was not shared by many in the younger generation. King began to protest against the Vietnam War and poverty levels in the US. On March 29, 1968, king went to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of the black sanitary public works employees who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident, black street repairmen had received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees had been paid for the full day. King could not bear to stand by and let such patent acts of racism go unnoticed. He moved to unite his people, and all the peoples of America on the receiving end of discriminatory practices, to protest for their rights, peacefully and steadfastly. 

On the trip to Memphis, King was booked onto room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, owned by Walter Bailey. King was shot at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968 while he was standing on the motel’s second-floor balcony. King was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where doctors opened his chest and performed manual heart massage. He was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. King’s autopsy revealed that although he was only 39 years  old, he had the heart of a 60 year old man.

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