UP, UP AND WAY AWAY
Would you take a balloon ride to the very edge of space? The Washington Post reports on a Tucson company offering helium balloon rides that would take customers in a pressurized capsule to the dizzying height of 100,000 feet, or roughly three times the height of your average airplane ride. For the hefty price of $75,000 (U.S.) apiece, passengers would ascend for 111/2 hours, followed by two hours admiring the planet from above. “The sky’s going to be completely black,” said Jane Poynter, co-founder of Paragon Space Development. “You’ll be able to see the curvature of the Earth.” In the next stage, the capsule would disconnect from the balloon and go into free-fall as a parafoil allows it to glide gracefully to the Earth’s surface. The company plans to begin the flights in the next three years.
THE BUZZ ON BEES
Which is tougher: the bee or the dinosaur? Livescience.com reports on a new study indicating that the ancestors of modern carpenter bees actually died out with the dinosaurs, but the bees made a comeback. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire examined the DNA of four types of carpenter bees belonging to the group Xylocopinae from every continent except Antarctica in search of clues to their evolutionary beginnings. Scientists noticed something odd with all four groups, starting 65 million years ago at the handover point of the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods. “We found this mass extinction event signature in the DNA that just happened to correspond to the extinction of dinosaurs, which was a major change in the global diversity at the time,” said study author Sandra Rehan. The findings may help scientists better understand the current decline in the global bee population.
BEYOND THE PERSONAL
This just in: More than a quarter of Americans now get their news fix via Facebook. Mashable.com reports on a new study from the Pew Research Center that shows 30 per cent of Americans use Facebook as a daily news source. Of that number, 78 per cent said they routinely click on news links to media sites after they’ve logged on for unrelated reasons (such as checking out friends’ pictures or updating status). Over all, a mere 16 per cent of Facebook users say that catching up on the news is the main reason they log on. “People go to Facebook to share personal moments and they discover the news almost incidentally,” said Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew.
THOUGHT DU JOUR
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Philip K. Dick, author (1928-1982)