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  • Inside Australia's Tallest New Skyscraper


    • 'Into the Wild' bus removed from Alaska backcountry

      JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An abandoned bus in the Alaska backcountry, popularized by the book “Into the Wild” and movie of the same name, was removed Thursday, state officials said.

      The decision prioritizes public safety, Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said.

      The bus has long attracted adventurers to an area without cellphone service and marked by unpredictable weather and at-times swollen rivers. Some have had to be rescued or have died. Christopher McCandless, the subject of the book and movie, died there in 1992.

      The rescue earlier this year of five Italian tourists and death last year of a woman from Belarus intensified calls from local officials for the bus, about 25 miles from the Parks Highway, to be removed.

      “We encourage people to enjoy Alaska’s wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination,” she said in a release. “However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts. More importantly, it was costing some visitors their lives."

      McCandless, a 24-year-old from Virginia, was prevented from seeking help by the swollen banks of the Teklanika River. He died of starvation in the bus in 1992, and wrote in a journal about living in the bus for 114 days, right up to his death.

      The long-abandoned Fairbanks city bus became famous by the 1996 book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer, and a 2007 Sean Penn-directed movie of the same name.

      The Department of Natural Resources said the 1940s-era bus had been used by a construction company to house employees during work on an access road in the area and was abandoned when the work was finished in 1961.


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              • Star Trek The Next Generation Cast Celebrates Patrick Stewart's 80th Birthday In Masks

                Patrick Stewart is joined by several of his old Star Trek: The Next Generation castmates as the Picard actor celebrates his 80th birthday.

                Of course, the partygoers featured in the above image are from left to right, Worf actor Michael Dorn, Deanna Troi actress Marina Sirtis, Stewart himself, Beverly Crusher actress Gates McFadden, Data actor Brent Spiner and Geordi La Forge actor LeVar Burton. Sirtis and Spiner obviously already reunited with Stewart on Picard, and Data indeed saw the apparent end of his story as his disembodied consciousness was allowed to die after one last meeting with his former captain (Spiner has indicated that he won’t play Data again, but is open to returning to Picard to play another character). Jonathan Frakes also made his way to Picard season 1 but apparently was not available for the party (unless he was simply off-camera, perhaps making some burned tomato pizza).



                • Watch Comet Neowise Rise With The Dawn In This Stunning Time-Lapse Video

                  Many of you have been on comet watch as C/2020 F3, better known as Comet Neowise, has been putting on quite the sky show recently. However, for those of you not inclined to get up pre-dawn to catch a glimpse, have we got the video for you.

                  Not only do you get to see the comet in all its glory, but you also get to watch it rising above Earth with the Sun, thanks to spectacular footage from the International Space Station (ISS) that UK-based graphic artist Seán Doran has edited into a beautiful time-lapse video.

                  Discovered back in March, the comet has been visible to the naked eye for most of July, having survived its trip around the Sun on July 3, and now it's making its way towards Earth on its way out of the Solar System, giving photographers the chance to snap some pictures of a lifetime.

                  Astronauts aboard the ISS take hundreds of photos as they look down on Earth, sharing with us the spectacular views from their unique position and uploading them to a NASA image archive. Doran, who regularly processes NASA space imagery, edited the photographs into a time-lapse image sequence and converted it into a real-time video.

                  Sharing the video on twitter, Doran wrote: “Grab a cold beverage, turn off the lights, get undressed, get comfortable, and pop this on the big TV.”

                  We highly recommend doing just that (but in case you're in a hurry, the comet appears at 3.17).

                  The comet isn’t the only phenomenon captured in these images. The video also features a beautiful green airglow as the Sun rises and noctilucent, or “night-shining,” clouds.

                  An airglow is the natural “glow” of Earth’s atmosphere as Sunlight interacts with the molecules in the atmosphere. Nightglow, which shines brightest in green, is caused by Sunlight depositing energy into the atmosphere during the day, which is transferred to oxygen molecules. This extra energy causes the molecules to rip apart, forming individual oxygen atoms. When they eventually recombine, it releases energy in the form of light. Noctilucent clouds, however, glow blue, caused by the Sunlight bouncing off the ice particles in the upper atmosphere.

                  These views are incredible to us back on Earth, but if you're wondering if they get a bit old hat if you live on the ISS, the answer is no, space can still blow astronauts away. Speaking to The New York Times' The Daily Podcast from the ISS last week, astronaut Bob Behnken described being excited at seeing such an awesome sight and being able to share it.

                  "Right before the Sun came up, that comet became visible during that short period of time when it was still close to the Sun, but the Sun was still hidden by the Earth," Behnken said.

                  "It was just an awesome sight to be able to see, and something that we try to capture. In the few moments that we do have to look out the window, we try to... capture the exciting things that we can see to try to share our view with the folks back home, the folks that are still down on Earth, and just try to give them an appreciation for just how beautiful our planet is and how important it is that we do our best to take care of it."



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                    • Nevada OKs $200M in bonds for Vegas-to-SoCal high-speed train

                      LAS VEGAS (KSNV) — Nevada officials have approved issuing up to $200 million in state bonds for a high-speed train project connecting Las Vegas with Southern California.

                      The State Board of Finance unanimously approved the bond financing for XpressWest, the parent company of the Virgin Trains project, during a meeting Friday.

                      XpressWest will be able to issue the bonds at up to four times the state allocation, meaning they could be worth as much as $800 million.

                      The bonds could only be used for designing, developing and building facilities for the high-speed rail, and not for the trains themselves, said Terry J. Reynolds, director of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, during Friday's meeting.

                      The project also received approval for up to $750 million in bond allocation from the federal government.

                      A spokesman for the Nevada Treasurer's office said the bonds won't use any taxpayer dollars and wouldn't impact the state's ability to finance any future projects.

                      "This project is a long time coming to Nevada and I'm pleased to take this step forward to bring this vision to reality and bring additional jobs to our state," Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement.

                      The proposed high-speed train would begin at a station near Blue Diamond Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, run south along Interstate 15 and end in Victorville, California.

                      State officials expect the project to result in $2 billion in economic impact, with $325 million in new tax revenue for Nevada, according to a press release from the treasurer's office.

                      Clark County commissioners gave their approval for the bond financing earlier this week. The rail system is pegged for completion in 2023.



                      • In the video, which comes via Laughing Squid, the sizes of some of our solar system’s natural satellites are compared. The video begins with S/2009 S 1, a roughly thousand-foot-wide “propeller moonlet” of Saturn, and subsequently shows consecutively larger moons. The line-up of moons ends with Ganymede, which is a roughly 3,300-mile-wide moon belonging to Jupiter.

                        Although a refresher probably isn’t necessary, a moon, or natural satellite, is defined as a celestial body that orbits a planet or asteroid. According to NASA, there are more than 200 moons in our solar system, with most orbiting the giant planets. Astronomers are still discovering new moons, however. For example, in October of 2019, astronomers announced the detection of 20 new moons around Saturn.

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                            • Mystery Of London's 1952 Killer Fog Is Solved

                              Londoners are used to a regular dose of fog, drizzle, and cloud in the winter. But in early December 1952, the city’s fog took a much deadlier turn.

                              By the time "the big smoke" had lifted just five days later, it had killed 4,000 people and left 150,000 others seriously ill in hospital with respiratory tract infections. In the long term, it’s estimated at least 12,000 people died from the killer fog, along with thousands of animals.

                              The strange and terrifying event is surprisingly unknown about, even to scientists. But a new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, set out to discover the unanswered questions of how the fog came to be so deadly and why it was so dangerously acidic.

                              An international team of scientists from China, the US, and the UK mimicked the London fog in the lab and compared it to recordings of the atmospheric conditions from two heavily polluted Chinese cities, Beijing and Xi’an.

                              Sulfates were a key component of the London fog. This gave the fog its definitively thick, smelly, and toxic properties. It’s always been correctly assumed that the London fog was caused by sulfur dioxide released by the burning of low-quality soft coal from chimneys, industry, and power plants. However, why this sulfur dioxide turned into sulfuric acid remained unknown.

                              “Our results showed that this process was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning, and occurred initially on natural fog," lead author Renyi Zhang of Texas A&M University explained in a statement.

                              "Another key aspect in the conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfate is that it produces acidic particles, which subsequently inhibits this process. Natural fog contained larger particles of several tens of micrometers in size, and the acid formed was sufficiently diluted. Evaporation of those fog particles then left smaller acidic haze particles that covered the city.”

                              A similar chemistry is happening right now in the air of rapidly industrializing Asian cities, many of which are in China. However, a few differences in the nature of the fog stops it from creating sulfuric acid. High levels of ammonia from China’s extensive fertilizer use and road traffic neutralizes the particles. This makes it less acidic, but a still utterly unsavory cocktail of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

                              “We think we have helped solve the 1952 London fog mystery and also have given China some ideas of how to improve its air quality,” said Zhang. “Reduction in emissions of nitrogen oxides and ammonia is likely effective in disrupting this sulfate formation process... The government has pledged to do all it can to reduce emissions going forward, but it will take time."