Archive for July, 2004

Sky Watch: “Blue Moon” Due Early Saturday

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 30, 2004   View Article

Get ready. If you live anywhere in Europe or the Americas, the “blue moon” is coming to a sky near you Saturday. The phenomenon is mainly due to astronomical arithmetic (and a few mix-ups, but we’ll get to those later).

“It’s how the math works out,” said Philip Hiscock, a folklorist at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada. Hiscock is recognized as an authority on the history and folklore surrounding the phrase “blue moon.” The phrase has come to refer to those rare occasions when a second full moon appears within a single calendar month.

Decoding Spiny Lobsters’ Violin-Like Screech

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 28, 2004   View Article

In the same way that a child’s first week of violin lessons sends the family running for earplugs, so may the spiny lobster keep predators at bay, biologists say.

There are many species of this clawless lobster throughout the world, and they are the only animals known to make noise like an orchestra of violinists—though the lobsters’ sound is much more screech than sweet music.

Skywatcher Alert: Meteor Shower Peaks This Week

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 27, 2004   View Article

The South Delta Aquarids top the bill of several meteor showers converging in the night sky this week, giving night owls good reason to stay up after the moon sets to catch an eyeful of shooting stars.

“They’re the strongest of several low-key showers, the combined activity of which makes the last week of July a productive time,” said Neil Bone, director of the British Astronomical Association’s meteor section.

African Trees May Be Tied to Lemurs’ Fate

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 26, 2004   View Article

On the African island nation of Madagascar, only primates called lemurs are big enough to move the seeds of many trees around and thus improve the chances of the trees’ survival.

“Lemurs are very important seed dispersers in Malagasy rainforests,” said Chris Birkinshaw, a biologist with the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis who is an expert on lemur seed dispersal.

Peru’s Andean Condors Are Rising Tourist Attraction

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 22, 2004   View Article

As the sun’s first rays slant into the depths of Colca Canyon in southern Peru, Andean condors begin to ascend, riding morning thermals on outstretched wings as they scour the landscape for a meal of carrion.

A gaggle of tourists crowd the Cruz del Condor, or Condor Cross, canyon overlook, hoping to snap a keepsake image of the majestic birds.

Rat Catcher’s Day Eludes Pest Control Industry

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 21, 2004   View Article

Mothers, fathers, secretaries, and teachers all have a special day of the year set aside just for them. Calendars remind us of the occasions in time to send our parents cards, treat our secretaries to lunch, or bring our teachers an apple.

So what is one supposed to do tomorrow on rat catcher’s day?

Can Satellites Aid Earthquake Prediction?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: July 20, 2004   View Article

Earthquake prediction is an imprecise science, and to illustrate the point, many experts point to the stories of Haicheng and Tangshen, China.

In the winter of 1975, scientists observed changes in land elevation and water levels near the town of Haicheng. People said their pets were behaving oddly. Minor earthquakes, known as foreshocks, increased in frequency. An evacuation was ordered.

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