Archive for October, 2004

Puffins Return to Scottish Island Famous for Curling Stones

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

For the first time in nearly a half century, puffins are returning to Ailsa Craig, a plug of volcanic rock off the west coast of Scotland. Curling aficionados already know the island as the world’s preferred source of curling stones.

Curling is the centuries-old sport in which people slide smooth granite stones across a 146-foot-long (45-meter-long) sheet of ice toward a bull’s-eye, trying to knock their opponents’ stones out of the way in the process. Stones used in the sport must withstand a healthy amount of abuse and constant freeze-thaw cycles.

Bringing Order to the Fungus Among Us

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 25, 2004   View Article

For mycophiles—hunters of wild, edible mushrooms—autumn is high time to don rubber boots, grab a penknife, and head outdoors.

“People in certain parts of Europe just love to go out when the mushrooms are out. They are really comfortable doing that, and they have knowledge about which ones they can eat,” said Rytas Vilgalys, a biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Cassini Probe to Fly by Saturn’s Moon Titan Tuesday

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

The Cassini spacecraft is set to buzz through the upper atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan on Tuesday. If all goes according to plan, the probe will use high-tech cameras during the flyby to peer through Titan’s hazy orange atmosphere and peek at the moon’s mysterious surface.

“This is the first good look at Titan,” said Dennis Matson, project scientist for the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn and Titan at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Lunar Eclipse Wednesday to Have Easy Viewing Hours

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

Just in time for the Halloween season, the moon Wednesday will treat us to its most famous trick: changing from bright white to reddish as it passes deeply through Earth’s shadow.

This will be the last total lunar eclipse until March 3, 2007, and the last eclipse that will be easily viewed throughout the entire continental U.S. until February 21, 2008.

Earliest Unhatched Bird-Bird Fossil Found – Old as Dinosaurs

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

Paleontologists in China have unearthed a 121-million-year-old fossil bird embryo that is likely the world’s oldest. (See pictures.) The bird was found scrunched in an oval-shaped space slightly smaller than a chicken egg—one of several clues that suggest the bird never hatched.

More important, scientists say, is the evidence that the embryonic bird had feathers, a large skull, and hardened bones. The findings support the notion that early birds, like dinosaurs, were well developed at birth and able to move and forage on their own from the get-go.

Can Wild Bees Take Sting From Honeybee Decline

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

Decades of disease and overuse of pesticides have put the squeeze on populations of the domesticated honeybee. As a result, farmers are increasingly left with fields of flowering crops that fail to bear fruit.

Since some 15 to 30 percent of the food we humans eat directly or indirectly depend on the pollination services of bees, scientists say the problem threatens to take some excitement—and potentially abundance—from our diets.

Backyard Beekeepers Abuzz Over Social Life of Hive

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: October 18, 2004   View Article

To appreciate the pleasures of beekeeping, just listen to Vivian Clayton, a hobbyist beekeeper in Walnut Creek, California, buzz about the insects in her hive.

“It’s just the most incredible, delightful thing to watch,” she said. “They know where the hive is, and as they get close, they slowly drop down on a landing board. It’s such a gracious thing [to watch]. Do that for 15 minutes, and you are totally blissed out.”

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