The Dreaded 'Wookiee Hairball'...

An actor playing Chewbacca throws out the ceremonial first pitch prior to a game between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays Fenway Park in Boston, Wednesday Sept. 28, 2005. Chewbacca and an actress playing Princess Leia were promoting the Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


Military Kills Rudolph!
Hush Money Dries Santa's Tears!
Elves Eat Corpse!

'B-But Rudolph! I thought you were dead!' 'Braaains! I come for your brains, fat man!'

Santa Gets Compensation After Air Force Kills Rudolph

from AFP

COPENHAGEN - The Danish airforce has paid damages to one of the country's many professional Santa Clauses after a blast from a low-flying fighter jet left Rudolph the reindeer lifeless, reports said.

The Father Christmas, whose real name is Olovi Nikkanoff and who lives on the central Danish island of Fyn, told TV2 station that he was devastated last February when he discovered his reindeer's body.

The veterinarian who examined the dead beast concluded that Rudolph had died from the shock of the deafening noise made by the fighter plane.

Following an official complaint from Nikkanoff, the Danish airforce agreed to pay him $4,840 dollars to buy a new reindeer.

RoboVote 2005

Vote for Your Favorite Robot!

Lajas: Their First Stop? Or the First Earthlings They Destroy?

Puerto Rico Town May Build UFO Site

from The Associated Press

LAJAS, Puerto Rico - People in this sleepy hamlet are so sure they have been receiving other-worldly visitors, they want to build a UFO landing strip to welcome them.

A bright green sign along a lonely country road in southwestern Puerto Rico proudly displays a silhouette of a flying saucer and two words: "Extraterrestrial Route."

Most Puerto Ricans laughed when a horse farmer installed the sign on his property at the request of Reynaldo Rios, a local elementary school teacher who says he's been communicating with alien visitors to this U.S. territory since he was a child.

Rios, a 39-year-old with a goatee and a shock of dark hair, won't be ignored. With the blessing of a local government desperate for tourist dollars, he's dedicated himself to building the UFO landing strip.

"I can't say exactly when they will come, but I know it will happen," Rios said. "I want to keep believing in my dreams."

Lajas Mayor Marcos Irizarry's support for the idea has provoked outrage among islanders who complained it would be a waste of money at a time when the government is encouraging thousands of employees to shorten their work week to cope with a staggering fiscal deficit.

Irizarry quickly clarified that his municipal government would not invest in the project. Instead, he has promised to help Rios get the proper building permits. The mayor insists his goal is to attract tourists to his small town. But he is also among Lajans who believe they have seen UFOs in the area.

"It's a very mysterious place," said Irizarry, who says he once saw red lights zigzagging above the hills. "A lot of people have seen things."

Francisco Negron, the farmer who put up the sign and allows UFO watchers to gather at his ranch, volunteered his property for the landing strip. He and Rios estimate the project could cost up to $100,000 and are looking for funds from private companies.

Negron, a soft-spoken grandfather, has already applied for a permit to build a road to Indian Hill, the chosen site for the strip. Negron and others believe a UFO crashed on the hill in 1997. They claim they heard a boom and saw the hill go up in flames.

Rios, who leads a group called "UFO International" that holds nighttime vigils to search for signs of alien life, lets Negron worry about details like investment costs and permits while he envisions the design. The landing strip would be 80 feet long and have pyramids as control towers because aliens are attracted to the shape.

The mayor hopes that UFO enthusiasts will flock to Lajas as they have to Roswell, New Mexico, the site of a supposed UFO crash in the 1940s. Hundreds of visitors have already come to check out the Extraterrestrial Route since the sign went up, Irizarry said.

Puerto Rico is already known for its Arecibo Observatory and its 1,000-foot (304-meter) parabolic receiver that astronomers really do use to search for extraterrestrial life. The huge dish, in northern Puerto Rico, made a cameo appearance in the 1997 film Contact, starring Jodi Foster as an astronomer who picks up a signal from extratraterrestrials.

Rios says he first encountered aliens at 13. He says white lights burst into his bedroom, entered his body and cured him of a back injury he had received during a basketball game.

In Lajas, people who have grown up hearing reports of UFO sightings seem more open to his scheme.

"If we have the technology to reach the moon, there could be others who have the technology to come here," said Ronaldo Barea, 26, a sandwich shop owner.

Automatic Transmission

Robotic Vehicles Battle for Spot in Race

from The Associated Press

FONTANA, Calif. - It's the ultimate robot reality show: 43 contestants battling for a spot in a government-sponsored desert race intended to speed development of unmanned military combat vehicles. The reward? A $2 million cash prize.

The autonomous robotic vehicles began competing Wednesday in the first of a series of qualifying rounds at the California Speedway. Half will advance to the Oct. 8 starting line of the so-called Grand Challenge.

The grueling, weeklong semifinals are designed to test the vehicles' ability to cover a roughly 2-mile stretch of the track without a human driver or remote control.

Participants ranging from souped-up SUVs to military behemoths will be graded on how well they can self-drive on rough road, make sharp turns and avoid obstacles — hay bales, trash cans, wrecked cars — while relying on GPS navigation and sensors, radar, lasers and cameras that feed information to computers.

The robots also have to heed speed limits in certain zones and pass through a 100-foot-long tunnel designed to temporarily knock out their GPS capabilities.

None of that thwarted the first competitor, a converted Nissan Xterra built by the Colorado-based Mojavaton team. The vehicle finished in about 20 minutes to cheers from the grandstands.

A modified Volkswagen Touareg dubbed Stanley raised the bar by navigating the course almost flawlessly in about 10 minutes. It was followed by a custom-built vehicle called NaviGATOR, a collaboration between the University of Florida, Gainsville and Autonomous Solutions Inc.

A series of vehicles that came afterward stumbled and had to be manually driven off the speedway. One vehicle tried to go around two pieces of metal guardrail instead of between it and stalled. Another made an erroneous right turn at the start and rammed into the wall. Vehicles have at least two chances to loop around the speedway during the qualifiers. The 20 finalists will be announced next week.

Of the 16 vehicles that ran the course, seven finished. During last year's semifinals, no vehicle completed the course in the first day. Organizers expect most vehicles this year to finish the qualifying course.

The Grand Challenge is sponsored by the research arm of the Pentagon known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which is spending $9 million on this year's event.

The competition is part of the Pentagon's efforts to have a third of the military's ground vehicles unmanned by 2015 to fulfill a congressional mandate.

This year's race will cover about 150 miles of desert and mountainous terrain looping to and from Primm, Nev. The first vehicle to traverse the entire course in less than 10 hours wins. If no one finishes — a possible outcome — DARPA may sponsor another competition. Last year's inaugural race in the Mojave Desert ended without a winner when all the entrants broke down before the finish line.

Jenjen Baggins ('The Fat Lonely Hobbits!') Bashes Gollumgina Smeagolie

Celebrities: They’re Just Like Monsters!

from Gawker

Star breaks the Watergatian news today that Jennifer Aniston has taken to saying that Angelina Jolie looks like Gollum. Helpfully, the magazine then considers whether it’s a reasonable charge.

The answer seems to be yes — certainly that’s what the pix suggest. Except for one thing: Gollum pulls much bigger box office.

Get Your Doctorate in Klingon!

Welsh University Offers Extraterrestrial Degree

from AFP

LONDON - A British university has launched a three-year degree course in the hunt for life beyond the planet Earth.

The University of Glamorgan this week launched what it said was Britain's first undergraduate course in astrobiology, the search for extraterrestrial life.

It cited the recent excitement over the possibility of finding life on Saturn's moon Titan as an example of how the search for life beyond Earth is a "major driving force" behind current space programs.

About half a dozen people enrolled this week in the degree course, which will encompass topics like "Exploring the Sky," "Vertebrate Zoology," "Science and the Media," and "Life in the Universe", the university said.

Course leader Professor Mark Brake said there was massive interest in the topic. About 100 people in the local community are studying aspects of the subject.

Though the course will examine popular culture, including films like ET, students will also study obscure texts, work in laboratories and conduct stargazing.

Utah Site Reveals 'Weird Fused Reptiles with Armor' & Other New Dinos

Dino Discoveries Thrilling Paleontologists

from Big News Network

Enthusiastic scientists say bones coming out of Utah's Grand Staircase National Monument are rewriting the age of the dinosaurs, when they last lived. The area has become a gold mine for paleontologists, with the latest discovery airlifted from its grave this week.

A precious cargo 75 million years old, gently lifted by helicopter from its grave in Grand Staircase National Monument. Though you can't see it wrapped in protective casting, this is the skull of a new bizarre horned dinosaur from a little known time window in dino history called the Cretaceous Period.

Paleontologists from the Utah Geological Survey and the Utah Museum of Natural History are finding all sorts of treasures in this remote area, the last in the continental United States ever to be mapped. In some places humans have never walked before.

Dr. Scott Sampson, Chief Curator, Utah Museum of Natural History: "Every single dinosaur found so far represents an animal that is new to science - and most of them haven't even been described yet. It takes time to work these up once you've removed them from the ground."

Specimen after specimen, they just keep coming in here, pushing the boundaries of this old museum beyond capacity. Horned and duckbill dinos, smaller bodied ancestors of T-Rex, weird fused reptiles with armors all over their backs, domed headed dinos, fish, amphibians, turtles, crocodiles, mammals, and more.

As Sampson says, we're uncovering a whole ancient ecosystem we're never seen before.

Lestat Sinks Teeth into April

Elton's Lestat hitting Broadway in April

from Billboard via Reuters

NEW YORK - Lestat, the first musical Elton John and longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin have written together, will open April 13 on Broadway at the Palace Theater, with preview performances due to begin March 11.

The musical will premiere December 17 at San Francisco's Curran Theater, where it will run through January 29. The title role will be played by Hugh Panero (Phantom of the Opera), while Carolee Carmello and Jack Noseworthy will star as Gabrielle and Armand, respectively.

John recently told Billboard that one Lestat song, "Paris," was one of his most difficult pieces to finish: "It's the longest song I ever took to write - three-and-a-half hours. I thought I was going to go nuts. I thought I was going to have a mental breakdown."

In addition to his touring schedule and his "The Red Piano" engagement in Las Vegas, John is working on a number of projects, highlighted by a new studio album to be released in 2007. For that project, he and Taupin are writing a sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy called Captain Fantastic and the Kid. The first edition, released in 1975, covered the pair's first 30 years; the second will cover the subsequent 30 years and will come out March 20, 2007, five days before John's 60th birthday.


Japanese Release First Giant Squid Movie
And It's Not a Guy in a Rubber Suit!

Squid's In - and Now It's on Film

from AFP

PARIS - Japanese zoologists have made the first recording of a live giant squid, one of the strangest and most elusive creatures in the world.

The size of a bus, with vast eyes and a querulous beak, Architeuthis has long nourished myth and literature, most memorably in Jules Vernes' 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in which a squid tried to engulf the submarine Nautilus with its suckered tentacles.

Until now, the only evidence of giant squids was extraordinarily rare - from dead squids that washed up on remote shores or got snagged on a long-line fish hook or from ships' crews who spotted the deep-sea denizen as it made a sortie near the surface.

But almost nothing was known about where and how Architeuthis lives, feeds and reproduces. And, given the problems of getting down to its home in the ocean depths, no-one had ever obtained pictures of a live one.

In 1997 the National Geographic Society attached video cameras by a temporary cord to sperm whales in the hope that this would get pictures of a whale dining on one of the giant cephalopods. In 2003, New Zealand marine biologists ground up some squid gonads, believing that a camera would squirt out the pureed genitals and a passing squid, driven into a sexual frenzy, would then mate with the lens - a project that, some may be relieved to hear, never came to fruition.

The breakthrough has come from Tsunemi Kubodera of the National Science Museum in Tokyo and Kyoichi Mori of the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association. Writing Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Kubodera and Mori describe how they also used sperm whales as a guide.

They set up a special rig to two mesh bags filled with a tempting bait of freshly mashed shrimps. Suspended from floats, the rig was lowered into the water on a nylon line, with flash pictures taken every 30 seconds for the next four to five hours.

At 9:15 am on September 30, 2004, squids as we know them changed forever. At that moment, 2,925 feet down in the Stygian gloom, a 26-foot specimen lunged at the lower bait bag, succeeding only in getting itself impaled on the hook.

For the next four hours, the squid tried to get itself off the hook as the camera snapped away every 30 seconds, gaining not only unprecedented pictures but also precious information about how the squid is able to propel itself.

After a monstrous battle, the squid eventually freed itself, but left behind a giant tentacle on the hook. When the severed limb was brought up to the surface, its huge suckers were still able to grip the boat deck and any fingers that touched them - testimony indeed to the myths of yore, that spoke of monstrous arms that grabbed ships and hauled them to their doom.

Mysterious Glowing Seas: Mere Bacteria...
Or How Our Sci-Fi Horror Begins?

'Milky Seas' Detect from Space

from The BBC

Mariners over the centuries have reported surreal, nocturnal displays of glowing sea surfaces stretching outwards to the horizon. Little is known about these "milky seas" other than that they are probably caused by luminous bacteria.

But the first satellite detection of this strange phenomenon in the Indian Ocean may now aid future research.

The observation is described in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The glowing sea covered an area about the size of the US state of Connecticut and was observed over three consecutive nights, with the first night corroborated by a ship-based account.

The team was able to estimate of the number of bacteria that the observed area would have contained - an abnormally "giant" population.

"To put it into context, it's about 200 times more than the number of background, free-living bacteria that are spread over the continental shelf waters of all the oceans," said Dr. Steve Miller, from the Naval Research Laboratory in California.

There have been 235 documented sightings of milky seas since 1915 - mainly concentrated in the north-western Indian Ocean and near Java, Indonesia.

Milky seas are distinct from the brief flashes of bioluminescence seen at ships' wakes, or breaking waves, which are caused by microscopic algae called dinoflagellates. Instead, the constant light emitted over a wide area probably comes from the luminous bacteria Vibrio harveyi, living in association with microalgal blooms.

Robot Finds Famed Robinson Crusoe Treasure?

Robot Claims 'Treasure Island' Booty

from NewScientist.com

A robotic treasure hunter has laid claim to the find of the century, on the very archipelago that inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe.

The robot, called "Arturito" or "Little Arthur", is said to have discovered the 18th-century buried treasure on the island of Robinson Crusoe - named after the book. The island lies 660 kilometres from the coast of Chile in South America.

The Chilean company responsible for developing Arturito, Wagner Technologies, plans to start excavating in a matter of days, as soon as permits can be obtained.

According to legend, a fabulous treasure haul was buried on the island in 1715 by Spanish sailor Juan Esteban Ubilla-Echeverria. By some estimates the haul would include 800 barrels of gold ingots, silver pieces, gems and other riches worth up to $10 billion. Naturally, the promise of such fabulous wealth has attracted scores or treasure hunters to the island in the past.

Hex Your Enemies & Fly on Brooms - It's Tax Deductable!

Dutch Witch To Get Tax Breaks for Magical Training

from AFP

THE HAGUE - The Dutch tax authorities have ruled that a Dutch actress training as a witch is eligible for tax deductions for the course, the Dutch tax court said in a statement.

During the training, which lasts one year and one day, students are instructed in casting spells, magic, preparing potions, working with herbs, prophesying and divining, the tax authorities said.

At the end of the course students may call themselves a qualified witch.

Revenge of the Sith

Eight Charged in Theft of Star Wars Movie

from Reuters

LOS ANGELES - Federal officials on Tuesday charged eight people with several crimes related to the illegal theft, copying and Internet distribution of hit movie, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

The movie debuted in theaters worldwide to huge media fanfare in May.But before it ever opened, an illegally made copy could be downloaded from the Internet, and that copy was traced back to an editing facility in Lakewood, California.

The charges come as moviemakers wage a battle against illegally copying and distributing movies on video, DVD and the Internet. Hollywood's studios claim they lose $3.5 billion in annual revenue due to piracy and are worried about losing billions more if swapping films on the Web becomes common.

The U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles filed a copyright infringement charge against Albert Valente for taking the copy from the post-production house where he worked. Six others were charged with copyright infringement and other misdemeanors for copying and distributing the film that Valente took. Marc Hoaglin, charged with a felony for putting the movie on the web, could face up three years in jail.


Trained Military Assassins Go Rogue -
Armed, Deadly...and Dolphin!
That's Correct: Coolest! Story! Ever!

Ninjas of the Sea: Katrina freed up to 36 Killer Flippers, armed with poison darts, tactical training, and my giddy, geeky worship.

Armed & Dangerous - Flipper the Firing Dolphin Let Loose by Katrina

from Guardian

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying 'toxic dart' guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

'My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire,' he said. 'The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?'

Usually dolphins were controlled via signals transmitted through a neck harness. 'The question is, were these dolphins made secure before Katrina struck?' said Sheridan.

The navy launched the classified Cetacean Intelligence Mission in San Diego in 1989, where dolphins, fitted with harnesses and small electrodes planted under their skin, were taught to patrol and protect Trident submarines in harbour and stationary warships at sea.

Criticism from animal rights groups ensured the use of dolphins became more secretive. But the project gained impetus after the Yemen terror attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Dolphins have also been used to detect mines near an Iraqi port.



God vs. The Flying Spaghetti Monster vs. Anthony Fremont vs. Xenu vs. Poseidon vs. The Amazing Mesmero vs. Evolution

Pop Quiz - Identify the Science:
And then the all-powerful (A] magician The Amazing Mesmero!, B] God, C] Poseidon, D] alien warlord Xenu, E] Flying Spaghetti Monster, G] adorable little Anthony Fremont, boy-monster-god - as portrayed by Billy Mummy in the creepy Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life," G] Laws of Physics and Biology) - with a (A] tap of his wand and puff of purple smoke, B] mere thought, C] strike of his trident, D] genocidal barrage of nuclear bombs, E] wiggle of It's noodly appendage, F] sinister glare, G] Big Bang) and after (A] saying "Abracadabra!," B] creating the universe from nothing and the first man from dust, C] several failed attempts, D] imprisoning his frozen Thetan enemies in a volcano on Earth, E] creating trees and mountains on a whim, F] wishing away electricity, singing, and the rest of the planet except his small hometown and a dwindling handful of terrified neighbors, G] possibly an eternity of repeating Big Bangs and Big Crunches - we may never really know) - astonishingly (A] conjured, B] created, C] created, D] created, E] created, F] created, G] facilitated) by means of (A] magic, B] divine will, C] divine will, D] pure accident, E] divine will, F] his God-like powers, G] evolution) the very (A] confused bunny, B] first woman, C] first horse, D] human soul, E] first midgit, F] abominable two-headed gopher, G] conditions necessary for the emergence of life) from nothing more than (A] a top hat, B] Adam's rib, C] a rock, D] alien corpses, E] possibly some alfredo sauce, F] a boring regular gopher, G] matter and energy) as (A] the audience gasps in delight, B] an afterthought - the All-Knowing didn't know Adam would be so lonely, C] his entry in the gods' Best Creation contest, D] revealed as prophecy by a science fiction writer, E] It's first attempt to create man, F] a cruel experiment to amuse himself after having killed all his playmates, G] supported by carbon dating, fossils, and all available scientific evidence) and to the fervant (A] applause of the crowd, B] belief of Christians, C] belief of Ancient Greeks, D] belief of Scientologists, E] belief of Pastafarians, F] but well-disguised horror of his terrified, ever-smiling mother, Cloris Leachman, G] contempt and dismissal of Christians), only to then (A] saw his beautiful assistant in half, B] punish all women with menstruation and eternal inferiority after Eve dared to seek knowledge, C] lose to Athena's olive tree creation, D] put his hands on his hips, throw back his head, and laugh and laugh his mighty evil laugh before flying back to his homeworld, E] try it again - creating cavemen, pirates, and supercool ninja assassins, F] command it to die, which it did, and then wish away "into the cornfield" another unlucky neighbor for thinking "bad thoughts" about him, G] let nature take its course). Today, Christians call this act (A] the heresy of witchcraft and grounds for stoning, B] the science of Intelligent Design, C] the foolish belief of dead Greeks, D] the foolish belief of Tom Cruise, E] ridiculous and irrelevant, F] heresy from what sounds like a blasphemous TV show and the reason Rod Serling is probably burning in Hell, G] a flawed if not false theory, like Buddhism, leprechauns, or the separation of church and state), but they would never, ever call it (A] harmless entertainment, B] Creationism in disguise, C] Intelligent Design, D] a "real" religion, E] Intelligent Design, F] harmless entertainment, G] science). Non-Christians call this event (A] sleight of hand, B] mythology and an unAmerican conspiracy to sneak Christianity into public schools, C] mythology, D] quite possibly the silliest thing they've ever heard, E] hilarious but just as scientific as A, B, C, D, and F, F] Best! Episode! Ever! - or maybe that's just me, G] fact), while President Bush (A] giggles with delight and claps his hands, dribbling cake down his shirt and squealing "This is the best birthday party ever!," B] thinks it should be taught in schools as science, a violation of the separation of church and state, C] now thinks a Greek cowboy named Poseidon invented Trident sugarless gum out of olives, D] never saw Battlefield Earth, E] spells it "spugetty," F] raises the Terror Alert Level to "Super-Duper Red" and declares War on This Anthony Fremont Kid, G] looks very confused, having spent most of high school drunk and barely passing "them fancy science classes" - suddenly feeling a nap coming on, he changes the subject in a panic: blurts out something about the War on Terror and evil and staying the course, spontaneously declares a Day of Prayer, checks his watch, snickers for no apparent reason, accuses Democrats of playing politics and hating God and America and their own mothers and our brave American soldiers, blesses America, scans the room frantically for Condi, wets himself a little, writes New Orleans a check for "a million billion dollars," wipes the sweat from his forehead and pokes himself in the eye, declares a War on Scientology, takes it back, declares War of Them Filthy Homosexuals and That Jon Stewart Fella, blesses America again, falls off his bike, and then points and shouts "Osama!" and, as everyone turns, runs out of the press conference - making that sound Fred Flintstone makes when he runs - off for another well-deserved vacation).