Tag Archives: Features

After a remarkable resurrection, Firefly may reach space in 2019

Testing a turbopump as the Sun sets in central Texas.

Enlarge / Testing a turbopump as the Sun sets in central Texas. (credit: Firefly)

CEDAR PARK, Texas—Some four centuries ago, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire wearied of his bothersome neighbors in Eastern Europe. So Mehmed the Hunter, an Islamic holy warrior who reigned for four decades, wrote to the piratical Cossacks living in what is modern Ukraine and demanded their surrender. The cretins must bow to the cultured.

Today, a large painting that dominates one wall of Tom Markusic’s office depicts the Cossack response to Mehmed. On the canvas, a dozen rough-looking, hard-drinking men have gathered around a scribe, pointing, smoking, and laughing uproariously. The scribe is writing a ribald, disparaging response. It is a copy of the famed Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to

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Despite alien theories and novel mutations, the real Ata puzzle may be ethical

Enlarge (credit: Bhattacharya et al. 2018)

In 2003, Oscar Munoz found a mummy in the Atacama Desert ghost town of La Noria. The six-inch-long mummy, now called Ata, has an elongated skull, oddly shaped eye sockets, and only ten pairs of ribs… which helped fuel wild speculation that she was an alien hybrid. Ata was sold several times—probably illegally—and ended up in the private collection of Barcelona entrepreneur and UFO enthusiast Ramón Navia-Osorio. A 2013 documentary called Sirius soon helped immortalize Ata, focusing heavily on the alien hybrid claims.

When a team led by University of California, San Francisco bioinformatics researcher Sanchita Bhattacharya recently sequenced the tiny mummy’s genome, however, it revealed only a girl of Chilean descent. There were a complicated set of genetic mutations,

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The Greatest Leap, part 6: After Apollo, NASA still searching for an encore

The life-saving treatment that’s being thrown in the bin

Enlarge (credit: © MaricorMaricar @ Handsome Frank)

Transplanted umbilical cord blood can be used to treat or cure more than 80 conditions, from leukemia to sickle-cell disease. For Mosaic, Bryn Nelson follows the story of one man, Chris. After being diagnosed with leukemia in his early 40s, his best chance of survival comes in the form of blood from three babies he’ll never meet, nor even know the names of. This article was first published by Wellcome on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

TA few hours before beginning chemotherapy, a man named Chris faces his cellphone camera with a mischievous smile and describes a perfectly absurd milestone at 1.37pm on a Wednesday. “There is no more beautiful moment in a man’s

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Hunting for Mexico’s mass graves with machine learning


Over the last decade, Mexican drug cartels have been fighting each other—and corrupt police and military units—for control of the lucrative drug trade, plunging the country into chaos. Outsiders might think of Mexico as sunny and tequila-soaked, but beyond the beach resorts of Cancun and Mazatlan there hides a grimmer tale: levels of murder, rape, and kidnapping are hitting levels rarely seen outside hotspots in Africa, Asia, and South America.

So grim the tale, when 43 college students went missing in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero in 2014, investigators found 129 other bodies in 60 fosas clandestinas (mass graves) before stumbling on badly burned remains in a mass grave they think might—possibly, maybe—contain what’s left of the missing students. Mexico’s attorney general says the local

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We Asked Bourbon Country Experts for Their Favorite Hangover Cures

I am in pain, a lot of it. It’s 8 AM in Louisville, Kentucky, the capital city of bourbon country. About an hour outside of town are America’s most prized bourbon distilleries. I am in so much pain because of the products they distill, and yet, according to the experts around these parts, there doesn’t seem to be any way of avoiding this fate.

Yesterday started casually enough with a 9 AM tour of the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, a picturesque town nestled in the green rolling hills of the Bluegrass State. Jim Beam produces 50 percent of the world’s bourbon, which is a goddamn lot of bourbon.

Jim Beam produces 50 percent of the world’s bourbon. All photos by the author.

That’s a

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What Two Decades as a Restaurateur Has Taught Me

I opened my first restaurant, Fork, in Philadelphia in 1997. When I think back on what makes me most proud, it’s getting to work and learn from hundreds of talented staff that I have been fortunate enough to have pass through my place. I sound like a mom, but that’s what I consider my biggest accomplishment—seeing the many people who have successfully grown through my restaurants. Building a community together with them and our customers has been a big part of my story as a restaurateur.

Besides the obvious young cooks or servers who have gone on to become chefs or managers or opened their own restaurants, it is rewarding to see people express their love of food and hospitality in many ways. For example, … Read the rest

Cows in Switzerland Could Be Given Acupuncture Instead of Antibiotics

Sadly, it’s not news that many farm animals are pumped full of drugs, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and steroids, as a way of keeping them healthy until slaughter. While, in theory, only minimal traces of these substances should make their way into your burger or sausages, last year the US Food and Drug Administration found beef samples that contained five times the legal drug limit. The World Health Organisation later warned that the overuse of antibiotics in meat could cause antimicrobial resistance in humans.

Given the huge global demand for meat, it’s unlikely that farms will ever become substance-free. But one organic farm in Sorens, Switzerland has come up with another way of keeping cattle healthy, without the need for drugs. In collaboration with … Read the rest

And Gallery Is Fostering a Groundbreaking Contemporary Art Scene in Jackson, MS | #50StatesofArt

Independently-run art galleries are rare in Mississippi—even in Jackson, the state capital, where And Gallery makes its home. Co-run by artists Tyler Tadlock and Adrienne Domnick, the space was started with the intention of creating a new venue to help foster a contemporary art scene and encourage emerging artists both in Mississippi and in the deep South. “Arts education in our state is massively under-appreciated, and the ‘art world’ that exists in other places is, a lot of the time, inaccessible to working class people and working artists themselves,” Tadlock tells Creators. The two founders wanted to open a space in which visitors could engage in open discussion about artworks they were showing, and learn from them in a “not-so-institutional and more inviting setting.”… Read the rest

A Farmer’s Daughter-Turned-Photographer Learns to Love Her Mississippi Roots | #50StatesofArt

Growing up in Rolling Fork, a small town in Mississippi, all photographer Ellen Rodgers wanted was to leave. The Mississippi Delta region is extremely rural, flat, and poverty-stricken, and Rodgers—the daughter of a farmer—had dreams of living and working in a big city. Rolling Fork doesn’t even have a stoplight, and Rodgers graduated high school with the same 15 people she had been in class with since kindergarten.

“I always heard about people visiting the Delta because they wanted to see where the blues was born. I could not for the life of me figure out what in the world they were talking about,” Rodgers tells Creators. “I affectionately called [the Mississippi Delta] ‘the butt crack of America.’ I’m not sure at … Read the rest