Archive | May, 2011

Drill rig (Cactus 117) hit by tornado this week

26 May

Forwarded from one of our service techs:

This happened yesterday, 5/24/2011, close to Calumet, OK-
Pictures were taken by an SLB employee who was there –
An F5 tornado that was 1/2mile wide with winds up to 210mph caused this-
Everyone survived and no, there is no oil spill (or natural gas)-

update:
“The rig was originally rigged up with the V-Door to the south. They had just TD’d a horizontal shale well and were circulating and preparring to lay down drill pipe. The sub and derrick were picked up and moved approx. 60′ north and rotated 90 degrees. Estimated weight of the sub, derrick, drawworks and drill pipe is well over 1,000,000 pounds.”

Rig specs: http://www.cactusdrlg.com/images/data/attachments/0000/0718/R-117.pdf

Before:

After:

IMS Hall of Fame – an abridged tour

25 May

Some of you have seen these pics before. Revisiting to compile stuff into one place.

Shots from the Dec 2010 visit to the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.

As you can tell I’m huge on the Watson, Kurtis-Kraft, Offy, Meyer-Drake era of Indy history, so forgive me If my pics are a bit heavy in the 1950-1965 era:

This ‘vette is magnesium bodied.

Here you have the first turbine powered car to run at Indy (left) and the first rear-engined car (right)

Some Maserati action

And if anyone happens to remember my ongoing dream project, this is it.
I have a copy of the original blueprints for this exact car. Jim Rathmann’s 1960 Indy 500 winning Watson roadster.

I’m working on a deal to get a chassis table from an old Boeing plant right now, so maybe the project will start… eventually… ?

Prairie Fire

21 May

Thanks to the guys at ARFCOM for providing this powerful bit of history.

**Quote**

“Prairie Fire” x2

This is a recording of two Recon Teams (RT’s) who are in dire straits. Both RT’s are loosing a battle wherby death is immenient. Those RT’s are: RT Colorado with Pat Mitchel being the 10, Lyn St. Laurent as the 11, and David “Lurch” Mixter as the 13. RT Colorado is an eight man team including the five Indigenous troops. The other was RT Hawaii with Les Dover as the 10, Regis Gmitter the 11, and John Justice the 12 (I believe this to be the case with this recon team as far as who was what on the team through natural progression of skills learned in combat.) May not be accurate though, reader and listener take note. Also, it is unknown to me how many Indigenous Troops made up RT Hawaii at that time.

RT Colorado is the team that is running for its life. RT Hawaii is holding their own. Both RT’s have called out a “Prairie Fire” in Laos near the Ho Chi Minh Trail and are approximately 10 miles apart as the crow flies. Colorado has just been hit by a North Vietnamese platoon of 40 men who desire no more than to wipe this team completely off the face of the Earth.

During this Prairie Fire, David Mixter is killed when he saves Mitchel’s life by shoving him to one side and exchanging fire with an NVA armed with an RPG. Mixter and the NVA exchange fire immediately. The NVA fires his RPG as Mixter fires his weapon. The RPG hits Mixter in the knee area and kills him instantly as the NVA drops dead by Mixter’s return Fire.

What exactly does a “Prairie Fire mean? It means at least three things, they are: 1) You are in contact with a much superior force than yours. 2) Either completely surrounded or will be. 3) Death is imminent.

The other two “emergencies” were the following: 1) Tactical – meaning you are engaged with the enemy, but you are holding your own for now. A “Team emergecy” which means that someone on your team is injured or sick.
this could be upgraded at any time to a “Prairie Fire”. Especially if you are surrounded and have allot of wounded.

All pilots that flew gunships, helicopters, attack and fighter aircraft were given a “briefing” before flying in country. That briefing entailed what to do if a FAC has called out a “Prairie Fire” over the radio. By the rules in Vietnam everyone listening was to stop what they were doing and come to the aid of the FAC/Recon Team(s).

John “Plasticman” Plaster is the “Covey Rider or Backseater” on the afternoon shift with Captain Mike Cryer as the pilot of their OV-10 Bronco. They had just lifted off from Pleiku after eating lunch there and are heading out towards Laos. Ken “Shoebox” Carpenter is flying as the CR onboard the military version of the Cessna 210 Skymaster over Laos at this time. As Plaster and Cryer left for Laos they noticed how clear the sky was considering that most of January had been very wet. As they passed Ben Het below, Cryer switched their radio frequency over to “Shoebox” Carpenter’s frequency and what you hear for the next 35 minutes is two RT’s fighting to stay alive.

One other item of importance. The reason why you hear so many people talking at once is because allot of the helicopters and FACs had what is known as a “hot mic”. What this means is that the microphone is always on and talking on it is much like talking on a telephone. Everybody can talk and hear responses immediately. The only exception to this is the Recon Team(s). They relied upon the PRC-25 and much later in the war the PRC-77 for commo and this meant that the RT could constantly moniter a channel (receive) and transmit by pushing the button in on the handset.

Also, the first “Prairie Fire” you here is from RT Hawaii’s 1-0 Regis Gmitter and it is during their rescue mission. When you here Platster call on the radio: “I have your smoke, where do want the firepower brought in?” you will hear Pat Mitchel’s voice stating that “Their is only two of us left and Charlie is dead on our ass!”. Mixter was killed a few minutes before this and the Indigenous troops are nowhere to be seen. Also, it is during this time that Mitchel is carrying Lyn St Laurent as he is seriously wounded himself. They are fighting for for their lives. Pay special attention to the background noise when Plaster is talking. You can hear the twin engines screaming and an occasional burst of the four mounted M-60’s. The continuos M-60 firing at the end is from the rescue Hueys doorgunners. One is firing one long string of 7.62 ammunition through his M-60 without stopping. It is still a very hot area.

Here is the following code names/words that are used in this recording that may be of use to the listener. Hopefully this will make the following conversations easier to understand and follow. Here are some of these words:

1) Plasticman John Plaster’s personal call sign while on a RT
2) White Lead Huey in charge of flying the rescue mission
3) Delta Papa Three John Plaster’s call sign while flying as Covey Rider in Bronco
4) Tango Papa Pat Mitchels call sign as 1-0
5) Panthers AH-1G Cobras. Also known as “Cobra”
6) Kingbees H-34 Helicopters usually flown by Vietnamese pilots
7) Bravo Hotel Ben Het SF camp
8) Delta Tango FOB at Dak To
9) Foxtrot Mike FM radio frequency
10) Victor VHF radio frequency
11) Uniform UHF radio frequency
12) Straw Hat Type Code name for American personel on a RT
13) Kilo November Known North. Position is “Kilo November”
14) Lurch David Mixter’s personel call sign
15) Winchester Air assets that are out of ordnance

Note: If any codenames/words are left out, they are unintentional. I ask that you either PM me or send a response to this thread with any question you may have. I will try and find out the answer and if I cannot, hopefully one of the SOG members here can respond to it. Any error(s) that may have occurred above are mine and only mine. I applogize ahead of time for this.

Note: From my point of view, one should listen to this if possible, in a dark and quiet room with no distractions. This way you can hear and understand most of the recording.

This recording is dedicted to the greatest soldiers in the world, the men who wear the Green Beret.

And a response from someone there…

What a surprise to find this after 40 years!!! I am Lyn St. Laurent, the 11 on RT Colorado, and mentioned by name in Plaster’s book as well. Just a few corrections to your description of what took place Jan 29, 1971: First off, it was me who David Mixture shoved down, not Mitchell, and yes, he did save my life @ that time. I had a hold of him when the RPG hit, and the blast knocked me down….at that time a burst of AK fire hit me, and I ws wounded seriously. I recovered a bit to see only Mitchell’s face and called out to him that I had been hit. He did not hesitate to come for me, and we both escaped downhill. One should note that although I was wounded, I could walk on my own, and could carry on conversations with Plaster and other assets, as I was the radio operator. We had regained our numbers when the ‘yards’ found us, and were safely extracted, thanks to our great American comrades!!! Over the years I have been in touch with Mitchell and Plaster, and those of us @ SOG will always have a special bond. It is good to know that our efforts were not in vain, and we are thankful for the support of so many. Sincerely, Lyn W. St. Laurent

Cacklefest – If nitro slingshots don’t make you smile…

21 May

You

17 May

Just some scientific food for thought on a lazy morning while packing to leave town for a few days [with no intentions of starting a religious or philosophical debate]. It just struck me as a very thought provoking piece that is somehow introspective on a cosmological scale… as bipolar as that sounds.

This is the first part of the introduction to Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Welcome. And congratulations. I am delighted that you could make it. Getting here wasn’t easy, I know. In fact, I suspect it was a little tougher than you realize.

To begin with, for you to be here now trillions of drifting atoms had somehow to assemble in an intricate and intriguingly obliging manner to create you. It’s an arrangement so specialized and particular that it has never been tried before and will only exist this once. For the next many years (we hope) these tiny particles will uncomplainingly engage in all the billions of deft, cooperative efforts necessary to keep you intact and let you experience the supremely agreeable but generally under-appreciated state known as existence.

Why atoms take this trouble is a bit of a puzzle. Being you is not a gratifying experience at the atomic level. For all their devoted attention, your atoms don’t actually are about you – indeed, don’t even know that you are there. They don’t even know that they are there. They are mindless particles, after all, and not even themselves alive. (It is a slightly arresting notion that if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been you.) Yet somehow for the period of your existence they will answer to a single overarching impulse: to keep you you.

The bad news is that atoms are fickle and their time of devotion is fleeting – fleeting indeed. Even a long human life adds up to only about 650,000 hours. And when that modest milestone flashes past, or at some other point thereabouts, for reasons unknown your atoms will shut you down, silently disassemble, and go off to be other things. And that’s it for you.

Still, you may rejoice that it happens at all. Generally speaking in the universe it doesn’t, so far as we can tell. This is decidedly odd because the atoms that so liberally and congenially flock together to form living things on Earth are exactly the same atoms that decline to do it elsewhere. Whatever else it may be, at the level of chemistry life it curiously mundane: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, a little calcium, a dash of sulfur, a light dusting of other very ordinary elements – nothing you wouldn’t find in any ordinary drugstore – and that’s all you need. The only thing special about the atoms that make you is that they make you. That is of course the miracle of life.

Whether or not atoms make life in other corners of the universe, they make plenty else; indeed they make everything else. Without them there would be no water or air or rocks, no stars and plants, no distant gassy clouds or swirling nebulae or any of the other things that make the universe so usefully material. Atoms are so numerous and necessary that we easily overlook that they needn’t actually exist at all. There is no law that requires the universe to fill itself with small particles of matter or to produce light and gravity and the other physical properties on which our existence hinges. There needn’t actually be a universe at all. For the longest time there wasn’t. There were no atoms and no universe for them to float about in. There was nothing – nothing at all anywhere.

So thank goodness for atoms. But the fact that you have atoms and they assemble in suck a willing manner is only part of what got you here. To be here now, alive in the twenty-first century and smart enough to know it, you also had to be the beneficiary of an extraordinary string of biological good fortune. Survival on Earth is a surprisingly tricky business. Of the billions and billions of species of living things that have existed wince the dawn of time, most – 99.9 percent – are no longer around. Life on Earth, you see, is not only brief but dismayingly tenuous. It is a curious feature of our existence that we come from a plane that is very good at producing life but even better at extinguishing it.

The average species on Earth lasts for only about four million years, so if you wish to be around for billions of years, you must be as fickle as the atoms that made you. You must be prepared to change everything about yourself – shape, size, color, species affiliation, everything – and to do so repeatedly. That’s much easier said than done, because the process of change is random. To get form “protoplasmal primordial atomic globule” (as Gilbert and Sullivan put it) to sentient upright modern human has required you to mutate new traits over and over in a precisely timely manner for an exceedingly long while. So at various periods over the last 3.8 billion years you have abhorred oxygen, then doted on it, grown fins and limbs and jaunty sails, laid eggs, flicked the air with a forked tongue, been sleek, been furry, lived underground, lived in trees, been as big as a deer, and as small as a mouse, and a million things more. The tiniest deviation from any of these evolutionary shifts, and you might now be licking algae from cave walls or lolling walruslike on some stony shore or disgorging air through a blowhole in the top of your head before diving sixty feet for a mouthful of sandworms.

Not only have you been lucky enough to be attached since time immemorial to a favored evolutionary line, but you have also been extremely – make that miraculously – fortunate in your personal ancestry. Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, everyone of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result – eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly – in you.

”The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.”

– Freeman Dyson

The sky… yup, it’s F’in big.

15 May

Astronomers release the largest color image of the sky ever made

High[ish]-res sample of pic: http://www.rdmag.com/uploadedImages/RD/News/2011/01/LargestColor1.jpg

130 BC: Hipparchus develops the first acccurate star map and star catalogue with over 850 of the brightest stars

1609: Gallileo uses a telescope for astronomy

1687: Newton publishes Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

1675: Ole Romer measures the speed of light.

1781: Messier discovers galaxies, nebula and star clusters while looking for comets

1923: Hubble shows that galaxies exist outside of the Milky Way

1990: Hubble Telescope put into orbit

2011…

sky

This illustration shows the wealth of information on scales both small and large available in the SDSS-III’s new image. The picture in the top left shows the SDSS-III view of a small part of the sky, centered on the galaxy Messier 33 (M33). The middle top picture is a further zoom-in on M33, showing the spiral arms of this galaxy, including the blue knots of intense star formation known as “HII regions.” The top right-hand picture is a further zoom into M33 showing the object NGC604, which is one of the largest HII regions in that galaxy. The figure at the bottom is a map of the whole sky derived from the SDSS-III image, divided into the northern and southern hemispheres of our galaxy. Visible in the map are the clusters and walls of galaxies that are the largest structures in the entire universe.

Credit: M. Blanton and the SDSS-III

Astronomers Release the Largest Color Image of the Sky Ever Made

Today, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS-III) is releasing the largest digital color image of the sky ever made, and it’s free to all. The image has been put together over the last decade from millions of 2.8-megapixel images, thus creating a color image of more than a trillion pixels. This terapixel image is so big and detailed that one would need 500,000 high-definition TVs to view it at its full resolution.

“This image provides opportunities for many new scientific discoveries in the years to come,” exclaims Bob Nichol, a professor at the University of Portsmouth and Scientific Spokesperson for the SDSS-III collaboration.

The new image is at the heart of new data being released by the SDSS-III collaboration at 217th American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. This new SDSS-III data release, along with the previous data releases that it builds upon, gives astronomers the most comprehensive view of the night sky ever made. SDSS data have already been used to discover nearly half a billion astronomical objects, including asteroids, stars, galaxies and distant quasars. The latest, most precise positions, colors and shapes for all these objects are also being released today.

“This is one of the biggest bounties in the history of science,” says Professor Mike Blanton from New York University, who is leading the data archive work in SDSS-III. Blanton and many other scientists have been working for months preparing the release of all this data. This data will be a legacy for the ages, explains Blanton, as previous ambitious sky surveys like the Palomar Sky Survey of the 1950s are still being used today. We expect the SDSS data to have that sort of shelf life,” comments Blanton.

The image was started in 1998 using what was then the world’s largest digital camera, a 138-megapixel imaging detector on the back of a dedicated 2.5-meter telescope at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, USA. Over the last decade, SDSS has scanned a third of the whole sky. Now, this imaging camera is being retired, and will be part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian in recognition of its contributions to astronomy.

http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=1218

Lost in Translation

9 May

[i think this was a WSJ article… lost the link]

Lost in Translation
New cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world; a different sense of blame in Japanese and Spanish

Do the languages we speak shape the way we think? Do they merely express thoughts, or do the structures in languages (without our knowledge or consent) shape the very thoughts we wish to express?

Take “Humpty Dumpty sat on a…” Even this snippet of a nursery rhyme reveals how much languages can differ from one another. In English, we have to mark the verb for tense; in this case, we say “sat” rather than “sit.” In Indonesian you need not (in fact, you can’t) change the verb to mark tense.

In Russian, you would have to mark tense and also gender, changing the verb if Mrs. Dumpty did the sitting. You would also have to decide if the sitting event was completed or not. If our ovoid hero sat on the wall for the entire time he was meant to, it would be a different form of the verb than if, say, he had a great fall.

In Turkish, you would have to include in the verb how you acquired this information. For example, if you saw the chubby fellow on the wall with your own eyes, you’d use one form of the verb, but if you had simply read or heard about it, you’d use a different form.

Do English, Indonesian, Russian and Turkish speakers end up attending to, understanding, and remembering their experiences differently simply because they speak different languages?

These questions touch on all the major controversies in the study of mind, with important implications for politics, law and religion. Yet very little empirical work had been done on these questions until recently. The idea that language might shape thought was for a long time considered untestable at best and more often simply crazy and wrong. Now, a flurry of new cognitive science research is showing that in fact, language does profoundly influence how we see the world.

The question of whether languages shape the way we think goes back centuries; Charlemagne proclaimed that “to have a second language is to have a second soul.” But the idea went out of favor with scientists when Noam Chomsky’s theories of language gained popularity in the 1960s and ’70s. Dr. Chomsky proposed that there is a universal grammar for all human languages—essentially, that languages don’t really differ from one another in significant ways. And because languages didn’t differ from one another, the theory went, it made no sense to ask whether linguistic differences led to differences in thinking.

The search for linguistic universals yielded interesting data on languages, but after decades of work, not a single proposed universal has withstood scrutiny. Instead, as linguists probed deeper into the world’s languages (7,000 or so, only a fraction of them analyzed), innumerable unpredictable differences emerged.

Of course, just because people talk differently doesn’t necessarily mean they think differently. In the past decade, cognitive scientists have begun to measure not just how people talk, but also how they think, asking whether our understanding of even such fundamental domains of experience as space, time and causality could be constructed by language.

For example, in Pormpuraaw, a remote Aboriginal community in Australia, the indigenous languages don’t use terms like “left” and “right.” Instead, everything is talked about in terms of absolute cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), which means you say things like, “There’s an ant on your southwest leg.” To say hello in Pormpuraaw, one asks, “Where are you going?”, and an appropriate response might be, “A long way to the south-southwest. How about you?” If you don’t know which way is which, you literally can’t get past hello.

About a third of the world’s languages (spoken in all kinds of physical environments) rely on absolute directions for space. As a result of this constant linguistic training, speakers of such languages are remarkably good at staying oriented and keeping track of where they are, even in unfamiliar landscapes. They perform navigational feats scientists once thought were beyond human capabilities. This is a big difference, a fundamentally different way of conceptualizing space, trained by language.

Differences in how people think about space don’t end there. People rely on their spatial knowledge to build many other more complex or abstract representations including time, number, musical pitch, kinship relations, morality and emotions. So if Pormpuraawans think differently about space, do they also think differently about other things, like time?

To find out, my colleague Alice Gaby and I traveled to Australia and gave Pormpuraawans sets of pictures that showed temporal progressions (for example, pictures of a man at different ages, or a crocodile growing, or a banana being eaten). Their job was to arrange the shuffled photos on the ground to show the correct temporal order. We tested each person in two separate sittings, each time facing in a different cardinal direction. When asked to do this, English speakers arrange time from left to right. Hebrew speakers do it from right to left (because Hebrew is written from right to left).

Pormpuraawans, we found, arranged time from east to west. That is, seated facing south, time went left to right. When facing north, right to left. When facing east, toward the body, and so on. Of course, we never told any of our participants which direction they faced. The Pormpuraawans not only knew that already, but they also spontaneously used this spatial orientation to construct their representations of time. And many other ways to organize time exist in the world’s languages. In Mandarin, the future can be below and the past above. In Aymara, spoken in South America, the future is behind and the past in front.

In addition to space and time, languages also shape how we understand causality. For example, English likes to describe events in terms of agents doing things. English speakers tend to say things like “John broke the vase” even for accidents. Speakers of Spanish or Japanese would be more likely to say “the vase broke itself.” Such differences between languages have profound consequences for how their speakers understand events, construct notions of causality and agency, what they remember as eyewitnesses and how much they blame and punish others.

In studies conducted by Caitlin Fausey at Stanford, speakers of English, Spanish and Japanese watched videos of two people popping balloons, breaking eggs and spilling drinks either intentionally or accidentally. Later everyone got a surprise memory test: For each event, can you remember who did it? She discovered a striking cross-linguistic difference in eyewitness memory. Spanish and Japanese speakers did not remember the agents of accidental events as well as did English speakers. Mind you, they remembered the agents of intentional events (for which their language would mention the agent) just fine. But for accidental events, when one wouldn’t normally mention the agent in Spanish or Japanese, they didn’t encode or remember the agent as well.

In another study, English speakers watched the video of Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” (a wonderful nonagentive coinage introduced into the English language by Justin Timberlake), accompanied by one of two written reports. The reports were identical except in the last sentence where one used the agentive phrase “ripped the costume” while the other said “the costume ripped.” Even though everyone watched the same video and witnessed the ripping with their own eyes, language mattered. Not only did people who read “ripped the costume” blame Justin Timberlake more, they also levied a whopping 53% more in fines.

Beyond space, time and causality, patterns in language have been shown to shape many other domains of thought. Russian speakers, who make an extra distinction between light and dark blues in their language, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue. The Piraha, a tribe in the Amazon in Brazil, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities. And Shakespeare, it turns out, was wrong about roses: Roses by many other names (as told to blindfolded subjects) do not smell as sweet.

Patterns in language offer a window on a culture’s dispositions and priorities. For example, English sentence structures focus on agents, and in our criminal-justice system, justice has been done when we’ve found the transgressor and punished him or her accordingly (rather than finding the victims and restituting appropriately, an alternative approach to justice). So does the language shape cultural values, or does the influence go the other way, or both?

Languages, of course, are human creations, tools we invent and hone to suit our needs. Simply showing that speakers of different languages think differently doesn’t tell us whether it’s language that shapes thought or the other way around. To demonstrate the causal role of language, what’s needed are studies that directly manipulate language and look for effects in cognition.

One of the key advances in recent years has been the demonstration of precisely this causal link. It turns out that if you change how people talk, that changes how they think. If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. When bilingual people switch from one language to another, they start thinking differently, too. And if you take away people’s ability to use language in what should be a simple nonlinguistic task, their performance can change dramatically, sometimes making them look no smarter than rats or infants. (For example, in recent studies, MIT students were shown dots on a screen and asked to say how many there were. If they were allowed to count normally, they did great. If they simultaneously did a nonlinguistic task—like banging out rhythms—they still did great. But if they did a verbal task when shown the dots—like repeating the words spoken in a news report—their counting fell apart. In other words, they needed their language skills to count.)

All this new research shows us that the languages we speak not only reflect or express our thoughts, but also shape the very thoughts we wish to express. The structures that exist in our languages profoundly shape how we construct reality, and help make us as smart and sophisticated as we are.

Language is a uniquely human gift. When we study language, we are uncovering in part what makes us human, getting a peek at the very nature of human nature. As we uncover how languages and their speakers differ from one another, we discover that human natures too can differ dramatically, depending on the languages we speak. The next steps are to understand the mechanisms through which languages help us construct the incredibly complex knowledge systems we have. Understanding how knowledge is built will allow us to create ideas that go beyond the currently thinkable. This research cuts right to the fundamental questions we all ask about ourselves. How do we come to be the way we are? Why do we think the way we do? An important part of the answer, it turns out, is in the languages we speak.

Corrections and Amplifications

Japanese and Spanish language speakers would likely say “the vase broke” or “the vase was broken” when talking about an accident. This article says that Japanese and Spanish speakers would be more likely to say “the vase broke itself.”

And to liven it up a bit, an excerpt from Discover:

20 19 Things You Didn’t Know About Language

1 The voice box sits lower in the throat in humans than it does in other primates, giving us a uniquely large resonating system. That’s why we alone are able to make the wide range of sounds needed for speech

2 That also explains Mariah Carey, Barry White, and Robin Williams.

3 Unfortunately, the placement of our voice box means we can’t breathe and swallow at the same time, as other animals can (choke).

4 Fortunately, the human voice box doesn’t drop until about 9 months, which allows infants to breathe while nursing.

5 Still the one: Mandarin is the long-standing champ among world languages with 845 million native speakers, about 2.5 times as many as English.

6 But more than 70 percent of all the home pages on the Internet are in English, and more online users speak English than any other language, making it the world’s lingua franca (assuming you consider brb, omg, g2g, and rofl English).

7 Hey, the world will never change—right? English is mandatory for every student in China, starting in third grade. But in America, only 3 percent of elementary schools and 4 percent of secondary schools even offer Chinese.

8 Many science-related English words starting with the letters al—including algebra, alkaline, and algorithm—are derived from Arabic, in which the prefix al just means “the.”

9 This is a legacy of the medieval era, when ancient Greek and Roman knowledge was largely lost in Europe but preserved and advanced among scholars in the Islamic world.

10 Modern technology is making everything smaller, even our words. “Bits of eight” shrank to become byte, “modulate/demodulate” became modem, “picture cell” became pixel, and of course “web log” became blog.

11 At the other end, the longest word recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary is pneumono­ultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a lung disease caused by inhaling volcanic silicon dust.

12 Grüss dich, Dunkelheit, mein alter Freund. Three- to five-day-olds born into French-speaking families tend to cry with the rising intonation characteristic of French; babies with German-speaking parents cry with falling tones, much like spoken German. Infants may start learning language in the womb, it seems.

13 The neural equipment for language development then seems to ripen between birth and age 3. People deprived of language before puberty (due to isolation or abuse, for instance) might later learn a limited supply of words, but they never develop the ability to make meaningful sentences.

14 Other clues about language processing come from damaged brains. People who have sustained an injury to a region called Broca’s area have trouble producing even short phrases, indicating it is critical to speech.

15 And damage to the brain’s superior temporal gyrus can lead to Wernicke’s aphasia. Patients sound as if they are speaking normally, but what they say makes no sense.

16 In old Westerns, Native Americans often made a sound like “ugh.” This wasn’t a commentary on the plots; it was a naive attempt to reproduce the sound of the glottal stop of many Native American languages, produced by briefly closing the vocal cords during speech.

17 !Say !What? When the Dutch encountered Africa’s Nama people, whose language includes clicking sounds, they dubbed them Hottentots, Dutch for “stuttering.”

18 Really foreign sounds: Spanish Silbo, a whistle language, has only four vowel and four consonant sounds. Audible for miles, it resembles bird calls and is indigenous to—where else?—the Canary Islands.

19 Indian Sign Language is the world’s most widespread silent language, with some 2.7 million users. 20. Another sound of silence: More than one-third of the world’s 6,800 spoken languages are endangered. According to UNESCO, about 200 tongues now have fewer than 10 surviving speakers.

Ayrton Senna – 17 Years After

1 May

March 21, 1960 – May 1, 1994

“In 2009, a poll of 217 current and former Formula One drivers conducted by the British magazine Autosport named Senna as the greatest Formula One driver.

Michael Schumacher’s reaction to Senna’s death:

An amazing driver with an amazing legacy. When Michael Schumacher got his 41st win, he tied Senna’s record… and promptly broke down when this was pointed out:

Anyone interested enough to read this post probably already knows the history of Ayrton’s untimely death…

But for the unfamiliar:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Ayrton_Senna

“The death of three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna on May 1, 1994, occurred as a result of his car crashing into a concrete barrier while he was leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy. The previous day, Roland Ratzenberger had been killed when his car crashed during qualification for the race. His and Senna’s accidents were the worst of several accidents that took place that weekend and were the first fatal accidents to occur during a Formula One race meeting in twelve years. They became a turning point in the safety of Formula One, prompting the implementation of new safety measures and the re-formation of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.”

Godspeed to a true legend

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