Awesome Animals – WIF Supreheroes

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Superheroes

of the

Animal Kingdom

Superpowers may be the stuff of science fiction, but certain animal species possess superpowers–or at least engage in activities that we might attributeto superheroes or, sometimes, supervillains. From starting fires, strategically bleeding from the eyes, protecting other species at sea, living as a snake that gets airborne, and being a walking incendiary weapon, here are some freaks, special operators, and rogues of the living world that will certainly expand our view of critter “can-do.”

10. The Firebird Hunters

Winged and feathered pyromaniacs hunt by fire, according to some rather hot theories put forward based on Australian ornithological observation. While further hard scientific investigation is warranted, it appears that certain raptors such as kites will pick up small smoldering or flaming sticks and then drop them in strategic areas to advance grass fires in their favor. Work published in the Journal of Ethnobiology describes the account of a firefighter who witnessed a Whistling Kite in Australia restarting and spreading fire by picking up burning sticks.

What does the apparent advantage of spreading fires appear to be? Fires flush out or burn prey, allowing easy capture or scavenging of dead remains. Animals fleeing the advancing face of a fire have nowhere to go but away from the bank of flames, which would allow birds taking advantage of this apparently planned situation a relatively easy meal. Birds of many species are naturally adept at gathering small sticks to build well-engineered nests, suggesting that this same stick gathering aptitude may be harnessed by select birds of prey and applied for more… shall we say… high stakes and extreme purposes. It’s already known that birds feed along the face of fires, while many species drop shells strategically to break them open. Using fire to create a hunting opportunity presents a profound twist of ornithology deserving further investigation.

9. The Whale Guardians of The Perilous Sea

Whales may be enormous, but true whales tend to be gentle giants, with the majority of species concentrating their feeding efforts on plankton and small fish. In contrast, Orca–or Killer Whales–are actually giant, hyper-intelligent predatory dolphins that hunt almost anything in the ocean, depending on the type of Orca in question. Transient Orca populations are known as ravenous eaters of whales larger than themselves, while all Orca are apex predators.

And where that danger to other sea life posed by Orca hunting behavior exists, a surprising phenomenon of apparent protection of intended prey–including species as random and diverse as sunfish, seals, and other the young of another whale species–has been to be carried out by “guardian” Humpback Whales. Apparently perceiving the carnage of Orca hunts in a negative light, these determined Humpback “Citizens on Patrol” have been acting as oceanic bodyguards to species finding themselves on the menu for Orca dinners. In one case, a seal was sheltered from a predatory Orca attack, while in another instance, Humpback Whale adults gave up a favorite food that they were themselves targeting (a swarm of shrimp-like krill) to focus instead on defending a Grey Whale calf from a hungry Orca pod.

8. The Bleeding Lizards

Crocodile tears may be a physiological reality, but a number of species belonging to a group of smaller reptiles, the diminutive and dragon-like horned lizards native to North America, take things a step further. Predators might want a mouthful of lizard meat, but apparently a mouthful of squirted blood, or a mess of blood on a would-be hunter’s face, is a fair deterrent. The bizarre superpower of squirting blood from the eyes in an act of strange self-defense is held by eight or more horned lizard species, thanks to special blood filled sinus cavities located around the reptile’s eye sockets.

Upon perceiving a threat such as a coyote or bobcat wanting the lizard as a meal, horned lizard species squirt distasteful blood from the eye sockets with great force, discouraging the meal. Specialized muscles tighten to concentrate blood flow from large veins into thin membrane-bearing ocular sinuses. With sufficient force, the membrane will burst, launching sprays of blood to a distance of up to four feet. Resembling a tiny triceratops dinosaur with its horny adornments behind the eyes and armored body, horned lizards with blood squirting capabilities enjoy excellent compensatory defense considering their small size. Interestingly, the vein flow to the sinuses can be controlled to flush debris away from the desert dwelling animal’s eyes, swelling the membranes.

7. The Flying Snakes

Dragons may be creatures of legend, but something that makes even the thought of pigs flying seem possible exists and thrives after millennia of evolution in rain forests extending from India to Indonesia. Flying snakes spread out the skin on their body by extending their ribs, allowing them to glide magically from one tree to another in pursuit of food and to avoid larger hunters. (Oh, and also to feed your nightmares.) There are five species of flying snakes that exist, all having the ability to slither through the air at high speeds in a beautiful glide.

Ranging between two and four feet in length, flying snakes are venomous predators but pose little threat to humans, as their fangs are positioned toward the back of their jaws and cannot easily deliver an effective bite. Flying snakes prepare to get airborne by hanging suspended in the shape of the letter “J” at a strategic point on a tree branch. Next, the snake uses its rear muscles to “spring” from the tree, moving its body into the shape of the letter “S” once in the air. The snake then forms a concave shape with the cross-section of its body while stretching laterally to twice its original width. The resulting aerodynamic shape traps air under the snake’s body as it glides through the air. Researchers think the precise purpose of this flying ability is either for easy travel between trees in the forest canopy, predator avoidance, or to catch up with prey.

6. Hairy Frog

A frog with sharp claws might seem scary, but even more horrible but remarkable is the way in which the Hairy Frog, named for its weird body bristles, shall we say… procures its weapons for self-defense. The grotesque looking Hairy Frog, native to Central African regions including the country of Cameroon, actually has specialized musculoskeletal adaptations in its hind feet which allow sharp bone pieces to protrude through the frog’s flesh as sharp spikes once released.

Scientists from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, who were studying the frog’s disconcerting adaptation, reached the conclusion that the behavior was a strange form of self-defense. Specialized muscle contractions in the frog’s hind feet allow a razor sharp fragment to detach from the main toe bone section by breaking bone-joining collagen tissue, subsequently slicing right through the frog’s skin, creating dangerous claws while avoiding any catastrophic blood loss. While injury and pain would seem to be inherent in the action, the balance of risk and harm seems to be in favor of the frog, and against the predators. Essentially, this frog is the Wolverine (the character, not the actual animal) of the animal kingdom. The Hairy Frog is a formidable predator in its own right, having sharp teeth and a habit of seizing a variety of small animals as prey.

5. Bombardier Beetle

Molten lava comes from the Earth, while chemical weapons are seen as the domain of certain mad scientists or military plotters not concerned about facing the consequences of violating international law. Yet among the incredible variety of insect species found on this planet, formidable chemical weapons are unleashed in a burning, acrid furnace of directed attack by a different group of species that belongs to the uniquely diverse and familiar taxonomic group: beetles. Over 500 species of bombardier beetles go about their daily business on all continents (save for Antarctica), appearing like a normal insect. Hidden inside their hard abdomen are two separate compartments of highly reactive chemicals, consisting of hydrogen peroxide in one section and hydroquinone in the other.

Already well protected by a highly developed exoskeleton, bombardier beetles react to provocation and potential predatory attacks by shooting out the two chemical components in streams that mix and react furiously in a boiling mixture of acrid horror that may reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit, burning with both heat and chemical causticity. Burns to everything from the faces of predatory insects to human skin may result if the beetle is approached too closely. In one research project, over 40% of bombardier beetles swallowed by toads were vomited out alive after successfully “going off” inside the toads, calmly struggling back to their feet and walking off as a survivor of the attack by the amphibious predator. Some survivors had been inside the stomach of a toad for over an hour.

4. The Sand Striker

Worms may be thought of as soft, or a lowly form of life. However, it might come as a disturbing surprise that giant, carnivorous, horrendous worms lie submerged below the waves and buried in the sand, with only their formidable slicing jaws protruding. Known as the Sand Striker or Bobbit Worm, Eunice aphroditois occurs in warmer oceanic waters around the globe. The predatory worms are known to reach 10-feet in length, far larger than the popular imagination of a worm. And these jaws are razor sharp, bone-hard fangs with dentition that snap and simply chop prey in half upon the launch of a surprise attack.

The fangs inject a venomous concoction allowing disproportionately large prey to be digested. Equipped with sensory systems that allow passing prey to be detected with ease, the worms lie motionless in deep burrows only to burst forth when their prey “sensor” system is triggered by a creature that happens to stray to close. Lacking brains, these worms make up for their lack of intelligence by A) having the bone-like fangs which cut prey with surgical precision and incredible force and B) their size. Additionally, they can inflict an awful bite on humans should one accidentally put a finger or hand in the vicinity of their strike.

3. Climbing Perch

Perch are generally seen as the classic lake-dwelling fish, but one family of air breathing relatives of the famed Betta, or Siamese fighting fish, is named after typical perch but actually can move about effectively on land. Not perches proper, but simply forming a family of fish in the order Perciformes, which includes true perches, the various species of climbing perch (also known as climbing gouramis) are handsome little fish with a compact, rounded build and innocent appearance. Climbing perch measure between four inches and one foot in length, depending on the species and use their terrestrial locomotion abilities to find new water when their home pools dry up.

Native to tropical regions of Asia, including parts of China, the fish actually hoist themselves out of the water and proceed to “climb” using their gill covers as resting points. With the gill covers providing a point of leverage, the fish then propel themselves forward with the locomotive power of their tail fin. The typical fish requirement of water in order to breathe is bypassed by the air-breathing organ known as a labyrinth that climbing perch possess. While claims have been made that the fish can climb into vegetation such as trees, such a degree of adaptation allowing a transition from terrestrial to arboreal activity has not been proven.

2. Hoatzin

A bird with clawed hands might seem to be the very definition of prehistorically-themed science fiction, but that is exactly what the hoatzin juvenile represents. When young, this species uses clawed “hands” protruding from its wings to climb trees in swampy areas. Native to extensive northern regions of the South American continent and significantly established in the Amazon River Basin and Orinoco River Basins, the Hoatzin looks somewhat like a pheasant or certain mythical depictions of a phoenix with its peculiar hues of color, as well as its crest, elongated body, and stout bill.

Unlike most birds, the Hoatzin can digest leaves, which form a significant portion of its diet along with fruits and flowers. In order to effectively digest leaves, the Hoatzin possesses an enormously large crop which limits its flying abilities but allows the bird to ruminate in a manner akin to cattle. When a predator attacks a group of Hoatzins, the fluffy-looking young birds will drop into the water below their mangrove or riparian forest home and then scramble back up into the canopy using their wing claws (each wing has two) once the threat has abated. The only species in its order, the primitive bird remains a strange tangent of avian evolution with superpowers of juvenile survival.

1. Mantis Shrimp

Shrimp might be a synonym for a small or simply weak animal. Yet the bizarre and dangerous crustaceans known as mantis shrimp are seemingly normal looking, albeit colorful, marine crustaceans that can combine the hardness of their exoskeleton with a “karate punch” of unbelievable speed and force. And what is the function of this ability to hit with unimaginable strength? To crack open the nearly rock hard shells of clams and other shellfish that the mantis shrimp wants to devour.  Striking with a force exceeding 330 pounds at more than 23 meters per second (or 50 miles per hour) using specially adapted club-like appendages, mantis shrimp can shatter almost any protective armor to take down prey. A locking mechanism and spring allow incredible energy releases.

Unfortunately for aquarists or researchers, a mantis shrimp blow could also destroy a glass aquarium or a finger bone on impact. The blow is powerful enough to produce cavitation bubbles as well as sonoluminescence, which consists of light flashes generated by bubble collapse. The shockwave alone associated with a blow can cause prey to die even if the mantis shrimp does not make physical contact. Other varieties of mantis shrimp use spearing appendages to capture prey instead of blunt force. While not technically falling into the category of decapod shrimp (which includes the type served commonly for dinner), mantis shrimp have a shrimp-like appearance and impression, hence their name. More than 400 species of mantis shrimp occur globally, mostly in tropical waters. Most commonly mantis shrimp grow to just under four inches in length, though a massive 18 inches has been attained.


Awesome Animals –

WIF Supreheroes

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 110

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 110

…I’m not into crocodiles and leaches, besides, they are sentenced to hang… I read the book…

“Do you want to help or did you come all this way to make fun of me?” Connie is serious about getting to Italy… to the Devil’s Headquarters no less.

Ace Bannion does have a serious side, real serious. And he knows people, influential people, unlikely people… and he’s been places and seen things others only dream about.

“I know a MATS pilot who does a weekly run to and from Tangier once a week.” See. “We could catch a ride on the jump-seats for free on me.”

“What the hell are mats, some sort of flying carpet?” Ace’s military lingo has Connie hoping for the best.

“Military Air Transport Service, he flies a C-124 GlobeMaster out of Brookley AFB in Alabama, then off to French Morocco; we could take a boat from there.”

“The African Queen, no thank you. I’m not into crocodiles and leaches, besides, they are sentenced to hang… I read the book.

“Me too, and if you remember, Rose and Charlie save themselves by sinking the Louisa and they live happily ever after,” the globetrotter recalls. “We can hop a freighter to Morocco-001Malta, and then catch an island hopper over to Rome, one-two-three.”

“Count to three and say N O.”

“I get us to Morocco and I believe we can find a more conventional route to Rome. Come on, don’t you remember the flying boats?”

“That is another story from another time,” she harkens back to the Hong Kong Clipper, which was an episode in another book (The Life & Times of a Black Southern Doctor). “But I do like the friends fly free program you are offering.”

“I will get us on the next GlobeMaster…….that is one great plane!” If he had his way, he would be sitting in the pilot’s not the jump seats. He is the boss of his own airplane, “I believe they cross the big pond on Mondays, so I’ll fly us down to Brookley Sunday night.”

“That gives us the weekend to bum around.”

“Yes, I want to meet all the characters you have been talking about.”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 98

Crazy Railroad Tracks – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Crazy Railroad Tracks

Around

the World

While we don’t think of them in the same way as cars or even commercial airplanes, trains are a staple mode of transportation and may be the very definition of the “standard routine” at times, being guided by rails. Yet rail and train construction is often anything but standard or routine, and is sometimes hatched from the brains of ultra-creative and – at times – desperate engineers.

We’ve already told you about bizarre locomotives themselves, so in this account we’re going to get into some of the crazier railroads from around the world…

10. Hindenburgdamm, Germany

Rail and sea travel might seem to be worlds apart, but when trains appear to run across the waves on a narrow causeway, the role of a ferry may be replaced by the capabilities of a train. The island of Sylt, off the coast of Germany, is not accessible by either roads or ferries. Instead, the method of traveling and, most significantly, of bringing cars to and from the popular island destination consists of what might best be called a sea train.

Locomotives pulling railcars stacked with personal vehicles travel between Sylt and Schleswig-Holstein on mainland Germany just barely above the waves on rails laid upon a precarious-looking causeway called the Hindenburgdamm that crosses almost 7 miles of water. The causeway is solid but exceptionally narrow, and also has very little height above sea level. The shallow waters in between the mainland and the island of Sylt made the creation of this remarkable alternative to the more typical means of transporting vehicles to an island by boat possible. Around 100 trains per day travel between the island and the mainland, half of those carrying cars and trucks.

9. Rail Transit No. 2, China

Chongqing, in China’s Sichuan Province, is a populated area where spicy food is popular and urban residential, commercial, and transportation space is at a great premium. So much so, in fact, that when the planned construction of Rail Transit No. 2 Line in Chongqing was set to go forward an apartment building was right in the way of the track slated to be built. While such a defined problem might baffle some designers and planners, a remarkable planning compromise was reached that balanced the competing transportation and residential needs.

Lacking an alternative route for the railway and not wanting to take the drastic step of demolishing the building, transit planners and engineers concocted a successful plan that removed several suites and passed the elevated train track right through the apartment building. While not easy, taking the approach of routing the railway through the building was still more feasible than trying other paths, given the little available space. The apartment still houses most of its original inhabitants, who apparently don’t mind a monorail barreling through their place once in awhile. Care to maintain the structural integrity of the building through the tunnel-like modifications combines with the quiet and efficient railway system to make the building livable, and surprisingly without significant noise or disturbance to residents.

8. Gisborne Airport Railway Crossing

Planes, trains, and… wait, planes and trains together? Yes. New Zealand is not the largest nation on Earth, and the competition for flat land that can be used for purposes dependent on flat land (especially, for example, an airport) is significant in certain areas. In a dramatic example of space sharing in transportation infrastructure, a railway intersects with a runway. On New Zealand’s North Island, thePalmerston North – Gisborne Railway Line crosses the runway of the Gisborne Airport.

Any mistake by a pilot or an engineer could potentially cause a plane to crash right into a train crossing the middle of the runway at right angles, but not to worry: schedules are carefully coordinated. Still, a locomotive steaming across a runway may shock the eyes of the unprepared. The railway is busy throughout the day and into the night, according to scheduled train routes. In contrast, the runway is only in operation to handle air traffic between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. During the day when both are in full use, it is a job and of itself to coordinate the arrival and departure of aircraft with the seemingly out-of-place trains that cross the runway. Aircraft and trains both stop for each other.

7. Gotthard Tunnel Route

Northern and Southern Europe may be geographically different and set apart by massive Alpine peaks towering above sloping forests and fields, but the remarkable Gotthard Tunnel solves the problem by tunneling directly through the mountains, connecting Europe on either side of the imposing Swiss Alps by going right under especially difficult sections. The tunnel is the longest railway tunnel in the world at 35 miles in length, greatly reducing the need for truck traffic. The tunnel is also not only the longest railway tunnel existing on the planet, it is also the deepest under the surface.

At its greatest point of depth, the remarkable tunnel is 1.42 miles below the mountainous surface above as it carries trains in the subterranean desolation. Replacing the traffic of a million trucks that have been transporting goods every year, the twin-bored tunnel links the municipality of Erstfeld, with its German language name and located towards Switzerland’s north, with the south of Switzerland municipality of Bodio, closer to the Italian border and with a corresponding Italian name – examples of Switzerland’s linguistic diversity. The tunnel route was opened in a ceremony that involved hundreds of passengers getting the opportunity to ride the train in each direction.

6. Maeklong Railway Market

Playing on train tracks is not recommended, but the Maeklong Railway Market in Bangkok, Thailand takes things one step further. You see, not only do people gather around the tracks, but an entire marketplace is set up and dismantled daily. When the market is open, stalls are erected and goods are sold… right on the tracks upon which trains will soon arrive. Each time trains are scheduled throughout the day, items and people are moved hastily off the track, before the trains come through. Paying attention to the time is certainly a matter of survival in this particular set up.

The scale and complexity of the market in its cumulative sum makes its dismantlement seem immensely challenging. But it is the coordinated effort of multiple vendors working together that also makes it possible for the entire set up to be moved out of the way of oncoming trains when the need arises. Close attention is duly paid to the schedule of the train despite the apparent distraction of the busy selling conditions and throngs of market visitors. As the tracks are cleared according to train schedules, disaster is consistently averted.

5. Katoomba Scenic World Railway

Australia may be thought of as a land of flat terrain and desert, but it is worth remembering that while that impression may be true across much of the Australian landscape, there is topographical variation. The Blue Mountains of New South Wales are not only noteworthy natural features but also home to an incredible railway system that forms a tourist attraction. Remarkable as the world’s steepest funicular railway and the steepest passenger-carrying rail system worldwide, the Katoomba Scenic World Railway was originally built in the late 1800s and has a rich history, given its construction to aid in transportation aspects of mining operations.

Funicular indicates that the railway operates with the assistance of cable traction, pulling cars up the steep inclines that would otherwise pose an insurmountable challenge to rail travel. With tracks positioned at 52 degrees, which is a 128% incline, the incredibly steep railway now sees modern vehicles operating as an attraction for daring rail travelers. The railway offers spectacular views of mountain, forest, and cliff formations as it traverses difficult terrain. In one particularly hair-raising section, the railway drops 1,017 feet as it travels through a tunnel in the side of a mountain cliff.

4. Tren-a-las Nubes, Argentina

The Andes are known as exceptional geographical formations that offer some of the most ambitious mountaineering routes on the planet. Translating to “Train to the Clouds,” Tren-a-las Nubes in Argentina rises just over 13,779 feet above sea level. Passing through numerous spectacular landscape types and climate zones, the train traverses arid lowlands, rocky precipices, and high elevation landscapes where the air is thin enough to potentially create challenges for those not accustomed to the height. And speaking of that height: onboard oxygen is available in case of medical symptoms due to the exceptional height reached on the journey.

Construction of the incredible railway route began in the year 1921 under a plan to connect Northern Argentina to Chilean lands by reaching across the Andes. As the tracks cover variations between peaks and immense valleys, the differences are leveled out by carefully constructed trestles equipped with an incredible array of beams, abruptly transitioning into railway track, skirting slope edges with sufficient clearance made in the rocks. Typical track may seem to be the exception rather than the norm in such parts of the route. While the train to the clouds reaches astonishing heights, the name actually refers to clouds of steam from the locomotive hovering in the cold air rather than any natural clouds that may be encountered on the route.

3. Qinghai-Tibet Railway

The highest railway in the world, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway reaches the exceptional height of a little more than 16,640 feet at its highest point, while its average height is still exceptional at nearly 14,764 feet. The railway passes through the world’s highest elevated railway tunnel, with sections of the track experiencing severe freezing conditions. The route contains a number of record-holding elements in the track layout, including the most lengthy plateau tunnel on the planet at Kunlun Mountain, extending 5,531 feet, while the Fenghuoshan Tunnel is at the top of world records for the tunnel that is at the highest elevation, being built at 16,092.52 feet.

The railway is recognized as a Chinese engineering feat of great significance, standing out with many ingenious and challenging engineering solutions given the vast distances involved in the route, remote locations, and the need to build sections of the track on frozen soil that never thaws. The thinness of the air at the higher elevation along the route has presented challenges not only to passengers, but significantly affected construction workers to the point where oxygen facilities were set up. Passengers fill out a health declaration and are also supplied with personal oxygen masks, while train windows filter excess UV rays.

2. Mauritania Railway, Sahara Desert

Yes, there is a train running through shifting sands and shimmering heat. At 437 miles in length, the Mauritania Railway braves the blistering isolation of the Sahara. The seemingly endless trains running from desert to coast along this route, the national railway of the sizable, Sahara desert-dominated African country of Mauritania, are the longest freight trains in the world at 1.5 miles in length. The route is used to transport iron ore vast distances across the desert to port locations, where it is shipped.

Given that the nation is almost entirely stark and desolate desert, iron ore export plays a crucial role in the economic survival of the country. While the trains are mostly intended to carry freight, passengers can hitch a ride on the trains, either opting to ride for free in the hoppers or to pay a small fee to travel on available benches. But if the train were to break down in the extreme heat of the Sahara, the results could be disastrous for travelers. The risks of the adventure on the desert tracks include extreme sandstorms brought about by the harsh desert winds and easily disturbed fine sands that characterize the desert landscape.

1. Dawlish Railway Station, Exeter to Plymouth Line

Trains on the beach, a seawall station, and sea cliff tunnels. That’s a lot to combine together in a railway route, and sometimes, the cause of an awful lot of trouble due to collapsing tracks. An example of particularly notable and extreme railway line construction that has left much to be desired, the Dawlish Railway Station in southern England and the railway tracks to and from the areas close to the station have at times been fraught with problems. The challenges have included the collapse of a track section after being partially washed away by the waves caused by extreme weather.

The spectacular appearance of the beach-side station and nearby tracks stands out, seemingly being out of place due to the station being right on the seawall, allowing salt spray to easily wash over the tracks. The sight of trains in a view-scape where one might expect beached or moored ships adds great interest and creates fantastic photography opportunities. Adding to the drama of the exceptionally challenging rail route, the track travels through tunnels bored into challenging sea cliffs just to the south of the station, creating a contrast between track running through the closed seaside tunnels, and track laid along open seawalls.


Crazy Railroad Tracks –

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 104

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 104

…“My cousin Hilbert from Sandwich Illinois is a crop-duster,” proof that Eddie D. is getting back to his old self…

Click on for video

With Fanny away in Florida, Constance Caraway respectfully skips the Tolentine performance in favor of a well-being check at the home of Eddie Dombroski. She has taken personal responsibility for putting the man in harms way. An experienced private eye should have guessed that Eddie would want to be the one to rescue his wife, even though they were only playing a hunch and he normally followed orders to the letter.

Edie Dombroski has been so gracious in the face of this family crisis. She is a gritty city woman, loving on the inside with an urban-tested exterior. Her husband had been mugged in the past, had his share of fender benders and even had a hand in stopping a bank robbery, but he had never taken a bullet to his midsection or his left shoulder.

“Do you need a spleen?” is one of the questions Eddie has for his post-op caretakers. His other was more of a commentary, “Lucky for me I’m a righty; I can steer, shift gears, the whole ball-of- wax.”

“You won’t be driving any time soon Edward Francis,” Edie lays down the law. “Miss Caraway has given us $1000 dollars so you/we can make it to spring.”

Constance’s care extends to her pocketbook.

“Don’t forget about that color television she bought us. I bet we’re the first on the block to have one,” he brags, “and it has a record player too!”

“You can see I’ll have my hands full,” she casts a lamenting gaze Constance’s way. “Guess who has to change the channels? Edie this, Edie that, Edie I could use a snack…..”

“I cannot help you with that Mrs. Dombroski; though I did keep the receipt from Goldblatt’s Department Store?”

“Oh no you don’t missy!”

“I need to get going,” she checks her Timex wristwatch, “I’ve got to meet a friend at Meigs Field.”

“Fanny?”

“No, she’s back in Tallahassee on another case.”

“Meigs? That’s that new runway on the lake, but it’s only for private planes.”

“My friend has a BeechCraft Bonanza.”

“Does this flyboy have a name?”

“Ace Bannion.”

“And my name is Clark Kent.” Not Elvis or Gene Kelly.

“Well Clark, I’ll bring Ace around for a visit while he’s in town.”

Eddie's Cousins-001“My cousin Hilbert from Sandwich is a crop-duster, no airports needed for him. I mean to tell you, when he comes home for lunch he just flies right up to his back door.”

Proof that Eddie is getting back to his old self.

“Sandwich? I have relatives in Bologna!”

Constance is always herself.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 93

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 94

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 94

 …The doors to operating room #3 have not been opened a single time, neither a good or bad sign…

Constance Caraway and Fanny Renwick have been outside the Emergency Room ofCC Theme-001 Saint Anthony Hospital patiently waiting for word about their wounded friend. In a rare public show of affection, they hold hands with no appreciable separation between them. During the scary times they lean on one another and it has been that way for most of the past 20 years. They are sampling that alone feeling now, now that they must make their own way in an unfamiliar metropolis.

Eddie has been in surgery for a five full hours and during that time, not one minute has Edie Dombroski been seated. She has fitfully paced the “Family Waiting” room keenly aware of how serious her husband’s’ injuries were, having witnessed the urgency exhibited by the ambulance medics.

Operating roomThe doors to operating room #3 have not been opened a single time, neither a good or bad sign considering that access to blood banks and personnel come from within. Five hours becomes six.

“What are we going to do Connie? We are done with what we were hired to do, Martin is busy with Willard and all that science stuff and now Eddie is out of commission.”

Constance cradles her head, kissing her like a she were a frightened child.

“Let’s see–we have a car, but don’t know where we’re going. We have a job, but it appears we are dealing with the forces of hell,” she recites a short list of diminishing prospects. “Do you think we should head back home Fanny?”Image result for chicken gif

“We have to take care of the Dombroski’s,” a must.

“We have to make sure that Libby is stable and safe,” not there yet.

“We will look like we’re chickening out if we leave now,” Fanny hits a nerve.

“Chicken, when was the last time we ran from a fight?”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 85

Mars on Earth – Planetary Mashup

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Mars-Like

Places

on Earth

Will humans ever be able to live on Mars? That’s the big question that a lot of people wonder about. Nicknamed the Red Planet because of its bright rust color, it is the fourth planet from the sun and Earth’s neighbor.

Despite being much colder than Earth with an average temperature of around -80 degrees Fahrenheit, there are many other obstacles in the way of humans colonizing there right now, such as the fact that there isn’t any oxygen to breathe. Scientists, however, are searching for new ways to make it possible for humans to eventually move to Mars, such as potentially heating up the planet to create an atmosphere in which people can breathe in oxygen.

The progress that scientists are making is amazing and it may be very possible for humans to inhabit our planetary neighbor in the not-so-distant future. Having locations on Earth that are similar to the conditions on the Red Planet are extremely helpful for researchers… like these six Mars-like locations right here on our planet.

Lake Vostok, Antarctica

Lake Vostok, Antarctica is one of the biggest subglacial lakes on Earth. The lake, which is located near the South Pole in East Antarctica, is 143 miles long, 31 miles wide, and over 2,600 feet deep. It is buried beneath more than two miles of ice and is located close to Russia’s Vostok research station. It is estimated that the lake has been covered with ice for at least 15 million years, with no access to light, and is sealed from the atmosphere which makes it one of the most extreme environments on the planet.

A Russian geographer/pilot first noticed the buried lake in the 1960s when he spotted from the air a smooth patch of ice on top of it. In 1996, British and Russian researchers then confirmed that there was indeed a lake buried there. Despite the age of the lake being unknown, scientists believe it is only thousands of years old.

Although the location has an average temperature of around minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the lake itself is believed to be around 27 degrees Fahrenheit because of the huge weight of the ice on top. Scientists also believe that the freshwater lake could have creatures living in the darkness and the extreme cold. In fact, they did find that the lake contains microbes and multi-cellular organisms. And this gives hope that life can be found in the similarly extreme environment of Mars.

Dry Valleys, Antarctica

The Dry Valleys are a row of valleys located west of McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. The valleys, which are subjected to cold permafrost, are said to be the closest terrestrial environment similar to the very north of Mars. Researchers have found bacteria that live in freezing temperatures where the water has turned to ice and where nutrients are scarce. Oligotrophs are slow-growing organisms that live in environments where nutrients are hard to find and they could help scientists figure out how life could possibly exist on Mars.

Researchers believe that Mars’ polar north may have supported life at one time because it received a lot more sunlight millions of years ago, which means the possibility of water and, of course, life. So researchers began drilling at this location in Antarctica to decide which machinery would be best to use on the northern locations of Mars. Scientists have found a patch of soil covering a layer of ice at the polar north of the Red Planet, and the environment is very similar at Dry Valleys, so that’s why this drilling research is being conducted there.

Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is a plateau approximately 1,000 kilometers long and is so extremely dry that it’s one of the most Mars-like locations on the planet. In fact, it can take decades of time between rainfalls, which ranks it among the driest locations on Earth. That is why, in 2004, scientists that were NASA-funded spent four weeks in the desert doing research on how life could possibly survive on Mars. And what they found is definitely mind-blowing.

In the dry core of the desert, scientists have found microbial life. And if they can find it on an immensely dry location like the Atacama Desert, where many people believe that nothing is able to survive, there’s a very real possibility that they could also find life on Mars. A planetary scientist from Washington State University was quoted saying “If life can persist in Earth’s driest environment, there is a good chance it could be hanging in there on Mars in a similar fashion.”

Pico de Orizaba, Mexico

Pico de Orizaba is a volcano located in south-central Mexico. It rises on the south edge of the Mexican Plateau and is located about 60 miles east of Puebla. The volcano, which has been dormant since 1687, is the third highest peak in North America, registering at 18,406 feet tall.

One big question in regards to the possible colonization on Mars is how would humans make it habitable? That is why scientists are so interested in Pico de Orizaba. It has one of Earth’s highest tree line elevations at over 13,000 feet and researchers are using this location to try to figure out how they could begin life on Mars.

Scientists believe that if they could warm up the Red Planet by using heat-trapping gases, raising the air pressure, and beginning photosynthesis, that they could possibly create and maintain an atmosphere that would support humans and other life forms that need oxygen to breathe. If they could use these gases to heat Mars to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, that would equal the temperature of the tree line on the Pico de Orizaba volcano.

Death Valley, California

Scientists have done extensive research and testing for decades at Death Valley because of the location’s ancient rock layers. Even NASA’s Curiosity was tested there to see how it would handle to harsh terrain on Mars. Death Valley is located in the southeast of California and is the lowest, driest, and hottest part of North America. The valley is approximately 140 miles long by 5 to 15 miles wide. Although the valley is excessively hotter than Mars, the harsh rocky terrain is said to be quite similar.

Since 2012, Death Valley holds a yearly event called MarsFest where engineers and scientists discuss with the public the similar relationship between that location and Mars. People can visit Mars Hill, which is covered with volcanic rubble and rocks, as well as take a walk to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the Ubehebe Crater volcanic field, and the Little Hebe Crater.

Devon Island

Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island on the planet. Of all the islands on Earth – habited and uninhabited – it is the 27th largest. It is part of an archipelago (a group of islands) called the Parry Islands in Nunavut, Canada. It is located in the Arctic Ocean, south of Ellesmere Island and west of Baffin Bay. Devon Island is approximately 320 miles long and 80-100 miles wide with an area of just over 21,000 square miles.

The island, which was discovered in 1616 by William Baffin, has a huge 14-mile wide crater called the “Haughton Crater.” It is estimated that the crater was created around 39 million years ago when a comet two kilometers in diameter hit the area. Described as a polar desert, the impact zone is cold, dry, windy and dusty which makes it quite similar to the many craters on Mars, especially with all the loose rock in this earthly crater. Although Devon Island has an average temperature of 1 degree Fahrenheit and Mars averages -76 degrees Fahrenheit weather, the island is one of the closest comparisons to our planetary neighbor.

Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute and is leading the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) where the Haughton Crater is being used for research of new technologies and strategies which will hopefully help prepare humans and robots for the exploration of the Red Planet. Every summer since 1997, Lee has led missions to the isolated island where they have tested many things that will help them for a trip to Mars, such as spacesuits and robots, as well as drills.


Mars on Earth –

Planetary Mashup

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 92

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 92

…The Nun and the Spy…

conspiracy

Willard Libby’s aunt is as gracious a human being as any out there, which means sheTolentine will not turn away even the lowest of the low. Billed as Bernard Spencer, communications specialist for The Vatican, Spencer/Daniels/Cephus is welcomed into the monastery like the Prodigal Son. Sister Mary has a pre-loaded battery of questions for such a treasured papal insider, though she is troubled by the news of Ernesto Pacelli’s demise.

Spencer/Cephus/Daniels is most obliging in detailing life within the gates of Vatican City.

“Is the Holy Father as brilliant as his Humani Generis indicates? I recall how Mr. Pacelli so lovingly gave me a copy and how it applies so well to current world opinion.” She is more than serious. “The Church has been under attack in recent years, mostly from the outside-in. The reliance on science is a cancer to the Word.”

“And yet you welcomed two prominent scientists into the walls of Tolentine, both of whom were responsible for the A-bomb.”

“I must say that Mr. Fermi surprised me in a pleasant sort of way… and well my nephew is my nephew. He is a fundamentally good man and for such a cause as his, I could not refuse the summit. And that Billy Graham fellow,Image result for firecracker gif what a firecracker he is!”

Daniels is getting increasingly uncomfortable with the duopolistic nature of his visit, but he soldiers on to paint an accurate picture of his impression of Pope Pius the Twelve.  He enjoys his work under the greater Catholic Church umbrella, but that is tempered by his need to be a snitch for Forever Mastadon. That very guilt that haunts the everyday Catholic into obedience, hangs about his spirit like an anchor.

Off in the distance he can hear and feel a low rumbling, like a passing locomotive or … thunder… In winter; can it be?


Constance Caraway P.I.

Thunder [Explored] | by Walid Mahfoudh

Forever Mastadon


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