Monthly Archives: June 2013

Half-billion-year-old creature discovered

Half-billion-year-old creature discovered

By Tia Ghose

Published June 26, 2013

LiveScience
  • cambrian critter 660.jpg

    During the Cambrian explosion, the diversity of life exploded and bizarre sea creatures such as the Helcocystis moroccoensis flourished. (Andrew Smith)

A fossilized, cigar-shaped creature that lived about 520 million years ago has been unearthed in Morocco.

The newfound species, Helicocystis moroccoensis, has “characteristics that place it as the most primitive echinoderm that has fivefold symmetry,” said study co-author Andrew Smith, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, referring to the group of animals that includes starfish and sea urchins. Modern echinoderms typically have five-point symmetry, such as the five arms of the starfish or the sand dollar’s distinctive pattern.

‘Sometimes it could be short and fat, and sometimes it could be long and thin.’

– Andrew Smith, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London 

The primitive sea creature, described June 25 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could even change its body shape from slender to stumpy. Researchers say it is a transitional animal that could help explain how early echinoderms evolved their unique body plans, Smith said. [Photos of Newfound Species & Other Cambrian Creatures]

Cambrian explosion
In 2012, Smith and his colleagues were excavating in sediments dating to about 520 million years ago in the Anti-Atlas Mountains in Morocco, when they uncovered several specimens of the strange fossil.

The creature lived on the ancient supercontinent called Gondwana during the Cambrian Explosion, a period when all creatures inhabited the seas and life on the planet diversified dramatically.

One of the oldest known echinoderms, Helicoplacus first unearthed in the White Mountains in California had a spiral but asymmetrical body plan. And all modern echinoderms start off as larvae with bilateral symmetry, raising the question of how and when the creatures’ distinctive five-point body plan originated.

New creatures
H. moroccoensis, named after the country where it was found, had a cylindrical body that extended up to 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) long. The echinoderm’s mouth was on the top of its body, and it sported a cup made of checkered plates with a small stem at its base. It had a latticelike skeleton made of calcite.

“It’s a cigar-shaped beast, and it was able to expand and contract that cigar shape,” Smith told LiveScience. “Sometimes it could be short and fat, and sometimes it could be long and thin.”

The tiny sea creatures changed shape using a spiraling arrangement of five ambulacra, or grooves coming from the mouth that opened and closed to capture bits of food floating in the water.

The newly discovered species is the oldest known echinoderm with five ambulacra, and could shed light on how echinoderms evolved their unique body plans, Smith said.

H. moroccoensis was also found in sediments containing several other bizarre echinoderms, many of which had wacky body plans, ranging from completely asymmetrical to bilaterally symmetrical. That wide variety suggests the creatures were going through a period of dramatic diversification around that time period, Smith said.

“The important thing about the whole fauna is that there is already, by this time, a remarkable diversity in body form,” Smith said. “And yet this is only 10 [million] to 15 million years after the calcite skeleton evolved.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/06/26/half-billion-year-old-creature-discovered/?intcmp=obinsite#ixzz2XgGjY1lF

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3 Wheeler Morgan

3 Wheeler is Morgan’s best-seller, may spawn entire line

2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler with smiling driver

2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler2012 Morgan 3 Wheeler

By Chris PaukertRSS feedGoogle+

Posted Jun 28th 2013

As a glorious rolling anachronism in a line of other rolling anachronisms, we’re not surprised that the Morgan 3 Wheeler has found a small but fervent following. But even Morgan execs probably didn’t see this coming: the trike is outselling all of the brand’s other models – and not by a little bit. According to Autocar, the 3 Wheeler itself will account for over 600 units this year, outshining the sales ledgers of the 4/4, Plus 4 and Roadster models, as well as the Plus 8 and modern-look Aero, the latter two accounting for only about 150 units a year. Importantly, not only is the 3 Wheeler selling in volumes that have “far exceeded” company expectations, it appears to be drawing in a younger crowd, exactly what a boutique automaker like Morgan needs if it hopes to thrive long-term.

With the 3 Wheeler’s great success, it should come as no surprise to learn that the automaker is looking to leverage its appeal with new variations – some with new engines hung out front, others with different bodystyles. And in other matters of the heart, Autocar indicates that Morgan is presently debating whether to continue using its traditional steel chassis construction as well as the extruded aluminum framework found under the Plus 8 and Aero.

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More Random Humor

Here are some funny pictures and humor for you hot summer Saturday.

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Dashboard Today in Phoenix

This was the dashboard inside the car of one of our TV celebrities today in Phoenix.  It shows the outside temperature.

phoenix dashboard

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My Friend Hal Astell Has Two New Books Out

Hal Astell is an amazing friend and a person who knows more about movies and films than anyone else I know.  His peculiar field of study is the B-movie genre although his cinematic knowledge extends to the entire film industry.  You can find his site at:

http://www.apocalypselaterfilm.com/

These are the new books:

huh250 tura250

Hal Astell and his lovely wife Dee Astell in Jerome, Arizona for the Film Festival

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    Here are some comments from Hal when I asked him to give me information on the books to post here:

    Actually, the easiest bet for links would be to go to Apocalypse Later at http://www.apocalypselaterfilm.com/. I have both covers up at the top of the page, with artist details and links and Amazon links.

    There’s a decent amount of information on the Amazon pages too. They run $14.99 and $12.99, though Amazon have them on sale. I have copies for sale through my site as well.

    Here’s some quick background on each though. Please let me know if you need anything more.

    Huh? An A-Z of Why Classic American Bad Movies Were Made grew out of a series of reviews I wrote for Cinema Head Cheese (http://cinemaheadcheese.blogspot.com/).

    Originally I was just reviewing films that people have called ‘the worst movie of all time’ and having fun slating them, but gradually I got more serious (while still having fun) and started to discover some amazing reasons behind these films.

    I think the one that started to reshape the project was The Creeping Terror, which was a con job. The director never even intended to make a movie, just start one and abscond halfway through with the money. The film was finished by the financial backers of the piece, many of whom were in it. Then I started to add up reasons and the A-Z format came to mind as a framework.

    In the book I cover 26 films, dating from between 1932-1980, explaining why someone thought it was a good idea to make them. Some are big budget Hollywood productions, like Strange Interlude, with Clark Gable and Norma Shearer, an adaptation of a play built around a terrible gimmick. Some are microbudget movies, like Manos: The Hands of Fate, which was made for a bet. Some were real discoveries, like They Saved Hitler’s Brain, which added new unrelated footage to an older movie in order to pad out a TV timeslot. These films run the gamut of genres, eras and budgets.

    Velvet Glove Cast in Iron: The Films of Tura Satana is a lot more straightforward. It covers every film and every TV episode that actress Tura Satana was in, while providing a background to why she was so important. In my opinion, every movie of the last half century with a strong female lead owes a lot to her and what she did as Varla in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

    The covers are awesome, thanks to my wonderful artists. They were the most expensive part of production but they were worth every penny.

    The Tura cover is a deliberate take on the old men’s magazines, not porn but action mags. Usually there was a tough guy on the cover in a dominant pose, dominating everything around him. At his feet, there would be a scantily clad woman, an obvious damsel in distress. This is the same sort of thing but reversed: Tura is the dominant woman with a man in distress under her boot. She’s dressed in Varla’s outfit and the scene is reminiscent of the key scene early in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! where her rogue go go dancer fights an all-American boy after they race cars and leaves him dead in the dirt, before kidnapping his Gidget-esque girlfriend. While she’s an anti-hero, if any sort of hero at all, that scene is one of the most important feminist moment in films ever.

    The Huh? cover is a lot more simple. It’s just various characters from some of the films I cover in the book, all sharing a speech bubble that says, ‘Huh?’ as if they can’t understand how their movies were made either.

    By the way, I’m told that Amazon promotes books that reach fifty reviews. I’ll be going in and writing reviews for all the books I’ve bought from local authors (including yours) in the hope of getting to fifty. If you enjoy my books (or even if you don’t), it would be much appreciated if you would do the same.

    Take care,

    Hal Astell

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118 Degrees Today

Here in Phoenix, Arizona an excessive heat advisory.  It is not the hottest I have seen it.  When I first moved here it hit 123 degrees one day.  That day the airport was closed down for awhile because the aircraft safety booklets did not calculate weather conditions past 120 degrees.  I live in a large house with two air conditioning systems.  One was slowing down so we had it fixed a few weeks back.  Now the other one is slowing down…sigh.  We have our A/C set to 77 degree on both systems, but one side of the house is up to 81 degrees and the other up to 80 degrees.

extreme-heat-mountain-biking

Our dogs are lying with their bellies on the tile to cool off and we have the ceiling fans thrumming along.  Unfortunately, every house I have ever owned, the hottest rooms seem to be where I put my computer and where I put my bed.  The computer makes it even hotter because I have two big systems in one room without a vent, so I leave the den doors opens.  Probably close to 88 degrees as I type this.  My main computer has a liquid radiator and coolant, plus six big fans in the case, but if it gets much hotter, I might have to shut it down for a bit.

10_Day_Phoenix_full

I am the rare blogger in that I don’t usually blog on my blog.  I like to put up cool stuff, photos, humor, dogs and writing samples.  So here is a real blog post.  Me and my dogs sweating in our house, feeling hot.  My wife is off helping our daughter Heather move.  I hope they are in A/C to do it.  I think they were just packing up boxes.

East_Valley_Highs_full

Oh, and my day started off by killing another scorpion.  Even they are trying to get out of the heat.  We get bark scorpions because we live on the side of a mountain.  I lived in Arizona for  about twenty years and only saw one scorpion out in the desert.  Now we live on the mountain we get them all the time.  The bark scorpions are small and frail looking but are the most venomous of all.  They are also the only scorpions that can climb on ceilings and hang upside down.  My wife was stung by one a few years ago in our bed.  We could not sleep in it for weeks without turning on the lights and fluffing out all the sheets and covers for examination.

bark-scorpion1

I hope your day is less hot and more enjoyable.

 

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Movie Review – World War Z

Warning – Some Spoilers.  My movie review on World War Z for The WOD Magazine.

World War Z

Movie Review By Michael Bradley

I was looking forward to seeing World War Z after the trailers on television.  The thought of Brad Pitt bringing his resources to a film along with “fast zombies” looked interesting.  Unfortunately, the trailers are more exciting than the film.  In summary, you get to see lots of close ups of Brad Pitt wondering what to do next, amazingly convenient plot devices, and zombies that had me laughing at several points during the movie, along with others in the audience.

World-War-Z-Wallpapers

It is not that Brad Pitt acts poorly in the film, but there is absolutely no character development.  He has a family he cares about that his friends use to blackmail him into helping them.  How is that for a story?  His character is some vague UN investigator, leaving you to wonder if he was para-military, medical, just good at mysteries, or what?  The movie never really explains what his expertise is in.

The beginning is the best, and even slightly scary, as zombies attack with lightning speed and people turn in just twelve seconds.  It gets you fired up for an action packed thriller that never happens.  Instead, Brad Pitt is so important, though we never find out why, that they break out all resources to rescue him.  After that, he whisks magically to Korea, Israel and Cardiff despite the world falling apart.  In each place he observes a few people un-attacked.  The story is so linear that you know at each point he will get a clue, move on, and solve the problem.

There are so many plot holes but one bares mention above the others.  Israel has managed to heed early warnings and protect its people behind a huge wall and track entrants through controlled ports of entry.  Do they bother to have even one guard or weapon on the walls?  Of course not, let’s not notice the zombies until they are jumping over.

After he and his friend along the way magically survive an aircraft crash and then magically find a WHO research center while both wounded, he gets a revelation why the zombies don’t attack certain people.  One that there is absolutely no reason for him to come up with based on the movie.  What follows includes zombies that squawk comically like chickens and one that clicks its teeth like Fire Marshal Bill from In Living Color.  At both points the audience was actually laughing out loud.

After that, Brad Pitt’s character magically communicates his vaccine around the world despite a dead satellite phone, UN personnel around the world put together the cure despite worldwide crisis, and Brad Pitt is picked up and taken across the Atlantic to be with his family.  It was the least scary zombie film ever and one of the most poorly written mystery/adventure films as well.  The movie’s earlier action scenes are entertaining, but overall the film is a disappointment.

 

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