Crocs Uncover

Bizarre Species

viernes, 26 de agosto de 2011

How the Libyan rebels bought a miniature drone on the Internet

Although Libyan rebels have been celebrating their advance this week into the capital of Tripoli, just a few weeks ago, they had a problem. Outgunned and poorly trained, Libya's ragtag opposition forces were the object of pitying--if not unsympathetic--reports by the journalists covering their seemingly hapless efforts to advance and hold ground against Gadhafi's professional forces, who were better trained and better equipped.

Naturally, the rebels turned to the Internet for help. In June, members of the Libyan National Transition Council were "searching the Web," the New York Times reports, where they found information about a surveillance drone--"essentially a tiny, four-rotor helicopter dangling a pod carrying stabilized-image day- and night-vision cameras"--made by Aeryon Labs of Waterloo, Ontario.

The ship delivering the drone and German Red Cross pulling into Misrata, Libya July 16, 2011.

That's how Charles Barlow, a former Canadian army officer who previously served with the United Nations in Syria, found himself on a boat to Misrata, Libya, in July, delivering a miniature surveillance drone to the rebels. (Barlow's photo of pulling into the port of Misrata on July 16 is posted to the right.)

"What was happening with [the Libyan rebels] was they'd be driving down roads, getting shot at and losing people along the way," said Barlow, now the president of Zariba Security, an Ottawa, Canada-based company that works closely with the drone's manufacturer, Aeryon Labs. Barlow spoke with The Envoy on Thursday. "They wanted to see, where are Gadhafi's forces so they did not end up driving right into them."

The rebels first tried a number of different methods to acquire better visibility of the battlefield. "They asked NATO for imaging. NATO could not provide that, it was deemed too sensitive," Barlow said. They then rigged up a toy helicopter and strapped a camera under it, but that didn't work.

"So they started to look around for drones--little ones--they could pilot themselves."

Unlike the Predator drones the United States flies over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, which are equipped with sophisticated weapons systems that can strike suspected terrorist hideouts, the Scout miniature unmanned aerial drone has no weapons system. It also does not require an airfield to take off; it can be launched from, say, the top of a car. It is basically a flying, pilotless camera. It weighs about 3 pounds. It can also only fly about 2 miles.

The cost? About $100,000 to $200,000, Barlow said, "but it depends a lot" on the situation, he added, explaining that mitigating factors include how quickly the customer needs the device, how many they're buying, and whether it's a drone that has thermal cameras, which are able to see at night.

(Asked if it costs extra if he is required to deliver the drone to a war zone, Barlow said it does.) A number of bureaucratic obstacles also had to be overcome for the deal to be approved. The Canadian firms needed to get an export license from the Canadian government. The Canadian Foreign Ministry had to determine whether the equipment could be legally provided to Libya's opposition coalition, the National Transitional Council (NTC).

"It all started with the official rep of the NTC to Canada," inquiring about purchasing the drone, Barlow told The Envoy. "And we checked out with [the Canadian Ministry of] Foreign Affairs whether this was a real person. We established these are really NTC guys."

Once Canada recognized the rebels as the official Libyan government, no more legal obstacles remained, Barlow said.

So in July, Barlow embarked on an "18-hour voyage from Malta to the Libyan port of Misrata on a former South Korean fishing ship chartered by the rebels," as the New York Times reported.

Barlow spent two days in the besieged city teaching a team of Libyan rebels how to use the drone.

Asked his observations of Libya's freedom fighters, Barlow said of the dozen he met and trained, none of them were soldiers, but they told him they had no choice but to fight. One, for instance, was until recently a medical technician, whose hospital had been destroyed when Gadhafi's forces attacked the city. He didn't have a job anymore. "So he picked up a gun and went off to fight," Barlow said. "He knew if the Gadhafi guys came back to the city they would burn it down."

"The guys I met were fighting because they had absolutely had no choice," Barlow told The Envoy. "They are not out there fighting for some particular guy ... The guys I met fighting at the front were mortified that they were fighting other Libyans at all."

Will the Libyan opposition be placing more orders for drones? "Now that the rebels have basically won," Barlow said, "they've got more important priorities: like rebuilding hospitals.

Astronomers discover planet made of diamond

Reuters – 23 hrs ago

An exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our …

LONDON (Reuters) - Astronomers have spotted an exotic planet that seems to be made of diamond racing around a tiny star in our galactic backyard.

The new planet is far denser than any other known so far and consists largely of carbon. Because it is so dense, scientists calculate the carbon must be crystalline, so a large part of this strange world will effectively be diamond.

"The evolutionary history and amazing density of the planet all suggest it is comprised of carbon -- i.e. a massive diamond orbiting a neutron star every two hours in an orbit so tight it would fit inside our own Sun," said Matthew Bailes of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

Lying 4,000 light years away, or around an eighth of the way toward the center of the Milky Way from the Earth, the planet is probably the remnant of a once-massive star that has lost its outer layers to the so-called pulsar star it orbits.

Pulsars are tiny, dead neutron stars that are only around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) in diameter and spin hundreds of times a second, emitting beams of radiation.

In the case of pulsar J1719-1438, the beams regularly sweep the Earth and have been monitored by telescopes in Australia, Britain and Hawaii, allowing astronomers to detect modulations due to the gravitational pull of its unseen companion planet.

The measurements suggest the planet, which orbits its star every two hours and 10 minutes, has slightly more mass than Jupiter but is 20 times as dense, Bailes and colleagues reported in the journal Science on Thursday.

In addition to carbon, the new planet is also likely to contain oxygen, which may be more prevalent at the surface and is probably increasingly rare toward the carbon-rich center.

Its high density suggests the lighter elements of hydrogen and helium, which are the main constituents of gas giants like Jupiter, are not present.

Just what this weird diamond world is actually like close up, however, is a mystery.

"In terms of what it would look like, I don't know I could even speculate," said Ben Stappers of the University of Manchester. "I don't imagine that a picture of a very shiny object is what we're looking at here."

Here's What Apple Loses If Steve Jobs Doesn't Come Back

The stock market obviously views Apple as Steve Jobs -- shares are off 5% in the wake of his retirement announcement.

But Apple is a company with more than 45,000 employees, including some of the greatest product designers, engineers, and marketers of any company in the world.

Apple has an incredible product pipeline: the iPad 2 is the only tablet that matters, the iPhone takes the lion's share of profits in the smartphone market, and the Mac is the only personal computer brand that's growing as the rest of the market is shrinking.

All of those products have at least one, maybe two, more updates already in the pipeline.

Strategically, Apple is in the right place: both Google (with the Motorola acquisition) and Microsoft (with its Nokia partnership) have basically acknowledged that they need both hardware and software to compete in smartphones.

Apple is behind those two companies in terms of online services -- the third part of the equation -- but at least it's recognized the problem and will try to address it with iCloud.

But two or three years down the road? If Jobs does not come back, here's what Apple will lose:

The ultimate arbiter. A lot of big companies are bogged down with bureaucratic infighting -- it's endemic at Microsoft, and Hewlett-Packard's botched earnings/strategy/acquisition announcement last week point to political problems there as well. That has never been a problem with Steve Jobs in control of Apple. Everybody there respects him, he knows what every part of the company is doing, and he's not afraid to make big changes when something's broken. Other CEOs may be as smart and as strong-willed, but they can't possibly garner the same level of respect as the founder who returned to bring his company back from near death.

The product planner. Jobs is obsessed with simplicity and leaving things out: he culled the Mac product line down to a couple models when he returned, refused to let the Apple mouse have two buttons, and insisted that the iPhone NOT try to do everything at once. Other Apple employees understand that, but it's unknown whether anybody else will be able to execute that art as well as Jobs has. Especially when product groups and individuals see a new and fresh chance to gain status and get their ideas heard (see last point).

The recruiter and magnet. Apple already lost its retail planner Ron Johnson, and product design head Jony Ive was reportedly making noises about leaving as well. More to the point, everybody wants to work at Apple today. That's party because of the company's record of success -- but it's probably also in good part because of the mythos of Jobs.

Pop culture icon. Steve Jobs's keynotes are packed with press -- including popular press. Will the media fawn over Tim Cook or Phil Schiller when they talk? Don't count on it. And that means that you might not see every Apple product announcement featured on the local TV news as it has been.

Case in point: look at Microsoft under Bill Gates, and Microsoft under Steve Ballmer.

Apple will still be a juggernaut for a long time. But the company's competitors have to be viewing today's news with at least a small twinge of ... let's call it anticipation.

NASA robot

A NASA robot that's been waiting patiently in the International Space Station since February was finally powered up yesterday. The Robonaut 2 Helper Droid, or R2 (no relation to D2) is the first humanoid robot in space. The hope is that it will eventually serve as a helper to astronauts. NASA operators from Mission Control in Houston cheered after they awakened R2 remotely. "Robonaut behaved himself," deputy project manager Nicolaus Radford told the Washington Post. "Oh, Robonaut definitely got an 'A.' He won't be held back a grade, if that's what you want to know." R2 is not only good in school, he/she is unsurprisingly quite tech-savvy and very active on Twitter. R2 has already send thousands of tweets to its 37,000 plus followers from its @AstroRobonaut account. Once R2 was up and running, it tweeted, "Those electrons feel GOOD! One small step for man, one giant leap for tinman kind." The 3 foot 4 inch robot then tweeted a photo of the space station writing, "This is what I see right now. Sure wish I could move my head and look around." Though R2 was awakened this week, it won't be able to turn its head or move its arms until next week. Do you think NASA should be spending money developing the new 'bot?

Homes of the Future

Since time immemorial, mankind has dreamed of what the future might hold. Would advances in medicine neuter deadly diseases as yet unconquerable? Would advances in science lead to the exploration of distant star systems? Would advances in architecture make houses look all curvy, like on the animated TV show "The Jetsons"?

In the middle decades of the 20th century, homes of the future were uniformly depicted in films and television shows as identical, no matter the purpose or location. A three-bedroom apartment in Honolulu looked exactly the same as a mansion in Duluth—gleaming and concave.

We’re now a full decade past 2001, but a quick look outside shows that the home of the future as depicted in films never quite caught on. Contenders are still being built, however. It’s just that society's priorities have changed—homes are being designed with an eye toward sustainability and energy efficiency. These concerns are giving architects opportunities to push boundaries, break taboos, and try new things.

Some of the designs are bold, some are bizarre, and some seem unlikely to get past the drafting table. However, they all address current challenges and create new rules.


MercuryHouseOne is a home designed by Arturo Vittori of the Italian architecture firm Architecture and Vision. Vittori is a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and his interest in technology is obvious to anyone who sees the home’s unique raindrop shape.

MercuryHouseOne is a mobile home, but any similarity to an RV ends there. It runs entirely on solar power and has a thin marble exterior, and according to Architecture and Vision’s website , “the interior is equipped with [the] latest lighting, audio and video technology

Airdrop House

The Airdrop House is so futuristic and forward-thinking that it has yet to get past the artistic rendering stage, so anyone who wants one will have to wait until some distant tomorrow. However, they are being designed to provide emergency shelter to disaster survivors , so hopefully the need for them won’t come up too often.

The home is designed by Andrew Maynard Architects in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The home is intended to be air-dropped into disaster areas and used as a temporary shelter. Its design also permits the growing of plants on it

Birds Island

Birds Island is a dwelling designed by Graft architects that addresses an age-old quandary—how do you enjoy the great outdoors and sit in your house at the same time? Located in Kuala Lumpur, the home has a silicone glass exterior “skin” that makes this very thing possible. It changes the transparency of the walls, allowing residents to drink in the views in all their splendor, get a canopy of shade, or shut everything out entirely.

Birds Island is also a sustainable dwelling, and its outer skin collects rain water, and harnesses solar energy and wind power . The structure’s placement on a pier is another nod to energy efficiency. It allows the natural cooling of the water underneath and permits energy collection and distribution from nearby lotuses.

Komb House

Karim Rashid is the architect behind the striking-looking Komb House. Rashid was born in Egypt and studied in Canada and Italy, and according to his own website , he has more than 3,000 designs currently in production.

Komb House uses state-of-the-art technology to minimize its environmental impact. The water is heated by solar panels, and the structure reuses grey and pluvial water. It’s composed entirely of reusable materials, such as wood and glass, and it can be taken apart and put back together again...should the need to do so ever arise.

Shell House

If one were flying over Karuizawa, Japan, and saw the roof of the Shell House, it’s possible that one could entirely miss the fact that it’s a house. The dwelling was created by the Japanese architecture firm ARTechnic, and its unusual exterior design resembles nothing so much as a cannoli transforming into a spaceship.

Described as “out of this world” on the website Trendir , the structure’s curves and ellipses give it a look like nothing before or since. It has sound design principles behind it, however, and takes advantage of natural light and interior textures, so you can feel at home once you’re actually inside of it.

Wright Conversion

Durban, South Africa, is the site of many thatched-roof dwellings, but only one has the curved extension that Elmo Swart Architects added and dubbed the Wright Conversion. The extension has allowed space for a new bedroom, two offices and an entertainment center, but it’s notable mainly for its warped exterior design.

The interior is consistent with the original dwelling and faithful to its themes. Cork and glass are used throughout, wooden furniture is a dominant theme, and the structure offers generous open views of the surrounding natural area.


As technology becomes an increasingly inescapable part of daily life, more people express a desire to get away from it. Campgrounds can be hard to locate, however, and there’s no guarantee of available spaces. Worst of all, you can’t even use your electric salad spinner at many of them.

Luckily, there is the Ecopod. Described as “a small and energy-efficient way for a homeowner to get off the grid” by the manufacturer’s official website , the Ecopod is a container home made in part out of rubber that’s been recycled from discarded tires. It can be easily relocated from place to place, and it derives its power from an 80-watt solar panel.

Edge House

Mobius Architects is a firm based in Poland that began construction on the Edge House in Krakow in 2008. It was finished in 2010, and the visually striking final product is defined by a steep roof that doesn’t make it appear to lean so much as almost fully recline.

The structure complies with local building codes, which stipulate that a roof’s slope must exceed 30 degrees . The architects abided by the letter of the law, but clearly took liberties with its intent, and created a unique dwelling for the hillside locale.

New Chinese stealth jet starts talk of Russian help

An aircraft that is reported to be a Chinese stealth fighter is seen in Chengdu, …

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Similarities between a new Chinese fighter jet and a prototype Russian plane have brought suggestions that Moscow may be quietly helping Beijing compete with the world's military powers.

Experts say the fifth-generation J-20 fighter, which made its maiden flight in January during a visit of the U.S. defense secretary, could have its origins in the Mikoyan 1.44 stealth jet that never made it to the production line.

A highly placed source close to Russia's defense industry said the similarities suggested Mikoyan technology had been passed into the hands of Chinese arms designers.

"It looks like they got documents relating to the Mikoyan -- the aircraft that the Ministry of Defense skipped over in its tender to create a stealth fighter," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said it was not clear whether such a transfer of technology had been legal. Analysts say Russia's assistance to the Chinese may help Moscow keep tabs on the rising military power's defense capabilities of its eastern neighbor.

Independent analyst Adil Mukashev, who specializes in ties between Russia and China, suggested there had been a financial transaction.

"China bought the technology for parts, including the tail of the Mikoyan, for money," he said.

China's Defense Ministry declined a request for comment. Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), which oversees production of the Mikoyan jets, denies any technology or design transfer took place with China.

Only the United States has an operational fifth-generation fighter, which is nearly impossible to track on radar. Russia is working to start serial production of its prototype craft in the next five to six years.

China's creation of such a plane would put the country into an elite group of military powers, although analysts say it will take years to perfect the craft.

The source said Chinese officials had been invited to the plane's first public display when Russia was in the early stages of creating a fighter jet to compete with the U.S. F-22.

Rival designer Sukhoi was eventually contracted to help build the fighter and the Mikoyan 1.44, which lacks the radar-evading engineering of the U.S. F-22, was passed over.


Russia, the world's top energy producer, has fed China, the largest energy consumer, with natural gas and oil in its fast rise to become a global power. But it has been unable to keep up with China's military spending, which was second only to the United States' in 2010.

Relations between the two countries are cordial but, in a sign that the two sides are suspicious of each other, Moscow is boosting its military capabilities in Russia's Far East to defend its position in resource-rich Siberia.

China, once a big buyer of Russian tanks, helicopters and jet fighters, has slowed its purchases from Moscow as its own production grew but military ties remain.

China's ambassador to Russia, Li Huei, was quoted last year as saying defense cooperation with Russia was moving beyond the buying and selling of weapons.

China is also trying to boost its naval power and its first aircraft carrier had its maiden voyage this month. The re-fitted Soviet craft was bought from Ukraine.

"The Chinese aerospace industry is booming and developing rapidly," said Mikhail Pogosyan, head of UAC.

"In the aerospace industry what matters is the experience you have -- not only to start a project but to see it through," he said on the sidelines of Russia's premiere air show, MAKS.

Silicon Valley billionaire funding creation of artificial libertarian islands

Pay Pal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has given $1.25 million to an initiative to create floating libertarian countries in international waters, according to a profile of the billionaire in Details magazine.

Thiel has been a big backer of the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build sovereign nations on oil rig-like platforms to occupy waters beyond the reach of law-of-the-sea treaties. The idea is for these countries to start from scratch--free from the laws, regulations, and moral codes of any existing place. Details says the experiment would be "a kind of floating petri dish for implementing policies that libertarians, stymied by indifference at the voting booths, have been unable to advance: no welfare, looser building codes, no minimum wage, and few restrictions on weapons."

"There are quite a lot of people who think it's not possible," Thiel said at a Seasteading Institute Conference in 2009, according to Details. (His first donation was in 2008, for $500,000.) "That's a good thing. We don't need to really worry about those people very much, because since they don't think it's possible they won't take us very seriously. And they will not actually try to stop us until it's too late."

The Seasteading Institute's Patri Friedman says the group plans to launch an office park off the San Francisco coast next year, with the first full-time settlements following seven years later.

Thiel made news earlier this year for putting a portion of his $1.5 billion fortune into an initiative to encourage entrepreneurs to skip college.

Another tech titan, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced in June that he would be funding the "Clock of the Long Now." The clock is designed to keep ticking for 10,000 years, and will be built in a mountain in west Texas.

jueves, 11 de agosto de 2011

The Bizarre Case of the Kera UFO Encounters

In a case that might have served as one of the inspirations for the Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams blockbuster “Super 8,” a group of Japanese kids had repeated run-ins with a small, silver UFO, which they managed to not only photograph, but actually capture for a brief time during the summer of 1972.

There is inexplicably little information to be found — in the western world anyway — regarding the strange series of events that began on August 25th, 1972, in the Kera area of Kōchi City, which is the capital of Kōchi Prefecture on the Shikoku island of Japan. On the afternoon in question a 13 year-old student named Michio Seo was on his way home from middle-school when he allegedly caught site of an unbelievable metallic object hovering over a rice field.

The awestruck Seo watched the odd apparatus zip back and forth above the waterlogged paddy. The airborne object resembled a dull, silver hat with a flat bottom and a narrow lip. The curved dome atop the lip was relatively steep and level at the apex. Seo would later compare the objects movements to that of a bat making hairpin turns in pursuit of its insect prey.

Seo’s curiosity swiftly usurped his fear and he began to approach the miniature flying saucer, but before he could get too close the object allegedly shot a blinding beam toward the teen. Seo, not wishing to further provoke the UFO — or its possible occupants — quickly fled the scene.

As soon as young Seo got back to Kera he hurriedly rounded up four of his best friends — Hiroshi Mori, Yasuo Fujimoto, Katsuoka Kojima and a buddy known only as Yuji — and told them about his incredible encounter. His pals, skeptical, though intrigued, wasted no time in forming a makeshift posse to go out and find this miniature flying dome.

At approximately 7:00 pm. Seo, Mori, Fujimoto, Kojima and Yuji arrived at the rice field. The boys kept a steadfast vigil for the better part of an hour when, to the shock of everyone except Seo, the small object returned. The thrilled teens stared at the strange object that was hovering over the field approximately 60-feet from them. Then, as the sun dipped low over the horizon and dusk began to settle in, the device began to emit a pulsating multicolored light.

One of the young men, no doubt bolstered by the pressure of his peers, began to stalk the erratically floating UFO. As he neared the object it suddenly emitted an earsplitting “pop” and began to shimmer with a bluish hue. This was all the youngsters needed to send them sprinting back toward their homes.

Seo, Mori, Fujimoto, Kojima and Yuji would occasionally visit the field following their sighting and on September 4th — Just over a week after their initial run-in — their patience paid off. At about 9:30 pm. the five young men once again came face to face with the silvery object flying nearly 3-feet above the field. The little UFO started glowing and began to zoom toward the boys causing them to scatter and once again retreat with haste.

Once home, the boys reclaimed their courage and vowed to procure a camera and spend every waking moment they could staking out the field in hopes of finally capturing the unusual object on film. Their surveillance began the next evening, but the object did not return. The following night, however, would be a different story.

On September 6th the boys’ vigilance paid off when on their way to the rice paddy they spied the object lying on the ground in the middle of the field before them. The teenagers, now armed with a camera, sagely decided to snap a photo before they approached the downed “craft.”

Once the flashbulb went off the object on the ground began spinning and rapidly rose into the air. The unknown cameraman shot another photo just after its ascension.

This is where accounts get a little murky, but what seems to have happened next is that the object emitted a light that was even brighter than the flashbulb’s burst, before once again plummeting to the ground.

The still spinning object almost seemed to be burrowing into the dirt when it stopped moving.

At this point 14 year-old Hiroshi Mori cautiously moved toward the incapacitated flying saucer. The brave (or foolhardy) boy decided to bend over and lift the object up with his bare hands.

As he did so he claimed that he felt something “moving” inside. A photo of Miro holding the UFO was then taken.

The boys marveled at their peculiar prize before Miro wrapped it in a plastic bag and placed it in his backpack and took it home. Once there the boys warily measured the object and declared it to be nearly 8-inches wide and almost 4-inches in height. The now inert UFO was said to weigh about 3 lbs.

They also discovered a series of concentric curves, thirty-one small holes and three unique designs etched into the base of the object. The gang deemed that the etchings represented waves or clouds, a bird or some sort of “flying object,” and something they interpreted to be a budding flower. There was no visible propulsion system.

Following their inspection, the boys repacked the object in plastic and brought their puzzling find to the home of Yasuo Fujimoto. Fujimoto’s father, Mutsuo, was the current director of the Center for Science Education in the city of Kōchi.

The senior Fujimoto gave the object a cursory examination, assuming that the find was of little significance. That would be a decision that he would come to regret. In his own words:

“The frequent nights out of the boys began to worry parents, I told my son if it was true what he said, to bring the object. He did: it was something like an ashtray, cast iron, but too light for this metal. (It) had a top down it was impossible to open and inside were pieces similar to a radio. I did not give more importance, but now I regret not having studied more closely.”

Following Mr. Fujimoto’s brief once over, the object was returned to Mori’s backpack, but, much to the chagrin of all involved, it was discovered missing just a day later. This would not be the last time this mysterious object would be seen… or recovered for that matter.

Over the course of the next two weeks Seo, Mori, Fujimoto, Kojima and Yuji all claimed to have seen the same (or identical) objects in flight on at least six more occasions. Fujimoto himself saw it three times. The gang even managed to capture it a second time, but the object disappeared under mysterious circumstances yet again.

The boys — trying to predict when the object would next rear its proverbial head — deduced that the single unifying factor in all of their sightings was the fact that they never seemed to occur on rainy days. This, they surmised, was due to the fact that the object “feared” water. Bearing this in mind they formulated a plan to capture the device.

On September 19, the gang once again returned to the now notorious rice paddy to try and detain the mystifying UFO. This time the boys were armed with a bucket of runoff water and some tattered rags. As luck would have it they found the device sitting motionless on the ground.

The group hurriedly covered the object with rags and poured the water in the bucket over it. They then turned the object over and started to fill the perforations at the base with the remainder of the greenish water. As soon as the liquid entered the device it began emitting a deafening noise that they compared to a cicada-like buzzing. The interior of the object also started to glow.

The youngsters were abruptly struck with the notion that the object might try to retaliate to this perceived attacked and started to back away from the stationary UFO, pelting it with stones. The once flying object remained earthbound and the gang reclaimed their potentially extraterrestrial quarry.

Once back at Katsuoka Kojima’s house, the young men looked through the tiny holes and noticed what appeared to be a plethora or miniature mechanisms, Levers and weird drawings.

The intrepid youths then took more pictures and attempted to open the device by inserting a wire into one of the holes and manipulating it.

Eventually they hung the device upside down by the wire, Gravity pulled at the top of the dome resulting in a slight separation between the top and bottom sections of the object. The boys could see what they referred to as “complicated electronic equipment” inside the item as well as unidentified a viscous material. Could this have been the liquefied remains of the pilot, who — much like Oz’s Wicked Witch — melted on contact with the water?

The boys then attempted (with a dubious sense of scientific integrity, no doubt) to see how strong the exterior shell of the object was by pummeling it with a hammer. They discovered that even the thinnest parts of the light metal remained unblemished no matter how hard they hit it. This seems to be a fairly common trait of materials recovered at alleged UFO crash sites.

At this point the boys decided to try yet another experiment by putting the UFO in the oven to see what kind of temperatures it could withstand, but before they got the chance Kojima’s mother, Aiko Katsuoka, wisely put the kibosh on that. She also refused to allow them to store it in her refrigerator, which the boys believed might prevent the UFO from escaping yet again.

The gang then came to the conclusion that the device was likely some kind of “remotely controlled” surveillance mechanism of unknown origin. It was then that they decided it was time to reveal their cherished mystery mechanism to their classmates the following week, but before putting it away for the night they wrapped in additional rags under the naïve impression that it would prevent the thing from leaking any “atomic radiation.”

The object was then given to Seo and Mori for safekeeping while the rest returned home for dinner and chores. The young watchmen, feeling that the object was secure in the room with them, relaxed for an evening of comic book consumption and the anticipation of the notoriety that would greet them and their cohorts the following Monday at school when they revealed their wondrous contraption.

When the rest of the group returned later that evening to check on their discovery, they were all dismayed to discover that beneath the pile of rags there was nothing to be found. After a fruitless search, the boys reached the inescapable conclusion that their mini-saucer has once again flown the coop, so to speak.

A few hours later Kojima and Mori were playing ball at Mori’s house. Kojima lunged over the fence pursuing the ball and much to his surprise and delight stumbled across the still immobile UFO. Kojima and Mori swiftly absconded back into the house with the recovered saucer.

At his juncture the comrades shrewdly decided that they should mark the silver dome with paint lest it pull another disappearing act. This would be to confirm that they were actually encountering the same UFO over and over again, rather than disparate (though indistinguishable) machines. The boys had lost and found the object so many times by this point they naturally assumed that if it vanished it would again turn up near the rice field or in one of their backyards.

On the evening of September 22nd, the crew gathered together of a bike ride into Kōchi City. It was decided that they would all take turns carrying the device, which they no longer left unattended.

To further prevent its escape Mori determined that the UFO would be sealed in a plastic bag full of water, which they continued to hypothesize, had some sort of restraining effect on the apparatus. As if that weren’t enough, the boys tied a piece of string from the knot on the bag to the wrist of whomever was carrying it to insure that nothing would happen this time.

The knotted bag containing the UFO was then placed in duffle bag and inserted into the bicycle basket of the first carrier, and the gang set off. The bag switched from rider to rider as they tore through the city until it ended up in the basket of its last caretaker, whose name was not revealed.

The gang continued their journey until they neared a local bicycle repair shop. At that moment, the final rider claimed he felt his wrist — which was attached by string to the bag — wrench with immense force. He immediately called out to his friends, who skidded to a halt ahead of him.

The boys instantly opened the satchel and untied the string and the knots on the plastic bag, but when they looked inside they found that, even though the knots had not been tampered with, the tiny UFO was nowhere to be found. The boys would never see the object again, much to their disappointment.


This unique case remained largely unknown to the general public until May of 2004, when UFO Comics published an illustrated retelling of the case. This introduced the encounter to a new generation of UFO enthusiasts garnering it somewhat of a cult following in Japan.

Due to the buzz, in 2007 — a full 35 years after the events in question — Shinichiro Namiki, the director of the Japan Space Phenomena Society (JSPS,) reopened the investigation. The head of the JSPS Osaka chapter, Kazuo Hayashi, was sent to speak with the remaining witnesses and confirmed that they all maintained the veracity of their original accounts.

During the course of his investigation, Hayashi encountered another tiny UFO tale that occurred in the same prefecture as the Kera event just 4 years later. On the evening of June 6th, 1976, a 9-year-old girl named Sachiko Oyama, from the village of Agawa (now known as Niyodogawa-cho,) went outside to find her pet cat when she noticed a small, yellow luminous object floating in the eastern sky.

Oyama walked into the middle of the street to afford herself a better view. It was then that she saw the unusual object descend in a nearby wooded grove. Overcome by curiosity, the young girl followed the UFO to the edge of the tree line. It was then that the object allegedly hit a tree and proceeded to silently land on the pavement near her feet at which point it emitted a “hissing” sound.

Oyama would layer describe the object has resembling a silver (though some accounts say “black”) hat that was about 7-inches in diameter; a familiar description to say the least. The courageous girl bent over and touched the object, which she claimed was covered with a “slimy substance” that stuck to her finger.

Like the boys who encountered the virtually identical object in Kera, Oyama suddenly found herself overwhelmed by fear. She turned and began to run for the safety of her home, but when she glanced over her shoulder she noticed that the downed device had started to glow yellow once again. Oyama watched in disbelief as the UFO rose, spun counter-clockwise three times, then shot skyward and out of view.
Hayashi also confirmed that the then 40 year-old Oyama still stood by her story in 2007. It was then that Hayashi put forth the hypothesis that these flying objects were actually inter-dimensional vehicles that had temporarily lost their way after slipping into our realm.

Hayashi seemed satisfies with his theory, but what should we make of these mysterious objects that seemingly toyed with these Japanese kids back in 1972 and 1976? Were they UFOs in the classic sense of a interstellar or inter-dimensional vehicles? It goes without saying that by 1970s (or current) technological standards an object as decidedly non-aerodynamic as this could not have been capable of such precise or speedy maneuvers as were attributed to it.

Also, unlike the micro-terrestrial invasion of Malaysia in the 1970s, there seems to be little indication of any humanoid or alien influence on these devices other than that fact that it was apparently “intelligently controlled” while in flight. Nevertheless, I think we have to look elsewhere for a solution.

How about the boys’ deduction that it was a remote controlled device of unknown extraction? This theory, I must admit, seems to make more sense than that of it being some sort of spacecraft.

In fact, when I first heard about this case, my initial reaction was to assume that this was nothing more than a prank played on naïve teens by “some guy” with a remote control flying saucer, but upon closer inspection of the photographs it does not take an aeronautical engineer to realize that without a rotor or some other driving force — which this gadget seems to be distinctly lacking — there is no way it would ever get off the ground.

There has even been the wild speculation that the device might have been a conscious being akin to those cutesy sentient saucers in the Steven Spielberg produced 1987 opus “*Batteries Not Included.” While even I am skeptical about this premise, let’s look at the “evidence” that may possibly support this conjecture.

Firstly, assuming that the reports are authentic, this device flew with apparent precision even though there was apparently no recognizable propulsion device within the UFO. Secondly, the UFO appeared to be capable of evasive maneuvers and even displayed a desire to defend itself by utilizing brilliant lights and loud noises. Thirdly, like any living being, this “machine” resisted every attempt made to incarcerate it by the teens. None of the above is proof that the thing’s actions were an example of intelligent life, but the thought is intriguing.

Some unknown technology sent from another world or time or dimension or even the ocean’s depths to observe the human race. Who’s to say that the unusual markings on the base of the UFO are not intended to be a message for humanity much like the one we etched into the gold plated disc on Voyager 1 for other citizens of the galaxy to discover.

Of course, there’s one, obvious explanation — that it was all just a hoax. There are some rumors that have circulated suggesting that the Kera UFO was actually a toilet training chamber pot craftily installed with radio components and pieces from a watering can, but if that were the case it not only reflects poorly on the judgment of Kōchi’s director of the Center for Science Education, Mutsuo Fujimoto, but also represents one of the most elaborate hoaxes ever perpetrated (and maintained for the better part of 4 decades) by a group of bored teens.

Casting further doubt on the hoax theory is the 2007 investigation by the JSPS, which confirmed that there was no indication of a prank. And, let’s be frank, if Kera and Agawa phenomena were merely the whimsical follies of bored teenagers and one little girl, one would have to assume that the perpetrators would almost certainly have grown weary of the ruse as they climbed from adolescence into middle age.

The fact remains that this series of all too close encounters may well represent one of the most intriguing, albeit least well known, events in history of ufology… or one of the most outlandish hoaxes ever.

Ouch! U.S. Booted From Triple-A Debt Club

The Triple-A debt club just got even more exclusive: Late Friday, the United States was booted out of a prestigious group of countries that boast a spotless credit rating.

Now only 15 countries (and the very small Isle of Man) hold the triple-A rating from both Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

Canada, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are among those with the undisputed stamp of approval — so is Isle of Man, a British crown dependency off the United Kingdom's west coast, and Singapore (both of which are too small to see on our CNNMoney map above.)

The triple-A rating enables nations to borrow funds at a low cost, because their governments are considered stable and their bonds safe.

The United States for example, has seen its dollar become the world's No. 1 reserve currency because its bonds are held in such high regard by investors. They're backed by the "full faith and credit of the U.S. government" — which until now, has never seriously been called into question.

On Friday, S&P downgraded the United States to AA+, an investment grade level just one notch below triple-A. It marked the first time the world's largest economy has been downgraded, since Moody's first gave the country a credit rating in 1917.

S&P cited estimates that U.S. government debt would balloon to 79% of the size of the entire U.S. economy by 2015, and 85% by 2021 — a level S&P says is consistent with AA+ rated countries.

In comparison, estimates from the International Monetary Fund show triple-A rated Canada's debt is likely to only rise to 34% of its economy by 2015, and Germany's is forecast to rise to 52%. (The IMF does not publish forecasts out to 2021).

The debt of Belgium, another AA+ rated country on S&P's list, is expected to grow to 85% of GDP by 2015, according to the IMF.

Abu Dhabi, with a AA rating, is just a step below AA+. Also in that group are Bermuda, Chile, Qatar, Slovenia and Spain.

Meanwhile, China — the world's second largest economy — is rated two notches below the United States, at AA-.

Greece — the lowest rated country in the world — is forecast to see its debt well exceed the size of its economy, at 149% the size of its GDP in 2015.

China launches first aircraft carrier on maiden sea trial

Color China Photo - In this photo taken on Aug. 6, 2011, a Chinese aircraft carrier, which had been under refurbishment, is docked at Dalian port in in northeast Liaoning province. China's first aircraft carrier …more
China's first aircraft carrier is seen at its shipyard at Dalian Port in northeast …

In this photo taken on Aug. 6, 2011, a Chinese aircraft carrier, which had been under
BEIJING (Reuters) - China launched its first aircraft carrier for a maiden run on Wednesday, a step likely to boost patriotic pride at home and jitters abroad about Beijing's naval ambitions.

The long-awaited debut of the vessel, a refitted former Soviet craft, marked a step forward in China's long-term plan to build a carrier force that can project power into the Asian region, where seas are spanned by busy shipping lanes and thorny territorial disputes.

"Its symbolic significance outweighs its practical significance," said Ni Lexiong, an expert on Chinese maritime policy at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

"We're already a maritime power, and so we need an appropriate force, whether that's aircraft carriers or battleships, just like the United States or the British empire did," he said in a telephone interview.

The carrier "left its shipyard in Dalian Port in northeast Liaoning province on Wednesday morning to start its first sea trial," said the official Xinhua news agency, describing the trip as a tentative test run for the unfinished ship.

The aircraft carrier, which is about 300 meters (984 feet) long, plowed through fog and sounded its horn three times as it left the dock, Xinhua said on its military news microblog.

Xinhua said that "building a strong navy that is commensurate with China's rising status is a necessary step and an inevitable choice for the country to safeguard its increasingly globalised national interests."

Chinese citizens said the carrier launch showed their country deserved more respect from the rest of the world, despite problems it faces at home.

A high-speed train crash last month left many Chinese people bemoaning what they called officials' reckless hunger for passing technological milestones.

"An aircraft carrier is the mark of major powers," Pan Chunli, a 29-year-old IT technician in Beijing told Reuters.

"China has grown dramatically. The whole world should take a fresh look at China, viewing it as a rising power that it has the ability to defend its rights and territory."

Retired Chinese navy Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo told state-run television that his country intended to build an air carrier group, but the task would be long and difficult.

"As for forming a carrier group, I think that will take at least ten years," he told a Chinese television broadcast on the carrier launch.


Last month, China confirmed that it was refitting the old, unfinished Soviet carrier hull bought from Ukraine's government, and sources told Reuters it was also building two of its own carriers.

"China has had a longstanding fascination with the national prestige attached to aircraft carriers, and this first sea trial may be seen as a crucial step toward the goal of achieving great naval power status," said Chengxin Pan, an expert on China at Deakin University in Australia.

If Beijing is serious about having a viable carrier strike group, however, it will need three carriers, Ashley Townshend at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney told Reuters in an interview before the debut of the vessel.

China would also have to develop support ships and aircraft for any carrier group, Townshend said.

In China's neighborhood, India and Thailand already have aircraft carriers, and Australia has ordered two multi-purpose carriers. The United States operates 11 carriers.

Before the launch, a Pentagon spokesman played down the likelihood of any immediate leaps from China's carrier program. U.S. experts on the Chinese navy agreed.

"A newly-wed couple wants a 'starter home', a new great power wants a 'starter carrier'," Andrew Erickson of the U.S. Naval War College and Gabriel Collins, a security analyst, wrote in a note about the carrier launch (

"China's 'starter carrier' is of very limited military utility, and will primarily serve to confer prestige on a rising great power, to help the military master basic procedures, and to project a bit of power," they wrote.


But the carrier is just one part of China's naval modernization drive, which has forged ahead while other powers tighten their military budgets to cope with debt woes.

"For many neighbors, it may symbolize something different and more unsettling," said Pan, the Deakin University lecturer, referring to China's carrier.

"It is inevitable that neighboring countries will react with some alarm, especially given recent disputes in the South China Sea as well as the maritime incident between China and Japan last year," he said.

China has been building new submarines, ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles as part of its naval modernization.

The country's growing reach at sea is triggering regional jitters that have fed into long-standing territorial disputes, and could speed up military expansion across Asia.

In the past year, China has had run-ins at sea with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. The incidents -- boat crashes and charges of territorial incursions -- have been minor, but the diplomatic fallout often heated.

"They want to assert their dominance in East Asia as well as the Chinese sea and they have very ambitious plans of asserting their claims over some islands," retired Indian Major General Ashok Mehta, a defense analyst in Delhi, said of China.

"India has lot of catching up to do and the history of India's catching up is not very impressive," he said, noting New Delhi's plan to have three aircraft carriers by 2015.

Last week, Japan warned that China's naval forces were likely to increase activities around its waters.

But China did not want to rile its neighbors with the carrier debut, said Ni, the Shanghai professor.

"A single, solitary aircraft carrier floating on the sea, without the accompanying forces, doesn't constitute a battle force," said Ni. "It would be a sitting duck if you tried to send it out."

(Additional reporting by Sabrina Mao and Sally Huang in Beijing; Manoj Kumar in New Delhi; Manny Mogato in Manila; Jeremy Laurence in Seoul; Michael Perry in Sydney; and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo; Editing by John Chalmers) …

Concerns swirl over safety of 'uncontacted' Amazonian tribe

The whereabouts of a remote Amazonian tribe who appeared in remarkable footage earlier this year aiming bows and arrows at a plane flying over their jungle homes was unknown Monday after government officials sent to protect them were forced to abandon their post and flee from armed drug traffickers.

Traffickers crossed the border from Peru and threatened officials from the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), the government body charged with protecting Brazil’s isolated Indians, a foundation spokesman said, underlining new threats for isolated Indians as traffickers seek new territory and routes.

"This is extremely distressing news,” says Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, an indigenous rights group based in the UK. “There is no knowing how many tribal peoples the drugs trade has wiped out in the past, but all possible measures should be taken to stop it happening again."

The officials monitoring the tribe fled and the traffickers ransacked their jungle camp before Brazilian police reinforcements could reach the area.

Police have now retaken the base close to Brazil’s western border with Peru, and Funai officials are once again on the ground.

Two dozen officers tracked down and arrested one man, named as Joaquim Fadista. Mr. Fadista had already been detained in Brazil on trafficking charges and extradited to Peru. Officials believe Fadista was involved with a group trying to carve out new cross-border cocaine routes, or was working for loggers who covet the timber growing in the untouched forests where the group, called the Xinane, live. They are particularly worried at finding an arrow head in one of the trafficker’s abandoned backpacks.

"Arrows are like the identity card of uncontacted Indians,” says Carlos Travassos, the Funai official in charge of the isolated Indians division. “We think the Peruvians made the Indians flee…We are more concerned than ever. This could be one of the biggest blows in decades to the work of protecting isolated Indians."

Although Funai sent an official report on the events, it did not mention the whereabouts of the Xinane and it is not known if they are safe. Officials hope they fled the commotion and sought refuge deeper in the forest.

The Xinane came to worldwide prominence at the start of this year after they were filmed for a BBC nature program. The incredible scenes showed the clearly frightened Indians pointing bows and arrows at the plane flying overhead.

The footage turned them into unlikely – albeit unknown – celebrities and indigenous rights activists were today lamenting the developments and praying for their safety. "The world’s attention should be on these uncontacted Indians, just as it was at the beginning of this year when they were first captured on film," says Mr.Corry. Isolated Indian tribes like the Xinane are often kept on reservations for what officials say is their own good. Funai creates the fenced-off areas not to keep the Indians in, but to keep loggers, farmers, miners, and other threats out.

The policy is designed to protect the Indians and allow them to continue to live the same way they have lived for centuries.

Around 18 percent of the Amazon has been chopped down, and although deforestation rates have slowed in recent years, there are traces or reports of 39 uncontacted tribes still living in remote parts of the rainforest.

Today, there are around 350,000 Indians in Brazil, down from between 3 and 5 million before European colonizers arrived.

Surprise Underwater Volcanic Eruption Discovered

The discovery came as a surprise, as researchers attempted to recover instruments they'd left behind to monitor the peak a year earlier. When the researchers hefted a seafaring robotic vehicle overboard to fetch the instruments, the feed from the onboard camera sent back images of an alien seafloor landscape.

"At first we were really confused, and thought we were in the wrong place," said Bill Chadwick, a geologist with Oregon State University. "Finally we figured out we were in the right place but the whole seafloor had changed, and that's why we couldn't recognize anything. All of a sudden it hit us that, wow, there had been an eruption. So it was very exciting."

In addition to producing hardened lakes of blobby lava, in places more than a mile (1.6 km) across, the eruption changed the architecture of the region's seafloor hot springs.

"There are more vents, they're higher temperature, and there are microbes living in them that are usually deep in the crust that come up to the surface in these events," Chadwick told OurAmazingPlanet.

Eruption predicted

The Axial Volcano rises 3,000 feet (900 m) above the seafloor, the most active of a string of volcanoes along the Juan de Fuca Ridge, a plate boundary where the seafloor is slowly pulling apart.

Chadwick and colleagues have been keeping tabs on the peak since it last erupted in 1998. Thanks to a monitoring system they developed to measure the mountain's minute movements, the team predicted the volcano was due for another eruption sometime between 2011 and 2014.

"So for me, it's a very exciting thing that this worked!" Chadwick said.

The instruments kept track of the movement of the seafloor, which very gradually inflates and deflates like a giant, magma-filled balloon, Chadwick said, collapsing suddenly after an eruption, and rising, in this case, by about 6 inches (15 cm) per year in the lead up to an eruption.

First long-term picture

Scientists have long known about the existence of subsea volcanoes, but information on their behavior is relatively sparse. Eruptions were first observed in the 1990s, and, although technology has improved, getting to the underwater peaks to study them is difficult.

Data from the Axial Seamount's recent eruption will provide the first long-term picture of a subsea volcano from one eruption to the next. [Infographic: Tallest Mountain to Deepest Ocean Trench]

Chadwick said scientists are still trying to figure out how seafloor volcanoes differ from their terrestrial counterparts.

It could be it's easier to predict ocean eruptions, Chadwick said. It's possible that because the crust is thinner there, and magma is in ready supply, the mountains' slow inflations provide a good analogue for knowing when eruptions will occur. However, he cautioned that a single successful prediction wasn’t enough to forecast what the future holds.

"At Axial we've only seen this once, so we don't know for sure it's going to be reliable," Chadwick said. "So we'll certainly keep making these measurements, and hopefully be around to see what happens next."

Kingdom Tower to set a world record as the tallest new mega-skyscraper

Saudi Arabia's soaring structure will boast 59 elevators and a dramatic 'sky terrace'

A new building soon to be under construction in Saudi Arabia will bump the world's current tallest structure from its sky-high first place status. The futuristic mega-skyscraper known as the Kingdom Tower will be built in Jeddah, a cosmopolitan, commercially-minded port city on the Red Sea. The challenger for the world's tallest building title intends to surpass its closest competition — Dubai's Burj Khalifa — by at least 568 feet.

The Burj Khalifa, completed in 2010, measures a soaring 2,717 feet, but the Kingdom Tower will stand at least 3,281 feet tall, according to Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill — the Chicago-based team that dreamed up the design. Earlier plans for the record-breaking structure put the tower at mile high, but were abandoned due to concerns that arose in soil testing for the site. The triangular structure will be the focal point of Kingdom City, a sprawling urban development that will cost a reported $20 billion.

Kingdom Tower will house a Four Seasons hotel, upscale office space, ultra-luxurious condos (of course), and the world's soon-to-be tallest observatory. Residents will be able to take a trip up on one of the building's 59 elevators, which travel at over 33 feet per second (22 miles per hour), and enjoy the private sky terrace on the 157th floor.

According to its creators, the monolithic skyscraper will serve as a dual symbol for the city of Jeddah— both cultural and religious. Jeddah is often considered the "gateway to Mecca" due to its proximity to the Islamic holy city, and the Kingdom Tower monument will represent both Jeddah's historic symbolism in Islam as well as Saudi Arabia's prominence in international business.

While only very preliminary construction is underway at the future site of the Kingdom Tower, there are plenty of stunning skyward concept images to marvel at in the interim.

lunes, 8 de agosto de 2011

Earth Had Two Moons That Crashed to Form One, Study Suggests

A tiny second moon may once have orbited Earth before catastrophically slamming into the other one, a titanic clash that could explain why the two sides of the surviving lunar satellite are so different from each other, a new study suggests.

The second moon around Earth would have been about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) wide and could have formed from the same collision between the planet and a Mars-sized object that scientists suspect helped create the moon we see in the sky today, astronomers said.

The gravitational tug of war between the Earth and moon slowed the rate at which it whirls, such that it now always shows just one side to Earth. The far side of the moon remained a mystery for centuries until 1959, when the Soviet Luna 3 spacecraft first snapped photos of it. (The far side is sometimes erroneously called the dark side, even though it has days and nights just like the near side.) [Video: How the Moon Was Made]

The moon has two faces

The moon's far side is very different than its near side.

For instance, widespread plains of volcanic rock called "maria" (Latin for seas) cover much of the near hemisphere, but only a few maria are seen on the far one. In addition, while the surface of the near side is mostly low and flat, the far side is often high and mountainous, with the lunar surface elevated 1.2 miles (1.9 km) higher on average on the far side.

Now computer simulations hint a second moon essentially pancaked itself against its larger companion, broadly explaining the differences seen between the near and far sides. [10 Coolest Moon Discoveries]

Their calculations suggest this second moon would have formed at the same time as our moon. Scientists have suggested that our moon was born from massive amounts of debris left over from a giant impact Earth suffered from a Mars-size body early on in the history of the solar system. Spare rubble might also have coalesced into another companion moon, one just 4 percent its mass and about 750 miles wide, or one-third of our moon's diameter.

Earth's second moon

To imagine where this other moon once was, picture the Earth and the moon as being two points in a triangle whose sides are equal in length.

The other point of such a triangle is known as a Trojan point, or a Lagrangian point, named after the mathematician who discovered them. At such a point, the gravitational attraction of the Earth and moon essentially balances out, meaning objects there can stay relatively stably. The Earth and moon have two Trojan points, one leading ahead of the moon, known as the L-4 point of the system, and one trailing behind, its L-5 point.

The researchers computed that this second moon could have stayed at a Trojan point for tens of millions of years. Eventually, however, this Trojan moon's orbit would have destabilized once our moon's orbit expanded far enough away from Earth.

The resulting collision would have been relatively slow at 4,500 to 6,700 miles per hour (7,200 to 10,800 kph), leading its matter to splatter itself across our moon as a thick extra layer of solid crust tens of miles thick instead of forming a crater.

"It is entirely plausible for a Trojan moon to have formed in the giant impact, and for it to go unstable after 10 million to 100 million years and leave its imprint on the moon," study coauthor Erik Asphaug, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told Imagine "a ball of Gruyere colliding into a ball of cheddar."

Moon crash post mortem

The remains of this Trojan moon would make up the highlands now seen on our moon's far side. At the same time, the impact would have squished an underground ocean of magma toward the near side, explaining why phosphorus, rare-earth metals and radioactive potassium, uranium and thorium are concentrated in the crust there.

A number of explanations have been proposed for the far side's highlands, including one suggesting that gravitational forces were the culprits rather than an impact from Francis Nimmo at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his colleagues. Nimmo said that for now there is not enough data to say which of the proposals offers the best explanation for this lunar contrast. "As further spacecraft data and, hopefully, lunar samples are obtained, which of these two hypotheses is more nearly correct will become clear," Nimmo said in a statement.

Asphaug and his colleague Martin Jutzi at the University of Bern in Switzerland detailed their findings in the August 4 issue of the journal Nature.