Crocs Uncover

Bizarre Species

lunes, 16 de julio de 2012

NASA's new Mars picture

The US space agency NASA has recently pieced together a panoramic view from the camera on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, calling it the "next best thing to being" on the Red Planet. Here's The Most Stunning Photo of Mars The World Has Ever Seen A TextureCam analysis of a Mars image is able to distinguish rocks from soil. Future Planetary Rovers May Make Their Own Decisions In this undated image provided by NASA, Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in a view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars. The rover used a panoramic camera between about 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. local Mars time to record images taken through different filters and combined into this mosaic view. Most of the component images were recorded during the 2,888th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity's work on Mars, which corresponds to March 9, 2012 on Earth. The view is presented in false color to make some differences between materials easier to see, such as the dark sandy ripples and dunes on the crater's distant floor. Opportunity has been studying the western rim of Endeavour Crater since arriving there in August 2011. In this undated image provided by NASA, Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in a view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars. The rover used a panoramic camera between about A close-up of the sunset on Sol 24 as seen by the Imager for Mars Pathfinder was released by the Jet Propulsion Labratory August 27. The red sky in the background and the blue around the Sun are approximately as they would appear to the human eye but the color of the Sun itself is not correct -- the Sun was overexposed in each of the 3 color images that were used to make the picture. The true color of the Sun itself may be near white or slightly bluish. Mars Mars A portion of the west rim of Endeavour crater sweeps southward in this color view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity released by NASA August 10, 2011. This crater has a diameter of about 14 miles (22 km). This view combines exposures taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) of the rover's work on Mars August 6, 2011. Opportunity arrived at the rim during its next drive on August 9, 2011. Endeavour crater has been the rover team's destination for Opportunity since the rover finished exploring Victoria crater in August 2008. Endeavour offers access to older geological deposits than any Opportunity has seen before. The lighter-toned rocks closer to the rover in this view are similar to the rocks Opportunity has driven over for most of the mission. However, the darker-toned and rougher rocks just beyond that might be a different type for Opportunity to investigate. The ground in the foreground is covered with iron-rich spherules, nicknamed "blueberries," which Opportunity has observed frequently since the first days after landing. They are about 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) or more in diameter. REUTERS/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCI TECH) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Homes for extreme climates

Unrelenting winter nights and endless summer days. Temperatures that can plummet to 120 below or more. Snow, ice, and rock. There are few environments on earth more hostile than the frozen Antarctic wastelands. But even with winds of up to nearly 200 mph, it’s not impossible for people to survive in the coldest place on the planet. In fact, humans are able to live in almost every world climate, driest deserts and densest jungles included—and it helps if you’ve got the right kind of shelter. With permanent bases from countries all over the world, there are a number of approaches to building design in the harsh Antarctic region. Construction company Misawa Homes, which built most of the Antarctic facilities for the Japanese government’s Showa Station, opted for single-shell housing technology — useful when trying to keep out some of the coldest temperatures on earth. On the other end of the climate spectrum, rainforests demand a much different approach to adaptive construction. One house in the outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil, is specially built to its jungle environment. The Iporanga “tree house” stands three stories tall, is partially wrapped in glass walls, and is tightly nestled into the forest, with the trees all but scraping the windows. The house, with its modest use of concrete and steel, plays chameleon by blending into the leaves which surround it. Frozen Wasteland Cocoons East Ongul Island, Antarctica Outdoors, the thermometer reads 80 below and the winds whirl at 120 mph. Indoors, it’s toasty warm. The ultimate in form following way behind function, these Antarctic boxes are also wrapped in a “single shell,” with features to withstand the most unforgiving climactic conditions on the planet. With a design based on the company’s wooden-panel adhesion system, the polar dwellings are built to take an estimated 100 years of Antarctic punishment. Iporanga Jungle Tree House Near São Paulo, Brazil Chimps have got it figured out: if you’re going to live in a rainforest, it’s better to be perched up in the trees. Brazilian architecture company Nitsche Arquitetos Associados designed this home in the thick forest outside São Paulo in 2006. Five bedrooms on the top level of this three-story home provide both a high lookout from which to survey the surrounding jungle and privacy due to the height. But the main level is unquestionably the main attraction of the home, with a hyper-modern living room, dining room and kitchen. Structural elements, such as I-beams, are as exposed as the residents within. Though much of the home is made of steel, glass and concrete, the house never feels out of place, thanks to the way in which outside foliage plays a central role in the design scheme. Rondolino Residence Near Scotty's Junction, Nevada Nottoscale, a San Francisco-based architectural company, used its own prefab building system to put together this one-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot desert house. Situated on a 40-acre lot, the home is completely dwarfed by its surroundings and looks every bit like the prefab home (with a modern sensibility) that it is. But the home isn’t the point – the location is. “Isolation is much of the beauty of the property,” says the firm’s website. Another beautiful aspect? Its environmental efficiency. The desert dwelling is heated with a hydronic radiant system and features high-performance insulation. The home’s minimalist approach includes a simple 900-square-foot deck. Hof House Skakafjördur Fjord, Iceland Located 60 miles south of the Arctic Circle, this sturdy home efficiently protects its residents from outside elements. Built on an estate that includes a church, barn and a cowshed, the home is built with natural and recycled construction materials such as cedar and concrete walls designed to visibly age according to the weather. Geothermal and solar sources heat the entirety of the home. The grass turf on the roof, which was salvaged from some of the ground on which the home was built, isn’t the only material the architects reused: stone from the old house was cut to pave ground surfaces outside the new one, and old telegraph poles were used for building windows. The home was designed by Icelandic architectural firm Studio Granda.

domingo, 8 de julio de 2012

The BlackBerry, Trying to Avoid the Hall of Fallen Giants

FORGET the Union — what’s the state of the BlackBerry? Research in Motion, maker of BlackBerry smartphones and tablets, sent its co-chief executives packing last week and replaced them with Thorsten Heins, who had been RIM’s chief operating officer. How would he characterize his employer? “We make the best communications devices in the world,” said Mr. Heins, who met with editors and reporters from The New York Times on Friday. Not everyone feels the same way. Over the last year, RIM’s share price has plunged 75 percent. The company once commanded more than half of the American smartphone market. Today it has 10 percent. RIM has two, maybe three ways forward. The first — the one that Mr. Heins is clearly aiming for — is a triumphant comeback after a near-death experience. Think Apple and its iMac. RIM is on the verge of upgrading its PlayBook operating system — now with, among other things, e-mail, a feature that the original PlayBook bafflingly lacked — and will release the BlackBerry 10 OS this year. Behind Door No. 2 is a gradual decline and diminution as rivals like Apple, Google and Microsoft devour most of the market; to some degree, they already have. BlackBerry would keep the scraps — a small but dedicated following of corporate and government customers who want its proprietary messaging and security features. Then there is the third option: oblivion. The road of progress is littered with the corpses of fallen titans. Objects that once seemed as indispensable as the companies that made them have been mercilessly superseded — as seen below. And RIM ought to know: with mobile devices like the BlackBerry 957, it helped to extinguish the pager era. SONY WALKMAN (1979-2010) Before the Walkman, “personal audio” meant holding a transistor radio to your ear. Sony’s invention created an entire category of devices and helped make the company the technology leader of the 1980s. New models (Thinner! Auto-reverse!) were eagerly anticipated, the LP was relegated to the attic and tender moments spent listening to mix tapes from that certain someone proliferated across teenage bedrooms. Sony seemed incapable of putting a foot wrong. It successfully moved the brand into compact discs with the Discman, then bought record labels and movie studios to bring about that illusory marriage of technology and content. When the digital revolution hit, Sony was too beholden to its proprietary formats, as well as to the inertia inside its media companies. Enter Apple and the iPod. PAGERS (BORN 1951) At first, pagers were attached to people who worked in fields where lives were on the line. That usually meant doctors, though the group expanded in the late 1980s to include drug dealers. Early beepers displayed only numbers, giving rise to a numerical lexicon that included codes like 911 (call me back immediately) and 07734, which resembles “hello” when read upside down. Pagers briefly gained fame in early 1990s hip-hop, showing up in songs like “Skypager,” by a Tribe Called Quest. The pager’s fall was attributable to the disruptive and destructive powers of another technology: the mobile phone. Why beep when you can talk? And a pager message is so tiny that it makes a tweet look like “The Iliad.” The beeper does live on, in limited circles: its network remains more reliable than cell networks, making it useful to E.M.S. and other rescue workers. PALM PILOT (1997-2007) Filofax brought personal organizers to their analog apogee in the early ’90s, but Palm brought them into the digital age. Palm Pilots were dazzling when they first appeared: all of your contacts, calendars and notes in one slim, pocket-size device. A touch screen, which required a stylus, made navigation easy. And you could add software, bought through an online store. Want a Zagat guide to go along with your personal data? No problem. In later years, Palm even added telephone features, creating a compelling, all-in-one gadget. Despite boardroom dramas that affected the company’s name and its ownership, Palm’s reputation as a source of innovative hardware and software endured until Jan. 9, 2007. Why that date? That’s when Apple introduced the iPhone. POLAROID INSTANT CAMERAS (1948-2008) Edwin Land’s invention of instant-developing film in 1948 put a darkroom inside a handheld camera. That achievement gave his Polaroid Corporation a distinct advantage over traditional film cameras. By 1980, Polaroid was selling 7.8 million cameras a year in the United States — more than half of all the 15 million cameras, instant and traditional, sold that year. In 1985, it won a major patent-infringement suit, forcing Kodak to abandon its own instant-camera efforts. The victory was short-lived. The late ’80s brought the rise of the digital camera. By 2000, digital cameras began appearing on cellphones, placing cameras in millions of pockets. Polaroid declared bankruptcy for the first time in 2001 and stopped making instant film in 2008. Kodak declared bankruptcy on Jan. 19. ATARI 2600 (1977-c.1984) It wasn’t the first game console, but the Atari 2600 brought video games into the home and popular culture. Over its life span, more than 30 million were sold. Pong, Combat, Pitfall and Frogger soaked up children’s afternoons. Then came the PC, which could play games and do much more. Atari rushed out games, assuming that its customers would play whatever it released. They didn’t. Millions of unsold games and consoles were buried in a New Mexico landfill in 1983. Warner Communications, which bought Atari in 1976 for $28 million, sold it in 1984 for no cash. New York Times

Egypt begins restoring ancient boat near pyramids

In this Thursday, June 23, 2011 file photo, an Egyptian and Japanese team of scientists … CAIRO (AP) — Archaeologists on Monday began restoration on a 4,500-year-old wooden boat found next to the pyramids, one of Egypt's main tourist attractions. The boat is one of two that were buried next to the Pharaoh Khufu, spokesmen for a joint Egyptian-Japanese team of archeologists said. The boats are believed to have been intended to carry pharaohs into the afterlife. Khufu, also known as Cheops, is credited with building the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest of the pyramids. Khufu, son of Snefru, was the second ruler of the 4th Dynasty around 2680 B.C. and ruled Egypt for 23 years. Both boats, made from Lebanese cedar and Egyptian acacia trees, were originally discovered in 1954. One of the boats is on display at a museum near the pyramids. The second boat, which is now undergoing the restoration, remained buried. It is thought to be smaller than its sister ship, which is about 140 feet (43 meters) long. The head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa Amin, said Egyptologists began taking samples of the wood for restoration on Monday. "The boat was found in a complete shape, intact and in place," he said, adding that the focus now is on taking samples of the wood. He said Egyptologists are studying "the different components and fungus in the wood in order to find the most sufficient and advanced way to work on the wood." Last year in June, a team of scientists lifted the first of 41 limestone slabs each weighing about 16 tons to uncover the pit in which the ancient ship was buried, said Sakuji Yoshimura, professor from Japan's Waseda University. At the time, experts said restoration would likely take about four years and that at its completion, the boat would be placed on display at the Solar Boat Museum near the pyramids, which routinely attract millions of tourists and boost one of Egypt's most important industries. The team had initially thought the vessel would be safer left underground than exposed to pollution, but evidence showed that pollution, water and insects had invaded the boat's chamber. A $10 million grant from Waseda University has helped in preparing the ship's excavation process.

Facebook’s Got a Reputation Problem: Harris Poll

Nearly 850 million people use Facebook each month and roughly 480 million people use it every day. With a user rate like that and an upcoming $75 to $100 billion initial public offering, one might think Facebook is not only a highly visible company, but also one of Corporate America's most reputable. But that's not really the case, according to the findings discovered by Harris Interactive. The company recently conducted its 13th annual Reputation Quotient Study, which measures companies' reputation with consumers. In performing the survey, Harris first asked 17,000 people to chose the companies that are most visible to them on a daily basis. The respondents were then asked to rate the top 60 most visible companies on wide rage of attributes, including emotional appeal, products and services, social responsibility, vision and leadership, workplace environment and financial performance. Apple bumped Google for the number one spot as the most reputable company in America, followed by Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods. (See: Apple Ranks #1 With Consumers as J&J Tumbles in Harris Poll: Big Banks Come in Last) But Facebook did not even make its way onto the most visible list of companies for consumers to rank, which is surprising for a company that has a shocking number of users and plans to go public. So how can this be? Well, it turns out that the public fails to recognize the social networking website as an actual corporation. Most people see Facebook rather as a tool, service or a channel for communication, says Robert Fronk, executive vice president for Harris Interactive. While Facebook did not make the list this year, unlike last year, Harris still rated the company on its reputation. Facebook received a reputation rating bordering between fair and good, falling short of very good and excellent. The company's reputation waned in 2012 because 25% of the general public holds a negative perception of the company on a wide-rage of issues, including trust and respect. Those feelings are in line with the countless privacy concerns facing the company. In terms of Facebook's shortcomings, here's what the study found: People do not trust Facebook to do the right thing if faced with a problem. People do not believe Facebook maintains high ethical standards. People do not believe Facebook is sincere in its communications. People do not believe Facebook is transparent in its communications. Why does reputation matter anyway? "One of the reasons companies want to build reputation is so that they can over time build equity so that when a crisis comes along, when they need to influence a particular stakeholder they have build up some of that equity," says Fronk. "And right now Facebook has an equity gap." As mentioned, Facebook is set to go public in the coming months. But it turns out that only 7% of the general public would purchase shares in the company. Seventeen percent said they definitely would not. And 0% of the general public would recommend the stock to someone else. "When you are going to be a public corporation there is a burden on you, there is an expectation for you to communicate a little bit more," says Fronk. "What the public is looking for are companies who communicate sincerely, with a certain amount of transparency and honesty and on those measures right now Facebook also has a serious gap." Tell us what you think! Do you think Facebook has a good reputation? Would you buy stock in the company?

Shark devours another shark whole (Photo)

Photo courtesy Tom Mannering National Geographic has released this soon-to-be classic photograph of one shark eating another shark whole. The photo comes from Daniela Ceccarelli, of Australia's Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Ceccarelli was working with fellow researcher David Williamson on conducting a "fish census" off Great Keppel Island, part of the country's Great Barrier Reef. That's when Ceccarelli thought she spotted a brown-banded bamboo shark hanging out near the ocean's floor. "The first thing that caught my eye was the almost translucent white of the bamboo shark," Ceccarelli told National Geographic in an email. Instead, as Ceccarelli moved in for a closer look she noticed a camouflaged wobbegong shark emerging from seclusion with the same bamboo shark partially wedged inside its jaws. "It became clear that the head of the bamboo shark was hidden in its mouth," she said. "The bamboo shark was motionless and definitely dead." As the New Scientist explains, Wobbegongs, aka carpet sharks, are silent predators, waiting at the bottom of the ocean floor for their pray to pass by. And as stunning as this photo may be, it's not uncommon for Wobbegongs to devour such large meals. Like several kinds of snakes, the Wobbegong has a dislocating jaw and rearward-pointing teeth that help it consume disproportionately large prey. Although Wobbegongs bite humans with some regularity, these usually aren't actual attacks where the shark is hunting for prey. Rather, these bites tend to be more of a defensive reflex after the shark itself has been assaulted, usually by someone unintentionally stepping on it. While shark attacks were down in the U.S. last year, deaths from shark bites more than doubled worldwide with 12 reported deaths all happening outside of the U.S. However, Florida still led the overall national count for most attacks, with 11 of the 29 attacks reported inside the U.S. "We had a number of fatalities in essentially out-of-the-way places, where there's not the same quantity and quality of medical attention readily available," George Burgess, director of the Shark Attack File, told Gannett. "They also don't have histories of shark attacks in these regions, so there are not contingency plans in effect like there are in places such as Florida."

Strange sea creature on South Carolina coast ID’d as Atlantic sturgeon

This mysterious sea creature is actually a sturgeon. Click photo for more images. (Photo: Facebook)Something strange washed ashore on Folly Beach in South Carolina this past weekend. The beast had some wondering if it was some sort of new species. Be not afraid, land dwellers. According to AOL's Pawnation, the freakishly large creature may look alien, but it is harmless. A veterinarian from a South Carolina aquarium identified the fish as a sturgeon. The Atlantic sturgeon can grow to 15 feet in length and weigh over 800 pounds. It won't win any beauty contests, but the Atlantic sturgeon has a lot more to fear from humans than we do from it. The Atlantic sturgeon was recently placed on the endangered species list. According to a February article from the Washington Post, the Atlantic sturgeon is a popular target for caviar. Limits have now been placed on the number that can be caught.

Google puts legally blind man behind the wheel of its self-driving car Google's experiment to build a self-driving Toyota Prius has already logged hundreds of thousands of miles with only one known fender bender. To tout its potential, Google put a legally blind man behind the wheel and filmed the quotidian yet touching results shown above. What we still don't know is: Who would have been responsible if something had gone wrong? There's no denying the impact of the video, or the idea that a self-driving car could aid people -- like driver/rider Steve Mahan -- whose mobility has been curbed by disability regain a portion of freedom. Several automakers and parts suppliers, including Volkswagen, General Motors and Continental, have experiments underway to automate some driving scenarios, to research how it could improve safety and fuel economy. But there's a few things not noted in Google's push, starting with the phrase "self-driving." The Prius used by Google doesn't pick its own locations, and it still needs a human operator; even in Nevada, which has approved self-driving cars for the street, two people must be inside the car at all times, one of which can take control in emergencies. (Google says Mahan's drive was "carefully programmed.") While technology has advanced, many basic questions remain unanswered, and most experts say any builder of an autonomous vehicle sold to the public could face a massive amount of legal liabilities. With federal agencies arguing that driver distraction poses such a threat that cellphones and moving navigation screens should be limited, a self-driving car would be the ultimate proof of driver distraction. Any good traffic lawyer filing suit after a crash with a self-driving vehicle would immediately use its presence as proof that the owner's habits ran to ignoring the road -- whether the system was on or not. And the web of radar and sensors used in all self-driving experiments remains far from foolproof

Cool Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of

Technically, the recession is over, and on paper, there has been positive job growth for months. Unfortunately, “technically” and “on paper” don’t cut it for people who have been out of work for a long time. For the long-term unemployed, it’s time to start thinking outside of the box and looking for work that falls outside of the parameters of the everyday. What follows is a list of jobs that are obscure, unheard-of or otherwise out of the ordinary. Some of them pay well, some have salaries that are a closely guarded secret and some look like so much fun that the salary is almost beside the point. Gold Stacker T
he United States Bullion Depository — better known as Fort Knox — is not the largest gold repository in the United States. That distinction belongs to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in lower Manhattan, where approximately $194 billion worth of the trapezoidal gold bars are stored. Occasionally, those bars will need to be moved, and gold stackers are the people who do it. Each 27-pound bar has to be moved manually, and the repetitive strain is so significant that they work in teams so shifts can relieve one another. Bed Tester Rob Melnychuk/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesNo matter who you are or what you do for a living, you occasionally have days where you’d like nothing better than to blow off work and stay in bed. Some people have taken that urge and parlayed it into a career as a bed tester. This job involves bouncing on beds to test comfort. It may sound cushy, but it’s serious business to professional bed tester Natalie Thomas, who works for the Premier Inn hotel chain in the U.K. She and her team are tasked with testing all of the chain’s 46,000 beds. In 2011, she reportedly had her behind insured for $6.3 million. Field Test Analyst for Recreational Equipment Chase Jarvis/Getty ImagesRecreational Equipment Inc. sells sporting goods and recreation gear in over 100 retail locations around the U.S., and in 2011 the company reported sales of $1.66 billion during the previous year. Part of its success is due to an intimate knowledge of the products it sells, gained through extensive testing. Until October 2011, the testing was performed by field test analyst Adam Hockey. When he wasn’t testing the equipment himself, he farmed out the research to the company’s 9,500 employees. But in a 2011 interview, he confessed that testing the products was his favorite perk. Cup Keeper When hockey season ends, some fans must wonder what happens to the Stanley Cup. Does it go to the game’s MVP for safekeeping, or the winning team’s coach? In fact, it goes to Mike Bolt, a 42-year-old fan from Toronto who has been protecting the trophy since 2000. Although the compensation for this position is a closely guarded secret, it’s a highly coveted position. “Fans want this job,” he said in an interview in New York magazine. “You hear it from players, and, heck, the commissioner, Gary Bettman, has even said, ‘Oh, I think you have one of the greatest jobs.’” The job has even allowed Bolt to hobnob with CNBC’s own Darren Rovell. Waterslide Tester Peter Essick/Aurora/Getty ImagesShooting down an amusement park waterslide is an exciting way to cool off in the summertime. But to offer the maximum amount of fun, it has to work properly, which means testing it for stress factors and aerodynamics. For Tommy Lynch, it also means traveling the world and riding down the waterslides to make sure they’re up to snuff. Lynch works for First Choice, a British travel company that was part of a $12.5 million rebranding effort in 2011. He calls his job “the best job in the world,” and it’s easy to see why.

Report: Obama ordered wave of cyberattacks on Iran

The Ticket – 4 hrs ago President Barack Obama ordered a secret wave of sophisticated computer attacks on Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities, according to the New York Times. Obama decided to accelerate the program, begun under the Bush administration and code-named "Olympic Games," even after the some of the code of computer worm used in the cyberattacks was revealed on the Internet, the Times reported today. "Olympic Games" was a joint venture between the U.S. and Israel designed to take down the Iranian nuclear program using the worm dubbed Stuxnet, the story indicated. When an error accidentally allowed Stuxnet to "escape" Iran's Natanz plant, Obama and his team convened to discuss the situation as described in the story: Should we shut this thing down?" Mr. Obama asked, according to members of the president's national security team who were in the room. Told it was unclear how much the Iranians knew about the code, and offered evidence that it was still causing havoc, Mr. Obama decided that the cyberattacks should proceed. In the following weeks, the Natanz plant was hit by a newer version of the computer worm, and then another after that. The last of that series of attacks, a few weeks after Stuxnet was detected around the world, temporarily took out nearly 1,000 of the 5,000 centrifuges Iran had spinning at the time to purify uranium. Obama's decision in the early months of his presidency to push the attacks marked America's first sustained use of cyberweapons, and it resulted in physical damage to Iran's Natanz plant, according the piece. The Times story was written by correspondent David Sanger and was adapted from his book, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power." It was based off interviews with anonymous intelligence sources with access to the highly-classified program, The Atlantic Wire reports. The Atlantic Wire story called the book excerpt "a fascinating story about how Stuxnet was developed and deployed, but also hints at larger questions about the use of cyberweapons and how they could come back to haunt the United States."

The European Tipping Point: What Will Greece Do?

Danger Zone: Your CountryEurope's crisis: Why Greece is the word-by-Country Preparedness GuideWhat will happen in other euro zone countries if the Greeks elect a government that won't implement austerity measures? CNBC's Simon Hobbs reveals the dramatic financial shockwaves that could rumble throughout Europe. How is it that a small nation with only 11 million people and an economy not even one-tenth of the United States could be so important? Because the stability of the global economy hangs in the balance as Europe awaits the results of the Greek presidential election on June 17. The election is seen as a proxy for a much larger question: Do the Greeks want to stay in the euro zone - or not? Meanwhile this week European leaders are scrambling to come up with money and a plan for stabilizing Spanish banks. Even in the midst of the U.S. election season when domestic politics would normally be paramount, President Obama discussed Greece at a recent news conference. "We recognize the sacrifices that the Greek people have made, and European leaders understand the need to provide support if the Greek people choose to remain in the euro zone," he said. "But the Greek people also need to recognize that their hardships will likely be worse if they choose to exit from the euro zone." It is an unprecedented situation in modern economic times. "For the first time since it began in 1999, one of the 17 nations that use the euro will in essence be deciding whether they want it anymore or not," says Peter Boockvar of Miller Tabak. If the answer is no, economists and leaders across the world fear a potential "Lehman moment" and the potential unraveling of the entire euro project. The cost to the European economy alone could be as much as Euro360 billion, according to one Wall Street analyst, Patrick Legland of Societe General. If there were a follow-on contagion effect in Italy and Spain, he says European stocks would fall as much as 50 percent, and the damaging results wouldn't be confined to the European continent. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times tells CNBC that he fears we could see a repeat of the worldwide Depression of the 1930s. An additional thorny issue is that while the rest of the world may see the election as a referendum on euro zone membership, it is possible the Greek people do not. The head of one of the leading parties in Greece is campaigning on the idea that the country can repudiate the tough terms of a bailout from their European partners and still remain in the euro zone. Alexis Tsipras, the head of the Coalition for the Radical Left (Syriza) has told voters and CNBC the fear in Europe of the potential economic fallout from a Greek exit gives his country leverage to renegotiate a much more lenient set of terms. Twice in the last two years Greece has received huge loans of at least Euro100 billion each from the other countries in the European Union and the IMF . But in exchange for those loans the Greeks have had to follow a strict set of "austerity measures," including cutting the number of government workers, cutting the remaining workers' salaries by as much as 50 percent, slashing retirees' pensions by 30 percent, raising taxes and fees dramatically, and eliminating collective bargaining rights. The measures are deeply unpopular in a country where the constitution once prohibited the firing of a government worker. (In theory it still does, but loopholes have been used to get around that.) For two years, massive demonstrations have engulfed the country on a frequent basis as the population deals with unemployment above 20 percent and above 50 percent for young people. Tsipras' message - that the country can renege on the bailout agreement and yet still receive the bailout money - has great appeal and in the last published polls; he had 30 percent of the vote. But polls also say that the Greek people overwhelmingly want to stay with the euro. The other leading party in the country, New Democracy (ND), led by Antonio Samaris, has painted the election as a choice between staying in the euro (by voting for him), or leaving the euro by voting for Tsipras. One of New Democracy's political ads airing this week on TV in Greece shows a classroom sometime in the future with a teacher saying "Cyprus, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, France - these countries are in the euro zone." Then a student asks, "And Greece? Why isn't Greece in the euro zone sir, why?" More voices, one after the other: "Why? Why? Why?" and then a voice-over: "With our children's future we don't play games" as it does a slow zoom into the teacher's face, who looks strikingly similar to the leader of the opposition party, Alexis Tsipras. European leaders have all maintained that for Greece to continue receiving bailout money, it must stick to the previous agreement, and that renegotiation is not an option. But at the same time, they've made enough comments to suggest there could be room for leniency, clouding the message. If a future Greek government refuses to comply with the previously-agreed bailout terms, and European leaders refuse to give them the next tranche of aid, Greece will have not have enough money to function. The situation will almost certainly cause the country to abandon using the euro and return to printing their own currency. The effects on Greece would be devastating. Dr. Lucas Papademos, the former technocratic Prime Minister of Greece, warned recently of gross domestic product declining another 20 percent on top of the 20 percent it has already fallen, along with inflation shooting up by 50 percent. What is unclear is the effect on the rest of the world. Economists fear contagion - the spread of financial panic to other countries like Italy and Spain. Hence, why leaders scrambled this past weekend to ensure there would be money available to back up Spain's vulnerable banks in case of capital flight in the wake of the elections. Polls indicate the outcome of the election is too close to call, leading to an edgy week for investors. -BY CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera

Military clears up Beltway UFO mystery

Courtesy Juliee London via Instagram The so-called "Beltway UFO" is actually an 82-foot drone. By Thomas Tobin and Carissa DiMargo, Beltway traffic in Washington, D.C., is bad enough without adding extraterrestrial vehicles into the mix. On Wednesday night, Facebook and Twitter users went wild over sightings of a saucer-shaped vessel being towed on local highways. The buzz called to mind the frenzy in 1947 Roswell, albeit in a much more modern way. Drivers spotted the craft on I-270 and on the Beltway as it was pulled behind a tractor trailer. But we can take the "unidentified" out of "unidentified flying object." (And yes, we realize that it wasn't actually flying, either.) The military has confirmed to NBC News affiliate News4 that the 82-foot-long craft is an unmanned military aircraft, known as an X-47B. Maryland State Police towed it on a flatbed trailer from Garrett County, Md., to Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The drone had come all the way from California -- and yes, it "always attracts attention," a military spokesperson told NBC4's Melissa Mollet. The craft is the second of its kind to come to the area. An X-47B arrived in late 2011 -- although if they towed that one on the Beltway, no one must have noticed. "In the coming months, you can expect to see the X-47B flying over the base and surrounding area along the Chesapeake Bay," said Matt Funk, lead test engineer. According to a military press release: The X-47B is the first unmanned vehicle designed to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. As part of the program's demonstration, the X-47B will perform arrested landings and catapult launches at Pax to validate its ability to conduct precision approaches to the carrier. The base is one of only a few sites in the world where the Navy can run performance tests on aircraft-carrier catapult operations at a land-based facility with flight test and engineering support resources not available on a ship. Although Maryland State Police helped orchestrate the the drone's Wednesday night commute, even they didn't know what it was at the time, police told News4. "Don't worry, that's not an alien spacecraft, just a flying military robot. [That was a] totally normal sentence in 2012. I love the future," Ben Jacobs tweeted.

Spanish cave paintings shown as oldest in world

This undated handout photo provided … WASHINGTON (AP) — New tests show that crude Spanish cave paintings of a red sphere and handprints are the oldest in the world, so ancient they may not have been by modern man. Some scientists say they might have even been made by the much-maligned Neanderthals, but others disagree. Testing the coating of paintings in 11 Spanish caves, researchers found that one is at least 40,800 years old, which is at least 15,000 years older than previously thought. That makes them older than the more famous French cave paintings by thousands of years. Scientists dated the Spanish cave paintings by measuring the decay of uranium atoms, instead of traditional carbon-dating, according to a report released Thursday by the journal Science. The paintings were first discovered in the 1870s. The oldest of the paintings is a red sphere from a cave called El Castillo. About 25 outlined handprints in another cave are at least 37,300 years old. Slightly younger paintings include horses. Cave paintings are "one of the most exquisite examples of human symbolic behavior," said study co-author Joao Zilhao, an anthropologist at the University of Barcelona. "And that, that's what makes us human." There is older sculpture and other portable art. Before the latest test, the oldest known cave paintings were those France's Chauvet cave, considered between 32,000 and 37,000 years old. What makes the dating of the Spanish cave paintings important is that it's around the time when modern humans first came into Europe from Africa. Study authors say they could have been from modern man decorating their new digs or they could have been the working of the long-time former tenant of Europe: the Neanderthal. Scientists said Neanderthals were in Europe from about 250,000 years ago until about 35,000 years ago. Modern humans arrived in Europe about 41,000 to 45,000 years ago — with some claims they moved in even earlier — and replaced Neanderthals. "There is a strong chance that these results imply Neanderthal authorship," Zilhao said. "But I will not say we have proven it because we haven't." In a telephone press conference, Zilhao said Neanderthals recently have gotten "bad press" over their abilities. They decorated their tools and bodies. So, he said, they could have painted caves. But there's a debate in the scientific community about Neanderthals. Other anthropologists say Zilhao is in a minority of researchers who believe in more complex abilities of Neanderthals. Eric Delson, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and John Shea at Long Island's Stony Brook University said the dating work in the Science paper is compelling and important, but they didn't quite buy the theory that Neanderthals could have been the artists. "There is no clear evidence of paintings associated with Neanderthal tools or fossils, so any such evidence would be surprising," Delson said. He said around 41,000 years ago Neanderthals were already moving south in Europe, away from modern man and these caves. Shea said it is more likely that modern humans were making such paintings in Africa even earlier, but the works didn't survive because of the different geology on the continent. "The people who came in to Europe were very much like us. They used art, they used symbols," Shea said. "They were not like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble." Online: Science: