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scienceyoucanlove:

Q&A: The First-Ever Expedition to Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell”

Explorer George Kourounis describes his descent into a fiery, gas-fueled crater

Christina Nunez

National Geographic

PUBLISHED JULY 16, 2014

More than four decades ago, a gaping, fiery crater opened up in the desert of northern Turkmenistan (map), likely the result of a drilling mishap.

The Darvaza Crater, more commonly known as the Door to Hell, still burns today, a surreal feature in an otherwise barren landscape.

Details on the origin of the sinkhole are sketchy, but the story goes that Soviet scientists set it on fire to burn off noxious gases after the ground under a drilling rig gave way. Perhaps the scientists underestimated the amount of fuel that lay below—Turkmenistan has the sixth largest natural gas reserves in the world.

In November 2013, explorer and storm chaserGeorge Kourounis, on an expedition funded partly by National Geographic, set out to be the first person to plumb the depths of the crater, which is 225 feet (69 meters) wide and 99 feet (30 meters) deep. 

At the bottom he collected soil samples, hoping to learn whether life can survive in such harsh conditions—and perhaps shedding light on whether life could survive similar conditions elsewhere in the universe.

His harrowing plunge is featured on the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying, which airs tonight, July 16, at 10 p.m. EDT. Kourounis, who’s based in Toronto, talked with National Geographic about his experience in Turkmenistan.

Tell me how this project got started.

The place has always fascinated me. The story behind how it came into existence has been sort of shrouded in mystery, and there’s no other place like it on Earth. It is very unique, in that there’s no other place where there is this pit of burning methane that’s being ejected from the ground at high pressure. It’s fascinating, it’s visually stunning, and there’s a lot that we can learn about this place.

What did you do to prepare for the expedition? How did you protect yourself?

There was about a year and a half of preparation and planning. Getting permission, getting all the logistics in order, getting the team assembled, getting the [National Geographic] Expeditions Council on board. In order to prepare, there was a lot of practice at first. We set up [a] rope-rigging system over a local river gorge and practiced out there several times, including with the full apparatus I was wearing: a heat-reflective suit, self-contained breathing apparatus, the climbing harness that I’m wearing. We had to get it custom-made out of Kevlar, because a regular climbing harness would just melt under the extreme heat.

I even went as far as to hire a stunt coordinator who does movie stunts for Hollywood films to light me on fire several times, in order to sort of prepare myself for not panicking being up close around flame.

read more from Nat  Geo

BREAKING: How We Got To The Point That A Malaysian Plane Was Shot Down Over Ukraine

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Though the situation in the Ukraine has been out of front-page headlines for the past weeks, the struggle between the government in Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists in the east has been ongoing. That conflict surged back into the public consciousness with reports that a Malaysian passenger airplane was shot down over Ukraine on Thursday, leaving hundreds feared dead and blame already being traded between Russia and Ukraine over just who is at fault for the downing of the Boeing 777 jet.

Mayalsian Airlines on Thursday morning confirmed that it had lost contact with MH17 flying out from Amsterdam on route to Kuala Lampur. Its last known position — and that of its 280 passengers and 15 crew — was over Ukrainian airspace, specifically the eastern territory that has been resisting the control of the central government. Ukraine’s military in recent weeks has shown a number of successes against the rebels there, shrinking the territory that they control down to portions of two main enclaves: Donetsk and Luhansk. The wreckage found on Thursday was discovered near Grabovo, a city in the area that separatists have declared as the Donestk People’s Republic.

However, the rebels have not been ceding territory quietly. There have been in the last month a number of incidents where aircraft were shot down, but until now they’ve all been military in nature. In June, separatists shot down a Ilyushin-76 transport plane landing in Luhansk, killing all 49 on-board. On Monday, Kyiv said that an An-25 transport ship was shot down in a rocket attack launched from across the border in Russia. And earlier on Thursday, Ukraine accused Russia of deploying a military jet into Ukrainian airspace last night to down an Su-25 fighter jet.

The alleged rocket launch on Monday, which the U.S. corroborated on Thursday, would be the first time an attack originated on the Russian side of the border. But for months now, Russia has been sending military hardware to support the rebels. Almost since the conflict began in the aftermath of the massive protests that led to former president Viktor Yanukovych stepping down, Moscow has been accused of not just arming and supplying the rebels, but sending Russian forces to take part in operations. In June, the State Department called out Russia for sending tanks and other heavy weaponry, such as the BM-21 rocket launcher system, into Ukraine. “Russia will claim these tanks were taken from Ukrainian forces, but no Ukrainian tank units have been operating in that area,” the State Department said then. “We are confident that these tanks came from Russia.”

The separatists have also shown some successes of their own in recent weeks, even while being hammered on the battlefield. A Voice of Russia article shows that the so-called “self-defense forces” of the Donetsk People’s Republic had seized a Ukrainian anti-air military instillation, according to Russian wire service RIA Novosti. “The forces of Donetsk People’s Republic assumed control of A-1402 military base,” the militia’s representative said, with Voice of Russia adding that the facility was “equipped with Buk mobile surface-to-air missile systems.” Those very systems — which are much more powerful that any shoulder-launched or other man-portable system — are the ones that the Ukrainain Interior Ministry has claimed were used to down the Malaysian flight. But Donestsk rebel leader Aleksandr Borodai insist that they do not possess weapons that could shoot down a plane flying at 1000 km as the Malaysian flight was.

And according to a screenshot being passed around Twitter, rebel leader Igor Strelkov — who many suspect to be a member of the GRU, Russia’s external intelligence service — may have taken credit for shooting down the plane, thinking it was Ukrainian. That theory is being backed by several prominent experts on the region, including Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution, and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. “Russian GRU officer Strelkov admitting that he ordered the missile strike against the Malaysian jet,” McFaul tweet out from his account.

As the Ukrainian offensive has been taking place, diplomatic efforts to bring the months-long conflict to a close have shown fewer tangible outcomes. “While Russia says it seeks peace, its actions do not match its rhetoric,” the State Department said on Monday. “We have no evidence that Russia’s support for the separatists has ceased. In fact, we assess that Russia continues to provide them with heavy weapons, other military equipment and financing, and continues to allow militants to enter Ukraine freely.” The same day, NATO confirmed that 10,000 Russian troops had marshaled in border areas, ten times as many as a month ago.

All of this lead to the Obama administration on Wednesday evening to announce that it was upping the sanctions imposed on Russia. The fourth round levied since Russia first claimed control of the Crimean peninsula in March, these new sanctions stop just short of the sector-wide embargoes that the White House has previously threatened. They do, however, strike out at some of Russia’s largest energy and banking entities, including Gazprombank and Rosneft, the latter of which recently declared itself the largest oil-production company in the world. The new sanctions also targeted several prominent Russians and Ukrainian separatists. A senior administration official told reporters that “what we have seen time and again from Russia is a refusal to follow through on necessary commitments and conditions for de-escalation,” adding that the new sanctions were coordinated with European leaders.

While details about the exact nature of the crash remain murky, it appears that Ukraine has already made its mind up about the nature of the matter. “This is not an incident, not a disaster, and terrorist act,” Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said via his spokesman.

Source: Hayes Brown for ThinkProgress

thecraftychemist:

spaceplasma:

Tokamaks: the future of fusion energy

Fusion is the energy that powers our Sun and other stars.  It has been a goal of scientists around the world to harness this process by which the stars “burn” hydrogen into helium (i.e. nuclear fusion) for energy production on Earth since it was discovered in the 1940′s.

Nuclear fusion is the process by which light nuclei fuse together to create a single, heavier nucleus and release energy.  Given the correct conditions (such as those found in plasma), nuclei of light elements can smash into each other with enough energy to undergo fusion. The “easiest” (most energetically favorable) fusion reaction occurs between the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium.  When the nucleus of a deuterium atom crashes into the nucleus of a tritium atom with sufficient energy, a fusion reaction occurs and a huge amount of energy is released, 17.6 million electron volts to be exact. 

Why fusion? To put this in terms of energy that we all experience; fusion generates more energy per reaction than any other energy source.  A single gram of deuterium/tritium fusion fuel can generate 350 million kJ of energy, nearly 10 million times more energy than from the same amount of fossil fuel!

Fusion power has the potential to provide sufficient energy to satisfy mounting demand, and to do so sustainably, with a relatively small impact on the environment. Nuclear fusion has many potential attractions. Firstly, its hydrogen isotope fuels are relatively abundant – one of the necessary isotopes, deuterium, can be extracted from seawater, while the other fuel, tritium, would be bred from a lithium blanket using neutrons produced in the fusion reaction itself. Furthermore, a fusion reactor would produce virtually no CO2 or atmospheric pollutants, and its other radioactive waste products would be very short-lived compared to those produced by conventional nuclear reactors.

Read More

descentintotyranny:

I Was Physically Assaulted at a Pro-Israel Rally in DC and the Cops Did Nothing  — Amani Alkhat
I was physically attacked at a pro-Israel rally in DC today. I wasn’t even there for five minutes before it happened.
I’m “okay.” Physically. But I feel so disgustingly violated and horrified. Today, an Israeli man felt entitled to put his hands on me, an Arab woman, hitting me so hard that my bracelet ripped off my wrist, while onlookers yelled slurs at me in Hebrew, cursed at me in English, and made obscene gestures at me simply for standing with a counterprotest. One man told me, “You’re in Israel right now!” (that’s a mild version of how they treat Arabs in Israel) — and I think that really sums up the attitude of our government and the pro-Israel camp as a whole. Last I checked, this was the United States of America. And I’m an American.

Israeli man: “You can’t stand with us! You should be standing on the other side of the fence!”Me: “This isn’t Israel. We don’t have apartheid here. I don’t have to stand on the other side of a fence from you.”

Worse, the cops watched this all happen and did nothing, ignored my pleas to file a police report before the man got away, and even responded condescendingly and dismissively to me when I told them I worked for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. They were not there to protest or help. Not me, at least.
The cops wouldn’t let us use our megaphone and threatened us with arrest. They claimed that we were violating the first amendment rights of the pro-Israel protesters — who outnumbered us by hundreds, had a stage and a sound system, and had congressmen pandering to their every need with speeches and promises. One congressman literally interrupted me on the sidewalk while I was trying to explain my assault to a cop, took the cop aside, and had him move all the counterprotesters.
And with all that, many of us fasting, many of us with voices frayed in the heat, REFUSED to have the horrible plight of Palestinians be silenced. We interrupted Senator Ted Cruz’s speech. When he started reaffirming Israel’s right to self-defense, we screamed, “Four children were killed on a beach yesterday! Four children!” and even though our voices were all we had, they were strong enough to carry over to the audience, forced Ted to either take pause or try to talk louder, and were probably why pro-Israel supporters were so angry about our presence.
But no matter how many congressmen you have on your side, how many fancy stages and sound systems and mass produced rally signs you have, you will never drown out — not even EQUATE to — the truth.

descentintotyranny:

I Was Physically Assaulted at a Pro-Israel Rally in DC and the Cops Did Nothing  — Amani Alkhat

I was physically attacked at a pro-Israel rally in DC today. I wasn’t even there for five minutes before it happened.

I’m “okay.” Physically. But I feel so disgustingly violated and horrified. Today, an Israeli man felt entitled to put his hands on me, an Arab woman, hitting me so hard that my bracelet ripped off my wrist, while onlookers yelled slurs at me in Hebrew, cursed at me in English, and made obscene gestures at me simply for standing with a counterprotest. One man told me, “You’re in Israel right now!” (that’s a mild version of how they treat Arabs in Israel) — and I think that really sums up the attitude of our government and the pro-Israel camp as a whole. Last I checked, this was the United States of America. And I’m an American.

Israeli man: “You can’t stand with us! You should be standing on the other side of the fence!”
Me: “This isn’t Israel. We don’t have apartheid here. I don’t have to stand on the other side of a fence from you.”

Worse, the cops watched this all happen and did nothing, ignored my pleas to file a police report before the man got away, and even responded condescendingly and dismissively to me when I told them I worked for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. They were not there to protest or help. Not me, at least.

The cops wouldn’t let us use our megaphone and threatened us with arrest. They claimed that we were violating the first amendment rights of the pro-Israel protesters — who outnumbered us by hundreds, had a stage and a sound system, and had congressmen pandering to their every need with speeches and promises. One congressman literally interrupted me on the sidewalk while I was trying to explain my assault to a cop, took the cop aside, and had him move all the counterprotesters.

And with all that, many of us fasting, many of us with voices frayed in the heat, REFUSED to have the horrible plight of Palestinians be silenced. We interrupted Senator Ted Cruz’s speech. When he started reaffirming Israel’s right to self-defense, we screamed, “Four children were killed on a beach yesterday! Four children!” and even though our voices were all we had, they were strong enough to carry over to the audience, forced Ted to either take pause or try to talk louder, and were probably why pro-Israel supporters were so angry about our presence.

But no matter how many congressmen you have on your side, how many fancy stages and sound systems and mass produced rally signs you have, you will never drown out — not even EQUATE to — the truth.

(via randomactsofchaos)

coffeewithajla:

"Remember that in racist, demographics obsessed Israel, the most fearsome "existential threat" is the birth of a Palestinian child."

(via flyestfemales)

piecesoflogic:

tsparks:

sunrec:

Loss of Land

Don’t forget the big picture.

Essentially, the stealing of land from the Palestinians was the catalyst and is still the reason for conflict in that region.

piecesoflogic:

tsparks:

sunrec:

Loss of Land

Don’t forget the big picture.

Essentially, the stealing of land from the Palestinians was the catalyst and is still the reason for conflict in that region.

dglsplsblg:

Staten Island man dies after NYPD cop puts him in chokehold — SEE THE VIDEO

A 400-pound asthmatic Staten Island dad died Thursday after a cop put him in a chokehold and other officers appeared to slam his head against the sidewalk, video of the incident shows.
“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Eric Garner, 43, repeatedly screamed after at least five NYPD officers took him down in front of a Tompkinsville beauty supply store when he balked at being handcuffed.
Within moments Garner, a married father of six children with two grandchildren, stopped struggling and appeared to be unconscious as police called paramedics to the scene. An angry crowd gathered, some recording with smartphones.
“When I kissed my husband this morning, I never thought it would be for the last time,” Garner’s wife, Esaw, told the Daily News.
She got no details from police until after she had gone to the hospital to identify his body, she said.
“I saw him with his eyes wide open and I said, ‘Babe, don’t leave me, I need you.’ But he was already gone,” she said.

and people wonder why black people don’t trust or have any love for cops. they murdered this man. this black man. and for what? fucking cigarettes. yea, WE’RE the fucking problem.
 

dglsplsblg:

Staten Island man dies after NYPD cop puts him in chokehold — SEE THE VIDEO

A 400-pound asthmatic Staten Island dad died Thursday after a cop put him in a chokehold and other officers appeared to slam his head against the sidewalk, video of the incident shows.

“I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Eric Garner, 43, repeatedly screamed after at least five NYPD officers took him down in front of a Tompkinsville beauty supply store when he balked at being handcuffed.

Within moments Garner, a married father of six children with two grandchildren, stopped struggling and appeared to be unconscious as police called paramedics to the scene. An angry crowd gathered, some recording with smartphones.

“When I kissed my husband this morning, I never thought it would be for the last time,” Garner’s wife, Esaw, told the Daily News.

She got no details from police until after she had gone to the hospital to identify his body, she said.

“I saw him with his eyes wide open and I said, ‘Babe, don’t leave me, I need you.’ But he was already gone,” she said.

and people wonder why black people don’t trust or have any love for cops. they murdered this man. this black man. and for what? fucking cigarettes. yea, WE’RE the fucking problem.

 

(via randomactsofchaos)