2014′s biggest pumpkin weighs in at 2,058 pounds

Ashley Goldsmith, 6, of San Ramon poses for a photo with the winning pumpkin at the 41st Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off  in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. The 2,058 lb. winner was grown by John Hawkley in Napa Calif.(AP Photo/Alex Washburn)

Ashley Goldsmith, 6, of San Ramon poses for a photo with the winning pumpkin at the 41st Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. The 2,058 lb. winner was grown by John Hawkley in Napa Calif.(AP Photo/Alex Washburn)

A gourd weighing 2,058 pounds took first prize and set a new tournament record Monday at an annual pumpkin-weighing contest in Northern California.

John Hawkley, 56, won this year’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off in Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco.

Hawkley “squashed” his competition, beating the runner-up by more than 300 pounds, Tim Beeman, a spokesman for the weigh-off said.

Hawkley — a production manager for a local newspaper — credited his success at least in part to warm weather. He ended up with a total of six pumpkins on a 4,500-square-foot patch of land in his front yard in California’s Napa Valley, which is famous for its wine grapes. One of his other pumpkins also weighed more than 2,000 pounds.

“My wife said this is as much pumpkin patch area as I’m going to get,” he said.

Hawkley said he will use the more-than $13,000 in prize money to make repairs on his home, which was damaged during a strong earthquake in the Napa area in August.

All 30 pumpkins weighed at this year’s tournament were from California, according to Beeman. The contest normally gets growers from Oregon and Washington as well.

Last year’s winner was also from the Napa Valley and came in at 1,985 pounds.

Hawkley’s gourd will be on display this weekend at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.

Reported by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS from HALF MOON BAY, Calif.

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Teenager wins Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai speaks during a media conference at the Library of Birmingham, in Birmingham, England, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, after she was named as winner of The Nobel Peace Prize.  The Nobel Peace Prize 2014, is awarded jointly to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India, for risking their lives to fight for children’s rights. Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two-years ago in Pakistan for insisting that girls have the right to an education. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Malala Yousafzai speaks during a media conference at the Library of Birmingham, in Birmingham, England, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, after she was named as winner of The Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize 2014, is awarded jointly to Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India, for risking their lives to fight for children’s rights. Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman two-years ago in Pakistan for insisting that girls have the right to an education. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

The Nobel Prize for peace was awarded to Malala Yousafzai, 17, for her efforts as a teenager to push equal-opportunity education in Pakistan and the world. She shared the award with Kailash Satyarthi of India. In this video, she talks about finding out about her win and her hopes for the future.

http://youtu.be/ppCDZrRef-E

The 2014 Nobel Prizes were announced last week by committees in Stockholm and Oslo, with the last one coming up on Monday. The $1.1 million awards will be handed out on Dec. 10, the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896. Here is a wrap-up of the winners.

MEDICINE

U.S.-British scientist John O’Keefe split the Nobel Prize in medicine with Norwegian couple May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser on Monday for breakthroughs in brain cell research that could pave the way for a better understanding of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Nobel Prizes are awarded in the categories of peace, medicine, literature, physics and chemistry. An associated award in economics is also handed out. Aside from a medal, recipients also get a cash award of about $1 million.

Nobel Prizes are awarded in the categories of peace, medicine, literature, physics and chemistry. An associated award in economics is also handed out. Aside from a medal, recipients also get a cash award of about $1 million.

PHYSICS

Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and Japanese-born U.S. scientist Shuji Nakamura won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, which promises to revolutionize the way the world lights its homes and offices — and already helps create the glowing screens of mobile phones, computers and TVs.

CHEMISTRY

U.S. researchers Eric Betzig and William Moerner and Stefan Hell of Germany won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for finding ways to make microscopes more powerful than previously thought possible, allowing scientists to see how diseases develop inside the tiniest cells.

LITERATURE

French writer Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday for his lifelong study of the Nazi occupation and its effect on his country. Among more than 40 works, Modiano wrote the Prix Goncourt-winning “Missing Person” and co-wrote the acclaimed movie “Lacombe, Lucien.”

PEACE

Children’s rights activists Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi of India won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for campaigning for the rights of children and young people, particularly their right to education.

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Whales put on a show

Sperm whales swim in the waters off the the coast of Dana Point, Calif.  More than 50 mothers and juveniles were rolling and playing with dolphins. (AP Photo/Capt. Dave Anderson/ DolphinSafari.com)

Sperm whales swim in the waters off the the coast of Dana Point, Calif. More than 50 mothers and juveniles were rolling and playing with dolphins. (AP Photo/Capt. Dave Anderson/ DolphinSafari.com)

More than 50 sperm whales emerged off the Southern California coast in an extremely rare, hours-long sighting that had whale watchers and scientists giddy with excitement.

Pods of mothers and juveniles rolled and played with dolphins Monday a few miles off Laguna Beach, the Orange County Register reported.

They later were spotted off San Diego and were heading south, said Jay Barlow, a sperm whale expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It’s by far the largest group ever spotted so near to shore in Southern California, Barlow said Tuesday.

Others agreed.

“I’ve been counting whales and been on the water for 35 years. We’ve never had a large group like this ever,” said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, director of the ACS/LA Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project.

The massive mammals were spread out over an area of up to 3 square miles and came within inches of boats as they poked their heads out of the waves, said David Anderson, who operates Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari sightseeing tours.

Monster size: Sperm whales are the huge, toothed creatures mentioned in the novel “Moby Dick.” They were hunted nearly to extinction for their oil in the 1800s.

The whales weigh up to 45 tons and eat about a ton of squid a day. They prefer to hunt in deep waters and can dive to 3,000 feet.

Why the sperm whales showed up remains a mystery.

Unlike toothless gray whales, which migrate down the California coast each year, sperm whales aren’t frequent visitors.

Usually, only one or two adult males show up each summer or fall while large groups of females normally are found in warmer waters, Barlow said.

However, this year has seen a lot of warmer water close to shore, he said.

“The climate patterns have definitely been weird,” Barlow said.

Other species that prefer warmer waters also have shown up this year, including pilot whales, false killer whales, and various species of tropical birds.

The sperm whales also might have been chasing food, Barlow said. “That’s mostly what they think about.”

Humboldt squid, which can weigh 60 pounds or more, have been turning up in the area for a decade.

“Could be they’re catching on,” Barlow said.

The whales also could simply have gotten confused by the complicated ocean terrain and “wandered in not intending to be here,” he said.

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Reported by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Information from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com

A sperm whale breaches in the waters off the the coast of Newport Beach, Calif.  (AP Photo/Lasanthi Benedict)

A sperm whale breaches in the waters off the the coast of Newport Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Lasanthi Benedict)

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Get the facts on the Nobel Prize

Nobel season is upon us. On Monday, the Nobel Prize judges will begin a series of daily announcements revealing this year’s winners. To help avoid any embarrassing mistakes on the playground, here’s a true-or-false guide to the prizes created in 1895 by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel — the world’s most famous awards besides the Oscars.

Never heard of the Nobel Prizes? They’re international awards that honor achievements in science, peace and other categories. The winners get a gold medal and more than $1 million. The prize was originally set up by Alfred Nobel of Sweden who ordered that his fortune be used to honor those who worked toward making the world a better place.

Now, take your best shot at our Nobel Prize quiz.

TRUE OR FALSE:

Nobel Prizes are awarded in the categories of peace, medicine, literature, physics and chemistry. An associated award in economics is also handed out. Aside from a medal, recipients also get a cash award of about $1 million.

Nobel Prizes are awarded in the categories of peace, medicine, literature, physics and chemistry. An associated award in economics is also handed out. Aside from a medal, recipients also get a cash award of about $1 million.

  1. You can only win a Nobel Prize once
  2. You can only be nominated in one Nobel category
  3. A Nobel prize cannot be revoked
  4. Four people can share a Nobel Prize
  5. Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
  6. Winston Churchill won a Nobel Peace Prize
  7. Nobel Prizes can be given posthumously
  8. Over 94 percent of Nobel Laureates are men
  9. The economics prize is not an original Nobel
  10. All Nobel Prizes are presented in Stockholm

ANSWERS:

1) YOU CAN ONLY WIN A NOBEL PRIZE ONCE

False. There is no limit to how many Nobel Prizes you can win. American scientist John Bardeen won the physics award twice, in 1956 and 1972, while British biochemist Frederick Sanger got two chemistry awards, in 1958 and 1980.

2) YOU CAN ONLY BE NOMINATED IN ONE NOBEL CATEGORY

False. Marie Curie of France won the physics prize in 1903 and the chemistry award in 1911. Linus Pauling, a scientist and peace activist, won the chemistry prize in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize eight years later.

3) A NOBEL PRIZE CANNOT BE REVOKED

True. The Nobel statutes are clear on this: Once you’ve received a Nobel Prize, it’s yours forever. Paragraph 10 states: “No appeals may be made against the decision of a prize-awarding body with regard to the award of a prize.” So those online petitions calling for a particular prize to be withdrawn have no effect.

4) FOUR PEOPLE CAN SHARE A NOBEL PRIZE

False. The Nobel statutes say the awards can be split among multiple winners but in no case “may a prize amount be divided between more than three persons.”

5) HITLER WAS NOMINATED FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

True. The Nazi dictator was nominated in 1939 by Swedish lawmaker E.G.C. Brandt for the prize, which is meant to promote “fraternity between nations” and global disarmament. Brandt later withdrew the nomination, saying it was meant as satire. This just shows that anyone can be nominated — it doesn’t say anything about their chances of actually winning.

6) WINSTON CHURCHILL WON THE PEACE PRIZE

False. The eloquent British conservative leader did win a Nobel Prize, but in the literature category, not peace. Churchill received the literature prize in 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

7) NOBEL PRIZES CAN BE GIVEN POSTHUMOUSLY

False. Since 1974, only living people are considered by the prize committees. However, the Nobel Foundation made an exception in 2011 when it found out right after the medicine prize was announced that one of the winners, Ralph Steinman, had died just days earlier. They let the prize stand and Steinman’s share of the prize money was given to his survivors.

8) OVER 94 PERCENT OF NOBEL LAUREATES ARE MEN

True. Of the 847 individuals who have won a Nobel Prize, only 44, or 5 percent, were women. Fifteen women have won the peace prize, while only one — Elinor Ostrom in 2009 — has won the economics award. Nobel judges say they don’t consider gender when selecting winners and that the awards simply reflect the historical dominance of men in many fields of research.

9) THE ECONOMICS AWARD IS NOT AN ORIGINAL NOBEL

True. The economics award was not among the five awards that Alfred Nobel established in his will for medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and peace. It was created by the central bank of Sweden in 1968 in Nobel’s honor. It is announced along with the other prizes, carries the same prize money of $1.1 million, and is handed out at the annual Nobel ceremony in December. But it’s technically not a Nobel Prize. The official title is The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.

10) ALL NOBEL AWARDS ARE PRESENTED IN STOCKHOLM

False. The peace prize is both announced and handed out in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, according to the wishes of Alfred Nobel. No one knows why he wanted it that way but during his lifetime Sweden and Norway were joined in a union.

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Reported by KARL RITTER of The Associated Press from STOCKHOLM, Sweden. Karl Ritter can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/karl—ritter

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That bath water? It could be really, really old

Cowboy, a 5-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever trained by Jason Kidd of PawPaw, Mich., competes in a competition in Gray Summit, Mo. The water Cowboy is jumping into could be billions and billions of years old, according to a new study. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Invision for Purina Pro Plan/AP Images)

Cowboy, a 5-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever trained by Jason Kidd of PawPaw, Mich., competes in a competition in Gray Summit, Mo. The water Cowboy is jumping into could be billions and billions of years old, according to a new study. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Invision for Purina Pro Plan/AP Images)

Some of the water molecules in your bath water were created more than 4.5 billion years ago, according to new research.

That makes them older than the Earth, older than the solar system — even older than the sun itself.

In a new study, researchers say the distinct chemical signature of the water on Earth — and throughout the solar system — could occur only if some of that water formed before the swirling disk of dust and gas gave birth to the planets, moons, comets and asteroids.

This primordial water makes up 30% to 50% of the water on Earth, the researchers estimate.

“It’s pretty amazing that a significant fraction of water on Earth predates the sun and the solar system,” said study leader Ilse Cleeves, a University of Michigan astronomer.

Scientists are still not entirely sure how water arrived on Earth. The part of the protoplanetary disk in which our planet formed was too hot for liquid or ice water to exist, and so the planet was born dry. Most experts believe the Earth’s water came from ice in comets and asteroids that formed in a cooler environment, and later collided with our planet.

But this theory leads to more questions. Among them: Where did the water preserved in the comets and asteroids come from?

water-with-fish

Replacing hydrogen: To find out, scientists turned to chemistry. Here on Earth, about one in every 3,000 molecules of water is made with a deuterium atom instead of a hydrogen atom.

A deuterium atom is similar to a hydrogen atom except that its nucleus contains a proton and a neutron, instead of a lone proton. (Both atoms also contain a single electron.) That makes deuterium twice as heavy as hydrogen, which is why water molecules made with deuterium atoms (HDO) are known as “heavy water.”

At the time that our sun was born, the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen throughout the universe was about 1 deuterium molecule to every 100,000 hydrogen molecules. But for water in the solar system, the proportion is significantly higher.

Water with a high deuterium content can only form under specific conditions. The environment needs to be very cold, and there needs to be enough energy to power the reaction that binds hydrogen, deuterium and oxygen.

Ted Bergin, an astronomer at the University of Michigan and co-author of the Science study, said the work suggests there may be an abundance of ancient water in young planetary systems throughout the universe.

Reported by DEBORAH NETBURN of the Los Angeles Times (MCT). Follow her @DeborahNetburn and “like” Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.
(c)2014 the Los Angeles Times
Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Back to Mars: Maven arrives in orbit

In this artist concept provided by NASA, the Maven spacecraft approaches Mars on a mission to study its upper atmosphere. Maven iss designed to circle the planet, not land. (AP Photo/NASA)

In this artist concept provided by NASA, the Maven spacecraft approaches Mars on a mission to study its upper atmosphere. Maven iss designed to circle the planet, not land. (AP Photo/NASA)


NASA’s Maven spacecraft arrived at Mars late Sunday after a 442 million-mile journey that began nearly a year ago.

The robotic explorer fired its brakes and successfully slipped into orbit around the red planet, officials confirmed.

“I think my heart’s about ready to start again,” said Maven’s chief investigator, Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado. “All I can say at this point is, ‘We’re in orbit at Mars, guys!’”

Now the real work begins for the $671 million mission, the first dedicated to studying Mars’ upper atmosphere.

Flight controllers in Colorado will spend the next six weeks adjusting Maven’s altitude and checking its science instruments, and observing a comet streaking by. Then in early November, Maven will start probing the upper atmosphere of Mars. The spacecraft will conduct its observations from orbit; it’s not meant to land.

In the sky: Scientists believe the Martian atmosphere holds clues as to how Earth’s neighbor went from being warm and wet billions of years ago to cold and dry. That early wet world may have harbored microbial life, a tantalizing question yet to be answered.

NASA launched Maven last November from Cape Canaveral, the 10th U.S. mission sent to orbit the red planet. Three earlier ones failed, and until the official word came of success late Sunday night, the entire team was on edge.

“I don’t have any fingernails any more, but we’ve made it,” said Colleen Hartman, deputy director for science at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It’s incredible.”

Maven joins three spacecraft already circling Mars, two American and one European. And the traffic jam isn’t over: India’s first interplanetary probe, Mangalyaan, will reach Mars in two days and also aim for orbit.

Martian air:
Jakosky, who’s with the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, hopes to learn where all the water on Mars went, along with the carbon dioxide that once comprised an atmosphere thick enough to hold moist clouds.

The gases may have been stripped away by the sun early in Mars’ existence, escaping into the upper atmosphere and out into space. Maven’s observations should be able to extrapolate back in time, Jakosky said.

Maven — short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission — will spend at least a year collecting data. That’s a full Earth year, half a Martian one. Its orbit will dip as low as 78 miles above the Martian surface as its eight instruments make measurements. The craft is as long as a school bus, from solar wingtip to tip, and as hefty as an SUV.

Comet: Maven will have a rare brush with a comet next month.

The nucleus of newly discovered Comet Siding Spring will pass 82,000 miles from Mars on Oct. 19. The risk of comet dust damaging Maven is low, officials said, and the spacecraft should be able to observe Siding Spring as a science bonus.

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Online:

NASA: http://mars.nasa.gov/maven/

University of Colorado: http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/maven/

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Reported by MARCIA DUNN of the Associated Press from CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.

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Here’s a video showing the final minutes before MAVEN’s arrival into Mars orbit. http://youtu.be/l3SryPMaRYw

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