The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

The Blade Runner: Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa made history on Saturday morning, becoming the first double-amputee runner to compete in the Olympics when he lined up for a first-round heat in the men’s 400 meters at London’s Olympic Stadium. The crowd saluted Pistorius with roars of encouragement; he sprinted to a second place finish in his heat in 45.46 seconds, a season-best time, and advanced to Sunday’s semifinals.

Pistorius reached the finish line after six lomg years of yearning to achieve a qualifying time and five years of scientific and legal arguments about whether his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage over sprinters using their natural legs.

Read more about the amazing achievements of Oscar Pistorius in the New York Times here.

Oscar Pistorius Makes Olympic History, Advances to 400m Semifinals

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius

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World’s Zaniest Scientists Honored: The 21th First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes

The 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes at Harvard University’s Historic Sanders Theatre

Some of the Ig Nobel Prize Winners at the Awards Ceremony

Ig Nobel Prize Winners with Genuine Nobel Prize Laureate Award Presenters

2011 Ig Nobel Prize Closing Ceremony: The Traditional Tearful Goodbye

World’s Zaniest Scientists Honored: The 21th First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes

In the ultimate accolade for the world’s mad scientists, spoof Nobel Prizes were awarded Thursday night for studies into beetle sex, turtles yawning, the desperation of people dying to urinate and other daffy investigations. The Annual Ig Nobel Prizes, now in their 21st year, were given at Harvard University in front of 1,200 spectators, with real Nobel Prize winners handing out the honors.

To win, scientists must “first make people laugh, and then make them think,” according to the Ig Nobel ethos. The Biology Prize, often a good source of humor at the Igs, went to Darryl Gwynne of Canada, Australia and the United States, and David Rentz of Australia, for their groundbreaking paper titled: “Beetles on the Bottle: Male Buprestids Mistake Stubbis For Females.” Which to the layman translates as: beetles tragically attempting to mate with an Australian beer bottle.

Several prizes delved into the extremes of human behavior under stress. Take, for example, the Medicine Prize, won by a Dutch-Belgian-Australian team with “Inhibitory Spillover,” a probe into the age-old challenge of needing to pee at a busy moment. The team investigated why “people make better decisions about some kinds of things, but worse decisions about other kinds of things, when they have a strong urge to urinate,” the awards citation said.

Research into the Psychology and Physiology Prizes must have been a great deal less stressful. The former went to a University of Oslo professor who looked at “why, in everyday life, people sigh?” The second concerned yawning in red-footed tortoises. For those who’ve been wondering, the British-Dutch-Hungarian-Austrian team has finally established that there is “no evidence of contagious yawning” in the creatures.

The 2011 Ig Nobel Prize winners:

Physiology Prize

Anna Wilkinson (of the UK), Natalie Sebanz (of The Netherlands, Hungary, and AUSTRIA), Isabella Mandl (of Austria) and Ludwig Huber (of Austria) for their study “No Evidence of Contagious Yawning in the Red-Footed Tortoise.”

Chemistry Prize

Makoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami of Japan, for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

Medicine Prize

Mirjam Tuk (of The Netherlands and the UK), Debra Trampe (of The Netherlands) and Luk Warlop (of Belgium). and jointly to Matthew Lewis, Peter Snyder and Robert Feldman (of the USA), Robert Pietrzak, David Darby, and Paul Maruff (of Australia) for demonstrating that people make better decisions about some kinds of things, but worse decisions about other kinds of things‚ when they have a strong urge to urinate.

Psychology Prize

Karl Halvor Teigen of the University of Oslo, Norway, for trying to understand why, in everyday life, people sigh.

Literature Prize

John Perry of Stanford University, USA, for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which states: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important.

Biology Prize

Darryl Gwynne (of Canada, Australia and the USA) and David Rentz (of Australia and the USA) for discovering that a certain kind of beetle mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle.

Physics Prize

Philippe Perrin, Cyril Perrot, Dominique Deviterne and Bruno Ragaru (of France), and Herman Kingma (of The Netherlands), for determining why discus throwers become dizzy, and why hammer throwers don’t.

Mathematics Prize

Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of Korea (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

Peace Prize

Arturas Zuokas, Mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.

Public Safety Prize

John Senders of the University of Toronto, Canada, for conducting a series of safety experiments in which a person drives an automobile on a major highway while a visor repeatedly flaps down over his face, blinding him.

The 2011 Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony Promo

The 21th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Awards (The Full Ceremony)

Vilnius Mayor A.Zuokas Fights Illegally Parked Cars: Ig Nobel Peace Prize

John Senders Wins 2011 Ig Nobel Public Safety Prize: Pioneer Days on Rt 128

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“Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius Reaches 400 Meters Semi-Finals At World Championships

“Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius Reaches 400m Semi-Finals At World Championships

“Blade runner” Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter running on carbon-fiber blades, passed his first test with flying colors on his debut at the 13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Pistorius swept past several able-bodied runners, finishing third in his heat to reach the semi-finals of the 400 meters Sunday. The South African, who has had to overcome huge legal and performance obstacles just to be allowed to race in Daegu, South Korea, on his prosthetic legs, delighted the crowd with a strong run of 45.39 seconds from an outside lane.

The crowd rose to the double amputee as he powered down the final straight before a band of his compatriots chanted “Oscar! Oscar!” to confirm the 24-year-old as one of the sentimental favorites of the championships. Describing his landmark race as a great relief, especially after the disruption of a false start by another of the runners, Pistorius said he had fulfilled a long-held ambition.

After he crossed the line, Pistorius gave an appreciative bow to the South Korean crowd of about 10,000 for its cheers and support. After the race, Pistorius said, “I have worked extremely hard to be here” “It has been phenomenal to run. It has been a lot of pressure in the race, and there is a lot of work for tomorrow.” “It was a great opportunity for me to have a chance to run, this is a goal I’ve had for many, many years,” he told reporters. “I really don’t feel like a pioneer but I’m very honored to be in the position I am in . I hope to write a few more chapters, I’m still young.”

World Athletics 2011: Pistorius Reaches 400m Semi-Finals

The Blade Runner: South Africa’s Amazing Oscar Pistorius

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The Last NASA Space Shuttle Launches Safely Into Orbit

The Last NASA Space Shuttle Launches Safely Into Orbit

The last mission in NASA’s decades-long space shuttle program is now underway. As rain clouds hovered ominously and the countdown began to the 135th departure in the 30-year-old shuttle program, the crowd at Canaveral grew still and anxious. Then, Atlantis rocketed safely into orbit on Friday at 11:29 a.m. EDT and is now flying at 17,500 mph around the Earth. The mission will catch up with the International Space Station in two days. The launch of the Atlantis space shuttle marked the last in NASA’s history, closing out a government-funded space program that lasted for 30 years.

Below is the NASA video of the final Atlantis launch. In addition, a second video shows the launching of  space shuttles spanning over three decades, including: the Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, which flew a total of more than 100 missions.

The Atlantis Space Shuttle’s Last Launch for NASA

A Blast From The Past: Space Shuttles Through The Decades

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Sayonara: A Sad Farewell in an Era of Global Warming

Sayonara: A Sad Farewell in an Era of Global Warming

Sayonara is a beautiful four-minute animated short film by Canadian artist Eric Bates, a film he created while at Japan’s Kyoto University of Art and Design. The film is a mix of minimally rendered CG, detailed puppet model-making, and hand-drawn animation. Sayonara tells the story of two unlikely friends saying goodbye. A young man named Charles just lost his home to the encroaching sea and spends one last day with his best friend, a sea turtle, before moving on. Just in case you miss it, there’s a short sequence after the credits.

Sayonara: A Sad Farewell in an Era of Global Warming

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Loom: A Visual Metaphor for Nature’s Cruel Cycle of Life and Death

Loom: A Visual Metaphor for Nature’s Cruel Cycle of Life and Death

Loom is a brilliant, award-winning five-minute CGI short film, made by students at the German design and storytelling collective Polynoid. Blending a variety of aesthetic and cultural influences, Polynoid’s multifaceted creative vision is nourished by interests in graffiti, nature, graphic novels, science and philosophy. With a rich observational eye for detail, Polynoid has established a strong visual language all of its own. Polynoid’s narrative technique combines new forms of storytelling with a shared interest in progressive sound design to create a minimalist, photo-real and abstract sensory experience.

Loom won The Best In Show at Siggraph, 2010, and just recently won the Best Animated Movie Award at Sehsüchte 2011 in Potsdam, Germany. Loom explores natural causal cycles through the visual metaphor of a moth caught in a spider’s web. The story of the moth’s drowning reveals a larger range of thematic concerns  about life and death from a tale told on a micro scale. The full-version of the film is presented below:

Loom: A Visual Metaphor for Nature’s Cruel Cycle of Life and Death

(Please View in HD Full-Screen Mode)

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Matter Fisher: A Lone Fisherman Encounters a Ravenous Ball of Matter

Matter Fisher: A Lone Fisherman Encounters a Ravenous Ball of Matter

Matter Fisher is a fascinating animated short film by English animator David Prosser, which was honored with a 2011 BAFTA nomination in the Short Animation category. The animation made its online debut this week; the film captures the expressive nature of sketching and combines it with the environmental depth of 3D. It tells the story of a serendipitous journey in which a fisherman is united with a form of estranged matter. The lone fisherman happens upon a ravenous pebble-sized ball of matter that absorbs anything within reach. The more it consumes, the larger and stronger it grows. We witness man’s desire to exploit the power of nature for his own greed, while ignorantly driving it to ultimate destruction.

Matter Fisher tells its story in a way that allows events to unravel as they do in nature, rather than as they do within the structure of a standard story. At a time when physics is accelerating with results from the Large Hadron Collider, the search for the Higgs boson particle and other major theories that could redefine our universe, Matter Fisher explores the possible meaning of our findings in ways that are inaccessible to pure science.

Matter Fisher: A Lone Fisherman Encounters a Ravenous Ball of Matter

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