Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • Spider photobombs TV news program

     

    BBC Scotland, you can expect that royalty check from the SyFy Channel to arrive in the mail any day now. Really, the rudimentary plot details from the network’s next great monster movie are already in place: A buttoned-down newscaster reads the daily news reports with calm composure when suddenly A GIANT SPIDER ECLIPSES THE SCREEN AND SEIZES ITS PREY.

    Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration.

    But BBC Scotland news host Graham Stewart did have his broadcast interrupted when a spider crawled across the lens of a camera, making it appear as if there was a giant spider invading the Scottish airwaves. In the short clip, the spider can be seen grabbing a smaller insect and then retreating with its prey.

    Stewart appeared unfazed throughout the incident, continuing to read off the teleprompter as if the invading arachnid was just another part of the average news cycle. Perhaps he learned a lesson from a fellow news broadcaster who was not able to maintain her composure when a spider invaded

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  • First test-tube baby penguin says hello to the world

    Officials hope the first penguin hatched via artificial insemination at SeaWorld in San Diego will help make strides in conservation efforts.Officials hope the first penguin hatched via artificial insemination at SeaWorld in San Diego will help make strides in conservation efforts.

    To science, she’s simply known as “184.” But on the empirical cuteness scale, the world’s first test-tube penguin scores a “100.”

    The still unnamed baby Magellanic penguin was hatched at SeaWorld in San Diego 12 weeks ago, but the first images of her were released to the public this week.

    She’s the first penguin to be born using artificial insemination, a technique researchers say will help them increase diversity in the captive penguin population and help their studies of the creatures.

    “The goal of our research center is to study a species’ reproductive biology, to learn as much as we can about that and use this to not only monitor the health of not only our zoological populations but wild populations as well,” said Sea World’s reproductive center Scientific Director Dr. Justine O’Brien.

    The baby penguin is reportedly doing well. Twelve weeks after her birth, she is mingling with the natural-born penguin population and has transitioned from being hand-fed by a team of biologists

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  • Snowden: NSA has secret ‘MonsterMind’ program that operates without human intervention

    It would appear that Edward Snowden is still far from finished with his National Security Agency revelations.

    In his latest revelation, Snowden tells WIRED magazine that the NSA has a secret, autonomous program called “Monstermind” that can respond to cyberattacks from other countries without human intervention.

    And beyond domestic privacy concerns, Snowden warns, the program could cause an international diplomacy nightmare for the U.S. as well, because the cyberattacks launched by MonsterMind are often routed through third-party computers housed in foreign countries.

    “These attacks can be spoofed,” Snowden said. “You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”

    So, is that the final major disclosure to come from what the government claims are nearly two million stolen documents that Snowden took with him when he left the country?

    As it

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  • I’m on a boat: Bill Gates vacations on $330M yacht

    An image of The Serene while docked at Valletta, Malta (Wikicommons)An image of The Serene while docked at Valletta, Malta (Wikicommons)

    These days, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is more concerned with helping to save the world than creating the next big gadget. But when the world’s richest man goes on vacation, he does it like no one else.

    The New York Daily News captured some photos of Gates aboard “The Serene,” a $330 million dollar yacht that Gates and his family are renting for $5 million per week.

    In addition to its 12 staterooms, the 450-foot, seven deck vessel also comes equipped with its own saltwater pool, climbing wall, library, health spa, outdoor theater and even a nightclub spread out over the boat’s combined 48,000 square feet.

    Though for all his wealth and influence, Gates doesn’t actually own “The Serene.” He’s renting it from Stolichnaya vodka distributor Yuri Scheffler. The Russia-born Scheffler is an interesting figure himself, famous for battling with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who tried to nationalize and “redistribute” Stolichnaya’s wealth.

    According to Business Insider, Serene is the third

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  • Treasure map: See the wealthiest person in each U.S. state

    A map of the wealthiest person in each of the 50 states (Movoto)A map of the wealthiest person in each of the 50 states (Movoto)

    With a personal fortune of more than $80 billion, Washington state’s Bill Gates is not only the richest person in America but also in the entire world. And at $41.4B New York’s David Koch may be the nation’s most divisive billionaire.

    But those are just two high-profile examples. The U.S. is home to more billionaires than any other country in the world. So, real estate broker site Movoto has created a cool, interactive map showing exactly who is the richest individual in each of the nation’s 50 states.

    The map is an interesting way of looking at wealth across our country, full of fun, intriguing and some surprising results.

    For example, Phil Knight may have humble roots, developing his now famous waffle sole shoe swoosh brand in Eugene, Oregon. But he’s now the state’s richest person, valued at more than $19 billion.

    And who knew that the descendants of Walmart founder Sam Walton had so richly spread their inheritance that it makes them the wealthiest persons in three states? It’s

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  •  

    Have you ever wondered what the differences are between the character Stephen Colbert and the real-life Stephen Colbert?

    The world will get a full serving of the “real” Colbert once he takes over hosting duties from David Letterman on “The Late Show” next year. But for now, we’ve seen only flashes of his real persona.

    On Friday, Colbert gave viewers a glimpse of his true self when he hosted a 10-minute Q&A session offering advice to young women for the website Rookie Mag as part of its “Ask a Grown Man” series.

    The questions were across the board, including whether a teenage girl should be able to sleep at her boyfriend’s house, what is love, why boys are mean and how to know if someone really likes you.

    Colbert’s advice was thoughtful, sincere, often moving and at times conservative compared with his more liberal political views.

    The Colbert reveal was more special because the iconic “Colbert Report” host almost never breaks character, whether on the show or at public events. There

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  • Police return ring 25 years after it went missing

    How long does it take to track down a long-lost, high school class ring? Twenty-five years and three days — at least for one lucky and surprised man.

    While making an arrest at a Wal-Mart store in Scarborough, Maine, police noticed that a ring worn by a suspect held in custody didn’t match her name.

    The ring, which had a football emblem, was engraved with "1987" and the name “Jerry Portier.”

    A crime analyst at the Scarborough Police Department spent three days tracking down the ring’s rightful owner, who said it had been missing since 1989 when Portier lost it while he was away at college in Massachusetts. Portier now lives in Arizona.

    “His first words were, ‘You’re kidding me,’" Det. Ron Nelsen told local affiliate WMTV.

    After confirming that the ring belongs to Portier, Scarborough police say they shipped the ring to him just in time for his next class reunion. That’s, of course, assuming it doesn’t get lost in the mail.

    Follow Eric Pfeiffer on Twitter (@ericpfeiffer).

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  • George Harrison memorial tree killed by beetles

    George Harrison was rememberd by hundreds of fans in Grifffith Park. A plaque was unveiled next to a tree planted in his honor with family members and special guests present. (Credit Image: Chuck Green/ZUMAPRESS.com)George Harrison was rememberd by hundreds of fans in Grifffith Park. A plaque was unveiled next to a tree planted in his honor with family members and special guests present. (Credit Image: Chuck Green/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    Isn't it ironic?

    A memorial tree planted in Los Angeles to honor the late Beatles musician George Harrison needs to be replaced after it was infested with real-life beetles.

    Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge made the announcement over the weekend, according to the Los Angeles Times. The tree was planted near the Griffith Observatory in 2004 to honor the musician who passed away in 2001.

    Bark beetles are common in Los Angeles and regularly feed on pine trees, the same type of tree planted at the Harrison memorial.

    Clearly a fan, LaBonge was reportedly in attendance for the final tour stop of another former Beatle; Ringo Starr was performing with his band at the nearby Greek Theatre on Saturday.

    Harrison spent his final days in Los Angeles and was honored with the plaque including a written tribute, which reads:

    "In memory of a great humanitarian who touched the world as an artist, a musician and a gardener."

    LaBonge says Griffith Park officials plan to replant a pine tree similar to

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  • Mysterious 260-foot crater discovered in remote region of Siberia

    A helicopter flying over a region of Sibera referred to as the “end of the world,” recorded footage of a mysterious, giant crater in the middle of the ground estimated to be 260 feet in diameter.

    At first, skeptical observers thought the images must be a fake. After all, it appears to be something out a summer science fiction blockbuster, with the giant hole appearing to descend infinitely below the surface.

    But Russian officials confirmed the crater’s existence and say they are sending a team of experts to investigate the site located in an area known as the Yamal peninsula. Scientists from the Center for the Study of the Arctic and the Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences plan to take samples from around the scene.

    So, what is responsible for the giant crater?

    A mysterious giant hole appeared in Siberia, and scientists are puzzled by how it formed.A mysterious giant hole appeared in Siberia, and scientists are puzzled by how it formed.
    "We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite. No details yet," a spokesperson from Russia’s Emergencies Ministry told the Siberian Times.

    Experts say it’s probably not the result of a giant meteor crash

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  • NASA says discovering alien life in next 20 years is 'within reach'

    An artist's illustration of NASA's 36-year-old ISEE-3 spacecraft near the moon. The private ISEE-3 Reboot Project aims to restart the vintage probe to perform new science in space.An artist's illustration of NASA's 36-year-old ISEE-3 spacecraft near the moon. The private ISEE-3 Reboot Project aims to restart the vintage probe to perform new science in space.

    As NASA prepares to launch a powerful new satellite into space, a team of experts from America’s space agency said it's increasingly likely that alien life will be discovered within 20 years.

    In a posting on its site, NASA said the new research tools will show that “finding life beyond Earth is within reach.”

    “I think in the next 20 years we will find out we are not alone in the universe,” NASA astronomer Kevin Hand said during a panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    Hand pointed to growing evidence suggesting that some form of alien life may be in our own galactic neighborhood on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons that is home to massive amounts of water.

    NASA announced that it plans to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite and James Webb Space Telescope in 2017, which will work in conjunction with other existing technology to search for habitable, Earth-like planets within the Milky Way galaxy.

    “Just imagine the moment, when we find potential

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