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  Credit: IMAGE: C. Clark Their size is certainly not impressive, unless you begin to ponder how something so small can possibly survive, but when it comes to flight maneuvers, hummingbirds have achieved "Top Gun" status.  The Anna's Hummingbird, (photo at lower right) found on the Pacific coast from Arizona to British Columbia, has a mating display that will knock the boots off most fighter pilots.  When the males want to show off for a female, they fly up to a height of about 33 feet, then go into a swooping dive, flying past the female at such a high speed that their tail feathers chirp in the slipstream. 

As they pull out of the dive, they experience g-forces that exceed 9 g's.  Only the best human fighter pilots can withstand g-forces as high as that.  Another way to compare the performance of these tiny birds to others is to compare their speed, relative to their body length, with other birds.  At a top speed of 61 mph, which they achieve by dropping through the air with their wings folded against their bodies, the males are traveling 385 body-lengths per second.  This puts the Peregrine Falcon, who achieves a relative speed of 200 body lengths per second, to shame.  A fighter jet with full afterburners hits about 150 body lengths per second, while the Space Shuttle goes as high as 207.

Not bad for something so light that you could mail up to ten of them with a single first class stamp! (They weigh about 0.1 oz each!)
The Quechua Indians of Peru will be playing an important role in safeguarding the world's agricultural heritage, at least where potatoes are concerned.  Under the terms of a new global fund, poor farmers in various parts of the world will become custodians of different varieties of threatened crops.  Today's industrial agricultural practices tend to focus on just one, or a few, varieties of different crops that have been hybridized and optimized for maximum productivity.

This is fine, until a disease that can attack the "monoculture" crop develops, and puts the entire industry represented by that variety at risk of catastrophic failure.  That can lead to an entire agricultural region being wiped out.  This has happened in the past, for instance in the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, which was caused by a disease called late blight.  It is also happening to varying degrees in the banana plantations today.

The problem stems from the fact that in refining a crop to a single, high yielding variety, genetic diversity is lost, and with it the ability of some strains of a crop plant to withstand a particular disease.  By keeping a wide variety of "heritage" crops growing and viable, farmers like those in Peru will be keeping a genetic treasure trove of different crop characteristics alive and available should the genetic diversity represented by the crops they are cultivating ever be needed to "re-engineer" some of the world's major food crops to fight off a new disease threat.
location of moon rock Actually, that's not as ridiculous question a question as it might seem! It turns out that pieces of the moon have fallen, and continue to fall, to earth.  Finding them is not easy, certainly, but they are lying around on the ground in scatterd locations.

They are a very small part of the estimated 175 tons of space debris (meteorites) that hits earth every day on average (where's your hard hat?).  Much of it, of course, burns up on entry into the atmosphere, providing those beautiful "shooting stars" when they enter on the night side of the planet - but the rest of it makes landfall - or a splash in the water, somewhere on earth.

Most of it is likely to have come from the asteroid belt, or the asteroids that orbit in the space between Mars and Earth, but some of those rocks come from the Moon - and others come from Mars, itself. Many of the Mars meteorites have been found in Antarctica, where they can be more easily spotted on the white snow and ice.

As for this particular moon rock described in this article, it was found in the Dhofar region of Oman, a desert area South of Saudi Arabia.  It is one of a total of about 60 Lunar meteorites that have been identified.  The specimen was found by Luc Labenne, a meteorite hunter and marketer.  He spends a lot of time in dessert areas looking for extra-terrestrial material, and in this case found a piece of the moon.  Its origin was verified by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, by examining the types of minerals it contained.
As many other studies have shown, Man is not the only species to use tools within the animal kingdom - but the extent and complexity of tool use by other animals continues to surprise researchers.  Recent observations of chimpanzees living in Gabon's Loango National Park reveal that they not only use tools, they actually seem to have tool kits, consisting of up to five different tools for specific purposes - primarily for raiding honey from hives.

The tools are fashioned from branches of various sizes.  The hives they raid are hard to reach, and the chimps are in competition with nearby gorillas for the sweet prize.  Anthropologists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, have been conducting the study.  They were able to identify five distinct tools: Pounders, thick sticks with rounded ends used to make an opening in the hive;  Enlargers are thinner sticks used to break apart the opening.  They also use two different tools to scoop out the honey:  branches with frayed ends, and strips of bark that are used like a spoon.  The fifth tool appears to be a long stick used to probe the soil to locate chambers in the hives.  Scientists are looking into the rumor that some of the chimps are negotiating for a Hardware Store franchise.
The mothers of young adults or teens who live at home and suffer Autism pay a price, in terms of the stress that they experience on a day-to-day basis.  The stress results in a malfunction of the body's regulation of the stress hormone cortisol. The results of the chronic stress include fatigue, argumentativeness, and an increase in negative feelings.
Astronomers have finally, after trying for more than 50 years, have located a new planet outside the Solar System by using a technique called "Astrometry". While there have been literally hundreds of extra-solar planets discovered in the last two decades, the technique used has been based on the "Doppler Shift" method.  This method is based on measuring the "wobble" of the star towards and away from the Earth that is caused by the orbiting planet.  Because the planet has mass, it and the star actually rotate about a common center point which lies along a line that stretches between them. The actual center of rotation of the pair will be located close to, but not exactly at, the center of the star. Its distance from the center depends on the ratio of the mass of the two bodies.

When the orbital plane of the planet is such that it is seen nearly "edge on" from Earth, then that "off-center" rotation means that the star actually moves slightly towards, then away from, the Earth each time the planet orbits.  That motion, as small as it is, actually causes the light from the star to change wavelength, in the same way that the sound of an approaching siren will change in pitch as an ambulance passes your position. Those extremely small changes in the wavelength of the light from the star can be measured, and the mass of the planet can be estimated.

This new discovery used a different method to find the wobble:  it actually measured the displacement of the star as it appears in the sky over time (if you were looking straight down on the system, the star would appear to move in a small circle as the planet orbits).  This method, as you can imagine, requires extremely precise measurements of the star's position over a period of time.  The Astronomers, Steven Pravdo and Stuart Shaklan of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have reported their discovery in the July Astrophysical Journal.  The planet, six times the mass of Jupiter, orbits its star at a distance similar to that of Mercury from our Sun. It's parent star, however, is only about 8% as big as our Sun.  The planet is to be studied further as a part of the MEarth Project, which uses the eight telescopes shown in the picture.