Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wind Extinguishes Eternal Flame

Flame's Self-Starter Is Broken, Won't Be Fixed Until January.
The day America sets aside to honor its veterans, many visitors to Jacksonville's Veterans Memorial Mall noticed the eternal flame was not burning.
The city said it learned two weeks ago that the self-starter built into the marble pedestal of the flame had stopped working, so when the wind blows out the flame, it has to be manually restarted by someone with a lighter.
Because the marble-covered ground around the pedestal has to be dug up to fix the flame, city leaders decided to wait to make the repairs until after the football season, when traffic in the surrounding sports complex drops off.
Harrison Conyers of the city's office of veterans affairs said it was unfortunate the flame was out much of Veterans Day, but the wind kept blowing it out.
The city plans a $20,000 repair project to not only fix the self-starter on the eternal flame, but also repair damage done by skateboarders and add an additional panel so more names of Jacksonville's war dead can be added.
"We're sorry the flame was out but it was something that was really out of our control," Conyers said Thursday. "Our staff was out working at the parade yesterday. There were multiple events going on all over town. We did the best we could."
The city is coming up with a schedule to have people check on the flame and relight it as necessary, but there is no way to ensure the eternal flame is constantly burning until permanent repairs are made.
"Could we have re-run the electric line in the last two or three days? Probably. But it would have meant tearing up all the marble that is out here. We could not have fixed that quickly," Conyers said. "So you would have had a flame but you would have had a monument that is defaced."

Didn't get the Memo

Planners have driven motorists into a pole - by leaving a 40ft utility pole in the middle of a six lane highway.
The unmarked and unlit pole - in Zhengzhou, central China - has been the cause of dozens of accidents as unwary drivers smash into it.
And road signs only a few yards from the pole show an arrow directing drivers right into it at 50mph.
"We have complained to the council but they say it would cost too much to bury the cables underground so we are stuck with it," said local resident Chang Feng, 33.
The problem was caused when the road was widened and made worse when builders added an arrow less than 350 feet from the pole pointing straight at it.
The utility pole belongs to the local power authorities who explained that the pole used to be on the road side, but due to the widening of the road, the pole is now in the middle of the road.
A spokesman from the power authorities said: "They should have informed us before the road widening project, but none of us knew this. Now it's too expensive to move the pole."

Bird Feathers "Sing"

Solving a longstanding puzzle among bird experts, scientists have found that the sharp, violin-like sounds of a South American songbird come not from the beak but from a suite of specially evolved, vibrating feathers.
A new study offers the first hard evidence that birds use feathers for audible communication as well as for flight and warmth.
In 2005 Kimberly Bostwick theorized that the male club-winged manakin—a tiny bird of the Andean cloud forest—was vibrating a club-shaped wing feather against a neighboring, ridged feather to "sing" when trying to attract females.
Proving the feather-song connection, though, would be a huge challenge.
"It was very hard to mess with the birds' feathers and still have them do their display," said Bostwick, curator of birds and mammals at the Cornell University of Vertebrates in Ithaca, New York.
"There were many times where I listened to the sound and started doubting that a feather could possibly make [the sound]," she recalled.
Bird Vibrations
To determine, once and for all, how the manakin was making its bizarre sounds, Bostwick and colleagues decided to take feather samples and analyze them in a lab.
She knew from previous work that the frequency of the sound made by the manakin was 1500 hertz—1,500 cycles per second. If the two feather types were making the sound, they should resonate when vibrated at the same frequency during the experiments.
The team used lasers to monitor vibrations as they were oscillated by a lab device called a mini-shaker. The special feathers vibrated at exactly 1500 hertz—proving they're responsible for the strange sounds.
But there's a twist: Bostwick was surprised to find that club and the ridged feathers aren't a duet, but part of a chamber orchestra.
Individually the manakin's "regular" feathers didn't resonate like the special ones. But when the nine feathers closest to the special feathers were still attached to the ligaments, they vibrated at around 1500 hertz, harmonized with the club feathers, and amplified the volume of the sound.
The results, Bostwick said, could lead to better understanding of the newly discovered form of bird communication.
Lots of birds make simple clapping sounds or whooshing noises with their wings, and we haven't even begun to understand how the sounds are made or how they've evolved, she added.

This Dog Takes Fetching Seriously…