Wednesday, November 30, 2011

5 insanely spectacular plunge waterfalls

Plunge waterfalls are waterfalls that drop vertically while losing contact with the underlying cliff face, or bedrock, behind them. They often make for great spectacles as they plummet over sheer drops in breathtaking torrents—and the views from the top are dizzying to say the least! For your wonderment, here are 5 stunning waterfalls from around the world.

1. Havasu Falls
One of the most visited falls in the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls leaps spectacularly over a 120-foot vertical cliff. The water is highly mineralized, and its erosive powers cause the occasional division of the falls into two chutes as well as having created the blue-green pools below.

2. Waireinga Falls
Located along the Pakoka River in New Zealand, this magnificent plunge waterfall is 180 feet high and over time has caused a large pool to form at its base.

3. La Fortuna Waterfall
Running through the rainforest in Costa Rica, the Tenorio River feeds this marvelous plunge waterfall. It is 230 to 246 feet high and is found at the base of the Chato volcano.

4. Whangarei Falls
The Hatea River in New Zealand plunges 85 feet at Whangarei Falls. It was considered such a special spot that in the 1920s the land was bought to prevent its being exploited, and in 1946 it was purchased on behalf of the local citizens.

5. Angel Falls
Feeding into the Kerep River, Angel Falls in Venezuela is not only the highest plunge waterfall in the world but the highest waterfall of any kind. It is 3,212 feet at its tallest point, while the longest drop itself plunges 2,648 feet. In the local Pemon language, the waterfall’s name means "waterfall of the deepest place," or "the fall from the highest point."

What do these amazing waterfalls all have in common? Most are located in places visited by Discovery Student Adventures. Do you have a favorite waterfall you’ve visited?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving’s cultural cousins

Autumn festivals, including American Thanksgiving, East Asian Mid-Autumn Festival and Jewish Sukkot, celebrate family and the Earth's bounty in similar ways despite cultural differences. Of those three, Thanksgiving is the newcomer. The Pilgrims celebrated a harvest festival with the Native Americans in 1621. And their ancient Anglo-Saxon ancestors also celebrated autumn harvest festivals.

But Thanksgiving wasn't an official annual event until 1863 when President Lincoln proclaimed, “...set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

Thanksgiving was new, but may have had an ancient inspiration in Leviticus, a holy book to both Jews and Christians. In Leviticus 23:39, God commanded the ancient Israelites to observe the Feast of Booths, Sukkot in Hebrew, after crops were gathered.

During sukkot, celebrated this year from Oct. 12-19, observers worship, eat and even sleep in a sukkah, a flimsy booth representing the temporary structures the Israelites used after fleeing Egypt.

The celebration of the Mid-Autumn, or Moon Festival in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and other East Asian countries, also involves food and family and friends. During the Mid-Autumn festival, people come back home to be with their family. It's one of the biggest holidays in eastern Asia.

What are you most thankful for this holiday season?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

10 mind-bending facts about the universe

From neutron stars to multiple dimensions to life on other planets, here are cool facts about the universe that might make your brain hurt.

1. The universe contains around 50,000,000,000 galaxies, each of which has between 100,000,000,000 and 1,000,000,000,000 stars.

2. At the speed of light, time stops.

3. Dark matter makes up 83 percent of the matter in the universe, but we can’t see it and we don’t know what it is.

4. Time passes more slowly in orbit around the earth meaning returning astronauts arrive home slightly younger than if they had spent the same amount of time on earth.

5. Atoms are 99.9999999999999999% empty space meaning all the matter making up the entire human race could fit into a sugar cube.

6. Just a thimbleful of a neutron star would weigh over 100 million tons.

7. Sagittarius 3, an interstellar gas cloud, contains a billion, billion, billion liters of alcohol.

8. The most powerful explosions ever witnessed in the universe are gamma-ray bursts that are trillions of times brighter than our sun.

9. In quantum physics causality can work backwards meaning our choices in the present can effectively determine what occurred in the past.

10. According to some models of cosmology, there are an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of people.

Source: MSN news

Do you think life exists beyond our world?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

5 of the best quirky and unusual museums in the U.S.

A good museum can inspire, educate, and keep weary travelers dry and toasty-warm on rainy days. Unfortunately, even the best museums can also overwhelm with impenetrable sizes, high admissions, and endless crowds. That’s why many smart travelers steer clear of major museums and seek out for smaller galleries. The following is a quirky collection of 5 of the best small, unusual, and underrated museums in the United States.

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum – Alexandria, Virginia
Entering this tiny museum is like traveling back in time; after operating for generations as a family-owned pharmacy, the shop suddenly closed during the 1940s Depression. It has since been meticulously restored and preserved, with original wooden shelving, antiquated signage, and assortments of glass jars and beakers that haven’t been touched in decades. Local volunteers conduct short but informative tours, regaling visitors with tales of colonial-era “medicine”, such as bloodletting. A particularly gruesome procedure, it was thought to cure a number of illnesses and was famously favored by George Washington.

The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza – Dallas, Texas
For American history buffs and conspiracy theorists alike, the Sixth Floor Museum might prove to be morbidly irresistible. The museum is devoted to the life and death (but mostly the death) of President John F. Kennedy. The exhibits begin innocently enough. An audio tour guides visitors through a generic pathway of informative panels and video clips, describing JFK’s childhood, rise to political fame, election to president, and first years in office. Suddenly, though, the narrative becomes very specific about the President’s 1963 visit to Texas, the events taking place on the morning of November 22, and his motorcade ride through the streets of Dallas.

The Center for Wooden Boats – Seattle, Washington
Where else could you take a museum’s historic artifacts out onto the water for a pleasure cruise? The CWB, as it’s informally known, is dedicated to maritime preservation, but they aren’t interested in merely restoring historic vessels to put on display (although the center does house a small, more traditional boating museum). Rather, they hold workshops, community outreach programs, and free Sunday sails, all intended to get people out on the water. Their mission passing down the love and knowledge of small craft sailing.

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel – Memphis, Tennessee
There’s little arguing that this museum is well worth a somber and reflective visit. This is not a place for housing attractive works of art or flashy multimedia displays. There are educational panels tracing the narrative of the civil rights movement, from the pre-Civil War days to the Birmingham public transport strike sparked by Rosa Parks, but they are simple text-and-photo panels. The chills come upon entering the portion of the museum encased in Room 306, where King was staying on April 4, 1968, the day of his assassination on the motel balcony.

Cable Car Museum – San Francisco, California
For those who really want to appreciate the mechanical marvel and historical significance of these old-fashioned trolleys, the Cable Car Museum should not be missed. First and foremost, the building is home to the working powerhouse of the entire cable car system. In addition to the requisite historic plaques and photographs, visitors to the Cable Car Museum are invited to watch the inner workings of the transportation system. Gigantic, noisy engines and wheels power the cables pulling the cars up and down the streets of San Francisco.

When is the last time you visited a museum?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Polar bears put on a show in Manitoba

Tucked away in the Canadian province of Manitoba for several weeks each autumn is the largest wild polar bear concentration in the world. An estimated 1,000 or so polar bears gather near the small town of Churchill, waiting for Hudson Bay to freeze over so they can hunt seals and other marine mammals. That represents about 5% of the world’s population of these majestic animals, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

This annual migration provides tourists, photographers, and scientists from around the world the unique opportunity to view polar bears up close and personal.

Each summer, the ice melts on Hudson Bay, forcing polar bears ashore. Once on land, without access to seals and other marine mammals, the bears enter a state known as walking hibernation. They live off their fat reserves and spend most of the summer resting and conserving energy, according to wildlife experts.

Some polar bears will roam up to 900 miles along the coast in search of food, such as berries, grasses and kelp, but these don't meet their nutritional needs.

As autumn approaches, the bears migrate back to the Churchill region, where the annual freeze-up occurs sooner than elsewhere. As soon as the bay freezes, they scatter across the ice to hunt. The bears catch their prey from the surface of the sea ice. They remain there until the ice melts in summer and then the cycle repeats itself.

The U.S. Geological Survey projects that two-thirds of polar bears will disappear by the year 2050, as climate change melts sea ice.

Are you concerned that polar bears may someday become extinct?

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