What We Love This Week, Volume CIV

China’s Harbin Ice Festival–In Photos Beginning on January 5, people flocked to China’s Heilongjiang province to take part in the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. The annual festival, which runs…

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These Astronomy Basics Will Help You Avoid Embarrassment If You Meet Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Astronomy Basics Eclipse

Oh, hi Sauron! The Ring is over there. Don’t hurt us, okay? Source: MPE

Space is really cool. Like, cooler than the coolest thing ever. Some people find it boring, but that’s probably because astronomers sometimes speak an arcane language that doesn’t connect the intrinsic coolness of what they do for a living with whatever dumb thing is going on here on the muddy Earth. Also, there’s math. Lots and lots of math seems to be involved, as does some really expensive viewing equipment.

But the thing is, you’re in space right now. Earth is part of space, so it behooves you to know a thing or two about the neighborhood. As most of us don’t have access to multimillion-dollar telescope arrays (sadly), here’s some stuff that’s reasonably close and doesn’t require a degree in physics to understand. Some of the things in this gallery are visible with the unaided eye, some take a nice set of binoculars or a cheap telescope to spot, and some couldn’t be found without a billion-dollar orbiting space telescope.

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Astronomy Basics Lagrange Diagram

Trojan asteroids are a lot of fun. They're stuck in little pockets of stability where gravity and centrifugal force (the tidal force, if you're a pedant) cancel each other out and produce something like a net-zero force on objects that blunder into them. These are Lagrange points, and every set of orbiting bodies has five of them. Because it takes more energy to escape a Lagrange point than it does to stay in one, these points hold some of the oldest stuff in the solar system. Trojan asteroids have generally spent the last 4.5 billion years just sort of slowly oscillating around a single point in space like a marble in the bathtub, which means they're a pretty good example of the material that was originally in the cloud that condensed to make, among other things, us. Source: Wikipedia

Astronomy Basics LaGrange Asteroid

Another neat thing about Trojans is how hard they are to see. After their existence was first predicted, astronomers turned their telescopes to one of the nearest spots, L5—just to the right of the Moon, and saw nothing. It turns out that they were looking wrong. Telescopes peer deeply into tight little spots, but seeing these dim, scattered asteroids takes a wide angle. Amusingly, the human eye is better at spotting close-in Trojans than telescopes are, if only because we can see the forest for the trees. This Trojan, however, is 2010 TK7. It's in the Sun-Earth L4 point, and it's a bit too close to the Sun to be easily seen, hence the crappy resolution. See the dot in that little green circle? It's a 1,000-foot asteroid that took a space telescope to spot simply because of the Sun's glare. It's the first Earth Trojan ever found, and we have no idea how many more there could be. Source: WIkipedia

Astronomy Basics Orbit

The green line traces out 2010 TK7's figure-8 path around the Sun. Which it's been doing for longer than life has existed on Earth. Source: Wikipedia

Astronomy Basics Lunar Crater

Looking at the Moon through any decent telescope, or even through really good binoculars, is enough to put you in an alien world. A place without air, water, or life usually doesn't erode quickly, so almost every black eye the Moon has gotten in the last 4 billion years has left its mark. How long is that? Imagine how long you'd have to wait for an asteroid to hit your house. Now, imagine how long it would take for another asteroid to hit the crater left by the first one. That's how slow things go on the Moon. Note: it's a lot easier to pick out details like this during quarter- and half-moons when sunlight is streaming in from a low angle. Source: Astrosurf

Tranquility Base

Tranquility base, site of the Apollo 11 landing. High-resolution images reveal that the flag was knocked over by wash from the rockets when the LM lifted off. The other flags from later missions seem to be fine, though. Source: ASU

Apollo 16

Source: Area Voices

Astronomy Basics ISS Transit

The International Space Station isn't that high up. Here it is crossing the Sun in 2010. You probably shouldn't try seeing this without special equipment. Source: Reddit

Astronomy Basics ISS Night

The ISS again. Imaged with a long exposure to capture its transit across the sky. Source: Universe Today

Astronomy Basics ISS Atlantis

ISS and the Space Shuttle Atlantis. You can't see this anymore because the US government sucks. Source: Maryland Weather

Astronomy Basics ISS Discovery

ISS and Discovery. Source: Wordpress

Astronomy Basics Saturn

You can get a pretty good view of several planets through a medium-power telescope set up in your back yard. This is Saturn, duh. Source: Reddit

Astronomy Basics Saturn Moons

Source: Pix Good

Astronomy Basics Jupiter

Source: Pho Win

Astronomy Basics Jupiter Moon

Jupiter with a few of its moons. Source: Wordpress

Comet Australia

Occasionally, the universe tosses astronomers a treat. This image of Comet Lovejoy was taken through an 8-inch telescope. Source: National Geographic

Comet Soaring

Source: El Correo

Comet Moon

Source: Telescope

Astronomy Basics Eclipse VIolet

Earth isn't anything special, as far as planets go, but we do have one thing that's guaranteed to bring in some space-tourist money when we make contact with aliens: total solar eclipses. It's a coincidence that the Moon and the Sun have an almost identical annular size as seen from Earth's surface. This coincidence is what allows the Moon to completely block the disk of the Sun and bring out the blazing corona. Source: Wolaver

Astronomy Basics Eclipse Night

If the Moon was bigger or closer, it would block too much of the Sun to get this effect. If it was smaller or farther away, it would just dim the Sun a bit during transit. This view is unique in our solar system, and it might not be very common in the universe. Source: Astronomy

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Comics Worth Killing For: The Road To Je Suis Charlie Hebdo

Je Suis Charlie Vigil

Source: CTV News

As a satirical publication that’s poked fun at everyone from Muhammad and Jewish people to Jesus and Michael Jackson, Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to threats and controversy. Yet nobody could have predicted that three gunmen would burst into the newspaper’s weekly editorial meeting and start shooting this past Wednesday. Now, with 12 people dead and more injured, people are beginning to question the price of free speech.

Charlie Hebdo Supporters

Source: The Guardian

It all started back in 2006 when Charlie Hebdo ran a series of 12 pictures that depicted Muhammad as a caricature—including one picture that showed Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with a burning fuse. Outrage came swiftly, and the issue’s editor was promptly sued by two Muslim organizations (though he was eventually acquitted).

Charia Hebdo

Source: Le Plus

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Modern Day Exorcisms, Proof That Fear Is Not Confined To Cinema

Exorcisms are on the rise. Not confined to the fictional realities of horror films, the Pope has confirmed that there are exorcists who work for the Catholic Church, and Reverend Bob Larson has turned his daughter into a reality TV star with perfect hair and impeccable cross-wielding skills.

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Modern Day Exorcisms

Brother Hermes Cifuentes practices his exorcisms in La Cumbre, Valle, Colombia. He follows the Rite of Exorcism that was handed down to him by his father, whom he also credits with giving him the strength to face demons. Source: Info Wars

Modern Day Exorcisms Colombia

: Brother Hermes employs different exorcism tools than the Catholic Church, which claims he is a sorcerer or warlock. He covers the afflicted in mud, blindfolds them, and binds their hands to eggs and crosses. Though his techniques may not follow Catholic Church practice, his business is booming. He states that he has completed over 15,000 exorcisms in his life, an average of ten a week. Source: Info Wars

Modern Day Exorcisms Ammons

Latoya Ammons and her children were tormented by knocks, disembodied voices and spirit figures in their Gary, Indiana home. Police and Child Protective Services were called in out of concern for the safety of Ammons’ children. Source: USA Today

Modern Day Exorcisms Ammons Figure

Police and social workers witnessed unexplained phenomena, including voices and levitation. Reverend Michael Maginot of St Stephen, Martyr Parish, would perform four exorcisms on Ammons and one of her sons. They showed signs of improvement, but the home remained “haunted” and the family moved. Source: USA Today

Modern Day Exorcisms Amorth

Father Gabriele Amorth is an Italian priest and exorcist of the Diocese of Rome who claims to have dispelled over 70,000 demons in his career. This number is disputed, as the Catholic Church requires an investigation prior to the Rite of Exorcism. Source: The Huffington Post

Modern Day Exorcisms Pope

Some witnesses claim to have seen the Pope give an impromptu exorcism on an ill man in St. Peter’s Square. At an exorcism conference this year, Pope Francis encouraged priests to help those possessed by demons and warned the clergy that Satanism and the occult are on the rise. Source: Life In Italy

Modern Day Exorcisms Santa Muerte

Mexico is an extremely Catholic nation and priests have seen an increase in request for exorcisms, which they believe to be related to the rise of the veneration of Santa Muerte. Cartels often invoke the folk saint Santa Muerte or Holy Death, as she oversees safe transport after death. Source: BBC

Modern Day Exorcisms Mexico Scream

Many feel overwhelmed by evil due to the violence accompanying the drug trade. Even cartel members are seeking salvation from priests. Pastors at the Church of the Divine Saviour outside of Mexico City administer exorcisms in this photo. Source: Huffington Post

Modern Day Exorcisms Mexico Woman

Often, the afflicted need blessing and liberation prayers, according to priests. Adherers to Catholic doctrine believe that liberation prayers can remove the demons that surrounding people and influence their decisions. Source: Huffington Post

Modern Day Exorcisms Mexico Choking

Symptoms of possession include speaking in tongues, tremors, convulsions, vomiting and eating inedible objects. Knowledge of the unknown is another giveaway, along with speaking in a language that is either long dead or one hasn’t studied. Source: Huffington Post

Modern Day Exorcisms Colombia Cross

The Catholic Church revised the Rite of Exorcism in 1999. The ritual assumes that the victim maintains their free will, though a demon could maintain control of the person physically. Source: Reuters

Modern Day Exorcisms Portugal

While Catholic priests are told not to enter into exorcisms without first ensuring that the afflicted has been under medical care, not all exorcists follow this caveat. Source: RT

Modern Day Exorcisms Colombia Ground

Exorcism is prevalent in other Christian denominations, including Pentecostalism, Lutheranism and Eastern Orthodoxy, along with the syncretized beliefs of Voudou, Santeria and Candomble. Source: Daily Mail

Modern Day Exorcisms Romania

In 2005, a Romanian Orthodox Priest and four nuns were arrested in connection with the death of a fellow nun who appeared to be suffering from possession, but in reality suffered from schizophrenia. Source: Daily Mail

Modern Day Exorcisms Romania Priest

The afflicted nun was tied up, crucified and had her mouth taped shut. Father Corogeanu, pictured here, called an ambulance when she became unresponsive. She was administered adrenaline and died. The priest and nuns served time in prison for their involvement in her death. Source: Daily Mail

Modern Day Exorcisms Egypt

The largest church in the Middle East is the St. Sama’an Cathedral carved into Mokattam Mountain in Cairo. Father Sama’an, a Coptic Christian priest, leads the church and administers exorcisms in a manner akin to Evangelical Protestantism. Source: Vocativ

Modern Day Exorcisms Egypt Girl

Many of the church’s visitors are Muslims who have attempted—without success--to find relief through Islamic exorcisms. The Church sits in a predominately Christian slum of Garbage City. Source: Vocativ

Modern Day Exorcisms Cave Church

Father Sama’an performs 30 to 50 exorcisms a week, mostly focused around sexual or psychological issues. He also claims to have raised four people from the dead, which has been supported by witnesses. Source: 13 WMAZ

Modern Day Exorcisms Larson

Revered Bob Larson is a radio and TV evangelist famous for his practice of exorcising demons. His career began with his debates and confrontations of Satanists and occultists during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 90s. Source: VICE

Modern Day Exorcisms Teenagers

Rev. Larson even has his own teenage squad of demon hunters, which includes his daughter. They travel with Rev. Larson, delivering believers from evil. If you can’t make it to one of his sermons, for a donation of $295, Rev. Larson will even give you an exorcism via Skype. Source: Teenage Exorcists

Modern Day Exorcisms Sindy

Other evangelists have also taken up the fight against evil. Here, a pregnant woman is exorcised at the Amazing Grace Church in East London. Pastor Vincent ten Bowhuis believes the UK is filled with demons. Source: The Mirror

Modern Day Exorcisms Sindy Treatment

Pastor Bowhuis runs an online school that provides classes to teach others how to combat demons. Exorcisms at his church are free to congregation members, but non-members must pay £250 to be saved. Source: The Mirror

Modern Day Exorcisms India

In Uttar Pradesh, India, multidenominational devotees to the Sufi Saint Shahdaana Wali go into trances, believing evil spirits possess them. Source: Reuters

Modern Day Exorcisms India Bloody

Self-flagellation is often used as a penance and purification from evil. Supported by the early Christian church and by Shi’ite Muslims, it is now fairly uncommon, though still practiced in parts of Mexico, the Philippines, India, Iraq and Pakistan. Source: Reuters

Modern Day Exorcisms Kinshasha

Two boys are cleansed in a ritual to rid them of the influences of witchcraft in Kinshasa. A belief in spirits can be found in almost all of the world’s cultures. Source: Huffington Post

Modern Day Exorcisms Mexico Vomit

If these spirits take over, to some the only option is exorcism. Whether or not you have faith in the rite, the evidence is compelling that much of humanity craves peace from whatever haunts them. Source: Huffington Post

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Check out this ABC News clip about modern day exorcisms below:

Thank Ralph McQuarrie–Not George Lucas–For The Star Wars Saga

Ralph McQuarrie Desert Droids

Images like this of the droids in the desert of Tatooine are instantly recognizable from the film.

With the seventh film in the Star Wars saga growing ever closer, buzz continues to grow. Rumors have swirled about that J.J. Abrams has gone back to the original concept art for his own inspiration, and as a result interest in the artist behind them is renewed.

Ralph McQuarrie Falcon Docked

Han Solo’s ship the Millennium Falcon docked at Mos Eisley Spaceport.

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