Last presidential yacht bought for $0

In this March 3, 1932, file photo, the USS Sequoia is viewed in Washington, DC. An investment group with ties to a wealthy industrialist family in India can take ownership of the former US presidential yacht Sequoia with no payment to its current owner, a Delaware judge ruled Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.

In this March 3, 1932, file photo, the USS Sequoia is viewed in Washington, DC. An investment group with ties to a wealthy industrialist family in India can take ownership of the former US presidential yacht Sequoia with no payment to its current owner, a Delaware judge ruled Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.  (AP Photo/File)

How much would you pay for the presidential yacht on which FDR hosted Winston Churchill, JFK held his last birthday, and Nixon drank a bottle of whiskey before resigning? You probably overbid.

The News Journal reports investment group FE Partners will acquire the USS Sequoia for $0. The 104-foot yacht was built in 1926, according to Reuters.

It was used by presidents for years until Carter sold it for $286,000 at auction in 1977, the Guardian reports. The Sequoia changed hands multiple times before being acquired by lawyer Gary Silversmith in 2000.

He used it for private charters before borrowing multiple millions from FE Partners for repairs in 2012. That kicked off a years-long legal battle between the two parties.

This week, judge Sam Glasscock found Silversmith fell down on his part of the loan agreement to keep “America’s most famous boat” in good condition. “The Sequoia … is sitting on an inadequate cradle on an undersized marine railway in a moribund boatyard … deteriorating and, lately, home to raccoons,” Glasscock writes.

The loan agreement allowed FE Partners to buy the Sequoia back, and after deducting a number of costs—including repairs estimated at potentially more than $4 million—Glasscock ruled “free” to be a fair price.

Silversmith says he’s concerned FE Partners, which is backed by a wealthy Indian family, will move the Sequoia overseas. But the investment group says it plans to restore it “so that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy the storied past of this magnificent yacht.” (Eva Braun’s things, found in an abandoned bunker, have been sold.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Last US Presidential Yacht Bought for $0

Richard Branson unveils supersonic ‘Baby Boom’ passenger jet with Boom Technology

Boom Technology says its XB-1, nicknamed the “Baby Boom” will be the world’s fastest civil aircraft.

Boom Technology says its XB-1, nicknamed the “Baby Boom” will be the world’s fastest civil aircraft.  (Boom Technology)

Need to get to London in less than four hours?

Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson is one step to closer to bringing the next generation of Concorde-style jet engines to the masses– or at least travelers who can afford a $5,000 ticket.

On Tuesday, Branson and Denver-based Boom Technology unveiled a new prototype for a supersonic passenger jet that can take passengers from New York to London in just 3.5 hours, reports The Guardian.

“I have long been passionate about aerospace innovation and the development of high-speed commercial flights,” Branson said Tuesday at the prototype’s unveiling ceremony.

“As an innovator in the space, Virgin Galactic’s decision to work with Boom was an easy one. We’re excited to have an option on Boom’s first 10 airframes. Through Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing arm, the Spaceship Company, we will provide engineering and manufacturing services, along with flight test support and operations as part of our shared ambitions.”


Blake Scholl, Boom’s founder and CEO (who happens to be a former pilot and executive) is ready to bring supersonic jet travel back into the mainstream.

Test flights will begin next year in southern California, Scholl said, with plans to launch the first commercial departures in 2023. he also said he’s confident that these flights will be different than the Concorde due to advances in technology and lighter materials. The company plans on fabricating the planes with lightweight carbon fiber composites– which it says makes it a quieter and more fuel efficient jet.

The XB-1, nicknamed the “Baby Boom,” has a cruising speed of Mach 2.2– 1,451 miles per hour– which is 10 percent faster than the  Concorde’s previous speed of Mach 2. It’s also 2.6-times faster than the average commercial airliner.

At $5,000, tickets on the Baby Boom jet would cost “about the same as tickets in business class,” Scholl says.

“I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t want to get there in half the time, rather than have some free champagne,” he said. “It won’t be a bucket-list purchase any more. There is a huge market and the margins are enormous.”


The Baby Boom will have around 50 seats, whereas the Concorde had 92 to 128. Boom says it plans to initially fly from London to New York, San Francisco to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Sydney.

The Concorde, a British-French supersonic jet operated commercially from 1976 to 2003.

Built by the Huns? Ancient stone monuments discovered along Caspian

A massive stone structure, dating back 1,500 years, has been discovered along the Caspian Sea.

A massive stone structure, dating back 1,500 years, has been discovered along the Caspian Sea.  (Photo courtesy Evgeni�� Bogdanov)

A massive, 1,500-year-old stone complex that may have been built by nomad tribes has been discovered near the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan.

The complex contains numerous stone structures sprawled over about 300 acres (120 hectares) of land, or more than 200 American football fields, archaeologists reported recently in the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.

“When the area was examined in detail, several types of stone structures were identified,” archaeologists Andrey Astafiev, of the Mangistaus State Historical and Cultural Reserve; and Evgeniï Bogdanov, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Siberian Department’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, wrote in the journal article. The smallest stone structures are only 13 feet by 13 feet, and the biggest are 112 feet by 79 feet. [See Photos of the Massive Stone Structure and Artifacts]

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The structures are “made of stone slabs inserted vertically into the ground,” the archaeologists wrote. Some of the stones, which look a little like those at Stonehenge, have carvings of weapons and creatures etched into them.

One of the most spectacular finds is the remains of a saddle made partly of silver and covered with images of wild boars, deer and “beasts of prey” that may be lions, Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote in their article. The images were etched in relief, sticking out from the silver background.

“The relief decoration was impressed on the front surface,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote. The two researchers think ancient artisans designed the images out of leather and glued them onto wooden boards. “Finally, silver plates would have been laid over the shapes and fixed in place,” they said.

Stone-complex discovery

In 2010, a man named F. Akhmadulin (as named in the journal article), from a town called Aktau, was using a metal detector in Altÿnkazgan, which is located on the Mangÿshlak Peninsula, near the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, when he found parts of a silver saddle and other artifacts. Akhmadulin brought the artifacts to Astafiev who works in Aktau. [7 Bizarre Ancient Cultures That History Forgot]

“Most of the territory consists of sagebrush desert,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote. However, Astafiev found that the desert location where Akhmadulin brought him contained the remains of an undiscovered 120-hectare stone complex. Akhmadulin located the artifacts in one of these stone structures.

“Unfortunately, the socioeconomic situation in the region is not one in which it is easy to engage in archaeological research, and it was not until 2014 that the authors of this article were able to excavate certain features within the site,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

When excavations got underway in 2014, the archaeologists excavated the stone structure where Akhmadulin had found the saddle. They found more saddle parts, along with other artifacts, including two bronze objects that turned out to be the remains of a whip.

Who owned the saddle?

A great deal of work needs to be done to excavate and study the remains of the stone complex, the archaeologists said. “Certain features of the construction and formal details of the [stone] enclosures at Altÿnkazgan allow us to assume that they had been left there by nomad tribes,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

The design and decorations on the silver saddle indicate that it dates to a time when the Roman Empire was collapsing, and a group called the “Huns” were on the move across Asia and Europe, they said. “The advance of the Huns led various ethnic groups in the Eurasian steppes to move from their previous homelands,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

The owner of the saddle was likely a person of considerable wealth and power as the archaeologists found symbols called “tamgas” engraved on the silver saddle above the heads of predators, something that can be “an indication of the privileged status of the saddle’s owner.” These signs may also be a link “to the clan to which the owner of the tamga belonged,” Astafiev and Bogdanov wrote.

It’s not exactly clear why the silver saddle was placed in the stone structure, though it may have been created for a ritual purpose or as a burial good, Astafiev and Bogdanov suggested. They found the remains of one skeleton buried beneath the stone structure; however, the skeleton may date to centuries after the silver saddle was deposited there.

Research is ongoing, and Bogdanov said the team plans to publish another paper on research into the silver saddle in 2017.

Bogdanov said the team hopes to make the public aware of the newly found site. “I hope that one day there [will be] a film about the archaeological excavations on the Mangÿshlak, about ancient civilizations and modern inhabitants,” Bogdanov told Live Science.

Original article on Live Science

Woman says she was bitten by large shark in waters off Maui coast

 (Google Street View)

Hawaii officials say a woman is in the hospital after she was bitten by what she called a large shark off Maui.

A spokesman from the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources said the incident Monday occurred in front of a lifeguard stand.


He says lifeguards treated the woman before she was taken to the hospital.

The woman says a shark bit her about 40 yards offshore from Kamaole Beach Park. Authorities have not yet confirmed whether the bite came from a shark or another sea creature.

An official has gone to the hospital to interview the victim.

The woman’s name and condition were immediately available. Maui County posted shark-warning signs along the beach.

Scientific mystery: Beneath Mount St. Helens lies a heart of cold stone

In a June 7, 2015 photo, Mount St. Helens is visible from a trail near Cougar, Wash. The first new hiking trail at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in two decades opened in 2014 and delivered something that had been missing in the Ape Cave area--a view of the volcano.

In a June 7, 2015 photo, Mount St. Helens is visible from a trail near Cougar, Wash. The first new hiking trail at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in two decades opened in 2014 and delivered something that had been missing in the Ape Cave area–a view of the volcano.  (Craig Hill/The News Tribune via AP)

Mount St. Helens already stands out as one of the most active volcanoes in the Cascade Arc and the deadliest in the US, since its 1980 eruption claimed nearly 60 lives.

It’s also an outlier in a literal sense, sitting 30 miles west of the volcanoes that neatly line the Cascade Arc from north to south. Now scientists are reporting in the journal Nature Communications that they’ve discovered another oddity: The volcano appears to be perched atop what Gizmodo calls “a cool wedge of serpentine rock”—dramatically unlike the fiery cauldrons of hot magma beneath other volcanoes.

“We don’t have a good explanation for why that’s the case,” Steve Hansen, a geoscientist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, tells Gizmodo. His team drilled a couple dozen holes, filled them with explosives, and triggered minor earthquakes to watch seismic wave activity beneath Mount St.

Helens, “a bit like a CAT scan,” Hansen says. But their findings leave them with more questions, namely: What’s the volcano’s heat source, if it’s not right below the volcano itself? Hansen surmises that it’s coming from further east, but until his team does more research, it’s what Science News is calling “a cold case.” (Earlier this year, there were dozens of small quakes on the mountain every week.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Beneath Mount St. Helens, a Heart of (Cold) Stone

‘Mud Dragon’ dinosaur unearthed in China

Tongtianlong limosus artist's illustration (Zhou Chuang)

Tongtianlong limosus artist’s illustration (Zhou Chuang)

A new species of bird–like dinosaur was recently discovered at a construction site in Southern China. Dubbed Tongtianlong limosus, the winged creature had died after becoming mired in mud about 66–72 million years ago– hence it’s nickname, the ‘Mud Dragon.’

Before the well–preserved and near–complete skeleton was discovered, it had been damaged by dynamite while workmen were excavating a school near Ganzhou. Luckily, the workers found it before any more damage had been done.

“They very nearly dynamited it into billions of pieces, but thankfully they placed the dynamite just far enough away from the skeleton that most of it survived the blast,” study co–author Dr. Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh told “I wasn’t there when it was found, but they must have realized right away that they had found something important, and it’s great that the fossil was conserved by a museum rather than sold off or auctioned away, where it would have been lost to science forever.”


The skeleton of the two–legged Tongtianlong limosus (translation “muddy dragon on the road to heaven”) was lying on its back with its neck arched and wings outstretched. It also had a crest of bone on its head that researchers believed may have been used to attract mates or intimidate enemies.

Tongtianlong is the sixth species of the oviraptorosaur dinosaur family, a group of feathered dinos known for their sharp beaks and short, toothless heads. Oviraptors were thriving in the 15 million years before the comet that killed the dinosaurs hit Mexico, and Brusatte believes that the most important thing about the new fossil is that it gives us a glimpse of these last surviving dinosaurs.

“They were still diversifying during those last few million years of the Cretaceous, so they are a sign that dinosaurs were still doing really well right up towards the end,” the paleontologist said. “It was these dinosaurs that were undergoing the final wave of diversification before everything changed that day the asteroid hit.”


Despite its wings, the Mud Dragon was flightless so it had to rely on its feet to get away from predators such as the big tyrannosaur Qianzhousaurus, which was the top predator in the area at the time. It also had different feeding habits than a lot of its fellow dinosaurs.

“The Mud Dragon didn’t have teeth, but rather a beak, so it wasn’t a traditional meat eater,” Brusatte explained. “It may have eaten small mammals and lizards, but probably also plants, seeds, nuts, shellfish–all kinds of things. It was a classic omnivore, which is maybe one reason that these dinosaurs were so diverse and successful, because they could eat so many things.”

There’s been a wave of dinosaur finds over the last few years in China, with many new dinosaur discoveries emerging from the country every year. Brusatte said that things don’t look to be slowing down, either.


“Many of these discoveries are not found by professors or academic scientists with PhDs, but by farmers and workmen. This new discovery is a prime example of that. We would never know about it had there not been a building boom in southern China, had these workmen not been on the job that day, or had they not used just the right amount of dynamite to free the skeleton but not destroy it.”

The study can be found in Scientific Reports.

Plane makes emergency landing after snake found slithering in overhead bin

NOW PLAYINGRaw video: Live snake spotted dangling overhead bin

It was a moment that would make even Samuel L. Jackson shriek in fear.

Passengers on a commercial flight in Mexico were given an unexpected shock when a serpent slithered into the cabin in a scene straight out of the Hollywood thriller “Snakes on a Plane.”

Carrier Aeromexico confirmed that a live snake was found on board a flight Sunday afternoon in a statement released to Publimetro. Flight 231, which makes the two-hour trip once a day from Torreon, Coahuila, to Mexico City was forced to make an expedited landing so animal control could come aboard to collect the reptile.

A brief video posted to Twitter shows a greenish snake emerging from the ceiling behind an overhead luggage compartment and then partially dropping down into the cabin.

Animal smuggler caught sneaking reptiles in his pants

Aeromexico said that the plane was given priority landing in Mexico City, where workers “secured the reptile.” No passengers reported any injuries due to the incident but flier Indalecio Medina wrote on Facebook that he and another passenger caught the snake using a blanket and magazines before emergency personnel arrived.

The airline says it’s investigating how the snake got into the airplane and is taking measures to avoid it happening in the future.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

How one man fought off a great white shark

Undated file picture.

Undated file picture.  (Reuters)

Joe Tanner was paddling on his surfboard off the Oregon coast, waiting to catch a wave, when he felt something grab his leg.

It was a scenario any surfer or beachgoer would dread: Tanner looked down to find a toothy great white shark. The 29-year-old fought off the shark, punching it repeatedly in the gills until it let go, and escaping in what is being called an “incredible” feat.

Once Tanner reached the shore, he directed his own first aid, asking people to tie tourniquets to stanch the flow of blood from his wounds.

“I remember thinking, ‘Thank God I made it to shore,'” Tanner told Live Science. “Then, the pain hit.” [In Photos: Great White Sharks Attack]

Marine biologists are calling Tanner’s escape extraordinary, saying that he did all of the right things, from punching the shark on its sensitive gills to directing his medical treatment until emergency help arrived. Granted, Tanner knew about first aid because he’s a critical care nurse at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

“He’s obviously incredibly lucky and incredibly cool under pressure,” said Dr. Matthew Levy, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, who was not involved in Tanner’s care. “It’s one thing to be a lifesaver and save other people’s lives as a nurse and health care provider, but another to have the mental discipline and nerves of steel to direct others around him as to what to do.”

Robot shark

Tanner, a native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, began surfing while he was an undergraduate at the University of Portland in Oregon in 2006. He had experience snowboarding and wakeboarding, and found he could easily balance on a surfboard, catching waves and relaxing as he took in nature, Tanner told Live Science.

After graduating with a biology degree, he worked as a commercial fisherman in southeast Alaska, and afterward lived in Kenya, working at a medical clinic, and then India. “That was one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life,” he said, remembering motorcycling across South Asia. Later, he returned to Portland to get his nursing degree.

On the sunny morning of Oct. 10, Tanner planned to go surfing with a friend at Indian Beach in Oregon’s Ecola State Park. But his friend couldn’t make it, so Tanner went by himself, surfing in the morning and taking a break in the afternoon. While resting on the beach, he talked with another surfer — ironically, about sharks, he said.

At about 4 p.m. local time, Tanner and the other surfer returned to the water in their wetsuits. “I had just gotten out there, paddling in the surf,” Tanner said. “My feet were dangling in the water. All of a sudden, something grabbed my leg, and kind of took me off my surfboard and under.”

His initial reaction was disbelief, Tanner said. When he opened his eyes, the shark looked like a giant wall before him, with the head to his left and tail to his right.

“I remember not seeing anything moving like a normal animal [would],” he said. “I had the thought, ‘Why is there a shark robot in the water?'” [Photos: The Freakiest-Looking Fish]

Tanner thought that he would surely die. But, in a moment of clarity, he recalled that victims of shark attacks are supposed to punch the shark in the eyes or nose. “I couldn’t reach the nose, and the eyes were pretty small targets,” he said. “I saw gills in front of me, and they seemed pretty fragile, so I just started hitting and punching the gills.”

Incredibly, the shark released Tanner. “I got onto my board and screamed at everybody to get out of the water because there was a shark,” he said. Tanner was about 200 yards offshore, but with the other surfer nearby, he managed to make it back. All the while, Tanner worried that the shark would follow the trail of blood from his bleeding leg, he said.

Once Tanner reached the shore, people called 911, and he remembers asking them to tie a tourniquet on his right leg using the surfboard’s leash. That was smart, Levy said, as “We know [severe bleeding] is the leading cause of death of trauma victims within the first 24 hours [of their injury].” [Here’s What to Do in a Bleeding Emergency]

Six people carried Tanner on his surfboard to the parking lot. Once there, he asked them to remove the top of his wetsuit so that emergency workers would quickly be able to administer intravenous therapy. He also told them his blood type, and yelled at the top of his lungs, both with pain and as a way to cope, while people pressed down on his leg with towels, trying to curb the flow of blood.

Soon thereafter, police and then a helicopter arrived and flew him to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

Attack or curious shark?

Given that Tanner was on his surfboard on a sunny day, is it possible that the shark mistook his silhouette for a seal, one of its preferred meals?

Probably not, said Andrew Nosal, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Saint Katherine College in San Marcos, California.

The simpler explanation is that the shark saw something novel, and decided to test whether it could eat it, Nosal said. “Unfortunately for us, the shark can only test things with its mouth, so what might be a gentle test bite for a shark could be devastating for a person,” he said. [7 Unanswered Questions About Sharks]

However, the shark likely wasn’t expecting the novelty (that is, Tanner) to fight back. The gills are filled with blood vessels that are close to the skin’s surface, and Tanner probably surprised the shark when he hit the vessels, Nosal said. Victims of shark attacks can also hit the sensitive eyes and the tip of the nose to surprise a shark, Nosal added.

Tanner was lucky that the shark didn’t ambush and launch him into the air, as the predator often does with seals, said Christopher Lowe, a professor of marine biology at California State University, Long Beach.

Unlike other sharks, great whites (Carcharodon carcharias) are warm-blooded, which gives them the ability to swim rapidly toward prey, Lowe said. Their preferred meals — elephant seals and other marine mammals — are smart and nimble, and ambush attacks are one of the few ways great whites can catch them, he said.

It’s a mystery just how many great white sharks live off the West Coast, but researchers reporting in a 2014 study in the journal PLOS ONE estimated that there were more than 2,000 swimming off the coast of California. Despite their numbers, shark attacks on people are rare, but more will likely happen in the coming years as shark populations increase, Lowe said.

C. carcharias‘ numbers are increasing because of environmental policies enacted over the past several decades that protect fish and marine mammals within U.S. waters, Lowe said. Young great white sharks eat fish, and adults eat marine mammals; as their prey become more abundant, so do sharks, Lowe said.

Perhaps the great white shark was swimming near Indian Beach because seals or sea lions were nearby hunting for salmon that was returning home to spawn that fall, Tanner and other experts said.

Hospital care

The shark ended up leaving a semicircle of 6-inch-deep punctures on the upper right part of Tanner’s thigh. To repair the muscle and other damage to his leg, Tanner has undergone three surgeries.

Doctors now say he’s expected to be walking again six weeks after his third surgery. Tanner hopes to return to surfing eventually. Rather than blaming the shark for the predicament, “I have no animosity toward it,” he said. “We’re in their territory, and that’s a risk of surfing, no matter how rare it is.” [On the Brink: A Gallery of Wild Sharks]

Nosal called Tanner’s take “insightful.”

“Just remember that there’s no such thing as ‘shark-infested waters,'” Nosal said. “Sharks live there; that’s their home. You can’t infest your own home. When we get into the water, we have to recognize that there are risks associated with that, just like there are risks getting into our cars and driving to work every day.”

Get tips on avoiding shark attacks, such as steering clear of places where sharks and their prey are known to swim, in this Live Science article.

Tanner’s family put together a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for his recovery. Any extra money raised will go to the Home of Hope orphanage in Zambia.  

Incoming! How NASA and FEMA would respond to an asteroid threat

A near-Earth object on course to hit the planet would require nationwide or global coordination to minimize threat.

A near-Earth object on course to hit the planet would require nationwide or global coordination to minimize threat.  (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

It’s a scary scenario: an asteroid headed for Earth, just four years away from slamming into our home planet. It may be too short a span to plan an asteroid-deflection mission, but it’s long enough to present very different challenges from those of a more typical crisis, like a hurricane or earthquake.

NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) came together Oct. 25 to plan a response to such a hypothetical event. In a “tabletop exercise,” a kind of ongoing simulation, the two agencies tested how they would work together to evaluate the threat, prevent panic and protect as many people as possible from the deadly collision.

“It’s not a matter of if, but when, we will deal with such a situation,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s new associate administrator, said in a statement. “But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.” [In Images: Potentially Dangerous Near-Earth Asteroids]

The exercise, held in El Segundo, California, brought together representatives from NASA, FEMA, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Department of Energy’s national laboratories, the Air Force and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, JPL officials said in the statement.

It was the third such exercise; previous ones had allowed for a deflection mission, but in this simulation, there was too little time for that type of response.

“It is critical to exercise these kinds of low-probability but high-consequence disaster scenarios,” FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in the statement. “By working through our emergency response plans now, we will be better prepared if and when we need to respond to such an event.”

The asteroid in this test scenario appeared to be between 300 and 800 feet long in the first simulated measurements the participants were given. At first, the probability of a 2020 impact was only 2 percent, but as the group continued to simulate tracking it over time and the fictional months went by, the impact probability rose to 65 percent — and then 100 percent, in May 2017. By November of that year, in the scenario, they found that it would hit across Southern California or nearby in the Pacific Ocean.

The research laboratories’ scientists calculated the impact’s footprint, the population that would be displaced, the effect on infrastructure and other data that would slowly become clear over such an asteroid’s approach. That gave the participants the information they needed to plan for an evacuation process, and decide how to convey necessary information to the public in the most effective way over the course of the asteroid’s approach (plus debunk dangerous misinformation and rumors).

“The high degree of initial uncertainty, coupled with the relatively long impact warning time, made this scenario unique and especially challenging for emergency managers,” Leviticus A. Lewis, chief of FEMA’s National Response Coordination Branch, said in the statement. “It’s quite different from preparing for an event with a much shorter timeline, such as a hurricane.”

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, established in January, supervises NASA’s efforts to track asteroids and other approaching near-Earth objects (NEOs) and coordinates its interactions with the other U.S. agencies that would deal with a potential impact and decide whether to try a deflection mission or coordinate an emergency response, as in this exercise. Europe has a similar NEO Coordination Centre in Italy.

“These exercises are invaluable for those of us in the asteroid science community responsible for engaging with FEMA on this natural hazard,” NASA Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson said in the statement. “We receive valuable feedback from emergency managers at these exercises about what information is critical for their decision making, and we take that into account when we exercise how we would provide information to FEMA about a predicted impact.”

Although deflection wasn’t an option for this training scenario, there is research into that area. For example, NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, which recently finished its first planning stages, is largely a sample-collection mission, to pull a boulder off an asteroid’s side — but it is also slated to test out pulling the asteroid’s orbit slightly off course using the spacecraft and sample’s gravitational pull.

Philip Lubin, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara whose laser propulsion system has been incorporated into the Breakthrough Starshot program to send a probe to neighbor star system Alpha Centauri, originally intended the system to zap and deflect incoming asteroids.

Tourist fights crocodile after trying to take selfie with it


There’s nothing more embarrassing than slipping and falling down. Except perhaps, slipping and falling on top of a crocodile.

27-year-old Danish backpacker Johnny Bonde and his girlfriend Kirsty Jacobs had been travelling around Australia on a year-long trip that was going swimmingly — right up until Bonde tried to get a selfie with a crocodile in the far north of Western Australia.

Upon spotting the croc, the pair tried to capture a selfie from a safe distance. However, a slip in his footing saw Bonde tumble straight down the riverbank and smack on top of the napping reptile. Good one.

“He got my arm and shook me … It was the result of me being stupid,” Bonde told Perth Now. “If somebody body slammed me at night, I would be angry too.”

Bonde managed to get free of the terrifying beast and clambered back up the bank to his girlfriend, saying he felt “a bit weird” in the arm, then noticing it was bleeding.

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Once returning to the caravan park, the couple went to the local hospital where The West Australian reported he was treated for deep lacerations to his forearm.

The now-wiser traveller has since posted a word of caution on Facebook for his fellow intrepid backpackers, saying, “Don’t swim, pet, play or land on any crocs! You will end up with a sore arm or even worse no arm.”