Mystery of Marfa Lights

The Marfa Lights are named for their location near the town of Marfa, Texas. Marfa is a small ranching community on a Chihuahuan Desert plateau in the Trans-Pecos area of west Texas.

Supported mostly by ranching, and more recently by tourism, it is surrounded by vast mountains and is Texas' highest incorporated city.

Marfa is known primarily for its famous Marfa Mystery Lights and as the location for the shooting of the 1955 classic movie "Giant," with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. Dean mounted a small telescope on a fence post to better spy on the lights, should they suddenly pop up.

The Ghost lights of Marfa still shine as bright as ever, and are still as mysterious as they were when they were first seen by early settlers who drove their herds into the Marfa area in 1883.

Robert Ellison came to Marfa in 1883 and off-loaded his cattle in Alpine. He then drove the herd west and on the second night out, while camped just outside Paisano Pass, he saw strange lights in the distance.

At first, it was feared that they were Apache signal fires. Mr. Ellison searched the countryside by horseback. He finally realized that the lights were not man-made. Other early settlers assured him that they too had seen the lights and had never been able to identify them.

The lights really do defy all attempts at explanation. Attempts to locate their source always fail because they usually vanish when anyone tries to approach them. People hike, ride horseback, drive jeeps, and even fly helicopters and airplanes to follow the lights. Some have followed them as far as thirty-five miles.

Searchers have never found campfires, buildings, tire tracks, footprints, or any other evidence that could explain the lights sources. Some people even claim that the lights would reappear, after they had abandoned the search and were miles away looking back over their shoulders.

It was 1943 when the mysterious lights were given a real boost in publicity. That year, the Army established a pilot training base in Marfa. Fritz Kahl, an airman at the base, who later stayed to run the Marfa airport, reported that when the airmen saw the lights for the first time, there was absolutely no vehicular traffic at night.

In fact, fuel was rationed, and lights themselves were a phenomenon because there were no lights of any kind, not even on the local ranches.

Over the years, explanations for the mysterious lights have ranged from ball lightning to St. Elmos fire to dead Indians, ghosts, tricks, and static electricity to name a few theories.

Fortunately, several of these theories can be discounted because they dont apply to the West Texas region.

The Marfa Lights remain unexplained.



Top 14 Creative Soaps

If you want to get a gift for someone who seems to have everything they need or want, here’s a bit of advice. You should get them something they can use up! Or else get them something that’s so different and creative that they’ll treasure it anyway. The soaps on the list could fill both suggestions.

1. Beaker and Test Tube Soaps

The Mad Scientist Soaps Gift Set contains a beaker and a test tube. Order as many as you like and Meilin at Two Eggplants Company will ship you the colors and scents you prefer. The soaps pictured are scented with raspberries, mint, and orange, but you can get unscented or even custom smells and colors. If you look close, you’ll see bubbles at the top of the “chemicals” in the containers! Perfect for a scientist (mad or not), a science geek, or a student.

2. Game of Foams

Is someone on your gift list a Game of Thrones fanatic? They’ll be thrilled to get a hand-carved soap with a crest for their preferred clan, here called Game of Foams. The Soap of Stark features a grey wolf on winter white, and the Soap of Lannister features a golden lion on crimson. Your choice, from GeekSoap.

3. Rice Krispy Treats Soap

This looks tempting, but don’t take a bite out of it! These Rice Krispies treats are soap made of vegan glycerin. Are they crunchy? I don’t know! But they will get you clean.

4. Fingers Soap

Get your hands clean with finger soap! These disembodied fingers come in a set of four so you can use as little or as much as you need. Creepy, yes, but they’ll certainly draw attention -and may even encourage the most reluctant kids to lather up in the bathtub!

5. Cinnamon Chai Soap

A cup of chai is so tasty and relaxing, but can be fattening if you don’t limit yourself. Cinnamon chai soap is NOT fattening at all, and has that same delicious scent that will linger after your bath.

6. Christmas Ribbon Candy Soap

If you buy Christmas candy soap, you’ll want to keep it for yourself, or give it early enough for the recipient to display before the holiday. Of course, no matter how impressed guests are with your artistic soap, they won’t actually use it because it’s too pretty. So what? Use it yourself or save it to put out again next year! Ribbon candy soap smells like Christmas candy and comes in a random variety of red, white, and greens stripes -just like the real thing!

7. Beer Soap

Brooklyn Brewery, a real beer brewery, offers Beer Soap in their gift shop. Yes, there’s beer in it, your choice of lager, ale, or stout. Hey, if beer is good for a shampoo, it must be good for body soap, too!

8. My Poop Does Not Stink

Now, this proves that you can get soap in any shape whatsoever. Titled My Poop Does Not Stink, this soap should always be in the bathroom -not the kitchen! Hand made by Leeana Provan of LoveLeeSoaps. She has quite a selection of more conventional soaps, too, including many Christmas designs.

9. Hamburger Soap

It’s pretty neat to have soap in the shape of a hamburger patty, two pieces of bun, a piece of lettuce and a slice of tomato! Stack your soap hamburger however you want. The bun is French bread scented, which makes sense, but the rest is …wait for it… bacon scented! No, it doesn’t make sense, but isn’t it wonderful? Of course, if you have time for a custom order, you can get this burger in another scent.

10. Elements

What’s your favorite element? A collection called In Your Element has a variety of soap bars featuring different element symbols. Shown is uranium, which glows in the dark. The elements are colored somewhat like the element it represents. The sodium bar contains salt for scrubbing! If you can’t make up your mind, BubbleGenius also has bars with several elements on them, spelling out “foam” or “soap,” or you can get a set of a dozen bars.

11. Periodic Table Soap

You can also get the entire periodic table in one bar of soap from Two Eggplants.

12. D20 Soap On A Rope

Soap on a rope has been a Christmas gift staple for men for well over a half-century. Make it more than useful to your favorite D&D geek in the shape of a D20 die! Next thing you know, he’ll be rolling the soap to determine what body part to wash next. The die is handmade with the regulation 20 sides, and it smells good, too.

13. Caffeinated Soap

Invigorate yourself in the morning with caffeine-infused soap. Each bar is made of vegetable-based glycerin with peppermint scent and caffeine. If you make a bar last for a dozen showers, you should get 200 milligrams of caffeine per shower, which can be absorbed through your skin depending on how long you leave it on.

14. Dentures

Dentures soap might not be the best gift for an elderly person who 1. wears dentures and 2. doesn’t see very well. But for anyone else it should be perfectly safe -and funny! Cup not included.

But that’s not all!



Beautiful Red Aurora Over Australia

This fantastic red aurora over the Mornington peninsula in Australia was captured by Alex Cherney, an amateur astronomer who after chasing it for more than two years was finally rewarded with two displays of Aurora Australis (Southern lights) within a week.

"The nights were warm an clear and the Moon was not in the sky either - I could not have asked for better conditions.

The red color of this aurora is caused by the charged particles from the Sun exciting oxygen atoms high in the Earth's atmosphere. Hopefully there will be more to come as Sun's activity increases in 2012-13.

Being able to photograph it all night I came up with a nice video. The brighter Aurora happened on January 22nd and the smaller one, featured in the middle section, was from January 16th, followed by a rather bright Moonrise, " writes Alex on his blog Terrastro



Monsters of the deep

They look like monsters from another planet. But far from inhabiting some alien world light-years from ours, these frightening looking creatures exist at the bottom of Earth's deepest oceans.

Astonishing new pictures of Polychaetes, or scale worms, show how they have evolved to survive the intense pressures more than 1,000 meters below the water's surface, where the sun's rays never penetrate.

And it is hoped discoveries from this region could help shed light on the possibility of life existing on other planets.

Evolution: The scale worms have evolved to withstand the harshest environments found anywhere on our planet

Alien world: The conditions in the deep oceans have more in common with outer-space than planet Earth

Details including their fearsome mouths that can turn inside-out, making it easier for them to snatch their prey, are revealed in a series of images just released by deep ocean researchers.

The creatures, which measure little more than two or three centimeters long, form part of an ecosystem that was unknown until 40 years ago.

But since the 1970s, developments in technology have allowed ever deeper exploration of our marine world, enabling scientists to revisit their ideas about the deep ocean floor.

Instead of a barren wasteland, they have discovered diverse communities of creatures that live on and around hydrothermal vents.

More popularly know as ‘smokers’, hydrothermal vents are cracks in the seafloor, usually found around quake zones, volcanoes and the edges of tectonic plates.

They release superheated water and a cocktail of chemicals that provide a home for creatures like the scale worms.

Similar hydrothermal vents are believed to exist no Jupiter's moon Europa, and scientist speculate that they may once have occurred on Mars.

Fearsome: Scale worms have mouths which can turn inside out in order to help them catch their prey

Scientists hope to learn about the potential for life on other planets by studying how these creatures have manged to thrive without relying on the sun's rays for energy

Exploration: As scientists push further into the unknown regions of the deep ocean they turn up more extraordinary discoveries

Scale worms crawl along the seafloor near to a vent, using their vicious-looking teeth to munch on the bacteria and simple organisms that thrive in the hot water and chemical soup.

The vent community gets its energy from chemistry rather than photosynthesis, since no light reaches the depths.

This leads to some bizarre relationships: the scale worms are hosts tosymbiotic bacteria that may be providing them with nutrients.

Some scientists believe that the worms may even rely on the bacteria to survive.

Their ability to exist in some of the harshest conditions known to man, makes scale worms fascinating to Daniel Desbruyeres, a senior researcher at I'lfremer, the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea.

He said: ‘The recent discoveries of hydrothermal vents have changed our views of the whole marine realm.

‘The deep sea realm is one of the most diverse habitats on Earth, yet our perception of it is still in its infancy.'

Survivors: The creatures can exists in both the extreme cold of the seabed, as well as super heated water found near the volcanic vents where water can be 375C

The images capture in extraordinary detail how the many different scale worms have evolved



A Moving Desert in France

The Great Dune of Pyla, located 60 km from Bordeaux in the Arcachon Bay area, France, happens to be the tallest sand dune in Europe. Also known as Great Dune of Pilat, the sand dune is enormous - measuring 500 meter in width, 3 km in length and rising to a height of 107 meter above sea level. Because of the dune’s unexpected location and beauty, it is a famous tourist destination with more than one million visitors per year.

Interestingly, the dune is relentlessly moving inwards, slowly pushing the forest back to cover houses, roads and even portions of the Atlantic Wall. The rate of movement is discontinuous; sometimes it moves fast (10 meter in a year) and sometimes very slow (less than a meter). During the last 57 years, the dune has moved some 280 meter giving an annual displacement of 4.9 meter per year.

This migration of the Great Dune has covered nearly twenty private properties, and each year the sand of the east slope of the dune covers 8000 square meter of the surrounding pine forest. At the North East part of the dune, a road was overlapped in 1987 after an avalanche of sand, and buried in 1991. An example of a house buried over the dune is cited in a newspaper in September 19, 1936. At the South East of the dune, a Bordeaux family had decided to have a villa built in 1928. Two years later, the sands began to invade the house and by 1936, the house had completely disappeared over the sands.

Maritime winds explain both that mobility and the shape of the dune; it offers soft slopes on the ocean side and an abrupt face on its east side, the forest side. For the most athletic visitors, climbing up this slope is a real challenge. For the others, a staircase makes the ascent a little easier. At the top, the view is spectacular – the sea coast, the vast pine forest of Les Landes and, when the whether is clear, the Pyrennees range

Dune of Pyla is well known by paragliders. Every day we see several colored sails in the skies of the dune


Mystery of Mel's Hole

Eastern Washington hole is shrouded in mystery
From Bigfoot to the disappearance of D.B. Cooper, the Pacific Northwest is full of mysteries. Another mystery burred deep in the hills of eastern Washington keeps resurfacing.

Ellensburg and its surrounding valleys and Manastash Ridge are beautiful in any season. Some believe what lies beneath is a deep, dark hole with supernatural powers. A man named Red Elk is one of the only people alive known to have ever seen the mysterious hole. A Native American Shaman, or medicine man, Red Elk said his dad first showed him the hole in 1961. "He said 'This is an endless hole,'" Red Elk said. Red Elk's been back many times and said strange things happen every time he goes near it. "People get it confused with what I call the devil's hole," he said.

Many locals claim to know about the hole, but it didn't become phenomena until 1997, when Mel Waters went on the Coast to Coast radio show with Art Bell. "I brought the dogs with me." Waters said on the show. "They wouldn't go anywhere near the damn thing." Waters said the hole had a three-foot stone wall around it. It seemed bottomless to him, so he used an old shark fisherman's trick -- sending thousands of feet of fishing line down. "What I did, was I sent down a roll of lifesavers," he said. "So when it hit water the lifesavers would dissolve." But the lifesavers came back up whole -- no water -- so how deep was this hole? Waters said he believed it descended miles into the earth and he heard strange stories about its powers. "One guy claims that he threw his departed canine down into the hole," he said. "He swears the dog actually came back to him."

Red Elk said it was when Waters went public that the trouble began. "Now I'm going public on this. And that could land me in a pile of junk," he said. Red Elk claims the government has a secret base there. "An underground base, a very small, underground base," he said. That's how Red Elk explains the white boxes covering the area on some satellite images. He also said he's seen "alien activity" in the area. "A huge space craft, one, will appear and hover over the hole," he said. That's what he said happens during Summer Solstice, when space men load and unload things at the hole before flying away.

At the Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore, Phil Lipson said he's heard the stories. "Well, I believe there is a hole," Lipson said. But Lipson's never seen the hole, even though he's led expeditions to find it. "I think it's actually a true event just something that's never been totally uncovered," he said. And to this day, no one's been able to find it, since that famous radio conversation.

Ellensburg Public Library Historian Milton Wagy said the story became a sensation after Waters went on the radio. He said the phone rang off the hook with all kinds of stories about the hole -- some explainable -- some not. He's still trying to solve the mystery of what happened to the library's file on Mel's Hole. "Well it just disappeared, which lends itself to the mysteriousness of Mel's Hole," Wagy said. "Did Mel take it? Did it just kind of rise out of the locked file cabinet."You never know there might be a hole out there."

Now the question who, is anyone can find Mel's Hole and prove its existence?



World's Tiniest Chameleon

Researchers have recently discovered four new species of tiny chameleons in the remote rainforests in northern Madagascar. The chameleons are so small that the adult of the smallest species are just over an inch from snout to tail.

The four new species belong to the genus Brookesia, also known as the leaf chameleons, which are already known to contain some very small species, with members typically resembling younger versions of larger species. Adult males of the B. micra species grow to only just over a half-inch (16 millimeters) from nose to bottom, making them some of the smallest reptiles on Earth.

Mostly brown with a touch of green, the coloring of the diminutive creatures is far from spectacular. And unlike what chameleons are famous for, these miniature animals are unable to change their appearance. Nonetheless, researchers are fascinated.

The team searched for the tiny lizards under the cover of darkness, using headlamps and flashlights to seek out the sleeping chameleons. All four species are active during the day, and at night climb up into the branches to sleep. But for such tiny critters, "up into the branches" means a mere 4 inches (10 centimeters) off the ground, so finding them is no easy task. However, once spotted, the tiny lizards are easy to catch.

"They are sleeping and you can just pick them up. It's like picking a strawberry, so it's easy," said herpetologist Frank Glaw, lead author of the study. "They do not move at all at night."

Brookesia species tend to live within a very small range. Half the members of this genus are found in only a single location and the smallest of the newly found species — Brookesia micra — lives only on a small island called Nosy Hara. Extreme miniaturization of this sort is common in island populations. Known as island dwarfism, it may occur due to limited resources and pressure to reproduce faster.

Since the chameleons all look extremely similar, researchers used genetic analysis to determine that they belonged to separate species. The findings appear on the Feb. 15 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

Brookesia desparata with two freshly-laid eggs. The name refers to the desperate situation of the animals because their habitat is under threat from deforestation.

Interestingly, Madagaskar is also home to to the biggest chameleons. Furcifer oustaleti grows to almost 70 centimeters.



Tsingy de Bemaraha

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is located close to the western coast of Madagascar. This 666 square kilometer region has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990 because of its unique, breathtaking geography, preserved mangrove forests, and wild bird and lemur populations.

The Tsingy rise up to 70 meters from the ground. At these heights, the tops are bare and razor sharp. At lesser heights, one gets to see vegetations with roots tens of meters below.

The word tsingy is indigenous to the Malagasy language as a description of the karst badlands of Madagascar. The word which translates into English as “where one cannot walk barefoot”, aptly describes the exceptional topography. This topography of eroded limestone may exist in other areas around the world, but nowhere as tall, slender and extensive as the spires here. Beneath this apparent austerity, an extraordinary world of forest canyons, humid caves and burning karst karren is inhabited by fundamentally differing plants and animals who thrive in close proximity.