Aliens may look like Jellyfish

Forget little green men. Aliens may look like giant jellyfish with orange bottoms, a leading space scientist has claimed.

Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a satellite expert and government adviser, said it is likely that there is extra-terrestrial life - it is just more alien than you’d imagine.

Rather than being the little green men so beloved of Hollywood directors, they may look like football-field sized jellyfish, complete with onion-shaped appendages and an orange underbelly or bottom.

Generated from silicon, rather than the carbon that is the basis of life as we know it, the creatures are able to live off light absorbed through their ‘skin’ and chemicals sucked in through their giant mouths.

Welcoming our new jellyfish overlords: This is what evolution might have come up with on a world such as Saturn's moon Titan, Dr Maggie Alderin-Pocock believes

Other alien adaptations could include ‘talking’ via pulses of light.

But while they might resemble jellyfish, they will live not in the sea but in the atmosphere of a Jupiter-like planet, where they float around.

The orange underside acts as camouflage, allowing them to escape predators in a fiery atmosphere, while the onion-like appendages act as buoyancy sacs, taking in and letting out gas so it can gain or lose altitude like a hot air balloon.

Much of her inspiration comes from strange life-forms recently discovered living deep beneath the ocean.

Dr Aderin-Pocock, who described her ET as part of Science Month on TV channel Eden, said: ‘Our imaginations are naturally constrained by what we see around us and the conventional wisdom has been that life needs water and is carbon-based.

‘But some researchers are doing exciting work, playing with ideas such as silicon-based life forms evolving on other planets in environments very different to our own.

‘My vision of aliens is an inhuman, silicon-based life form that looks much more like a jellyfish than sci-fi’s little green men.’

However, while the giant jellyfish may be out there, we have little chance of making contact with them.

Dr Aderin-Pocock, lead scientist with space company Astrium, says that while there are billions of planets in our galaxy alone, very few would be able to support life, let alone actually be home to it.

Dr Alderin-Pocock envisages creatures that float through clouds of methane, scooping chemical nutrients into their gaping mouths. The aliens keep themselves aloft by means of dangling onion-like buoyancy bags, and communicate with pulses of light

Then, even if life has developed, it is unlikely to be intelligent enough to communicate with us. Finally, if it is able to make contact, the odds of it being around right now are extremely low.

She said: ‘If our intelligent aliens existed only during the time of the dinosaurs on Earth, it’s not much good to us.

‘This leaves us with an estimate of four intelligent alien civilisations in our galaxy with a means to communicate and overlapping in time with humans.’

Even then, communicating across space is a massive challenge.

For instance, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has been carrying a recording of greetings from Earth on its travels through the solar system since 1977, is only just about to leave the solar system behind and head for deep space.

Previous research has found almost half of Britons believe in little green men.

The poll of more than 2,000 for the Royal Society found 44 per cent were of the opinion that extra-terrestrial life exists.

Interest in ‘life but not as we know it’ does not end there, with more than a third of those questioned saying we should be actively searching and trying to make contact with ET.

Closer look: Dr Alderin-Pocock believes life is likely to have evolved very differently on other planets


Alureon Virus Warning from FBI

If you have a virus on your machine, there is a very real risk you will get kicked off the internet on Monday.

Web-users are being warned to ensure their computers are clear of the nasty 'Alureon/DNS Changer bot'.

This piece of software found its way onto hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide late last year. The software was designed to re-direct you away from trusted websites, towards spoof websites in a bid to steal financial and personal information.

When the attack was noticed, the FBI took the unusual step of setting up a 'safety-net', routing infected machines through their server to stop the 'spoof' attacks.

But these servers will be taken down on Monday, and when this happens, people still infected are likely to lose their internet connection without warning.

Internet shutdown: Software called Alureon/DNS Changer attempts to change the website you visit - and those infected may get cut off on Monday

The warnings about the problem have been splashed across Facebook and Google. Internet service providers have sent notices, and the FBI set up a special website.

Despite repeated alerts, the number of computers that probably are infected is more than 277,000 worldwide, down from about 360,000 in April. Of those still infected, the FBI believes that about 64,000 are in the United States.

Users whose computers are still infected on Monday will lose their ability to go online, and they will have to call their service providers for help deleting the malware and reconnecting to the Internet.

The problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of more than 570,000 infected computers around the world.

When the FBI went in to take down the hackers late last year, agents realised that if they turned off the malicious servers being used to control the computers, all the victims would lose their Internet service.

In a highly unusual move, the FBI set up a safety net. They brought in a private company to install two clean Internet servers to take over for the malicious servers so that people would not suddenly lose their Internet.

But that temporary system will be shut down at 12:01 a.m. EDT (4.01am GMT) on Monday, July 9.

Most victims don't even know their computers have been infected, although the malicious software probably has slowed their Web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.

But popular social networking sites and Internet providers have got more involved, reaching out to computer users to warn of the problem.

If you wish to check if your computer is at risk, visit (linked above) and hopefully you will see the 'all clear' sign

According to Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent, many Internet providers are ready for the problem and have plans to try to help their customers. Some, such as Comcast, already have reached out.

The company sent out notices and posted information on its website. Because the company can tell whether there is a problem with a customer's Internet server, Comcast sent an email, letter or Internet notice to customers whose computers appeared to be affected.

Grasso said other Internet providers may come up with technical solutions that they will put in place on Monday that will either correct the problem or provide information to customers when they call to say their Internet isn't working. If the Internet providers correct the server problem, the Internet will work, but the malware will remain on victims' computers and could pose future problems.

In addition to individual computer owners, about 50 Fortune 500 companies are still infected, Grasso said.

Both Facebook and Google created their own warning messages that showed up if someone using either site appeared to have an infected computer. Facebook users would get a message that says, "Your computer or network might be infected," along with a link that users can click for more information.

Google users got a similar message, displayed at the top of a Google search results page. It also provides information on correcting the problem.

To check whether a computer is infected, users can visit a website run by the group brought in by the FBI:

The site includes links to respected commercial sites that will run a quick check on the computer, and it also lays out detailed instructions if users want to actually check the computer themselves.


The Amazing Zion Canyon

Zion National Park, close to Springdale, Utah, is, put simply, a paradise for nature lovers. Numerous attractions await – from sublime mountains, deep-lying canyons and the Virgin River, to equally impressive slot canyons, natural arches, buttes (steep-sided, isolated hills), mesas (or tablelands) and even monoliths. It’s all enough to make the heart of even the most hardened outdoors-loving environmentalist beat faster. Find out what else lies in store while letting the magic of Zion National Park overwhelm you in the following pictures.

Beautiful sky over Zion National Park

Shown here is a beautiful panoramic view of Zion Canyon National Park, seen from Angels Landing. This hike is demanding, stretching over 5.4 miles (8.7 km), past long drop-offs and onto the summit via a narrow, steep ridge. Not for vertigo sufferers, that’s for sure! Yet, all the effort is worth it, as we can see.

You know all other great American canyons – Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Glen Canyon to name but three – but Zion Canyon is certainly up there with the best of them.

Panorama over Zion Canyon National Park

Zion Canyon itself offers a stunning geological profile with its reddish and light brown-colored Navajo Sandstone. It is as much as half a mile (800 m) deep in some places, and the sandstone cliffs in the national park are some of the world’s highest! Though you can take a scenic drive along the floor of the 15-mile (24 km) long canyon that is served by a shuttle bus, those who wish to experience the natural beauty of the place up close and personal should consider one of the many hikes you can take, which range from easy to strenuous.

despite a rocky surface and long drop-offs, the aptly named Canyon Overlook Trail rewards visitors with stunning views into Zion Canyon. The one-mile (1.6 km) trail is a moderate hike of one hour that culminates at the viewpoint of Pine Creek Canyon and lower Zion Canyon.

Zion National Park is located at a point three different and important geographic territories meet: the Colorado Plateau, the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert. Its varying topography helps afford a diverse habitat for a large range of flora and fauna, and it has also tended to offer favorable conditions for farmers. Zion boasts wide, level spaces for cultivating food, a river providing water, and a climate that supports plant growth despite its desert setting.

beautiful waterfalls along Emerald Pools Trails whilst slipping in a hiking trail between downpours.

The area’s geology, favorable climate and rich natural resources contributed to its early settlement. Nearly 12,000 years ago, the first peoples arrived in Zion and hunted large (and in some cases very large!) animals such as mammoths, giant sloths and even camels. It’s hard to believe that, despite the physical power of these animals – and the primitive hunting tools humans used at the time – many of them ultimately became extinct due to the impact of both man and the Earth’s climate.

Zion Canyon as seen from the very top of Canyon Overlook Trail

The Narrows – a spectacular slot canyon north and upstream of Zion Canyon – is featured quite often in photos simply because it’s so scenic. But, be warned, it’s not an easy hike – as its dimensions alone suggest. Carved by the Virgin River, The Narrows is 16 miles (26 km) in length, up to 2,000 ft (610 m) deep, and sometimes no wider than 20 to 30 feet (6 m to 9 m). How’s that for a tight squeeze?

Stunning colors like these await sightseers visiting Zion National Park.

This description from the official Zion Canyon Guide and Map gives us an idea of both the attraction and hazards of The Narrows: “The Narrows, with its soaring walls, sandstone grottos, natural springs, and hanging gardens can be an unforgettable experience. It is not, however, a trip to be underestimated. Hiking The Narrows means hiking in the Virgin River. At least 60 percent of the hike is spent wading, walking, and sometimes swimming in the river. There is no maintained trail because the route is the river. The current is swift, the water may be cold and deep, and the rocks underfoot are slippery. Flash flooding and hypothermia are constant dangers.” Hey ho, let’s go!

Here, we get a sense of how The Narrows must have gotten its name. Barely meters apart, the solid rock faces leave little room for the Virgin River – hardly more than a trickle at this point in time but prone to becoming a raging torrent following heavy rain.

As we wind our way through The Narrows, let’s wind back the clock as well and peer back into the past of Zion National Park. About 8,000 years ago, a combination of over-hunting and climate change caused megafauna (giant animals) to die out, forcing humans to adapt and hunt medium-sized animals and gather other edibles instead. Time passed, and, as these natural resources dwindled in turn, around 2,600 years ago another culture began to emerge. The Virgin Anasazi – as the next people who inhabited the area are known – further adapted to Zion, gradually turning to farming over the ensuing 1,500 years.

Another spectacular view of The Narrows

When what is thought to have been a combination of drought and over-farming drove the Anasazi southward some 800 years ago, it was the Paiute people, a group of Native Americans, who managed to adjust their way of life to the demands of the desert environment and survive here. Then, in the mid-19th century, Mormon pioneers and other European explorers came to the area and endured by cultivating the land, living in a climate that could wreak destruction with its extremes – from unforgiving droughts to impetuous flash floods.

Red cliffs in Zion National Park

Because of its varying elevations – ranging from 3,666 to 8,726 feet (1,117 to 2,660 m) – and the resulting microclimates to which they have given rise, Zion National Park is home to diverse plant and animal life. The fauna alone includes over 78 different species of mammals, 291 bird species, 44 reptile and amphibian species, and 8 fish species – as well as myriad insects, spiders and other creepy-crawlies that also inhabit the park.

Pictured here is the narrow trail along the rock formation known as Angels Landing. The steepness of the cliff and its proximity to the trail are part of what makes this route a challenge. The hike also takes four hours. As you can imagine, it isn’t easy.

The 900 plant species to be found in Zion make it a botanist's dream. The national park is famous for its “hanging gardens” – natural arrangements of verdant ferns, mosses and wildflowers that hang decoratively over springs percolating out of the area’s Najavo Sandstone.

Zion Canyon as seen from Observation Point Trail

The natural wonder known as the Subway is a truly magical spot in this national park where two curved canyon walls come together to create a tunnel whose floor is replete with beautiful emerald colored pools. Photographer Willie Huang recalls his experience of the strenuous hike he undertook to Archangel Cascades to see the Subway: “This was also the first unmaintained trail that I hiked that required bouldering, rock scrambling, stream crossings, and route finding,” says Huang. “Despite the challenges, this hike is simply awesome and now ranks as one of my favorites. Not only is the hike to the Subway from the bottom fun but the second half of the trail is very scenic with various cascades.”

Another must-see in Zion National Park is the marvel known as the Subway, depicted here in all its glory.

Photographer Willie Huang continues his narrative: “Once inside the Subway I was just speechless,” he says. “It was beautiful, with pools of emerald ponds and fallen foliage. I ended staying around in the Subway for almost an hour waiting for the sun to rise overhead. When the sun reached the proper position past noon, the sunlight reflects off the canyon walls and beams into the Subway creating a wondrous glow.” Wow, what an experience!

Here’s another photo of the Subway, this one taken during fall, with colorful leaves having collected in a natural pool. Simply stunning!

Taking in this stunning view, one has to come to the conclusion that Mount Carmel Highway, seen at the bottom of the picture, is one of the most scenic public roads in the US. Part of Utah State Route 9, it connects Zion National Park with Grand Canyon National Park.

More of Zion's incredible sandstone cliffs

However, of course it’s not the motorway that is the lifeblood of Zion National Park but the natural thoroughfare that is the Virgin River, which snakes its way through the area. The Virgin can swirl gently around boulders and rocks in the riverbed and has slowly hewn the canyon walls over time, but it can also send dangerous flash floods down into bone-dry canyons and fling rocks unexpectedly and with wild force when flowing strongly. Truly an incarnation of nature’s whim.

'Imlay' Boulder, which is located in a stretch of the Virgin River in The Narrows

Zion National Park is wonderful to visit at any time of year, but like any place of untamed beauty, it comes with its own particular risks: steep cliffs, and a desert environment that demands sufficient hydration, for one. In addition, driving or hiking around the park calls for awareness of other visitors – including those of the feathered or four-legged variety. Thus prepared, you will undoubtedly have an unforgettable experience at Zion National Park.

What better way to close our excursion through Zion National Park than with a sunset image?


Manpupuner Rocks

Bursting out of a plateau in a remote region of the Ural Mountains – like the gnarled fingers of some giant subterranean monster – the seven rock formations of Manpupuner in the Komi Republic are as veiled in mystery as they sometimes are in snowstorms and fog. Known as the “7 strong men”, these gargantuan stone towers are rightly considered one of the Seven Wonders of Russia, and with its air of inscrutability, Manpupuner draws visitors from across its vast country.

Despite all this, Manpupuner – which in the Mansi language means “little mountain of the gods” – is not widely known outside Russia, lying as it does in the isolated and inhospitable north. And while since time immemorial these giant stone totems have been the source of all manner of myths and fables, information regarding their true origins is hard to come by.

Despite all this, Manpupuner – which in the Mansi language means “little mountain of the gods” – is not widely known outside Russia, lying as it does in the isolated and inhospitable north. And while since time immemorial these giant stone totems have been the source of all manner of myths and fables, information regarding their true origins is hard to come by.

According to one source, the beginnings of this extraordinary natural marvel go back some 200-300 million years, when in its place stood a mountain. With the steady onslaught of time, erosion caused by rain, wind, frost and other meteorological phenomena slowly but surely wore away at the softer rock, leaving the seven pillars standing today.

Less open to any debate is the imposing impression Manpupuner makes on those who witness it firsthand. Standing alone on a featureless expanse with no other stones or mountains in sight, these geological figures are unequivocally massive, dwarfing people at their base and making most ancient human megaliths look like the relatively minor slabs of stone they are.

It seems that whatever trick Mother Nature used to fashion this monumental assemblage, her efforts puts those of our ancestors into the shade.

What’s more, these towering rock totems are not only incredible by dint of their size and location, but also because of their astonishing forms and strange, some might say whimsical, distribution. Some of the columns are narrower at the base, and while six are huddled together, the seventh stands aloof or guardian-like as if observing them from afar.

The great height and unusual shapes of the stone-faced 7 strong men make them inaccessible to even experienced rock-climbers – the marked overhangs projecting out above the heads of people on the ground enough to discourage even the most fearless or foolhardy. Of course, some might beg to differ.

Adding to Manpupuner’s general sense of impenetrability, it is not only the summits of these rock colossuses that are difficult to reach; getting to their feet is challenging enough in the first place. The harsh environment of this mysterious site – where blizzards rage in the winter – is enough to deter less single-minded sightseers.

All this said, for those who can brave the elements of the northern Ural mountains – among the oldest mountain ranges on earth and the natural boundary between Europe and Asia – this spectacular prize waits. Travellers with the drive to get there can savour an entirely different view on the world – and feel what it is like to walk among giants.


Airplanes That Carry Airplanes

A cargo aircraft also known as freight aircraft is specially designed for carrying goods, rather than passengers. They are usually devoid of passenger amenities, and generally feature one or more large doors for the loading and unloading of cargo. Aircraft designed for cargo flight usually have a number of features that distinguish them from conventional passenger aircraft: a "fat" looking fuselage, a high-wing to allow the cargo area to sit near the ground, a large number of wheels to allow it to land at unprepared locations, and a high-mounted tail to allow cargo to be driven directly into and off the aircraft.

The biggest and heaviest cargo carrier is the Antonov An-225 Mriya introduced into service in 1988. The Antonov An-225 was designed to airlift the Energia rocket's boosters and the Buran space shuttle for the Soviet space program. The An-225 can carry ultra-heavy and oversize freight, up to 250,000 kg internally or 200,000 kg on the upper fuselage.

The An-225 has become the workhorse of the Antonov Airlines fleet, transporting objects once thought impossible to move by air, such as locomotives and 150-ton generators. It has become an asset to international relief organizations for its ability to quickly transport huge quantities of emergency supplies during disaster relief operations.

Antonov An-225 with Buran atop at the Paris Air Show in June 1989.

In September 2001, carrying 4 main battle tanks at a record load of 253.82 tonnes of cargo, the An-225 flew at an altitude of 2 km over a closed circuit of 1,000 km at a speed of 763.2 km/h. On August 2009, the Antonov 225 carried the heaviest single cargo item ever sent via air freight – a 189 ton generator for a gas power plant in Armenia.

A second An-225 was partially built during the late 1980s for the Soviet space program, but it was never completed following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the cancellation of the Buran space program. A decision was made in September 2006 to complete the second An-225, but lack of funds have delayed the completion of the aircraft once again. According to different sources, the second jet is 60-70% complete.

The Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle Mystic (DSRV 1) is carefully loaded onto a Russian-built Antonov An –124.

Antonov An-124 is another heavy lifter. It has been used to transport the Atlas V launch vhenicles, satellites and other airplanes. On May 1987, an An-124 set a world record, covering the distance of 20,151 km without refuelling with a takeoff weight of 455,000 kg. The flight took 25 hours and 30 minutes. An An-124 appeared in the James Bond film Die Another Day.

The Super Guppy is used extensively by NASA to ferry components for the International Space Station and Project Orion. The Super Guppy aircraft was acquired by NASA from the European Space Agency under an International Space Station barter agreement. Manufactured by Airbus Industries, ESA supplied the aircraft to offset the cost to NASA of carrying ESA experiment equipment to the station as part of two future Space Shuttle flights. The new Super Guppy is the latest version in a long line of Guppy cargo aircraft used by NASA. Guppy aircraft were used in several past space programs, including Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab, to transport spacecraft components.

A crowd in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle watches NASA's Super Guppy aircraft approach Boeing Field, carrying a key piece of a space shuttle mockup that will go on display at Seattle's Museum of Flight. Photo credit: MSNBC

NASA employs another extensively modified Boeing 747 airliners called the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) used to transport Space Shuttle orbiters. The SCAs were used to ferry Space Shuttles from landing sites back to the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, and to and from other locations too distant for the orbiters to be delivered by ground transport.

Another dolphin shaped cargo carrier is Airbus Beluga. The primary task of Airbus Beluga is to carry Airbus components ready for final assembly across Europe, but they are also available for charter work, and have been used to carry a variety of special loads, including space station components, large, very delicate artwork, industrial machinery, and entire helicopters.

At the Shuttle Landing Facility, the European Space Agency's research laboratory, designated Columbus, is being offloaded onto an Airbus Transport International platform.