Pope installs solar panels

Pope Benedict XVI has become the first pontiff to harness solar power to provide energy for the Vatican.

Roof tiles on the Paul VI auditorium – used in poor weather for the Pope’s weekly audience with pilgrims – are being replaced by 2,700 solar panels.

The photovoltaic cells will convert sunlight into electricity, generating enough power to light, heat or cool the 6,000 seat hall, engineers say.

Conserving global resources has been a priority for the German-born Pope.

Since he was elected in 2005, Benedict XVI has criticised “the unbalanced use of energy” in the world.

He has also said environmental damage was making “the lives of poor people on earth especially unbearable”.

Surplus power

Working beneath a brilliantly clear Roman sky on Monday, a group of engineers in yellow T-shirts positioned the dark cells on the auditorium’s roof.


The smell of death sends mites to sleep

CATCHING the whiff of a nearby massacre has a strange effect on spider mites: it sends them straight to sleep.

Martijn Egas and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands noticed that when the mites encountered predators, they went into hiding and entered a dormant state called diapause, normally used during long periods of cold, drought or famine.

Curious about whether this discovery could be used against the crop-destroying mites, the team put them inside parallel wind tunnels that were infused with air from chambers containing other spider mites that were either peacefully munching on bean leaves, or suffering attacks from a different, predatory mite species.

They found that mites exposed to air from the predation chamber were 15 per cent more likely to enter diapause than mites in the control chamber, suggesting that the mere scent of an attack can send them into the hibernation-like state (Naturwissenschaften, DOI: 10.1007/s00114-008-0442-4). The team reckons that diapause aids survival in hiding places without food.


Stick this in your pipe and smoke it

After watching the Broncos decimate the Ducks in Autzen Stadium, I was impressed with how well their fans took the loss. We wished them the best as we made our way out of the stadium and across the river. Upon reaching the end of the footbridge, I noticed that a local glass artist had set up a table to sell pipes in front of several thousands of football fans making their way across the river.

“I figured after the loss everyone would want a little pick-me-up,” the seller said when asked why he was selling in full public view.

The culture in Eugene and Springfield, Ore. is certainly different than in Idaho. Not because marijuana is legal in Oregon, but rather because it’s decriminalized.

Oregon doesn’t deal with marijuana, like other illicit drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines, by handing out large fines and prison time for simple possession. According to law.findlaw.com, Oregon has no jail time and a fine of $500-$1,000 for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana.

Currently Idaho has rather harsh statutes concerning marijuana. Simple possession of less than 3 ounces lands you up to one year in prison, up to a $1,000 fine or some combination of the two. The threat of jail-time is what really separates the two states. Imagine if drinking underage landed you in jail for five months and a $600 fine instead of only a fine of up to $1,000.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, marijuana is illegal because it provides no medical benefits, reduces the user’s capacity to learn and impairs driving.
I don’t know if anyone has told the DEA this, but there is a legal drug that we can all get our hands on quite easily that does all of those things: alcohol.

When questioned about the apparent double standard, most students I asked couldn’t think of a reason why marijuana is illegal and alcohol is not.

One student, Sarah Posey, was quick to answer when she said, “If marijuana is illegal, tobacco should be too.”


Anjelica Huston ‘depressed’ by Sarah Palin

Actress Anjelica Huston has become the latest star to take aim at US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, stating the fact the Alaskan Governor is even in the race for the White House is “depressing”.

The Witches star admits she’s “terrified by the politics of Mrs. Palin” and disturbed by her love of hunting.

Huston states: “This is a woman who is shooting caribou from the air, from helicopters. It’s like going back in time to some kind of fantasy of the 1950s, and I find it very depressing.

“I think people are looking at the election as a reality show. I think people have forgotten that this is about the presidency of the United States. They are looking at this like (reality TV show) Living Lohan or The Osbournes or something. I just can’t imagine that this is happening.”


Man charged with farting at policeman

A US man has been charged with assault after he allegedly broke wind on a police officer.

Police say they were fingerprinting Jose Cruz, 34, when he moved near Patrolman T.E. Parsons, lifted his leg and passed gas “loudly” on the officer.

Cruz then allegedly waved the air in the direction of Parsons, who was preparing a breath test machine at South Charleston police HQ, West Virginia.

“The gas was very odorous and created contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Patrolman Parsons,” the complaint says.