News from Saturday, December 10, 2016

Grieving Girlfriend Given Precious Gift

Over a year ago, Saya Tomioka and her boyfriend, Griffin Madden, were photographed enjoying a night in Times Square. Now, in the wake of tragedy, this memory is preserved to offer some comfort. Madden passed away last week in the fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland – one of 36 to be claimed in the tragic accident. His grieving girlfriend Saya Tomioka posted a plea on Facebook, asking if anyone could help her find the person who took their photograph that night in New York City. After her post was shared more than 300 times, it made its way to the Queens photographer Arken Avan, who remembered snapping the picture. Tomioka shared the cherished photograph on Facebook this past Thursday, saying, “I have been hoping for a miracle, a glimpse of [his] light back into my life. With the infinite help from our families, friends, and strangers, I finally found you.”

Earthquake Strikes Solomon Islands

On Saturday, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake shook the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. This came a day after a 7.8 magnitude tremor 80 miles from the capital, Honiara, sent hundreds of islanders along the coast fleeing to higher ground. While no deaths have been reported, it is estimated that over 3,000 people have been effected. Homes were damaged, 20 people had to be evacuated from a hospital, and power failures persist throughout the country. The World Vision office, which has been providing relief for those effected by the 2013 tsunami, was also damaged. Fortunately, no tsunami followed this time, and the warning has been lifted. Live and Learn, an aid organization, told ABC that the National Disaster Management Office is “making preparations to… send in supplies as soon as possible.” The Australian Government also has supplies for shelter, food, water and sanitation available to the victims of this natural disaster.

Can Monkeys Talk?

Talking monkeys. Whether that sounds like a dream or a nightmare to you, researchers at the University of Vienna have been trying to find out if it’s possible. Their conclusion: yes, but only with a different brain. The study used X-rays to track the movements of a monkey’s throat and mouth while it made a range of gestures and sounds, and captured the full range of movement in his vocal tract. The long-tailed macaque, Emiliano, would be capable of producing five of the most common vowel sounds in the world’s languages. What’s holding our primate friends back from talking the talk, is a lack of connections in the brain to the neurons that control the larynx and tongue. According to Tecumseh Fitch, a cognitive biologist at the University, monkeys also lack connections between the auditory cortex and motor cortex, which makes them unable to imitate sounds the way humans can. 

An impeachment may be on the horizon for South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye. Park is under criminal investigation for her involvement in a multimillion-dollar extortion scheme, but is immune to charges as long as she holds office. The people have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers to protest, with recent polls showing that nearly 8 in 10 South Koreans support her impeachment. After Park refused to step down, lawmakers were forced to take action, holding a vote that showed 234 to 56 in favor of impeachment. This prompted a celebration on Friday, when crowds formed outside of the National Assembly and sang, “We are a democratic republic,” a line from the South Korean Constitution. For the next 180 days, while the court is deciding whether to uphold or dismiss the motion, the president’s executive powers have been temporarily transferred to prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. 

South Korea’s President May Be Impeached

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, has a plan to clean up some of the 20,000 pieces of debris that are posing a threat to satellites, astronauts, and the international space station. JAXA’s Kounotori 6 craft will launch a 700-meter cable –  that’s as long as six football fields – which will use an electric current and the earth’s magnetic field to slow down and redirect the debris to enter our atmosphere. Not to worry – depending on its size, which ranges from as small as an apple to as large as a school bus, any space “junk” that makes impact will likely either land in the ocean or a sparsely populated area. In 2011, The National Research Council issued a statement saying that the amount of debris had reached a “tipping point” in terms of risk. Look forward to possible videos of this cable in action, and let’s hope it’s successful in cleaning up our skies!  

Japan’s Space Program Tries To Clean Up