Monday, March 31, 2014
Marcus Woo, ISNS Contributor
Date: 29 March 2014 Time: 12:06 AM ET
The north pole of Mars according to Mars Global Surveyor data.
CREDIT: NASA via wikicommons | http://bit.ly/1g7EUV2
(ISNS) -- Mars was once a wetter world, and according to a growing body of evidence, could have had water gushing through rivers, pooling in lakes and possibly even oceans. But the water somehow vanished, leaving behind the parched planet it is today.
Now, a new analysis of Martian meteorites is helping to reveal the history of Martian water, suggesting that large amounts of water escaped into space within the first half-billion years of Mars' existence. Most of the remaining water -- as much as one tenth of the Earth's oceans -- then froze, forming vast, yet-to-be-discovered reservoirs of ice still hidden below the surface.
Scientists have long known that there's water ice at the poles and previous observations have hinted at the presence of subsurface ice at lower latitudes. The new study now strengthens the case that huge amounts of ice remain hidden on Mars today, said study-leader Hiroyuki Kurokawa of Nagoya University in Japan. The paper describing the results has been accepted for publication in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Orbiting spacecraft, landers and rovers on Mars have discovered plenty of evidence for valleys, deltas, riverbeds and even oceans once filled with liquid water — perhaps providing a habitable environment for life in the past. But most of the water has since vanished.
"We don't know how the water was disappearing over time," said David Klassen, an astronomer at Rowan University, in Glassboro, N.J., who wasn't involved in the study. "We just know it disappeared."
Still, scientists think most of the water on Mars probably escaped because the planet's gravity was not sufficient to hold onto its atmosphere. Over time, the water on Mars evaporated and drifted away into space.
To estimate how much water was lost this way, the researchers measured the ratio of two forms of hydrogen found in Martian meteorites that landed on Earth. Ordinary, common hydrogen contains one proton in its nucleus. Deuterium is a heavier form of hydrogen, with one proton and one neutron. Water that includes at least one deuterium atom instead of regular hydrogen is heavier.
With this added heft, water that contains deuterium can't escape Mars' gravity as easily as water made of regular hydrogen. As a result, most of the water that left Mars is of the lighter variety. So by comparing the amounts of deuterium and hydrogen, the researchers can determine how readily water was escaping Mars. A higher deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio means greater water loss.
The researchers analyzed three different meteorites to determine the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratios from 4.5 billion years ago, 4.1 billion years ago, and sometime between 170 million and 180 million years ago, which is recent enough to represent current conditions. From the data, they created a timeline of water loss, showing that Mars may have lost several times more water between 4.5 billion and 4.1 billion years ago than the past 4 billion years.
Whether Mars lost its water earlier or later in its history has been a point of debate among astronomers, and determining the timing could help them pinpoint exactly how it left the atmosphere, said James Greenwood of Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Conn., who also wasn't a part of the study.
Some scientists have suggested that the solar wind helped strip away water from the Martian atmosphere. But, Greenwood explained, this would be a long-term process. An early burst of water loss could instead point to what's called hydrodynamic escape, in which the massive amounts of hydrogen gas that surrounded an embryonic Mars broke free from the planet's weak gravitational grip, dragging water along with it.
Meteorite data only reveal relative changes in water, so to determine how much water was lost, the team looked at estimates of past water based on previous observations of Martian surface features. The researchers realized that in order for their calculated timeline to be consistent with those estimates, there must be a lot of water still on Mars today — several times more than the water frozen at the poles.
The water, Kurokawa said, must be in the form of ice hidden below the surface—consistent with previous observations. For example, the Phoenix lander and the Mars Odyssey orbiter have found indirect hints of substantial subsurface ice.
Other scientists have also used meteorites to determine the water history of Mars, Greenwood said. But the new work incorporates a meteorite sample that originated from Mars' mantle, which enabled the researchers to reliably estimate water loss from 4.5 billion years ago for the first time. "I think it's an important contribution," he said.
This story was provided by Inside Science News Service. Marcus Woo is a freelance science writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area who has written for National Geographic News, New Scientist, and other outlets.
Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, Duke University
Date: 28 March 2014 Time: 05:41 PM ET
Female bonobo sex at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in Congo
CREDIT: Jingzhi Tan.
Brian Hare is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, and Vanessa Woods is the author of "Bonobo Handshake"(Gotham, 20011). Woods and Hare are on the board of the nonprofit Lola ya Bonobo, a sanctuary for orphan bonobos in Congo. The authors contributed this article to Live Science'sExpert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
Lodja sees Mwanda and shrieks in excitement. They run toward each other with such force that when they embrace, they fall to the ground in each other's arms. Without much foreplay, Lodja grinds her hips against Mwanda and their clitorises rub together with increasing speed and friction. They hold each other tight, cry and shriek, and when it is over, they fall apart exhausted, and lazily snack on some fruit.
There are hundreds of examples of non-reproductive sex among animals, from albatrosses to koalas. But none of these examples can make people quite so uncomfortable as bonobos do. Two bonobo females having sex looks very different than two female albatrosses sitting placidly on their nest. Bonobo sex looks human. [Biologists: Media Sensationalizes Animal Sex ]
These primates are so closely related to people that they share 98.7 percent of humans' DNA. Along with chimpanzees, they are humans' closest living relatives. Yet, barely anyone knows what a bonobo is. In a survey by our Hominoid Psychology Research Group survey, only 15 percent of people who had the highest level of education (university) knew that bonobos are great apes. Spell check does not recognize 'bonobo' as a word. But in the debate over whether gay marriage, or any other non-reproductive sexual relationship, is "natural," no other animal holds more importance.
Homosexuality in bonobos is not cultural. When primatolgist Frans de Waal first saw the outlandish sexual acts of bonobos, other scientists remarked that the behavior must have arisen because those bonobos were locked in a zoo. But data gathered from the wild — and wild-born bonobos in captivity — over the past two decades has demonstrated that bonobo sexuality is just part of who they are.
The two bonobos Lodja and Mwanda were part of a study we conducted at Lola ya Bonobo sanctuary in Congo. Like many bonobos at the sanctuary and in the wild, these individuals practiced g-g rubbing, where two female bonobos rub their clitorises together, penis fencing between males, and a myriad of other socio-sexual behavior.
If you're a topical expert — researcher, business leader, author or innovator — and would like to contribute an op-ed piece, email us here.
But what set Mwanda and Lodja apart, as well as the other sixbonobos in the study, was that they were infants, each younger than 4 years old. They were orphans of the bushmeat trade, and were born in the wild. At Lola ya Bonobo, they were raised with other infants and human substitute mothers. There were no adult bonobos to "teach" them sexual behavior.
Sex for fun in bonobos, and many other animals, plays a social function. There is stress-relief sex, make-up sex and random hook-up sex. Chimpanzees, humans' more violent cousins, do not seem to use sex in this way. They occasionally torture each other, kill strangers and demonstrate other echoes of humanity's dark side. [Bonobos Make Love - Chimps Make War ]
Bonobos, who use sex to resolve conflict, have never been seen to kill each other. They share food. They are more cooperative than chimpanzees. And they are nicer to strangers than they are to friends. To bonobos, a peaceful, sexual existence is the most natural thing in the world.
The author's most recent Op-Ed was "What Does Your Dog Want for Christmas?" All of the Op-Eds by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods are available in this archive. Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — onFacebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
by Jill Harness
Tags: banned, governments, laws, rules, restrictions, china, banning
Australia: Porn Featuring Small Breasts
Are you an adult woman in Australia with a cup breasts? According to Australia, you don't exist. Do you happen to be a man who likes to watch adult films starring small-breasted women? According to the Australian government, you secretly love child porn. If none of this makes sense to you, then you must not work for the Australian Classification Board who has banned multiple adult films from distribution because, in their opinion, the actress' smaller breasts made them appear to be under 18.
While the law doesn't outright ban porn featuring small breasts, the ABC has the right to ban all adult films that depict a woman as being under 18. While this idea sounds fine in theory, the group has actively rejected some films based solely on the breast size of the actresses involved. (Source 1 | Source 2 | Photo)
China: Game Consoles
Most game consoles are made in Chinaand Chinese prisoners are often forced to play World of Warcraft so the government can collect their loot and sell it to other players, which is why it seems so utterly bizarre that China doesn't allowthe sale of gaming consoles. The ban took place back in 2000, when the government expressed its concern that the country's youth would waste their time playing games instead of working. Even so, gamers are still permitted to buy non-console games, making the ban notably ineffective –which is probably why it is not extensively enforced.(Source | Photo)
Greece: Video Games
China's not the only country to ban video games. Greece did too, although for a much different reason. In 2002, the government tried to crack down on electric gambling machines, but their legislators wrote the law so broadly that it managed to cover all forms of electronic gaming machines –meaning all video games. Amazingly, someone was even caught and arrested for violating the poorly written law by playing an MMO in an internet café. They were actually forced to serve time in prison for playing games.
Fortunately, after receiving pressure from the EU and video gamers everywhere, the law was found to be unconstitutional by the end of the year.(Source 1 | Source 2 | Photo)
China: Avatar in 2D
While the army in Avatar is undoubtedly American, the idea of people siding with an indigenous population against an imperialistic force is something that China was not comfortable with. That's why shortly after the release of the movie in China, the authorities decided the movie could only be shown in 3D. Since there are very few 3D theaters in China, the move was effectively a ban on the film. (Source | Photo)
Russia: Emo Clothing
Plenty of people don't like emo fashion, but while it's not that weird for a parent to tell their kids they can't wear that crap outside the house, it's entirely different when the whole government takes such a drastic stand. When the Russian government was trying to stop high suicide rates amongst teens though, they decided emo fashion were to blame.
The government went so far as to dub the style “a threat to national stability” before banning people from wearing emo clothing to public schools or government buildings. Don't worry sullen teens of Russia, you can still listen to all the forlorn emo music you want, you just can't dress like you listen to it.(Source | Photo)
China: Reincarnation Without Prior Consent
On the face of it, the idea of banning someone from reincarnating without obtaining the state's permission is preposterous and something they absolutely can't control. In reality though, the measure is their way to trying to take control of the Tibetan Buddhists (including the Dali Lama himself) by trying to rule over one of their most sacred beliefs. (Source | Photo)
Iran: “Western” Hair Cuts
Like many Middle Eastern governments, Iran hates the impending spread of decadent Western culture. In order to better protect their people from the depraved culture of Europe and North America, the government of Iran has banned all hair cuts that are not included in their list of government-approved styles. Banned styles include mullets, ponytails and spikes. Barber shops that fail to follow the law can be shut down and penalized in the years since the lawtook effect. (Source | Photo)
Saudi Arabia: Valentine's Day
Similarly, Saudi Arabia finds Valentine's Day to be in violation of Muslim beliefs. In order to ensure residents don't secretly send gifts to their Valentine's, the government orders all florists and gift shops to remove anything red or otherwise considered to be a symbol of romance prior to the holiday. Apparently the ban on the holiday isn't entirely successful and the country now has a thriving Valentine's Day black market where lovers can buy red roses and other tokens of romance at around six times their ordinary prices. (Source | Photo)
Denmark: Ovaltine and Marmite
In America, it's practically impossible to purchase milk that isn't fortified withvitamin D, but in Denmark, this would be completely illegal. That's because the country has put a ban on all fortified foods, effectively banning fortified breakfast cereals, Ovaltine and Marmite.
Denmark: Most Baby Names
Fortified snacks aren't the only thing Denmark wants to put an end to. The country also has some of the strictest child naming guidelines in the entire world. In fact, citizens of the country can only select names on a list approved by the government or they must seek permission from the government for an exception to the rule. Right now, the officially approved names list contains only around 24,000 names.(Source | Photo)
After the “Jasmine Revolutions” in Tunisia, Chinese protestors were inspired to spark their own revolution. As a result, authorities cracked down not only on the rebels, but on the flower itself. The plantis now banned in the country, as are songs about the flower and text messages including the word “jasmine.”(Source | Photo)
The Chinese woman who appears to have posted her suicide on Instagram
A young woman in China may have posted her final moments of life onInstagram.
The unnamed woman, whose account is jojostai1012, uploaded a series of pictures that were directed toward her ex-boyfriend. One of the messages, when translated, reads, “I will haunt you day and night after I'm dead." She then posted a photo of some burning items, and a picture of her feet hanging off the ledge of a building. This was her last picture.
It's not completely clear what happened next, but Chinese forum Mop shared a photo of what appears to be a woman's body lying in a pool of water in a carpark with police investigating the scene.
The tragic story began about two weeks before when the young woman started posting photos with worrying captions detailing her devastation at a recent break up. Instead of raising the alarm and potentially saving her life, her followers simply liked the pictures or wrote shallow comments underneath.(Source 1 | Source 2)
The teen who purpousedly overdosed in front of live webcam on Justin.tv
In a striking display of the power of live video, Abraham K. Biggs committed suicide in November 2008 while broadcasting from video site Justin.tv.
The 19-year-old Floridian was apparently egged on by commenters on Justin.tv and fellow forum users on bodybuilding.com.
It all started when Biggs told users on a bodybuilding site he would kill himself that night and invited them to watch thelive video. Those monitoring the web forum ignored his message because they assumed it was a joke, but others posted insults and even encouraged him to kill himself. Eventually as many as 1,500 signed on to see the desperate act – with some urging him to hurry up – apparently believing it a hoax.
Biggs overdosed on pills while on camera and appeared to be breathing for hours until watchers realized he might be serious, at which point they alerted the police.
The woman who committed suicide live on Internet because her boyfriend didn't show at her birthday's party
A 31-year-old woman in Taiwan was running live commentary to about nine friends on Facebook while she was committing suicide live on the internet.
She was upset because her boyfriend failed to show up on her birthday.
While friends online with her were pleading with her not to commit suicide, none of them alerted the police. The woman, Claire Lin, inhaled poisonous fumes from charcoal fire to kill herself.
Her final words were in her post on the social networking site to her friend: "Too late. My room is filled with fumes. I just posted another picture. Even while I'm dying, I still want FB [Facebook]. Must be FB poison. Haha."
The woman's boyfriend returned the next day and discovered her body at home.(Source)
The man who tried to burn himself to death as 200 viewers egged him on
In December 2013, a disturbed young man shocked North America after he tried to kill himself by setting his room on fire while 200 people watched on an online message board.
The 20-year-old who identified himself only as "Stephen" announced on the anonymous 4chan website that he intended to commit suicide and broadcast the event for others to see.
Disturbingly – and unsurprisingly – scores of online users signed up to watch and helped the man set up the video stream for the "an hero" – online slang for suicide attempt.
After 200 users – the maximum allowed on Chateen – had signed up to his video stream, Stephen swallowed a handful of pills, drank vodka and lit a fire in the corner of his room. As the camera rolled, he crawled under the bed and typed: "#imdead #omgimonfire" and "I'm f*ck3d."
The troubling video, still available online, shows firefighters pulling him out of the smokey room. A number of viewers even encouraged Stephen during his suicide attempt, while others clamored to view the horrific scene.
However, Stephen wasn't dead. The video also captured firefighters entering the room and pulling him out.
Stephen was later identified as Dakota Moore, a student at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The incident took place on the university campus. According to the Guelph Mercury, the victim was rushed to hospital with "serious but non-life-threatening injuries" caused by smoke inhalation.
The woman who told her 1,048 Facebook "friends" that she had taken an overdose and none came to her aid
In 2010, Simone Back, 42, posted a final message Facebook at 10:53 pm on Christmas Day saying: "Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone."
Instead of being worried, some of her 1,048 Facebook friends posted messages calling her a liar and one even said it was "her choice." Seventeen hours later, police broke down the door of her flat in Montague Street, Brighton, and found her dead.
While some Facebook friends from out of town begged online for her address and telephone number so they could get help, none of those who lived closer did anything to help.
The Swedish man who used a webcam to broadcast his suicide live on internet
In October 2010, a 21-year-old Swedish man killed himself and broadcast it over the internet via his webcam feed, after posting to a message board that he had swallowed some painkillers and was going to hang himself.
Marcus Jannes, a student from Järna, Stockholm, posted to the Mental Health Problems forum of Sweden's Flashback message boards using the newly-registered username "LurifaxFlux". He stated that he was going to hang himself, adding that he had already swallowed 100mg of dexofen and 1500mg of paracetamol. He said that he had set up a webcam to record the event, and would post details later of a FTP server for people to watch.
People responded to his post almost immediately. Some offered messages of hope. However, others posted messages saying they didn't believe him, wishing him luck with his attempt, and calling him an attention whore and a troll. Some even offered advice on the best way to hang himself: "I recommend you do it from a height that you can jump off so you are guaranteed to break your neck."
At around the same time, he also updated his Facebook status to say life was "just too difficult" and that he was going to kill himself.
At 1:06 pm, Jannus posted the FTP server URL and login details. At this point, people who logged on to the server found a series of still images taken every two seconds, showing a young man dressed in sweatpants and t-shirt, in his apartment, hanging network cable from a doorway.
Five minutes later, the images show that Jannus stepped out of the shot, and at this point he posted another message to Flashback. "Alright, let's do it," he said. The next series of images show him walking back to the cable and hooking it around his neck. He slumps to the floor, and his body begins shaking while his head and arms turn dark purple until he stops moving. His skincolor then lessens to a pink-red shade as his limp body hangs motionless for a number of minutes.
On the message board, people start to realize the seriousness of the events: "holy crap, he has done it already", "okay it's getting nasty", "this is quite sick. Not okay at all". At one point., a user asks, "Did someone call the police?"
The Södertälje police stated that they were first alerted to the incident at 1:44 p.m. At 2:06 p.m., the image feeds show two police officers charging into the apartment and releasing the cable from around Jannus' neck.
The "Hängning" thread at Flashback continued to receive new posts until the thread was locked by a site moderator at 5:27 p.m. It had received a total of 630 posts over 53 pages. (Source)
The arts chief who wrote suicide blog before killing herself with drugs bought online
Frances Medley, 44, a leading light of the arts world who suffered from multiple sclerosis wrote a suicide blog before killing herself.
The former acting chief executive of the Arts Council in Wales, instructed friends to publish her final post, entitled "A sophisticated sign-off," in which she explained that she was terrified at the prospect of her condition worsening.
She had been left in great pain by the disease and felt emotionally and physically exhausted by the time of her death in September 2013.
Miss Medley killed herself using a powerful drug which she bought online after reading about it on a euthanasia website. She was discovered dead at herhome after neighbors became worried they hadn't seen her for two days.
Police officers forced entry and found Miss Medley's body in bed. Her "extremely tidy" house was prepared with labels to mark which items she wanted different people to have. (Source)
The UK 'suicide bomber' Abdul Waheed Majid who posted video online
In February 2014, a video was posted online showing a British man – Abdul Waheed Majid– about to carry out a suicide bombing in Syria.
The 41-year-old from Crawley, West Sussex is feared to have blown himself to bits after driving a lorry packed with explosives through the walls of Aleppo prison in the war-torn country on February. The footage that emerged on Youtube shows Majid next to a large armored truck bomb that was driven into the walls of the prison.
His family said they believed he was in Syria for humanitarian purposes.
By Syed Ali Shah, CNN
(CNN) - A 5-year old girl was killed and 16 people injured in a deadly blast in Pakistan's volatile southwestern Balochistan province, police said on Saturday.
Police superintendent Imran Qureshi told CNN that militants targeted a vehicle belonging to the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, in Quetta, Balochistan's capital.
He said they had planted an improvised explosive device in a rickshaw parked on the side of the road. Nearby shops were damaged in the explosion.
"There was a powerful blast, when security forces' vehicle was passing," Qureshi said.
He said the injured included three security forces personnel as well as women and children.
"A 5 year old girl succumbed to injuries on her way to hospital", he said.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack. However, Qureshi said Baloch militants operating in the area could be behind it.
The incident has come a day after the militants torched a tanker carrying fuel for U.S. and NATO troops in Dhadar area of Balochistan and killed its driver.
CNN's Marie-Louise Gumuchian contributed to this report
By Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer
Date: 28 March 2014 Time: 07:02 AM ET
The budget further advances NASA’s initiative to return human spaceflight launches to the United States by 2017 in concert with three Commercial Crew Program, or CCP, partners. Image released March 4, 2014.
Developing private spaceships to launch astronauts from U.S. soil in the near future should be a top priority for the nation's space program, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said Thursday (March 27).
NASA officials hope the space agency will start flying astronauts to the International Space Station using privately built spaceships by 2017. To make that goal a reality, Congress needs to fund the program at the levels suggested by the White House's 2015 budget proposal, Bolden told members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Space.
Since the end of the U.S. space-shuttle program, NASA has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to transport astronauts to the space station. The commercial crew program is designed to end the space agency's reliance on foreign vehicles. NASA also needs to make commercial crew flights a reality before the space agency can truly consider flying people to deep-space destinations like Mars, Bolden said. [Top 10 Private Spaceships]
Commercial Human-Rated Spacecraft: Prototype Tests Continue | Video
"I do not want to be reliant on the Russians to get my crews to the International Space Station," Bolden said. "I don't need a Space Launch System and Orion if I can't get my crews to low-Earth orbit. If we continue to depend on the Russians, then everything else is in jeopardy. Commercial crew is the critical need for this nation right now."
The Space Launch System is NASA's planned mega-rocket to launch deep-space missions to visit an asteroid. The Orion space capsule is NASA's next spacecraft to carry astronauts on those deep-space missions.
If the White House's budget proposal for 2015 passes, the commercial crew programwould get a boost. NASA is requesting $848 million — a $150 million bump from the 2014 levels approved by Congress. If Congress does approve the new funds, Bolden is confident that crews will begin flying from the U.S. by 2017.
Funding levels for the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, however, would be about $300 million less than the amount Congress appropriated in 2014 under the new proposal.
"The reason I don't spend the money that you [Congress] would like to have me spend on SLS is because I don't need a 130-metric-ton vehicle right now," Bolden said. "I do need a commercial vehicle that I can send my astronauts to low-Earth orbit. Hopefully, everyone agrees that we're going to Mars. If we do, hopefully, everyone agrees that we have to crawl, walk, run. And, hopefully, everyone agrees that this is a crawl, walk, run."
Right now, four private companies are working toward building spaceships under NASA's commercial crew program: Boeing Space Exploration, SpaceX, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corp. This year, NASA officials are planning to announce two contracts that could lead to commercial systems that can be used to fly astronauts to the station.
Bolden thinks that if the program is given more funding, it might be possible to move the target for commercial flights up one year, to 2016.
"The companies are moving very rapidly — as rapidly as they can, based on the funding that we've given them to be able to be ready to fly as soon as they can," Bolden said. "I would be hesitant to say that we could accelerate it any more than a year, but we could potentially accelerate it by a year if we're given adequate funding."
Benjamin Radford, Live Science Contributor | March 28, 2014 09:16am ET
Mount Agri (also called Mount Ararat) is the highest mountain in Turkey, and some believe that Noah's Ark is there.
Credit: Mount Ararat photo via Shutterstock
The new film "Noah" stars Russell Crowe as the man chosen by God to collect pairs of Earth's animals on a massive ark to save them from a global flood. The film, which opens March 28, is sizing up to be a Biblical blockbuster, replete with star power and stunning special effects. But how realistic is it?
While many people consider the story of Noah's Ark merely an instructive myth or parable about God's punishment for man's wickedness, others believe that the story is historically accurate. To them, Noah's tale describes events that really happened only a few thousand years ago.
A plausible ark?
Henry Morris, author of "The Biblical Basis for Modern Science" (Baker House, 1984), a creationist text, states that "The ark was to be essentially a huge box designed essentially for stability in the waters of theFlood rather than for movement through the waters. ... The ark was taller than a normal three-story building and about one and a half times as long as a football field. The total volumetric capacity was equal to 1,396,000 cubic feet [39,500 cubic meters] ... equivalent to 522 standard railroad stock cars, far more than enough space to carry two of every known kind of animal, living or extinct." [Wipeout: History's Most Mysterious Extinctions]
The flaws in Morris's calculations become evident when you consider that, according to many creationists, Noah's Ark included hundreds of dinosaurs. That would mean, for example, the brachiosaurus (two of them, of course), each of which weighed about 50 tons and reached 85 feet (26 meters) long. Even if two representatives all of Earth's animals could somehow fit on the ark, enough space would be needed for drinking water and food for an entire year.
Furthermore, contrary to many depictions of the ark, God actually asked Noah to collect not one but seven pairs of "clean" animals and one pair of "unclean" animals (Genesis 7:2-3) — resulting, in some cases, in fourteen of many animals. There simply would not be nearly enough space for all of them.
There's also the problem of collecting all those animals in the first place, anthropology professor Ken Feder notes in his book "The Encyclopedia of Dubious Archaeology" (Greenwood, 2010).
"How would koala bears from Australia, llamas from South America and penguins from Antarctica have managed the trip to the ark's location in the Middle East?" Feder writes. "And how would their human caretakers have looked after this vast menagerie of animals? Noah, his wife, and his three sons and their wives (that's only eight people) providing food and water to the animals would have been an impossible task. What (or who) would the carnivores, living in close quarters with all those delicious herbivores, have eaten?"
Since the ark's purpose was merely to float (and not necessarily go anywhere), it would have had no means of propulsion (such as a sail) or even steering. According to Morris, "As far as navigation was concerned, God Himself evidently steered the ship, keeping its occupants reasonably comfortable inside while the storms and waves raged outside." [History's Most Overlooked Mysteries]
Of course, this rather begs the question, because if God created the global flood and divinely steered the ark, then presumably He could have done any other miracle to assure the success of Noah's mission, from temporarily shrinking all the animals to the size of rats or even allowing them all to live for a year without food or water. Once a supernatural miracle is invoked to explain one thing, it can be used to explain everything.
A closer look
Another problem with the Ark story arises becausethere is no evidence for a global flood. Creation stories from many different religions and cultures include flood stories, and Feder notes that if a worldwide flood had occurred, "The archaeological record of 5,000 years ago would be replete withPompeii-style ruins — the remains of thousands of towns, villages and cities, all wiped out by flood waters, simultaneously. ... It would appear that the near annihilation of the human race, if it happened, left no imprint on the archaeological record anywhere."
The lack of physical evidence of the great flood hasn't stopped modern believers from searching for Noah's Ark itself. But the boat is conspicuously missing. It has never been found despite repeated claims to the contrary. Forty years ago, Violet M. Cummings, author of "Noah's Ark: Fable or Fact?" (Creation-Science Research Center, 1973) claimed that the Ark had been found on Mount Ararat in Turkey, exactly as described in Genesis 8:4, which states, "and on the 17th day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat."
In February 1993, CBS aired a two-hour primetime special titled, "The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark." It included the riveting testimony of a man who claimed not only to have personally seen the Ark on Ararat, but also to have recovered a piece of it. The claims were later revealed to be ahoax. In March 2006, researchers found arock formation on Mount Ararat that resembled a huge ark, but nothing came of that claim.
A few months later, a team of archaeologists from a Christian organization found yet another rock formation that might be Noah's Ark — not on Mt. Ararat but instead in the Elburz Mountains of Iran. That sensational discovery fizzled out, too. In 2012, "Baywatch" actress Donna D'Errico was injured on Mount Ararat while on a quest to find Noah's Ark. She said she had been inspired to search for the Ark ever since she saw a movie about it as a child.
The fact that Noah's Ark has been "discovered" so many times yet remains lost is something of a mystery in itself. Whether "Noah" floats or sinks at the box office this weekend, it notably doesn't include the tagline "Based on a true story."
Benjamin Radford is deputy editor of "Skeptical Inquirer" science magazine and author of six books including "The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media Panics and Hoaxes" (McFarland, 2011). His website iswww.BenjaminRadford.com.