11 essential herbs for your edible garden

  •  (J. Steve Masley Consulting and Design / Houzz)

  •  (Waterwise Landscapes Incorporated / Houzz)

  •  (Amy Renea / Houzz)

This summer enhance your recipes, eliminate extra trips to the grocery store and cultivate a connection with nature with a few sprigs or leaves from an herb plant youve grown yourself. Herbs tie all gardeners together, whether grown in a large landscape or in pots on a windowsill, on their own or interplanted with ornamentals, by experienced or first-time gardeners. Whether herb gardening is a summer ritual or your first edible venture, here are 11 herbs we feel no gardener should fare without this summer.

RELATED: 10 Tips for Beginning Gardeners

Basil

(Ocimum spp)

Basils bright, showy leaves and intensely sweet aroma epitomize summer gardens and dishes. Many edible gardeners start with basil, and the number of available varieties will never leave you tired of its refreshing flavor. In fall dry or freeze it for use the rest of the year. Basil grows easily from seed or nursery seedlings.

Common Sage

(Salvia officinalis)

With its velvety gray leaves and soft mounding habit, sage softens garden edges and fills in planter corners. Sage requires little water once established and will produce all season long in full sun (partial shade in intense heat). Harvested leaves can be dried and stored for longer use. Be aware that not all Salvia is edible, so check before you eat. Sage can be grown from seed, though seedlings tend to produce better results.

Thyme

(Thymus vulgaris)

One of the most commonly called-for herbs, thyme is also one of the easiest to grow. Plant it in a container or allow it to spread as a ground cover. Provide sun, good drainage and not too much water, and this low-maintenance edible essential will stick around for many meals to come. Like sage, not all thyme species are edible, so check before you plant. Thyme can be grown from seed or seedlings.

RELATED: Add Wildlife to Your Garden With a New Bird Feeder

Lavender

(Lavandula spp)

Lavender tops many gardeners lists for ornamental value alone; resilience, drought tolerance and the fact that its a bee magnent only further illustrate why this sun-loving Mediterranean native is a great herb garden addition. Oh, and its a killer cocktail ingredient. Choose from a variety of widely available species, and plant it in containers or directly in the ground.

Dill

(Anethum graveolens)

Dill is one of the few herbs on this list that does best when grown from seed. Sow the seeds through summer in full sun. Its tolerant of rocky soil but needs good drainage and enough room to establish its taproot. Dill is an annual, but it can self-seed and will most likely return the following year. If youd like to avoid unwanted volunteers, cut back the flower heads and collect the seeds to plant where you want them.

RELATED: Relax Outdoors in Style With a New Hammock

Oregano/Marjoram

(Origanum spp)

Oregano is another one of those herbs that really dont put up a fuss. Plant oregano or its milder relative, sweet marjoram, anywhere that receives good sunlight and has good drainage. Harvest the leaves just when its flower buds are forming. These plants grow well from seedlings.

Mint

(Mentha spp)

Grown in a pot by the kitchen, fresh mint refreshes everything from dressings, salads and sides to drinks and desserts with a sprig or two. It grows best in full sun to partial shade and prefers regular water. It has a tendency to spread where its unwanted, so many suggest growing mint in containers. Grow it from seedlings.

Rosemary

(Rosmarinus officinalis)

It can be easy to forget that this tough-as-nails perennial is also edible. Seen cascading over rocky hillsides or potted on sun-drenched patios, rosemary is a garden mainstay in warmer climates. In regions that see freezing temperatures, or for cooks who may want their herbs closer than outside the back door, rosemary grows well in containers and can easily be brought inside. One whiff of its earthy aroma and you can almost feel the heat of the Tuscan countryside. Seeds are available, but rosemary does best when grown from small plants.

Lemongrass

(Cymbopogon citratus)

Dive into the exotic edibles with lemongrass, using it to season soups, teas and more. This strappy plant will thrive in full sun to partial shade with regular water. Though it may die down to the ground in winter, it will revive in spring. Lemongrass does best in mild climates, or it can be planted in a container and brought inside. Plant cuttings or divisions for best results.

Parsley

(Petroselinum crispum)

New varieties are adding pizzazz to the world of parsley. Though its treated as a summer crop in colder climates, gardeners in warmer regions can grow parsley year-round. Be sure to choose a site with sheltered afternoons, since too much summer heat can scorch it. Plant parsley from seeds or seedlings.

RELATED: Find a Pro to Create Your Dream Backyard

Tarragon

(Artemisia dracunculus Sativa)

A French cuisine staple, tarragon takes an herb garden beyond the basic. French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus Sativa) is prized for its culinary value, tasting and smelling similar to anise or licorice. French tarragon is a little fussier to grow, preferring afternoon shade and regular water, but is the best in terms of flavor. Gardeners in more extreme climates may turn to Russian tarragon or Mexican tarragon, which are easier to grow but less flavorful. French tarragon must be grown from cuttings or seedlings.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2016/04/08/11-essential-herbs-for-your-edible-garden/

A man asks online for volunteers to repaint an elder neighbor’s home. He gets over 6,000 responses.

 

Teens. They often don’t know how their words can hurt. And this is one such case … but with a very happy ending.

Josh Cyganik has worked for Union Pacific Railroad across the street from the house below in Pendelton, Oregon, for years. One day while at work, he heard some mean words coming from nearby.

Image Josh Cyganik, used with permission.

Some snarky teens were commenting on the state of the home…

*dramatic re-enactment*

…all while the owner, Leonard Bullock, was sitting on the porch! I mean. Not cool. Someone send those kids to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood class please. (I wish this existed.)

As Josh told ABC News, he did not enjoy overhearing this nonsense.

“[The teenagers] said they need to burn it and tear it down and nobody deserves that … I saw Leonard had his head down, and I felt bad for him. After a couple of days, I knew there was something I could do to help.”

Josh had worked across the street, waving as he passed, for around four years, but his first convo with Leonard was right after hearing those teens.

And it went something like, “Mind if I paint your house?”

Leonard, being the good sport that he is, was totally into that. His friend agreed! Kindness given, kindness received badge UNLOCKED!

As Josh told ABC news, Leonard was excited! He “could hardly talk he was so ecstatic.”

With the homeowner’s enthusiastic permission to paint the home, it was time to get some help from the community!

Suddenly, the likes started rolling in. (This is also where I start to like Facebook for being such a great place for communities to come together.)

There are over 6,000 shares and counting on his original Facebook call for help.

And with comments like these:

And on the day Josh scheduled to paint, people started rolling in…

Image via Union Pacific, used with permission.

How’d it turn out?

GIF via Josh Cyganik’s Facebook, used with permission.

That’s what kindness looks like. Everyday kindness.

According to Josh what he did for Leonard is what anyone would do if given the chance: “According to the media, I’m a hero. I’m not a hero. I just heard something that bothered me. Anyone would have done the same thing. Everyone has it in their heart to do things like this.”

Josh and Leonard. Image via Union Pacific.

Here’s to seeing more of that every day.

 

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/a-man-asks-online-for-volunteers-to-repaint-an-elder-neighbors-home-he-gets-over-6000-responses?c=tpstream

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The Lead Magnet Man

5 Obvious Marketing Lies We’re All Weirdly Cool With

In the good old days when I still watched normal TV, my brain got to the point where it could filter the ads out. Sure, my eyes were still on the screen, but the people begging me to buy gum or finance a car became just a casserole of colors and sounds that threw off the pacing of The Simpsons. But after college, I spent a couple years watching Netflix or Hulu or YouTube, where you don’t see a lot of ads, and that skill atrophied. Then I went to visit my mother, and when we watched TV, I was unprepared to process … this.

Somewhere along the lines, ad companies realized that they could get away with literally whatever they want. That’s why nobody complains when they tell us a bold-faced lie about …

#5. How Much Your Monthly Bill Will Be

Monthly bills are my enemy. And because they’re paid automatically, on my credit card, they’re a largely invisible enemy, like cholera or David Christopher Bell. So whenever I sign up for something that I’m going to pay for forever, like a new cellphone line or internet service or monthly deliveries of fresh buffalo meat, I carefully negotiate. I do math. I stick that number into my budget. And then, when I get my bill, it is always, every single time, several dollars more than we agreed.

Even worse, they are the very same dollars that I had planned to spend on drugs.

This is by design. Cellphone companies intentionally make their bills so confusing that you don’t know what you’re paying for. Which is why your $69.99 plan ends up costing $86.73 every month. And, sure, if you click that link you’ll discover that AT&T eventually got sued for that shit, but don’t worry: Phone companies figured out other ways to lie to us. Like that time Verizon intentionally overcharged all their customers for years, and no one cared. Or that time the government gave them $2.1 billion in tax breaks to install fiber optics in Pennsylvania, and they didn’t do it. What was their excuse? Haha, it’s adorable that you think they bothered to offer an excuse.

Why This Will Never Change

Getting mad is hard. Reading fine print is also hard. And the whole reason we have cellphones and internet service in the first place is convenience, so putting effort into improving the experience would be, ya know, paradoxical. So instead, we just shake our fists at the heavens and mutter, “Ahh, they got me!” every time we read our bill. “Can you believe this shit?” we ask, perhaps. Or, in extreme cases, all we can muster is a long, raspy, “Ehhhhhhhhhhh …”

#4. How Long Something Will Last

Consumer electronics and prescription medication have exactly two things in common: I use them recreationally even when I’m not supposed to, and they will lie to you about how long they last. Whether it’s a bottle of Tylenol promising “relief for four to six hours” or a laptop battery that’s supposed to last “for your entire road trip,” these are promises that were never even intended to be kept. Listen, label-writers: You can’t lie to me with numbers. The whole reason we invented them was to get around the tricky subversiveness of words. They have an inherent power and must be respected.

Also, I’m pretty sure there are more of them than there are of us.

Now, I know the excuses that some of you are offering. “Those numbers are estimations,” you squawk, “there are a lot of variables here, and it’s hard to measure this stuff accurately.” Really? Is it harder than making a tiny white pill that cures my head pain? Is it harder than building a talking pocket computer that is also a phone, a camera, a GPS, and a sex toy? You’re telling me that scientists built a machine that can take a high-definition photograph of my penis and then use satellites to beam that picture anywhere in the world, from the snowy mountains of Japan to the bustling metropolises of Africa, but they can’t accurately tell me how many times I can do that before I need to plug that phone in? Bullshit, scientists. Bullshit.

When it comes to batteries, there is one explanation I always hear: When they’re measuring the estimated battery life of, say, a laptop, they’re doing it with the screen dimmed and all the apps turned off. OK, fine, but listen: Why? No, seriously, look at me. Look right at me. Stop doing that. Stop it.

Stop.

Why This Will Never Change

I don’t think anyone important reads my column.

Aside from you, obviously. You’re really important to me.

#3. Whether Something Is “Special Edition,” “Collector’s Edition,” Or No Notable Edition At All

Remember when DVDs first came out and some of them weren’t special editions? The first DVD I ever bought was Shrek — not Shrek: Ogreific Edition or Shrek: R-Rated Director’s Cut; it was just Shrek. With a picture of CGI Scottish Mike Myers on the cover. Back then, the idea of a special edition meant specialness. It meant extra features. Now, it means nothing. It’s gotten so bad that there are some special edition DVDs out there that list “interactive menus” as one of the special features. I’ve seen it. With my own eyes.

Then there’s collector’s editions, which I can’t even begin to decipher. What’s the difference between someone who wants to own movies to watch them, and a “collector”? Am I too much of a peasant to own a collector’s edition because I remove my movies from their plastic wrap? Are there people out there who see the words “collector’s edition” on a DVD and say to themselves, “Finally, the film Gods have deemed it necessary to make a special version specifically for me, The Collector.”

My bidding be done.

It gets to the point where there are so many versions that you don’t even know what you’re buying. Say that you, like any red-blooded American, want to buy a Terminator DVD. Good fucking luck.

There’s twice that many. I ran out of space.

The reviews are full of people complaining about how the version they got has fewer features than earlier versions, but it’s never clear which version they’re talking about. And none of them look like the “special edition” I have:

I bet I got my copy of Terminator for less than you!

Even if you put in the research to figure out which version is for you (and if you look in the Amazon reviews, you’ll see that lots of people have done just that) you may quickly discover that you’re wasting your time, because they’re all the same fucking thing. The 10th Anniversary Edition of Titanic is just the first two discs from the four-disc Collector’s Edition that had come out years earlier. The 30th Anniversary Edition of Bob Marley’s Exodus is just the normal edition of Exodus. Then there’s my 50th Anniversary Edition of Ben-Hur, which offers … a single commentary track. Who do you bridge trolls think you’re trying to fool? We’re the internet. We have eternal eyes and infinite opinions. We see all.

Then we get distracted and don’t do anything about it. That’s kind of our jam.

Why This Will Never Change

Because even though we’re all catching on to this, they’ll soon figure out something else. There are two different versions of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight — a 70mm cut, and a digital projection cut, with the former having six minutes of extra footage as well as an overture and an intermission. But he couldn’t call it a special edition, because “special edition” is tainted language. So he had to call it a 70mm version, which alienates everybody except the kind of people who like to talk about how they’re the kind of people who go to see movies in whatever the hell 70mm is (aside from the length of my penis).

Is that … is that impressive? I genuinely don’t know.

And now Batman V Superman is going to release an R-rated extended cut, which people are going to want to see, because what the fuck does an R-rated Batman movie look like? Though they’d probably get a more enthusiastic reaction if they called it Batman V Superman: The Version That Makes Sense. The point is, we can’t help but fall for extra versions of stuff. Even when they’re stupid riffs on foolish things.

#2. Cover Art Is Always Horse Shit

Behold, the poster for the original Star Wars.

Behold it.

Look at Luke’s chest. These are the pecs of a man who can rip a can of peaches open barehanded.

Also, Leia is clearly Asian.

I’m not going to show you a picture of Mark Hamill’s actual pecs, but rest assured they are not quite so boner-inducing. Also, check this out:

There aren’t that many X-Wings in all seven movies, let alone that first one that was shot on a budget of about $500. This poster is selling a far bigger and more insane story than what we get. I understand it’s a shoutout to a classic style of poster that also lies, but I don’t know why that makes it better. The fact remains that movie posters are a scam that we all agreed to fall for. It’s not technically a problem with Star Wars, since everyone knows what actually happens in Star Wars, and it’s pretty bitchin’. But what about the movies you’ve never heard of?

If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that nobody wins here: People looking for a cheerful Sally Field movie get a serious political drama, and people looking for a serious political drama end up buying A Bronx Tale

… which is actually a coming-of-age story involving no explosions that I can remember. Then there’s that time where every version of Layer Cake released after Daniel Craig was cast as James Bond tries to make it look like a James Bond movie, when in reality Craig only adopts the James Bond pose as a joke, in one scene.

I can go all night. There’s also this Secret Of NIMH poster, which deceitfully implies it isn’t going to give your kids every nightmare, for the rest of their lives:

For comparison, here’s a totally normal scene from The Secret Of NIMH that is 100 percent indicative of what the movie is like.

Why This Will Never Change

Because who gives a shit.

#1. Anything (As Long As They Say It Cleverly Enough)

Caveat emptor” is Latin for “buyer beware” and frequently appears in actual law to describe what lies the purveyors are legally allowed to tell the consumer. Basically, any time you’re reading the back of a can of soup or talking face-to-face with a salesman, there are a certain amount of things they’re saying that you’re supposed to know aren’t true. And they know you know they aren’t true. But they still have to say it, and you still have to pretend to believe them.

Nothing says “honesty” like white dudes in business suits.

I’ve mentioned before how when Apple advertised one of their new iPhones, they said it was “twice as fast for half the price.” Which was a lie. But when they were called out about that, they just explained that this “wasn’t meant to be taken as a statement of fact.” I mocked that as bullshit, but really that was a genuine legal defense for what they were doing: They thought that the consumer was in on their ridiculous bullshit.

“Oh, but that’s the game! That’s how negotiations work; only a total sucker would fall for this stuff!” Well, aren’t you lucky that you aren’t a sucker and somebody taught you the rules. Let me know how “totally fine” this system is next time you take a vacation day to go to a used-car dealership and spend the entire time trying to get a straight answer from the guy before giving up and paying just to end the interaction, because you’re tired and angry and monthly payments are something future you will have to deal with. Don’t pretend you’ve never been there.

Why This Will Never Change

Because this is really only a problem for people like me, who find meeting and talking to new people exhausting. We’re automatically at a disadvantage in any negotiation. And there’s nothing we can do about it, because we don’t know how to bring up our feelings without making it weird.

What do Chuck Norris, Liam Neeson in Taken, and the Dos Equis guy have in common? They’re all losers compared to some of the actual badasses from history whom you know nothing about. Come out to the UCB Sunset for another LIVE podcast, April 9 at 7 p.m., where Jack O’Brien, Michael Swaim, and more will get together for an epic competition to find out who was the most hardcore tough guy or tough gal unfairly relegated to the footnotes of history. Get your tickets here!

See how we’ll let companies get away with anything in The 6 Most Baffling Marketing Disasters By Famous Companies, and find out about the time Nike essentially endorsed murder in The 5 Biggest Disasters In The History Of Marketing (Pt. 4).

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see how ads won’t shy away from sexually exploiting prepubescent girls in 7 Racist And Sexist Ads That Are Shockingly Recent – The Spit Take, and watch other videos you won’t see on the site!

Also follow us on Facebook, because we’re one more like away from winning a free sandwich (and we’ve been known to share).

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-obvious-marketing-lies-were-all-weirdly-cool-with/

You had a chance to sign the Beatles but sent them packing?

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He even went as far as saying;

“Groups with guitars are on the
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Crazy right?

The Beatles only ended up
becoming the biggest most
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The Lead Magnet Man

Police went undercover to catch criminals. Their failure was inspiring.

 

After two robberies of wheelchair-bound people that were carried out at knifepoint, a Vancouver police officer went undercover as a paralyzed man in a wheelchair.

Staff Sgt. Mark Horsley took on the role of a paralyzed person with a brain injury who was confined to a wheelchair.

Dubbed Operation Wheelchair by the police department, the goal was to find the person or people responsible for victimizing folks who were more vulnerable because of their disabilities.

The officer expected people to take advantage of him or maybe even rob him. But that’s not what happened.

Not even close.

Instead, he got to know other members of the community who use wheelchairs.

A young man asked if he could pray for the undercover officer.

Another stopped to chat with the officer about his own mother who was in a wheelchair. During the encounter, the man reached out toward the officer’s waist pouch, where some of his money was sticking out.

But get this: He wasn’t trying to steal it. The man instead zipped it up and kindly warned the officer to be careful not to lose his money.

Much to his surprise, instead of being victimized, he saw repeated displays of human kindness. And it didn’t end there.

The officer also told anyone he interacted with that he couldn’t count.

That gave people who purchased things from him or in one case where a woman asked him for change for a $5 bill an opportunity to be dishonest.

But nobody was. Instead, at the end of the operation, the officer had $24.75 more than he started with.

People chose to give rather than steal.

We usually see news stories about people doing bad things, but those aren’t the only stories.

The reality is that there are lot of kind people in the world who treat others with respect and consideration.

That may not be 5 o’clock newsworthy, but it’s worth remembering and sharing.

As Horsley said:

“Not one person took advantage of my vulnerability… . The caring and compassion expressed to me in my undercover role was inspiring.”

You can watch the Vancouver Police Department’s video summary of their operation for a quick reminder that there are lots of decent people everywhere.

 

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/police-went-undercover-to-catch-criminals-their-failure-was-inspiring?c=tpstream

Rescue Dog Flies A Plane. Yes, A Dog Has Officially Flown A Plane

Animal behaviorist Mark Vette has some interesting ideas about dogs. The world-famous dog behavior expert has been at the forefront of a movement to encourage people to adopt rescue dogs. How he goes about it, though, is a little bit … intense. He’s not content to simply say, “Hey, rescue dogs are great. Get one. You’ll love it.” No, he’s determined to show exactly what these dogs are capable of.

This novel approach is a response to those people who seek out purebred dogs and so-called “intelligent” breeds. Mark proves that all dogs are intelligent and capable of being terrific friends … and also drivers … and now, pilots. Yes, the man who taught former stray animals how to drive cars has taken his amazing pups into the wild blue yonder.

It’s a pretty tense experience to see two humans relying on a dog to fly a plane for them. You can really feel in the co-pilot’s body language that he can’t fully believe that he’s literally putting his life in a dog’s hands. But the dog turns out to be more than capable and successfully completes his figure-eight mission. It’s truly a sight to behold.

Be sure to SHARE this amusing video with your friends and family!

H/T: Mark Vette

 

Read more: http://www.wimp.com/rescue-dog-flies-a-plane/

The planet hunter searching for another Earth

(CNN)“I want to find another Earth. That’s what I’m living for.”

 
 
MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager has been looking at planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, for almost 20 years.
When the first ones were discovered in the 1990s, many questioned the finding and didn’t think it was real. But since then, with better technology, we have observed more than 6,000 of them, most of which are giant balls of gas.
Today, the list grows every week.
With so many planets now coming out of hiding, the race is on to identify one that resembles Earth: a rocky world with liquid water just like ours, and suitable to host life.
 
Seager believes she knows how to make that discovery.

‘These aren’t planets!’

It’s not easy to see exoplanets as you can’t just look at them through a telescope. This is due to the blinding light coming from their host stars, which can be very different in size and features compared to our sun. The process is often described as trying to spot a firefly circling a lighthouse, from thousands of miles away.
The first ones were discovered indirectly, in 1995, by just looking at stars to see if they would wobble slightly, responding to the pull of another object’s gravity
 
 
 
At this time, Seager was a graduate student at Harvard searching for a topic for her Ph.D. and she was intrigued by the newborn field of faraway planets.
“Since the planets were discovered indirectly, most people didn’t believe that the discoveries were real. They’d say to me ‘Why are you doing this? These aren’t planets!’,” says Seager.
The contrarians weren’t entirely wrong: the wobble can be caused by other factors such as another star and several planet discoveries have been retracted over time for this reason.
But then a different technique was found to make their hunt easier, called transit. This is when a planet moves in front of its host star and causes the star’s light to dim slightly.
“One of the planets from the wobble technique showed transit: it went in front of the star at exactly the time it was predicted to and that was basically incontrovertible,” says Seager.
Exoplanets were real.
In 2014, NASA found the first Earth-sized planet orbiting a star in the habitable zone. This was named Kepler-186f — after the Kepler space telescope, used to spot it — and is about 500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, the galactic equivalent of our neighbourhood since the Milky Way is about 100,000 light years across. This planet is 10% larger than Earth.
Described by NASA as “a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth,” Kepler-186f orbits around a type of common star known as a red dwarf, which is about half the size of our sun.
Then, in 2015, astronomers found the first Earth-like planet orbiting a star just like our sun, called Kepler-452b. This was dubbed Earth’s “bigger, older cousin,” as the planet is 60% larger than Earth and completes one orbit in 385 days, making its years remarkably close to our own
With our current technology, however, it’s hard to know much more than the size of an exoplanet and how far it is from its star.
But that’s about to change.

New eyes in the sky

The majority of exoplanet discoveries have been made by the Kepler space telescope, after which most of them have been named. Launched in 2009, the telescope has now entered emergency mode 75 million miles away from Earth, due to a malfunction.
To study the atmospheres of potential Earth twins, scientists need new eyes in the sky.
To date, Seager has only been able to study the atmospheres of a handful of exoplanets — all gas giants — but she’s involved in a new NASA program launching in 2017 to just scout the brightest nearby stars for small rocky planets in the habitable zone.
Called TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), the two-year mission will accumulate data that will then be fed into the James Webb Space Telescope, the next Hubble, which is due to launch in 2018: “It’s going to be amazing,” says Seager.
The James Webb telescope — named after the head of NASA during the pioneering era of the 1960s — will look at the cosmos with unprecedented clarity thanks to its use of a primary mirror about five times larger than Hubble’s. It will also offer direct imaging of exoplanets by blocking the blinding light of their host stars with special instruments that make them more visible. This will allow Seager and other astronomers to study exoplanets like never before.
Seager believes many of the planets in their search will be the rocky, watery worlds she’s been looking for.
“I’m absolutely confident they’re out there.”

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/11/tech/sara-seager-life-on-exoplanets/index.html

Meeting Kenny Baker, the real-live human behind R2-D2 | David Barnett

How the smallest man in show busness made a big impact on writer David Barnett

On the pavement by abungalow on aresidential street near Preston docks Kenny Baker was standing by a huge blue Rolls-Royce Corniche. Ive been to Asda, he said. A nice lad put my shopping in the boot, but I cant reach it.

The car did look monstrous beside Kenny 3ft 8in and proud of it. This was the mid-1990s, and not an accidental meeting; Kenny, then 60, had contacted me, a reporter on the Lancashire Evening Post, to inquire whether a small man with a big car might make a nice photograph.

It wasnt the first time hed been in touch: our first meeting, weeks earlier, had been the product of an unexpected newsroom call. Hello! said a voice. Im the smallest man in show business and Ive got the smallest bird in Britain nesting in my garden. Would you like to do a story?

Who am I speaking to? I asked, cautiously.

Kenny Baker.

So either the jazz trumpeter or

R2-D2! I yelled. Fidgit from Time Bandits!

And an Ewok! he said. And aWomble!

I abandoned whatever local news I was working on. The smallest bird in Britain memory fails but Google suggests a goldcrest was absent, but Kenny gamely posed for photographs, pointing in local-paper fashion at the bird box fixed to his garage while Isteadied the stepladder out of shot. He showed me the tiny piano he used in his pre-Star Wars stage act the Minitones with Jack Purvis (a fellow Ewok and Time Bandit), and made me a cup of tea in his kitchen, which he navigated via a wheeled library stool. I could barely contain my excitement at being offered a chocolate digestive from an R2-D2 biscuit barrel.

At our later meeting I asked how he could drive such a huge car. He showed me a pile of cushions on the drivers seat and blocks of wood taped to the pedals though he was planning to get it properly adapted.

I kept in regular contact with Kenny, ever game for a publicity opportunity. One time he posed with aharmonica while standing in the boot of a colleagues hatchback to promote agig he was playing in nearby Wigan.

After leaving Preston I lost touch with him. In 2005 I read that he was banned from driving after being caught behind the wheel, having consumed two glasses of wine. Not long after, his beloved Rolls was sold at auction for 13,500.

Now hes 81, and Kennys name appears in The Force Awakens creditsas R2-D2 consultant. Presumably no one wants a man his age climbing into a tin-can robot forhours on end. But I bet theyd only have to ask.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released on DVD on 18 April

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/10/meeting-kenny-baker-the-man-behind-r2d2

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