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Archive for April, 2011

U.S. Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunship jettisons decoy flares

United States Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunship jettisons decoy flares

United States Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunship jettisons decoy flares

A U.S. Air Force AC-130H gunship jettisons decoy flares as an infrared countermeasure to deter heat-seeking missiles during formation training on August 24, 2007 – U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter

The U.S. Air Force Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a military aircraft designed and manufactured for the primary role of attacking targets on the ground more accurately than fighter bombers. They can also face stronger low-level air defense systems, and hence they are ideal for closer air support for ground troops on the battlefield.

The basic airframe of AC-130 gunship, based on the C-130 Hercules transport plane, is manufactured by Lockheed Martin and Boeing converts it into a fully functional gunship. Its sole user is the U.S. Air Force which uses AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky variants.

The AC-130H is heavily armed with 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannons, Bofors 40mm autocannon, and 105 mm M102 cannon. The US Air Force uses the AC-130 gunships for bombing raids, air interdiction, force protection and close air support, including support for ground troops and escorting convoys.

The above photo shows An AC-130H gunship of the 16th Special Operations Squadron, jettisoning decoy flares as an infrared countermeasure to deter and misguide heat-seeking missiles during a multi-gunship formation training on August 24, 2007.

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Auguste Clésinger: Woman bitten by a snake (Femme piquée par un serpent)

Femme piquée par un serpent (Woman bitten by a snake), marble sculpture of 1847 by Auguste Clésinger - wallpaper

Femme piquée par un serpent (Woman bitten by a snake), marble sculpture of 1847 by Auguste Clésinger - wallpaper

The French courtesan Apollonie Sabatier, marble sculpture by Auguste Clésinger as Femme piquée par un serpent (Woman bitten by a snake) in 1847, now displayed in Musée d'Orsay – public domain photo of wallpaper size 1024x768

The marble sculpture ‘Femme piquée par un serpent’ (Woman bitten by a serpent) by the French sculptor and painter Auguste Clésinger (1814-1883) commissioned by Alfred Mosselman, was the subject of a sensational scandal at the Salon of Painting and Sculpture in 1847. The sculpture was scandalized because Clésinger produced the sculpture from the life-casts of his model Apollonie Sabatier.

Apollonie Sabatier (1822-1889) was a French courtesan, an artists’ muse and bohemian in Paris, where she hosted a salon. At her salon, she met and befriended several French artists of her times. She was one of the women who inspired the work Les Fleurs du Mal written by Charles Baudelaire. Sabatier was also the alleged mistress of Baudelaire.

The French painter and watercolorist Vincent Vidal (1811-1887) had painted her portrait. She is also featured along with the Belgian tycoon Alfred Mosselman, who was her lover, in Gustave Courbet’s painting L’Atelier du peintre. After Mosselman’s death, she became the mistress of the English art collector and philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace who is famous for installing the Wallace Fountains in Paris, which were source of clean drinking water for Parisians, and even now prominent landmarks of the city of Paris.


Mangifera indica: Indian Mangos on a tree

Unripe Indian mangoes on a mango tree, free wallpaper 1280x960

Unripe Indian mangoes on a mango tree, free wallpaper 1280x960

Unripe Indian mangoes on a mango tree, free desktop wallpaper 1280x960

Mango (Mangifera indica) has its origins in India from where it has been introduced to other warm regions of the world. It was domesticated in the Indian subcontinent about 4,000 years ago, and for this reason, all varieties of Mangifera indica are generally called Indian mangoes, whether they are grown in Brazil or China.

There are several other species of mangos, but Indian mangoes account for about 90% of world production exports and consumption. The most popular mango cultivars are Tommy Atkins and Alphonso.

While ripe mangoes are a very popular delicious fruits, unripe mangoes are used as vegetables and also for preparation of pickles and mango powder (Aamchur), which is used along with spices and also for food flavoring.


Bougainvillea: a beautiful ornamental plant

Beautiful Bougainvillea plant in a Philippines village

Beautiful Bougainvillea plant in a Philippines village

Bougainvillea plant in a village in the Philippines along with coconut palms and plantains around a home

This photo shows a Bougainvillea plant in a village neighborhood in the Philippines. As you can see, it is not properly tended. Other prominent plants in the picture are coconut palms and plantains (banana plants).

The Bougainvillea genus of flowering plants is perennial shrubs native to South America, and it has 4 to 18 species in the genus, as various authors identify the plants. They are thorny woody vines, can grow 1 to 12 meters tall. They are mostly evergreen with abundant green foliage.

What we generally see as the bougainvillea flowers are in fact their bracts, which structurally are similar to leaves with prominent veins and leaf blades, but brightly colored. The actual flower is small and generally white in color. Each cluster of three flowers is surrounded by three or six bracts with the bright colors ranging from red, orange, pink, magenta, purple, white, yellow, or other color variations. In the case of some species, or hybrids, a single bunch can contain bracts of two colors, either the entire bract being one color or partly one color and partly another color. The leaves of such plants may also appear as variegated leaves, as in the case of certain crotons, with yellow patches devoid of chlorophyll, but with yellow plastids that are incapable of photosynthesis.

Bougainvilleas are very popular ornamental plants in most areas with warm climates, including several African countries like Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt and Libya, Asian countries such as Kuwait, U.A.E., Thailand, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, European countries such as Greece, Switzerland, and most other countries in the Mediterranean region including Cyprus, the Caribbean including Aruba (a Constituent country of the Netherlands), South American countries like Brazil, Peru and Argentina, Central America, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, and in the United States in Hawaii, California, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, South Carolina, and southern Texas.

Over 300 species/varieties of bougainvilleas are found around the world, all of them being hybrids or crosses developed over the years because of interbreeding among three out of the eighteen South American species recognized by botanists. Because of repeated hybridization and/ or spontaneous natural mutations over several generations, it is very difficult to identify their origins or the exact species.


Niagara falls

View from Prospect Point, Niagara Falls, New York

View from Prospect Point, Niagara Falls, New York

View from Prospect Point, Niagara Falls, New York

Although it was wonderful to see all that water tumbling down, it would be even more wonderful to see all that water tumbling up – Mark Twain on Niagara Falls

The Niagara Falls is on the Niagara River, forming the border between the province of Ontario (Canada) and the State of New York (USA). The falls are only at a distance of 17 miles (27 km) northwest of Buffalo (New York) and 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Toronto (Ontario), between the twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls, New York.

The Niagara Falls has two major sections separated by the Goat Island. The Horseshoe Falls lie on the Canadian side and the American Falls are on the American side, which has also the smaller Bridal Veil Falls, which in fact is the third section of the Niagara Falls. Bridal Veil Falls is separated from the main falls by the Luna Island.

The Niagara Falls was formed when glaciers receded at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation during the last ice age. The swelling huge volume of water from the newly formed Great Lakes carved a path through the Niagara Escarpment to the Atlantic Ocean.

Though not so high, the Niagara Falls, the most powerful waterfall in North America, are very wide, draining down huge volumes of water (more than 6 million cubic feet/ 168,000 cubic meter) from over the crest line every minute during the peak seasons and an average of 4 million cubic feet/ 110,000 cubic meter) the year round.

Recently, the Niagara Falls were photographed by astronauts from the International Space Station, and it showed the twin cities around Niagara Falls in easy to see details, and it showed for spatial reference, the American falls at 328 m wide (1075 ft) and the Horseshoe Falls is 675 m wide (2200 ft).

The Niagara River forms the U.S.-Canadian Border. The river allows Lake Erie to drain into Lake Ontario, which is about 100 meters lower than Lake Erie.
The power of the huge amount of water, 750,000 U.S. gallons (2.8 million liters) per second, tumbling down the Niagara Falls is utilized to generate hydro-electric power by the Hydel Power Stations, running multiple power plants to generate 4.4 million kilowatts of power for both Ontario and New York.