By BRIAN REA MARCH 21, 2019 My mother-in-law wouldn’t tell us what our wedding gift would be — only that we’d have to travel to a forest, on an island, in Sweden, to receive it. The Voyages Issue Rick Steves Wants to Save the World, One Vacation at a Time The Mystery Gift at the End of the World It Was Just a Kayaking Trip. Until It Upended Our Lives. There Is No Reason to Cross the U.S. by Train. But I Did It Anyway. The Voyages Issue By BRIAN REA When my wife and I were married, my mother-in-law told us she had a special gift for us. I wasn’t sure what to expect. She didn’t tell us what the gift was, but she did tell us where it was. In Sweden, on an island, in the forest. As with all magical places, getting to the island in Sweden requires some effort (particularly as my wife, son and I live in Los Angeles). After the plane, the train and a car ride to the countryside, a boat ferries us across the lake from … [Read more...] about The Mystery Gift at the End of the World
Traveling at the speed of light
Over the years at 60 Minutes, we've been in more than a few tunnels. We explored Mexican drug lord El Chapo's subterranean escape routes, burrowed through a Roman villa buried by Mt. Vesuvius and traveled the depths of the New York City subway. But nothing prepared us for a place called Moab Khotsong, a South African gold mine that extends nearly two miles beneath the surface. In their pursuit of gold, South Africans have dug the deepest holes on earth. The country was the world's top gold producer for decades. Now the gold is running out, just as these ultra-deep mines have attracted a new breed of miner—on a very different quest. We went along for the adventure. In the early morning light, tall mine shafts loom over the Vaal River basin two hours southwest of Johannesburg. This once was a booming gold field, now most mines lie abandoned but Moab Khotsong is bustling. Long before the sun rises, thousands of miners start lining up for the triple-deck elevator called "the cage." … [Read more...] about What lies at the bottom of one of the deepest holes ever dug by man?
Tech & ScienceAstronomers have spotted huge swaths of gas spinning around the supermassive black hole thought to sit at the heart of the Milky Way.The rambunctious clouds—observed moving at almost one-third of the speed of light—are a “resounding confirmation” of scientists’ long-standing belief in the galactic behemoth known as Sagittarius A*, researchers said in a statement released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO).Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so intense it gulps up everything from matter to light that strays too close. As a result, the holes themselves are completely dark and incredibly cold. But nearby orbiting matter gets fiercely hot and bright as it races around the massive objects.Astronomers using the ESO’s GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile spied some of the material charging around Sagittarius A*. Flares of infrared radiation alerted scientists to the gas swirling near the … [Read more...] about Massive Clouds of Gas Hurtle Around Our Galaxy’s Black Hole at One-third the Speed of Light
An image of the cosmic microwave background Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration We are not living in the first universe. There were other universes, in other eons, before ours, a group of physicists has said. Like ours, these universes were full of black holes. And we can detect traces of those long-dead black holes in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) — the radioactive remnant of our universe's violent birth. At least, that's the somewhat eccentric view of the group of theorists, including the prominent Oxford University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose (also an important Stephen Hawking collaborator). Penrose and his acolytes argue for a modified version of the Big Bang. In Penrose and similarly-inclined physicists' history of space and time (which they call conformal cyclic cosmology, or CCC), universes bubble up, expand and die in sequence, with black holes from each leaving traces in the universes that follow. And in a new paper … [Read more...] about Physicists think they’ve spotted the ghosts of black holes from another universe
Tech & Science A Virgin Galactic rocket launched its commercial spacecraft and the two pilots aboard more than 30 miles into the atmosphere above the Mojave Desert at almost two-and-a-half times the speed of sound. The VSS Unity’s third launch marked the first time a Virgin Galactic spaceship entered the mesosphere, a middle layer of Earth’s atmosphere 30 to 50 miles above its surface, an altitude too high for commercial aircraft and weather balloons to reach. Company heads hope the successful test proves its first round of space tours isn’t too far off. The “space plane,” propelled by rockets for more than 40 seconds to achieve a speed of Mach 2.47, reached its fastest speed and traveled more than 170,800 feet in the atmosphere. The next step, Virgin engineers said, is to cross the Karman Line, 62 miles above the Earth’s sea level, which is commonly considered the point where the atmosphere ends and space begins. But the VSS Unity might have … [Read more...] about Virgin Galactic Space Plane Travels Twice the Speed of Light, Commercial Flights Next?