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Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Greatest Places to Explore the World's Best-kept Secrets

These are 10 great places to explore:

Isla de Margarita
One of the largest islands in the Caribbean remains largely undiscovered by Americans. Yogerst says it offers a huge variety of landscapes and culture in a small area. "It's all of Latin America on one island. It has rainforests, deserts, fabulous beaches and little Spanish colonial towns."

Colca Canyon

The "Grand Canyon of South America" is more than twice as deep as its Arizona counterpart. It's also one of the best places to see Andean condors. "You can go and watch them ride drafts up the canyon wall. It's a majestic desert landscape that goes on forever and ever," Yogerst says.

Wrangell-Kluane Wilderness 
Alaska and Canada 
Head north to explore one of the world's largest protected areas, the combined lands of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Canada's Kluane National Park. Taken together, they reach from the Gulf of Alaska to northern boreal forests and cover about 20 million acres. "It's some of the most spectacular wildlife viewing I've had anywhere in North America," Yogerst says. In one trip, he spotted grizzly and black bears, caribou, mountain goats, Dall sheep, and dolphins. 907-822-5234; OR

Salt Mission Trail 
New Mexico 

Before the Pilgrims arrived, Spanish missionaries were settling the Southwest. But the desert landscape in one corner of what later became New Mexico proved to be too challenging. "What's left now is red-brick adobe ruins," Yogerst says. "People will be surprised by how big some of these missions were with very large churches."

Brimstone Hill Fortress 
St. Kitts  
Once called the Gibraltar of the West Indies, this former British colonial fort dominates a flat-topped seaside mountain. Abandoned 100 years ago, it has been restored and offers views of a volcano on the nearby Dutch island of Sint Eustatius. "It's the most impressive of all the British forts I've seen in the Caribbean," Yogerst says. 800-582-6208;

Tsitsikamma Trail 
South Africa 
This 40-mile path is laced with streams and heavy subtropical forests that reminds Yogerst of the Pacific Northwest. He hiked it over the course of five days staying in unstaffed, basic huts along the route. "It is a wild part of Africa. There are monkeys and baboons and leopards there."

Galle Fort 
Sri Lanka 
Now that Sri Lanka's civil war has ended, visitors are again discovering this charming fortified colonial city. Built on the Indian Ocean in the 16th century, its tall stone walls protected it from the tsunami that ravaged the region in 2004. "It's preserved almost intact," Yogerst says, and now even has a chic boutique resort. "It's unexpected and not too well discovered."

Small Museums of Tokyo 
Like New York, London and Paris, Tokyo has many major museums, but Yogerst suggests seeking out more obscure galleries, such as the Sumo Museum, devoted to the unique Japanese sport, or the Ota art museum. "It's probably the best collection of Japanese wood block prints on the planet," Yogerst says. Another highlight: the Mingeikan Folk Crafts Museum with more than 17,000 objects. "In some ways these say more about Japanese culture than the big museums do." 212-757-5640;

Suffolk, England 
Yogerst says it's just a coincidence that the Tudor town where his mother-in-law lives makes his list. "It's the epitome of a quaint English countryside village." There's a cobblestone square with pubs, and no sign of "twee shops," he says. It also has England's largest collection of half timber buildings. "It's the real deal." When he visits he likes to take half-day hikes through the countryside that surrounds the town.

Ta Prohm temple 
This Southeast Asian ruin near the more famous Angkor Wat reminds Yogerst of something out of an Indiana Jones movie. "The stone ruins are literally wrapped in the branches and roots and arms of jungle trees." He says visitors have the feeling they are discovering the site for the first time. "It's cleared enough so you can walk through, but that's all."

Quoted from USAToday
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 4:39 AM

Animal-friendly Movies with Award Aspirations

Listen up, Oscar: These animals are naturals

This winter's film slate features a zoo full of creatures, a War Horse and a pack of adorable dogs.

The movie world is all a-Twitter
over Uggie's acting in 'The Artist.'
"It's amazing how many animals there are this year," marvels Mathilde de Cagny, the lead animal trainer for Hugo and Beginners, two animal-friendly movies with award aspirations. "Animals add such character to a movie, and people just automatically relate to them. They bring such warmth."

"Besides," she says, "they are a lot cheaper than actors."

Four-legged thespians have long been unappreciated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But in this year of banner performances, here are five animals worthy of acting nominations.

The Dog in The Artist
He might be known simply as The Dog in the silent comedy, but star pooch Uggie has developed a cult following complete with his own Twitter account. The 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier steals the show as Jean Dujardin's sidekick — especially when burying his head in his paws at the breakfast table.
"That was Uggie playing shy," says owner and trainer Omar Von Muller. "I said 'bow' and he did it. It's a trick I use a lot, but it was perfect for this scene and this movie."

Uggie showed further range playing dead at a key moment and added serious heft with the life-saving sequence that would have made Lassie proud, alerting the authorities to his master's peril. "He was so awesome and energetic in that scene," says Von Muller.
Big credit goes to Dujardin's handling. "Besides being a great actor, he was a great dog handler," the trainer says. "Jean was always letting Uggie kiss him. He has a real natural way with dogs."

Joey in War Horse
It takes more than one horse to carry a Steven Spielberg epic about World War I. Trainer Bobby Lovgren says there were up to 10 horses used to play Joey — showing the arc of the animal's life from foal to adult. "I don't think there was one hero horse," he says. "They were all heroes."

But the scenes in which Joey is entangled in barbed wire in no-man's land is the emotional apex. Lovgren says the "barbed wire" was rubber and the horse's intense looks were extracted with various tricks. "Someone running with an umbrella in the background might make a difference, for example," he says.
For the pivotal scene when Joey lies down while the barbed wire is removed, Lovgren used his own experienced horse, Finder. "I've used him as a mare giving birth," Lovgren says. "He's very confident in those situations."

Arthur in Beginners
Beginners' star dog, whose real name is Cosmo, was rescued from a shelter by de Cagny. The 7-year-old Jack Russell terrier seems attached to co-star Ewan McGregor, especially in the achingly cute scene in which the pooch gets a tour of his new home in the romantic comedy/drama.

Liver treats helped Cosmo's performance, but de Cagny mostly cites human-dog chemistry. "It was all about the real, natural connection the two had on and off camera," she says. "And they are both great actors. Cosmo is so inquisitive, and Ewan's dog-loving just shows. I was pretty much just the dog's driver on this film."

The two bonded so closely that McGregor adopted a poodle mix after filming wrapped. Says de Cagny, "He said he just couldn't go on without a dog after that."
Buster in We Bought a Zoo
Bart the bear stands on his own next to star Matt Damon, which is not hard when you're a 1,200-pound grizzly. While Damon's scene with 12-year-old Bart (called Buster in the film) was shot on separate screens, the bear roar was pure drama.

"Bart was totally acting," says trainer Doug Seus. "He only acts ferocious and growling. It's a trained behavior. They dub in the roar." The bear's inspiration to hit his marks: praise and treats. "It's meat, apples, a hug and a 'Good boy,' " Seus says. "Everyone appreciates a pat on the back."

Maximilian in Hugo
Maximilian comes across as all growl on the film about an orphan who lives in a Paris train station. But Doberman pinschers are not the bravest of dogs, says trainer de Cagny. "I was surprised myself," she says.
So she split the duties of the guard dog assisting Sacha Baron Cohen's station inspector between three identical dogs, including a "smarter" female, Blackie, for complicated scenes that required hitting multiple marks. Director Martin Scorsese's wide shots also posed complications for the trainer, who had to keep out of sight.

Ultimately even Scorsese was pleased. "He didn't have much experience working with animals in movies," she says. "It was an eye-opening experience."

Adapted from USAToday

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Published by Gusti Putra at: 3:44 AM

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The effects of Sugar Binge on Our Body

Here are 5 effects of a Sugar Binge

1. Your Teeth
The remnants of candy and other sticky-sweet treats cling to molars, where the sugar begins mixing with bacteria in your mouth, creating an acid that can start breaking down protective tooth enamel, explains Kimberly Harms, D.D.S., a spokeswoman for the American Dental Association.

2. Your Stomach and Gut
After about 15 minutes in your stomach, the goody passes to the small intestine, where your body metabolizes sugar into glucose and fructose molecules, says Suzanne Hendrich, Ph.D., professor of food science at Iowa State University. Both are then broken down further, enabling them to pass into the bloodstream.

3. Your Blood

A surge of glucose enters your bloodstream, with levels peaking about 30 minutes after you've eaten, Hendrich says. At this point, your pancreas is working overtime to pump out extra insulin to deal with the glucose influx. Meanwhile, the fructose is heading for your liver.

4. Your Brain

Insulin begins rushing the glucose throughout your body, giving you a surge of energy for the next two hours. "Brain cells run solely on glucose," Hendrich says, "so a binge delivers a huge fuel infusion here, too, and you may feel more alert." Sugar also activates the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurochemicals linked with pleasure and reward—hence, the sugar high. The effects, however, are short-lived.

5. Your Cells

About two hours after eating, your body has burned through all the glucose it could process and stored any extra as fat, and disposed of fructose or turned it into blood fat. With no sugar available, insulin and blood glucose levels dip, leaving you cloudy and lethargic, Hendrich says. Reaching for more sweets will only cause the cycle to repeat. Grab a piece of fruit and get a natural (and longer-lasting) sugar boost instead.

Adapted from MSN

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Published by Gusti Putra at: 4:45 PM

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Torching Cars Called Common Crime in Germany

A German man whose mother was threatened with deportation is accused of a crime that has become a popular way in Germany for young people to express anger: burning cars.
A car owner tries to retrieve possessions from his vehicle as it burns in an arson fire early Monday in a parking lot in Los Angeles.

Harry Burkhart, 24, watched as his mother was arrested last week on a warrant from their native Germany on fraud charges that include not paying for breast-augmentation surgery.
Two days later, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck alleges, Burkhart began a nighttime rampage of arson attacks that terrorized the city.

Authorities have yet to disclose why they believe Burkhart, whom Sheriff Lee Baca called the "most dangerous arsonist in Los Angeles County," set the fires over four days.
"He loved his mom, the way every son loves his mom," said Shlomo Elady, a hair stylist who cut Burkhart's hair.

In court Tuesday, Dorothee Burkhart repeatedly asked a magistrate judge where her son was and wondered aloud whether he was dead or had disappeared.
Harry Burkhart was being held without bail.

"What did you do to my son?" she asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle.
The burning of cars is a common phenomenon in Berlin and also other northern German cities such as Hamburg, which are magnets for young, "left-wing" idealists protesting the establishment, gentrification of their neighborhoods and globalization.

On May 1, Labor Day in Europe, residents with especially flashy cars move them to paid garages or to neighborhoods deemed safer.

For example, in October, a man in Berlin was arrested for torching 100 luxury cars, and 470 cars had been set on fire in the city by that time last year, the BBC reported.

"He wasn't motivated by politics but rather social envy," senior police official Oliver Stepien said. "He said in essence: 'I've got debts, my life stinks, and others with fancy cars are better off and they deserve this.' "
Websites such as mark where cars in Berlin have been torched as well as the models — nearly all high-end cars.

Recently, certain bookstores in Berlin were threatened by police with closure for carrying "seditious" literature that contained information on how to burn cars, according to pamphlets in the stores reading "Solidarity with Leftist Bookstores."

Hamburg criminologist Ingeborg Legge, 56, told weekly German magazine Der Spiegel that she believes many arsonists are part of groups with certain things in common: a fundamentally aggressive position toward the state, too much strength for their own good, dissatisfaction with their current situation and a vague feeling of rage that they sometimes direct toward themselves and sometimes against external objects — such as cars.

Adapted from USAToday
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 10:23 AM

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Look Back at Selena & Justin's Year of PDA


It's been a whirlwind of a year for teen lovebirds, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. Rumors of a romance between the teen sensations started in the fall of 2010, and in early 2011, the couple finally went public with their romance. Since then, they've adopted a puppy together, engaged in red carpet PDA, and taken steamy beach vacations to the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico. Check out the best photos of them meeting each other's families, canoodling on water skis, and demonstrating the all-around cuteness of a young couple in love over the course of the year.

Long before rumors of romance between these two started, Justin and Selena showed just how good their chemistry was when they performed together during "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest" 2010 on Dec. 31, 2009.

Just months after ringing in the new year together, Selena and Justin looked very affectionate with each other backstage at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in March 2010.
By the fall of 2010, rumors that Selena and Justin were an item reached fever pitch. When Ellen DeGeneres asked Selena about the rumors in September, she told the talk show host, "He's little. He's like my little brother. That's weird to me." But when paparazzi caught Justin and Selena looking smitten with each other on a beach walk in Miami in December 2010, they couldn't deny their
romance for much longer.

But then these two lovebirds were spotted together in Caribbean on Jan. 1, 2011, and the jig was up. It would be months before they would willingly come out as a twosome. As soon as these photos surfaced, Justin's fans took to twitter to send his ladylove some hateful messages. One wrote, "Roses are red, violets are blue, @selenagomez if you'll break @justinbieber's heart I'm
gonna kill you :3".

Justin and Selena made sure their first official appearance as a couple was done in style. At the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Feb. 27, 2011, the couple coordinated their outfits and lovingly posed together on the red carpet.

After the Academy Awards, these two continued their romance with cute dates like to the Santa Monica Pier.

Never ones to stay still for too long, Justin and Selena hit the road for a PDA-filled vacation in Hawaii on May 26, 2011.

Their vacation included a lot of time hitting the beach together and, of course, lots of handholding.

Adapted from MSN

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Published by Gusti Putra at: 4:14 PM

Monday, January 02, 2012

NASA Probe Circling Moon on 2012 Eve

(PASADENA, Calif.) — As planet Earth rang in the new year, a different kind of countdown was happening at the moon.

After a 3 ½-month journey, a NASA spacecraft flew over the moon's south pole, fired its engine and dropped into orbit Saturday in the first of two back-to-back arrivals over the New Year's weekend.
NASA probe circling the moon on New Year's Eve
Mission control at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupted in cheers and applause after receiving confirmation that the probe was healthy and circling the moon. An engineer was seen on closed-circuit television blowing a noisemaker to herald the New Year's Eve arrival.

"Everything went just as we hoped. The burn was spot-on," chief scientist Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a post-mission interview with The Associated Press.

The team toasted sparkling cider, but the celebration was brief. Despite the successful maneuver, the work was not over. Its twin still had to enter lunar orbit on New Year's Day.

The Grail probes — short for Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory — have been cruising independently toward their destination since launching in September aboard the same rocket on a mission to measure lunar gravity.

Hours before revelers in Times Square watched the ball drop, Grail-A approached the moon and fired its engine for about 40 minutes to get captured into orbit. Deep space antennas in the California desert and Madrid tracked every move and fed real-time updates to ground controllers. About 270 family members and friends of the mission team descended on the NASA campus to watch the drama unfold on a live feed.
"This is great, a big relief," deputy project scientist Sami Asmar told the jubilant crowd.

Grail is the 110th mission to target the moon since the dawn of the Space Age including the six Apollo moon landings that put 12 astronauts on the surface. Despite the attention the moon has received, scientists don't know everything about Earth's nearest neighbor.

Why the moon is ever so slightly lopsided with the far side more mountainous than the side that always faces Earth remains a mystery. A theory put forth earlier this year suggested that Earth once had two moons that collided early in the solar system's history, producing the hummocky region.

Grail is expected to help researchers better understand why the moon is asymmetrical and how it formed by mapping the uneven lunar gravity field that will indicate what's below the surface.

Previous lunar missions have attempted to study the moon's gravity — which is about one-sixth Earth's pull — with mixed results. Grail is the first mission devoted to this goal.
Once in orbit, the near-identical spacecraft will spend the next two months refining their positions until they are just 34 miles above the surface and flying in formation. Data collection will begin in March.
The $496 million mission will be closely watched by schoolchildren. An effort by Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, will allow middle school students to use cameras aboard the probes to zoom in and pick out their favorite lunar spots to photograph.

Despite the latest focus on the moon, NASA won't be sending astronauts back anytime soon. The Obama administration last year nixed a lunar return in favor of landing humans on an asteroid and eventually Mars.
A jaunt to the moon is usually speedy. It took the Apollo astronauts three days to zip there aboard the powerful Saturn V rocket. Since NASA wanted to economize by launching on a small rocket, it took Grail a leisurely 3 1/2 months to make a roundabout trip.

NASA's last moonshot occurred in 2009 with the launch of a pair of spacecraft — one that circled the moon and another that deliberately crashed into the surface and uncovered frozen water in one of the permanently shadowed lunar craters.

Adapted from TIME
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 2:06 PM

Facebook Could Be Route to New Kidney

SEATTLE — Here's another reason for holdouts to join the social media site Facebook: It's a great place to find a kidney.
Between the kid photos and reminiscences about high school, more and more pleas for help from people with failing kidneys are popping up. Facebook and other social media sites are quickly becoming a go-to place to find a generous person with a kidney to spare, according to the people asking for help and some national organizations that facilitate matches.

Damon Brown found a kidney on Facebook after telling his story on a special page the Seattle dad created under the name, "Damon Kidney." His friends and family forwarded the link to everyone they knew and on Jan. 3 a woman his wife has known for years, but not someone they consider a close family friend, will be giving him a kidney. "She said it wasn't really for me. It was for my kids, because they deserve to have a dad around," said Brown, 38.
Brown's story is not unique, said April Paschke, a spokeswoman for the United Network for Organ Sharing, a private nonprofit organization that manages the nation's organ transplant system for the federal government.

"We see more and more people matched up by social media," she said. "It's an extension of the way we communicate. Before we found the Internet, people found other ways: through a church bulletin, word of mouth or an advertisement even."

This past year, a man in Michigan also found a kidney donor through Facebook, and a Florida woman found one through Craigslist.
Damon Brown admits he was a little embarrassed to ask for help so publicly. Except for telling close friends and family, the Seattle father of two young boys had been keeping his illness pretty quiet.

He was on the official transplant list and had started mobile dialysis through Northwest Kidney Centers but Brown was seeing his health deteriorate — he was constantly tired and achy. He couldn't sit on the bed to tell bedtime stories to 5-year-old Julian and 3-year-old Theo because he had to stay close to his dialysis machine.

"I'm a strong guy, but I would have to say, it's been rough this year," he said. Brown had put himself on the long wait list for a kidney from a deceased donor, knowing he would have to wait at least three years before he was called.

After one particularly difficult visit with his doctor, Damon and his wife, Bethany, decided to create the Facebook page, which has attracted more than 1,400 friends.
A few weeks ago, after the transplant was approved and scheduled, Brown posted the good news to his Facebook friends. More than 300 people responded: "Whoo hoo....what a great Christmas present," wrote Kelly L. Hallissey. "This is awesome!! Praying for you and your family for positive news and a great way to begin 2012!" wrote Brenda Tomtan.

Many people are not aware that kidney and liver donations can now come from living donors.
In 2010, 16,800 kidney transplants were performed in the United States, of which 6,277 came from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. An average of 46 kidney transplants take place each day in this country, while another 13 people who have been waiting for a kidney die each day. About 90,000 are on the transplant list right now.

Jacqueline Ryall, 45, said she felt a need to donate a kidney to Brown to give back her own good health and all she has been given. She's not a mom and gushed about how beautiful Damon and Bethany's kids are.
"The real reason I'm doing this is he's got kids and he's a good guy," she said. "My life is in a good place. I've been given lots and I have a responsibility to give back."

Ryall said her elderly mother does not understand why she would give a kidney to someone other than her own brother and sister, and her family is worried about her health going forward.
After her own research, however, Ryall decided it's relatively safe for a woman in good health to donate a kidney. If something is going to go wrong with her own kidneys, she has heard they usually fail in twos.
"Right now it feels like absolutely the right thing to do," she said, adding that she hopes her decision will help make other people less afraid to do the same thing.

News media coverage of his quest flooded his hospital with so many requests for information — from total strangers — that Brown said he was asked to pull back on his publicity efforts. Four people passed the initial screening and came in for tests. Now that he sees a happy ending coming for himself, Brown would like to do whatever he can to help others.

April Capone, the previous mayor of East Haven, Conn., knows what Brown means about the attraction of happy endings.
Two years ago, she was sitting in her office checking her Facebook feed, when a post from one of her constituents popped up saying he needed a kidney.

"At that moment, Carlos was at Mayo, testing to get on the transplant list," said Capone, 36. "He really didn't tell anyone he was sick. The doctor said, 'if you don't do it, no one is going to know'." So Carlos Sanchez pulled out his cell phone and posted the request and Capone responded immediately.
"I knew from the second I saw his post that I was going to be a donor," said Capone, who barely knew Sanchez at the time. Now they're as close as siblings, talk on the phone almost daily and meet for lunch regularly.

Capone said she had no personal reason for donating a kidney; she just want to save a life.
"It was the best thing I ever did with my life," she said. "I wish I had more; I would do it again."

Adapted from TIME
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 2:02 PM

Spacecraft Twins Arrive at the Moon

The Moon is like an aging boxer, its face scarred and distorted by a lifetime of powerful blows. In the boxer's case, those blows are delivered over the course of a few decades. In the case of the Moon, the punishment has been going on for billions of years, courtesy of comets and asteroids that carved out craters and piled up mountains all over the lunar surface. The very birth of the moon was violent: planetary scientists are pretty sure our companion world was created when a Mars-size object slammed into Earth and ripped off a Moon-size chunk.

Artist concept of GRAIL mission.
Much of our understanding of that violent history comes from rocks hauled back by the Apollo missions four decades ago. But the astronauts who gathered that evidence literally just scratched just the surface — and many of the Moon's secrets are buried far deeper.

That's why the GRAIL mission, which successfully inserted itself into lunar orbit over the weekend, is so crucial. GRAIL, the Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory, will be probing deep beneath the Moon's surface to analyze its interior structure in unprecedented detail. Since that structure reflects how the Moon was originally formed and the violence done to it since, GRAIL will fill in all sorts of blanks about our satellite's birth and evolution.

That's the "what," but it's the "how" that's so ingenious and that deserves a bit of explanation. GRAIL is not one, but two identical satellites that will orbit in tandem, 35 miles above the surface — GRAIL A in front, GRAIL B following tens of miles behind. If the Moon were simply a featureless, homogenous sphere of rock, the distance between A and B wouldn't change. The Moon isn't featureless, though: in some places there's extra stuff piled on the surface (mountains, crater walls) and in others there are gaping pits — the craters themselves.

When GRAIL A approaches a mountain, the peak's extra gravity pulls on the probe, making it speed up just a bit, while GRAIL B, still out of range, doesn't yet feel the tug. The distance between the two spacecraft increases, and the probes' electronics record the increase, even when the gap widens by no more than the width of a red blood cell. When GRAIL A approaches a crater, by contrast, there's a little less gravity than usual to pull it along. A slows a little, B catches up slightly, and that change is recorded as well. GRAIL B will trail GRAIL A from pole to pole, the pair completing one orbit every two hours as the Moon rotates slowly underneath. Over the mission's three-month lifespan, the twin ships will make three complete gravity maps of the entire lunar globe.

But surface features aren't all the probes will study. There are also regions of higher and lower density buried beneath the lunar surface. These mass concentrations — or mascons — are the likely result of ancient volcanism or ancient impacts. They too exert differing gravitational pull, with the denser material pulling harder than the less dense, and those differences will be detected by the GRAILs as well. So sensitive are the spacecraft that they will effectively be able to see — gravitationally speaking — all the way down to the lunar core. All of these readings will be analyzed along with one other data stream: the slight flexing the entire moon undergoes as a result of the tidal pull of the Earth. The nature of the flexing will be partly determined by what the Moon's deep structure looks like — whether the core is solid or semi-solid or molten, for example.

Best of all, there isn't the slightest doubt that this twin-satellite concept can work: it's based on the wildly successful GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) mission, which has been orbiting Earth since 2002. By noting changes in our planet's gravity, GRACE has, among other things, discovered a giant impact crater underneath the Antarctic ice sheet, measured ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica and noted depletion of groundwater during the recent U.S. drought. If GRAIL does half as well as GRACE — and there's every reason to think it will — the textbooks on selenology, or lunar geology, may have to undergo some major revisions.

Finally, it's worth noting yet another thing that makes the GRAIL mission so extraordinarily clever. Rather than take a direct route across the 250,000-mile Earth-Moon gap — a journey that took the Apollo astronauts just three days — GRAIL meandered through space on a loop-the-loop path known as a "weak boundary trajectory" that lasted more than three months, following the path of least resistance through the complex terrain created by the interacting gravitational fields of Earth, Moon and Sun. Going slow meant not only that the spacecraft needed less fuel, but also that engineers had longer to check out the probes' electronic health. Plus when GRAIL finally arrived, it took less energy to ease it into a lunar orbit .

Back in 1990, just such a "weak stability boundary" trajectory was first used to salvage the Japanese Hiten satellite, which failed in its original attempt to reach the Moon and didn't have enough fuel for a second try. In a brilliant bit of cosmic inventiveness, a mathematician-turned-rocket-scientist-turned artist named Ed Belbruno calculated a new slow, low-energy route for Hiten and saved the mission.

Fortunately, lunar experts, including MIT's Maria Zuber, GRAIL's lead scientist, won't have long to wait for the results of the mission. GRAIL should be all wrapped up by early summer, and by the time the one-year launch anniversary rolls around in September, we should know a lot more about the long and violent history of our nearest, but still largely unknown, cosmic neighbor.

Republished from TIME
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 1:51 PM