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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Grizzly

What to Do if You Encounter a Bear


Before visiting Yellowstone National Park or “bear country” familiarize yourself with safety precautions in order to avoid bear encounters. “Run for your life” may seem like common sense if a grizzly approaches you, but such action is highly unlikely to foil an attack. The recommended steps are not easy to follow, but they offer the best chance for survival. Here’s what the experts say:

If you encounter a grizzly, do not run.

Avoid direct eye contact.

Walk away slowly, if the bear is not approaching.

If the bear charges, stand your ground (you cannot outrun it).

Don’t scream or yell. Speak in a soft monotone voice and wave your arms to let the animal know you are human. If you have pepper spray, prepare to use it.

If the grizzly charges to within 25 feet of where you’re standing, use the spray.

If the animal makes contact, curl up into a ball on your side, or lie flat on your stomach.

Try not to panic; remain as quiet as possible until the attack ends.

While in bear country, be aware that you may encounter a bear at any time.

Be sure the bear has left the area before getting up to seek help.


While in bear country, be aware that you may encounter a bear at any time.

Some other interesting things about grizzlies:

  • Most human injuries from grizzly bears are caused by females acting aggressively to protect their young.
  • Grizzlies are omnivores; they will eat almost anything. Although a large part of their diet is vegetation, grizzlies will also kill and eat large and small animals.
  • Fewer than 1,100 grizzlies exist in the lower 48 states, in 5 populations in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. An estimated 500 to 600 grizzlies populate the Greater Yellowstone area.
  • Grizzlies are North America’s slowest reproducing land mammal. A female may not have her first litter until she is 5 or 6 years old, after which she will then typically produce two cubs every 2.5 years. Cubs from the same litter can be from different fathers. Grizzlies have a natural life span of 30 years or more.
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Broccoli

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Fly, You Bastard, Fly! (Pic)

Some Judges Stiffen Foreclosure Standards

By AMIR EFRATI

A cadre of state-court judges scrutinizing foreclosure actions in a string of recent rulings have discovered flaws in documents that borrowers may be able to use to keep their homes.

The judges, including a committee from the Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., are highlighting shortcuts taken by mortgage companies in court filings, which borrowers might be able to exploit when facing foreclosure.

[Photo]
Associated Press
A string of rulings by state-court judges, including a panel from Brooklyn, show the critical role of judges for borrowers facing foreclosures.

The rulings show the critical role that judges are beginning to play as foreclosures mount in the most severe housing crisis since the Great Depression. The recent decisions build upon widely circulated opinions issued last fall by federal judges in Ohio who found trusts that hold the mortgages regularly begin foreclosure proceedings before they obtain the legal right to do so.

Judges in states including New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts have begun to dismiss many cases "without prejudice," meaning the plaintiffs can fix the defects and resume the process, but the ruling gives the homeowners more time. Meanwhile, some bankruptcy courts, where creditors may seek permission to foreclose if the debtor isn't keeping up with the bankruptcy plan, have issued standing orders requiring creditors to prove ownership of loans. Other state courts, including in Ohio and Pennsylvania, have begun requiring owners of loans who have filed foreclosure suits to try to negotiate settlements with borrowers to avoid foreclosure.

The extent to which the judicial process can make a difference is limited and uneven. Only a handful of judges have taken on this cause. And in about half of U.S. states, the foreclosure process doesn't require judicial approval. Nonetheless, in states where the process must wind its way through the courts, the efforts of a few judges are giving hope to borrowers.

"More and more judges are focused on these basic issues of making sure the party that's trying to get the property back is entitled to get it," says April Charney, a foreclosure defense lawyer in Jacksonville, Fla., who trains lawyers and pro se, or non-lawyer, litigants.

About six judges from the supreme court in Brooklyn, the state's lowest court, which handles most of the New York City borough's foreclosure actions, have been digging into the problem and finding new issues that they can use to dismiss cases.

The work of the Brooklyn court -- which formed a committee to discuss foreclosures about five years ago, long before the housing crisis emerged -- looks prescient now as it has rejected dozens of foreclosure actions since the crisis began by identifying mistakes or suspicious information. Among the most energetic members of the Brooklyn committee is Justice Arthur Schack, 63 years old. Justice Schack says barely any of the foreclosures he has denied eventually are completed.

Justice Schack, a former counsel to the Major League Baseball Players Association who is known for peppering his rulings with pop culture references such as Bruce Willis movies, dismisses most foreclosures sua sponte, or without the borrower even responding to the suit. He noticed in several cases that the foreclosure actions weren't halted even though the borrowers had paid off the loan.

In June, the judge dismissed with prejudice two cases filed by a unit of Wells Fargo & Co. By doing online public-records research himself, the judge found that Wells Fargo didn't own the two loans, and his dismissals mean that even if Wells Fargo eventually obtained legal ownership, it could take up to another year to obtain foreclosure.

Another dismissal involved a foreclosure filed by a U.S. unit of HSBC Holdings PLC. Included in Justice Schack's concerns was that the filed documents list the address for HSBC and a loan payment collector as being the same suite in a West Palm Beach, Fla., building, and that in prior foreclosure filings, other financial entities also claimed to be located in the same suite.

"The Court ponders if Suite 100 is the size of Madison Square Garden to house all of these financial behemoths or if there is a more nefarious reason for this corporate togetherness," he wrote, adding that HSBC would have to write an affidavit explaining the popularity of suite 100.

Spokespeople for HSBC and Wells Fargo said the banks were acting as a trustee, or caretaker, for loan securitization trusts that hold mortgages. As the trustee, the banks have a minimal role and other companies known as servicers, which collect loan payments for the trusts, intitiate foreclosure proceedings on the trustees' behalf, the banks said.

Elsewhere, in Suffolk County on Long Island, several judges have taken up scrutiny of mortgage documents. Justice Jeffrey Arlen Spinner wrote recently in a ruling that he found "glaring discrepancies and unexplained issues of substance" in a foreclosure lawsuit filed last year by GMAC Mortgage LLC. Judge Spinner wrote that the lender included a document that "purports to" but doesn't legally transfer the promissory note, the borrower's promise to pay back the loan, to GMAC from the original lender. He also questioned why the note was purportedly executed at Fairfax, Va., and signed by the borrower on the same day that the borrower allegedly signed the mortgage in New York. A spokeswoman for GMAC declined to comment.

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Missouri Police taser injured boy 19 times

David Edwards and Diane Sweet

KY 3 News' Sara Sheffield reports on an injured teen from Ozark, Missouri who was tasered up to 19 times by police.

Passing motorists called Ozark police out of concern for the teen as he walked along the busy overpass. When the police arrived, the young man was lying on the shoulder of the highway directly underneath the 30 foot high overpass with a broken back and foot.

Doctors believe 16-year-old Mace Hutchinson broke his back and heel after falling, as his injuries are consistent with such a fall. The boy's family does not understand why police would have tasered the the teen 19 times after he was so seriously injured.

The teen's father said that the use of the taser caused Mace to develop an elevated white blood cell count, leading to a fever that delayed the young man's otherwise immediate surgery by two days.

Ozark Police Capt. Thomas Rousset attempted to explain why the taser was used:

"He refused to comply with the officers and so the officers had to deploy their Tasers in order to subdue him. He is making incoherent statements; he's also making statements such as, 'Shoot cops, kill cops,' things like that. So there was cause for concern to the officers."

Ozark police say that while there remains unanswered questions in the case, the reason for the use of the Taser is not one of them.

This video is from KY3 News, broadcast July 24, 2008.


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Self-deprecation the key to the art of seduction

By Chris Irvine


Self-deprecating humour, as much as floppy hair, was Hugh Grant's secret weapon in Four Weddings And A Funeral Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Although it has long been known that making a woman laugh is the best way to seduce her, new research shows the most successful form of humour comes from one's ability to poke fund at oneself, making men like actor Hugh Grant, 47, most sexually attractive to women.

Bringing attention to your flaws is a high-risk seduction strategy for men however and has the potential to backfire.

'Dissing Oneself: The Sexual Attractiveness of Self-Deprecating Humour,' will be published in next month's Evolutionary Psychology.

During the two-year study, women students listened to tape recordings of men talking about themselves, and we asked to score the men on sexual attractiveness.

Lead researcher Gil Greengross, of the University of New Mexico in the US, said: "Many studies show that a sense of humour is sexually attractive to women but we've found that self-deprecating humour is the most attractive of all.

"People who used this humour were considered to be far more desirable as mates."

He added a note of caution however, saying: "It is a risky form of humour because it can draw attention to one's real faults, thereby diminishing the self-deprecator's status in the eyes of others.

"Think about the secondary school child whom nobody liked, who makes fun of his shortcomings.

"His peers mocked him and he was considered more pathetic than he was previously.

"This is high-risk seduction. It is not for everyone."

Self-deprecation is a very British trait, and problems can arise when the British attempt to do so with a foreign culture.

Americans however love the British sense of humour, with a prime example when Hugh Grant's bumbling British bachelor character charms Andie MacDowell's young sexy American.

In a memorable best man's speech, he says: "This is only the second time I've been a best man. I hope I did OK that time.

"The couple in question are at least still talking to me. Unfortunately, they're not actually talking to each other.

"The divorce came through a couple of months ago. But I'm assured it had absolutely nothing to do with me. Paula knew Piers had slept with her sister before I mentioned it in the speech.

"The fact that he'd slept with her mother came as a surprise but I think was incidental to the nightmare of recrimination and violence that became their two-day marriage."

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Iowa Case Raises Question: Is Stripping an Art?

By MELANIE S. WELTE Associated Press Writer

Iowa doesn't have any all-nude strip clubs — but it does have performing arts centers where women dance naked.

stripper
Iowa case tests rules that allow performance arts centers, but not all-nude strip clubs. Shown here is a stock photo.
(Getty Images)

However, the loophole in the state's public indecent exposure law that allows nude dancing at "art centers" is under attack in the small community of Hamburg, a town of 1,200 just across the Missouri River from Nebraska.

The case pending before a Fremont County judge effects only one business in Hamburg, but if he agrees with the prosecutor, it could eventually threaten the legal standing of nude dancing clubs across the state.

District Judge Timothy O'Grady heard arguments in a one-day trial on July 17 and took the case under advisement.

It all began on July 21, 2007, when a 17-year-old niece of Sheriff Steven MacDonald climbed up on stage at Shotgun Geniez in Hamburg and stripped off her clothing. Owner Clarence Judy was charged with violating Iowa's public indecent exposure law.

Judy responded that the law doesn't apply to a "theater, concert hall, art center, museum, or similar establishments" devoted to the arts or theatrical performances.

"Dance has been considered one of the arts, as is sculpture, painting and anything else like that. What Clarence has is a club where people can come and perform," said his lawyer, Michael Murphy.

Murphy noted that the club has a gallery selling collectible posters and other art, and it provides patrons with sketch pads.

Nonsense, said Fremont County Attorney Margaret Johnson, an underage girl danced naked at the club, and that's illegal.

"Are you saying that minors can't be protected? Can a group of 12-year-olds come down and go in and dance nude and it's OK? I don't think that's what the Legislature had in mind when it made those additional provisions," Johnson said.

Johnson said the intent of the law is to allow movies in a theater where there's brief nudity or for an art gallery displaying paintings of nudes.

Murphy said Judy bans anyone under 18 from entering the five-year-old business. The problem, he said, was "a group of girls snuck in a 17-year-old."

"While she was there, she felt like dancing so she got up and danced on the stage and then she took her clothes off. Trouble with that is she's the sheriff's niece," he said.

Johnson denied that the teen's relation to the sheriff was connected to the charges filed against Judy.

Her parents were absolutely appalled with the situation," Johnson said.

The sheriff declined to comment. There was no comment from his niece, whose name wasn't given.

As part of his defense during trial, Murphy cited a 1998 ruling that found nude dancing is a form of art. In that case, the owner of the Southern Comfort Free Threatre for the Performing Arts in Davenport was charged under the public indecent exposure law for allowing nude dancing. A judge found owner not guilty.

The current case deals only with Judy and Shotgun Geniez, but there could be an appeal if either side loses.

Johnson said that would take it to the Iowa Court of Appeals and perhaps the Iowa Supreme Court. That would make it a statewide case that could affect dozens of other clubs in the state.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Dozens blinded in India looking for Virgin Mary

By Sarah Herman

A statue of the Virgin Mary.
The Virgin Mary apparition was reported above a hotelier's home

At least 50 people have lost their sight after staring at the sun hoping to see an image of the Virgin Mary, according to reports.

Alarmed health authorities in India's Kottayam district have set up a sign dispelling rumours of a miraculous image in the sky and warning of the dangers of looking into direct sunlight.

Forty-eight cases of sight-loss, allegedly caused by photochemical burns on the retina, have been recorded at St Joseph's ENT and Eye hospital in the region since Friday.

Despite warnings, and the potentially harmful effects of their actions, believers are allegedly still flocking to a hotelier's house in Erumeli near where the divine image is said to have appeared.

"All our patients have similar history and symptoms… They have developed photochemical, not thermal, burns after continuously gazing at the sun," Dr Annamma James Isaac, the hospital's ophthalmologist said.

Even churches in the area have disowned the miracle after health officers and doctors approached the clergy.

The house where the miracle is said to have occurred has apparently been the subject of rumours for months.

The hotelier, who has since moved, had claimed that statues of the Virgin Mary in his house have been crying honey and bleeding oils and perfumes.

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Man stole buses, drove them on routes, returned them at night

200807251348.jpgIf James L. Harris really did what police say he did, then I would like to award him a Happy Mutant Criminal Award certificate.
The 18-year-old is accused of stealing at least three Miami-Dade Transist buses, and driving them on their routes.

Poilice say Harris wore a Miami-Dade Transit employee uniform, did not steal the fares, and returned the buses to the depot each night.

He's been charged with three counts each of third-degree grand theft and burglary of an occupied conveyance.

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Angry man shoots lawn mower for not starting

In this photo provided by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's department, Keith Walendowski is shown. Walendowski is accused of shooting his lawn mower because it wouldn't start. According to the criminal complaint, Walendowski said he was angry because his Lawn Boy wouldn't start Wednesday morning, July 23, 2008. He told police quote, 'I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want.' (AP Photo/Milwaukee County Sheriff's department via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
AP Photo: In this photo provided by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's department, Keith Walendowski is shown. Walendowski...

MILWAUKEE - A Milwaukee man was accused of shooting his lawn mower because it wouldn't start. Keith Walendowski, 56, was charged with felony possession of a short-barreled shotgun or rifle and misdemeanor disorderly conduct while armed.

According to the criminal complaint, Walendowski said he was angry because his Lawn Boy wouldn't start Wednesday morning. He told police quote, "I can do that, it's my lawn mower and my yard so I can shoot it if I want."

A woman who lives at Walendowski's house reported the incident. She said he was intoxicated.

Walendowski could face up to an $11,000 fine and six years and three months in prison if convicted.

A call to Walendowski's home went unanswered Friday morning.

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5 Tiny Mistakes That Lead To Huge Catastrophes

By Adam Brown


A lot of you are probably reading this at work and despite that, a lot of you are probably also drunk. That's because most of us have jobs where, if you maybe screw up here and there, it's not the end of the world.

Or at least that's what we'd like to think. It turns out some of the biggest, costliest disasters have resulted from some random employee making a single tiny mistake. Such as ...

#5.
One Leaked File Nearly Brings Down AOL

Over the course of three months in 2006, AOL compiled search data on over 650,000 of its users. That might sound ominous, but all they wanted was a tool for researchers. Sure, the users didn't know their data was being saved, but what they didn't know couldn't hurt them, right? After all, it's not like they would ever release it to the general public.

Whoops ...
Somebody should have told company researcher Abdur Chowdhury. On Friday August 4, 2006, with a click of a mouse, Chowdhury uploaded a single compressed text file of the search data on an AOL website that was, in fact, open to the public.

But don't fret, the user names weren't listed and AOL officials quickly realized the mistake and took the file down on Monday, the next business day.

Really, What's the Worst That Could Happen?
This is the internet, there is no such thing as the next day. By the time the file was taken down, word of the data leak had spread through blogs far and wide, the search results were posted on mirror sites including one that remains today as a searchable database. The media had already taken to the frighteningly easy task of personally identifying some of the users.

See, despite the absence of user names, a number of people had unknowingly identified themselves by way of "ego searches." That means that, along with searches for pleasant topics like rape, murder, committing rape and murder, hiding rape and murder, and Clay Aiken CDs, they also searched for their own names, addresses and social security numbers.

Within days, The New York Times had released, with consent, the name of a user who they tracked down by cross-checking search keywords with phone books and other public information. After a few weeks, AOL had not only fired the researcher responsible for the leak, but also his supervisor and Chief Technology Officer Maureen Govern.

All because of one click of the mouse.

As a bizarre postscript to all of this, one of the users identified in the file only by number ("User 927") became internet famous for having basically the creepiest search habits imaginable. Searches included "human mold," "dog sex," "child porn," "Disney Beauty and the Beast Porn" and, most frighteningly, "'Sugar, We're Going Down' by Fallout Boy." No, really.

Well, recently, a stage production premiered, based on their life, called User 927.

#4.
One Switch Leaves New York City in the Dark

On the night of July 13, 1977, a system operator sat in New York City's ConEdison electric facility, probably reading a comic book and wishing the internet had been invented.

Then, lightning struck. Three times. It nearly crippled the facility. To make things worse, neighboring facilities then opened their connections to the ConEd system to keep their own from overloading. The details are technical, but let's just say at that point, the system was going to be fucked unless somebody took action.

But no worries, our trusty system operator was on duty. And all he needed to do was flip a few switches and disaster would be averted. What could go wrong?

Whoops ...
Did we mention those switches needed to be flipped quickly? And in the proper order? Someone should have mentioned it to the system operator. One switch flipped out of order and within a few minutes, a 230,000 volt connection with New Jersey closed and the system began to overload. At 9:36 PM, the entire ConEdison system shut down.

Really, What's the Worst That Could Happen?
New York City was suddenly plunged into 25 hours of electricity-free mayhem. With mid-July temperatures sweltering, a deranged serial killer who took his orders from his neighbor's dog on the loose, and 1977's New York City just being a generally unhappy place to be, people lost their shit.

In short order, the raucous, block party-like atmosphere in the streets turned into violent looting. Fires were started, store windows were smashed, electronics were stolen (albeit not used for some time) and the fucking Yankees were well on their way to another World Series title. Son of a bitch.


Above: Why we love New York

After all was said and done, 1,616 stores were damaged, 1,037 fires were set, and 3,776 arrests were made. A Congressional study estimated the total damage to the New York City area at $300 million. Also, as a bizarre side effect: hip-hop was born. Seriously. The looting apparently resulted in the first access to DJ equipment for poor inner city youths, launching the movement.

In the aftermath of the blackout, ConEdison implemented changes to make sure the same problem never happened again (which it totally did in 2003). We're assuming this involved something along the lines of a few sequentially ordered labels above those switches.

#3.
The Fatal Four Microns in the Hubble Telescope

The Hubble Telescope was initially conceived and budgeted for in the '70s and planned for launch in 1983. Various mishaps, not the least of which being the Challenger disaster, delayed the project for years. When it launched in 1990, scientists expected the Hubble to take its place among NASA's "great observatories," placing it in the company of, among others, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.


Probably not related to the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

The Hubble was expected to deliver some pretty kick-ass images thanks to its ability to capture those images with little to no back light (as you'd get with an earthbound telescope). Sounds like a huge task, but the Hubble was equipped with one of the most powerful mirrors ever built.

A team of the best engineers in the world gathered to build that mirror, working 12-hour days for five straight years, grinding the mirror with equipment that would make sure it was perfect to within a millionth of an inch.

Whoops ...
A guy named Lou Montagnino was in charge of testing the thing, using equipment so sensitive they had to do it in the middle of the night--(the vibration of a car driving three miles away would throw it off).

Unknown to Lou, a microscopic chip of paint flecked off a measuring rod that was supposed to make sure the mirror was the right shape. It started giving back false readings as a result, and the mirror wound up being off by four microns.

That was their mistake. Four microns. Twenty-five times smaller than the width of a human fucking hair. Smaller than a mosquito's flaccid penis.

Really, What's the Worst That Could Happen?
When the first images were returned from the Hubble, the quality was drastically less than what NASA expected, and nowhere close to powerful enough for what NASA needed it to do.

Of course the real problem was that by the time they discovered the flaw, the damned thing was already out in space. So say goodbye to a few billion more dollars, which is what it cost for a series of Space Shuttle missions to fix the thing's mirror (the repairs got so costly that there was debate as to whether it wouldn't be better to just build a new one). We're surprised they didn't just strap Lou Montagnino to a rocket and send him up there with some really fine grit sandpaper in his hand.

#2.
The $1.4 Billion Sensor

At an air force base in Guam, during a routine check of a Stealth Bomber (aka The Most Expensive Fucking Plane Ever Built) somebody on a maintenance crew noticed the humidity was screwing up the air pressure sensors. Not a big deal, it's just a $1.4 billion aircraft, not like they could have ever guessed it would be flown in a place where there was humidity. We always go to war with dry countries.

Anyway, they just made sure to dry off the sensor before calibrating it. Problem solved. Good thing they worked that out before anything went wrong!

Whoops...
Communication is a beautiful thing. As simple as the sensor fix was, the maintenance crew overlooked one minor detail, which was telling other maintenance crews to do the same thing. But seriously, it's just an air sensor, with some droplets of water on it. Do those things really even serve any purpose? It's not like it's an engine or a flux capacitor or something.

Really, What's the Worst That Could Happen?
When another bomber pulled into Guam earlier this year, on presumably an equally humid day, a different maintenance crew left the wet sensors the way they were. As it turns out, those air sensors feed data to the Stealth Bomber's flight control system. Important data. The kind that keeps Stealth Bombers in the air.

See, that's what makes a $1.4 billion plane cost $1.4 billion--it takes hundreds of pounds of sophisticated computers to fly the thing. The malfunctioning sensors resulted in a premature take off, a 30-degree nose-towards-the-sky ascent, and ... well let's just show you:

Fortunately for the pilots, they were able to safely eject. And on the bright side, the next time a problem like this arises, they'll know how to fix it!

#1.
The Mars Climate Orbiter Disappears

Along with The Mars Polar Lander, The Mars Climate Orbiter was one part of the Mars Survey '98 project. The ambitious project was intended to study weather and climate patterns on Mars, presumably so we can all move there one day when things finally go completely off the rails here on earth.

With two separate, unmanned aircraft designed to work together from completely different points on a (probably) uninhabited planet, an obvious question is raised. Who the hell is working on our flying cars?!?! Whoever it is, we can only hope that as much careful attention and detail goes into our airborne Prius as was put into the Mars Climate Orbiter.

Whoops ...
Or not. When Maryland-based contractor Lockheed Martin was tapped to help build the Orbiter, they made as assumption that many of us probably would also. They're in the United States, NASA is in the United States, and 'round these parts, we don't deal with no stinking metric system. Thus some unnamed engineers installed software in the craft's thrusters that operated on the good ol' American units.

Nobody told NASA this, and they continued doing business in the same fruity metric system way they always have. But shit man, isn't there a checklist somewhere in the billion dollar orbiter building process that confirms these things?

We like to think there was one lone intern in mission control who, upon seeing some odd readouts on a screen, got the urge to ask his supervisor, "Is this like, in metric or American here?" but was afraid it was a stupid question.

Really, What's the Worst That Could Happen?
There are no stupid questions when it comes to $330 million spacecraft. You would really be hard pressed to find a NASA project that went more horribly wrong that didn't involve multiple fatalities. While neither machine performed particularly well, The Mars Polar Lander at least lived up to the promise of its name and, you know, landed.

The Mars Climate Orbiter, on the other hand, just couldn't be bothered. Initially expected to enter orbit at an altitude of 140 kilometers above Mars, the whole metric system misunderstanding caused the thrusters to fire incorrectly, causing the Orbiter to come in as low as 57 kilometers. At that height, the Orbiter was perilously close to the Martian atmosphere. Or at least that's where it was the last time anyone saw it.

The thing vanished, the most likely explanation being that atmospheric pressures and friction caused it to burst into flames and disintegrate. But, as a website that thrives on geekery, we're unwilling to rule out alien intervention. Whatever the case, it proves that countless disasters can be prevented by simply assuming everyone you're working with is a moron.

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