Friday, December 9, 2011

200 Indian fans hired at Rs 300 to welcome Tom Cruise

Cheering squad paid to greet the hollywood star at airport's vip exit. Some of them did not even know who the actor was, 'but 300 for an hour is easy money'.
By the time Tom Cruise landed in Mumbai on Saturday evening, a couple of 100 eager fans had managed to line the pavement across the airport's VIP exit, even though the time of his arrival had not been made public. As the Hollywood star emerged from the gate, in a blue shirt and aviator sunglasses, the air was buzzing with screeches and elated, in coherent howls. There was bannerwaving, and much cheering and chanting. Cruise, who's been travelling around the world to promote his new film, "Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol", is used to such a reception wherever he goes. This time, however, there was an Indian twist to the tale.
The crowd gathered at the airport had been paid to be there by the organizers of his trip, with the price ranging from 200 to 400, depending on how 'experienced' each member of the cheering squad was.
A few of the 'fans' were not even sure who they were welcoming, despite chart-paper placards reading, "we love Tom Cruise", "Tom - chak de India", and "Tom Cruises". Three girls from Mankhurd, among the most vocal members of the crowd, for example, did not exactly know what Tom Cruise did. "We're not certain," one of them told us, "but 300 for an hour outside the airport is not bad."
More enquiries revealed that the trip's organizers had hired an agency that specialized in arranging for crowds for celebrity events. An official from that agency, who was present at the airport, said that each person was paid an average of 300 to be a part of the crowd and cheer for Tom for 15 mins. "We asked them to reach here by 4 pm as we were told that he would arrive at 5:15," the official told this newspaper on condition of anonymity.
As far as the police were concerned, however, the paid crowd had its advantages. "Mobs that randomly gather to see celebrities can be extremely unruly and tough to control. A hired crowd is better. It behaves itself and listens to us," said a security officer outside the terminal.
When contacted, a top official from Wizcraft, the company organizing Tom Cruise's India trip, denied any knowledge of a 'paid' arrangement. "We are not aware of this. Your information is incorrect," Sabah Joseph, one of the directors of the company, said.
Cruise was at the airport for no more than 10 minutes. He waved at the crowd, posed for photographs, and was whisked away to the Taj Mahal hotel in Colaba, where a rooftop party was held with a guest list including Aamir KhanSalman Khan and Katrina Kaif.
Tom Cruise had landed earlier on Sunday in New Delhi, from where he went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, accompanied by his "MI4" co-star Anil Kapoor.

An eye-opening fossil

Armed with barbed grasping claws and a mouth full of tooth-like serrations, anomalocaridids are thought to have been the top predators in the Cambrian oceans about 500 million years ago. A cache of spectacular fossils now suggests that the ancient hunter Anomalocaris had compound eyes that gave it keener vision than many of the modern arthropods related to it.
Previous fossils have raised the possibility that it had compound eyes, but none of them has had enough surface detail to confirm this. Palaeontologist John Paterson at the University of New England in Australia, and his colleagues have now done so by studying fossils discovered in the Emu Bay Shale in South Australia. They found that thousands of tiny hardened lenses definitely made up each eye, much as they make up the eyes of modern insects and crustaceans. The fossil is described today inNature1.
“The extraordinary detail preserved in this specimen is just fantastic,” says Robert Gaines, palaeobiologist at Pomona College in Claremont, California, who was not involved in the study.
“It has been unbelievably frustrating being able to see eyes like these at fossil sites like the Burgess Shale [in the Canadian Rocky Mountains], but not have any details. It is really refreshing to have our ideas about these animals confirmed at last,” comments Simon Conway Morris, a palaeontologist at the University of Cambridge, UK.
Moreover, it seems that the eyes of ancient anomalocaridids had even more lenses than those of most modern arthropods. Paterson and his team counted about 16,000 lenses on each eye. “This is a lot,” says Paterson. “The common housefly has only 3,200 and most ants have fewer than 1,000.” Dragonflies have up to 28,000 lenses in each eye — and extraordinary eyesight — but they are “the freaks of the arthropods”, he says.

Shooting daggers

“Such lens-rich compound eyes suggest Anomalocaris was a highly visual hunter. Its prey didn’t stand a chance,” says Paterson. Conway Morris says that it is reasonable to speculate that the creatures had a high degree of visual acuity, and a well-developed brain to process that information.
It is possible that the eyes of Anomalocaris had even more than 16,000 lenses — the fossils are detailed, but they are not perfect. In fossil form, the stalked eyes are flattened, like pancakes. But Paterson speculates that the eyes of a living anomalocaridid would have been bulbous, and that if non-flattened eyes were to be found, many more lenses would be discovered on the other side.
Yet the research raises questions about more than just how well Anomalocaris could see. Because compound eyes are so commonly found in animals with exoskeletons, it has been assumed that the two traits evolved together. Yet anomalocaridids were soft-bodied, which Paterson suggests could mean that compound eyes evolved first.
“Since these compound eyes themselves are biomineralized, it is not clear to me whether the ancestors ofAnomalocaris had a mineralized exoskeleton and lost it early on or if they simply hadn’t evolved them yet. This could stir up debate,” says Gaines.

Watch the total lunar eclipse, wherever you may be

The calendar may say there's a full moon, but millions of people will be watching for the moon to go dark on Saturday, during the last total lunar eclipse until 2014. And even if you can't see the eclipse in the sky, you can still bring it up on your computer.
The best views will be available in Asia and the Pacific, but the western U.S. and Canada will get in on at least some of the action. In fact, there's a chance that Westerners could see an "impossible" eclipse, with the dark moon and the rising sun in the sky simultaneously.
Lunar eclipses occur when Earth is positioned in its orbit just right to cast a huge shadow on the moon. Unlike a total solar eclipse, which can be seen only along a narrow track of Earth's surface, a lunar eclipse can be seen by half the world. You do have to be in the right half, however.
The show begins with a faint penumbral dimming of the lunar surface at 6:33 a.m. ET Saturday, and reaches its climax at 9:06 a.m. ET with the start of totality. By then, of course, the sun will be up on the East Coast, but folks on the West Coast should be able to see the dark moon over the western horizon. This map from Sky & Telescope can tell you what to expect:
Sky & Telescope
This map shows you how much of the lunar eclipse is visible from which locations in North America. The penumbral eclipse, starting at 3:33 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, is the faintest phase. The umbral, or partial, eclipse starts at 4:45 a.m. PT. Totality begins at 6:06 a.m. PT and ends at 6:57 a.m. PT. The partial eclipse ends at 8:17 a.m. PT, and penumbral phase ends at 9:30 a.m. PT. Click on the image for a world map showing the eclipse zone.
If you're getting up early to see the show, there's no need to get up too early. But you will want to keep an eye on the moon during the 10 or 15 minutes before the onset of totality. That's when you'll see the perceptible darkening of the lunar disk as Earth's shadow creeps across.
The moon doesn't go totally dark during totality. Some sunlight is still refracted by Earth's atmosphere, giving the face of the moon a  sunset glow. The precise shade (reddish? brownish? orangish?) depends on the character of the dust and the clouds in the atmosphere. For example, total eclipses tend to be very dark after big volcanic eruptions, as explained in this guidefrom eclipse expert Fred Espenak.
Over at the NASA Science website, Tony Phillips points out that Saturday's eclipsed moon may look unusually huge to the North Americans who can see it, due to the "moon illusion." It's not that the moon gets bigger when it's near the horizon; it's just that our brain is programmed to perceive sky phenomena differently depending on whether they're overhead or lower down in the sky. This archived article from 2008 explains how it works.
The total phase of Saturday's eclipse is due to last 51 minutes. For North Americans, sunrise and moonset could come before that time, depending on where you live. On the other side of the world, some folks in Europe, Africa and the Middle East will see only part of the show after sunset. In between, most Asia-Pacific observers will be able to watch the whole thing, while South America is out of luck.
But then there's the Internet: Even if you're totally out of the eclipse zone, or facing total cloud cover, you can still experience totality on your computer screen. A remote-astronomy service called Slooh is offering a live eclipse feedfrom Hawaii, Asia and Australia starting at 8 a.m. ET (5 a.m. PT), with audio narration by astronomer Bob Berman. He'll be joined by several guests and will also take call-in questions. There's a Slooh video app for Android mobile phones, and you could even watch the feed through this window:

If you snap a picture or capture a video of the eclipse, will you please share it with us? Feel free to use our FirstPerson upload tool, or post it to Facebook, Flickr or YouTube and let me know about it via the Cosmic Log Facebook page. We'll put together a smorgasbord of eclipse pics on Saturday.
It'll be a while before we see such a sight again. Only partial or penumbral lunar eclipses are expected during 2012 and 2013. Our next date with lunar totality comes on April 15, 2014. Don't worry, the world won't end: It'll just seem like it on Tax Day.

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