Tag: change (page 18 of 97)

Volunteers Sought for Christmas Bird Count





Excerpt from
yourdailyjournal.com 


ROCKINGHAM — The National Audubon Society is inviting Richmond County birdwatchers to participate in the longest-running citizen science survey in the world, the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Beginning Sunday, hundreds of birders and nature enthusiasts across North Carolina will take part in this long-standing tradition where data collected has helped to shape influential conservation efforts nationwide.

As North Carolina’s landscape continues to evolve with changes... the data collected during the annual Christmas Bird Count is crucial to understanding the health of native and migrating bird populations throughout North Carolina. During the 2013 CBC, five snowy owls were spotted from Asheville to Wilmington, and local citizen scientists were on hand to detail the rare event.

North Carolina’s birding circles are some of the top performing in the country, and last year, a record 51 counts across the state reported 1,113,012 individual birds from 225 species.

“In a state where inspiring conservation action is vital to the health of birds facing the damaging effects of climate change, Audubon North Carolina is excited to be a leader in statewide conservation efforts,” Executive Director Heather Hahn said in a release. “As climate change continues to affect populations of the brown-headed nuthatch, American oystercatcher, wood thrush and many more iconic species, the data collected during this annual event becomes even more important to ongoing efforts to protect our birds.”

Each year, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count mobilizes more than 70,000 volunteer bird counters in more than 2,400 locations across the Western Hemisphere. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count utilizes the power of volunteers to track the health of bird populations at a scale that professional scientists could never accomplish alone. Data compiled across North Carolina will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area, contributing to a vast citizen science network that continues a tradition stretching back more than 100 years.

Birders of all ages are welcome to contribute to this fun winter tradition and nationwide citizen science project, which provides ornithologists with a crucial snapshot of native bird populations during the winter months. Each individual count is performed in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles.

At least 10 volunteers, including a compiler to coordinate the process, count in each circle. The volunteers break up into small parties and follow assigned routes, which change little from year to year, counting every bird they see. In most count circles, some people also watch feeders instead of following routes.

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How will the world end? From ‘demonic’ AI to nuclear war — seven scenarios that could end human race




news.nationalpost.com 


Humanity may have already created its own nemesis, Professor Stephen Hawking warned last week. The Cambridge University physicist claimed that new developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) mean that within a few decades, computers thousands of times more powerful than in existence today may decide to usurp their creators and effectively end humanity’s 100,000-year dominance of Earth.
This Terminator scenario is taken seriously by many scientists and technologists. Before Prof. Hawking made his remarks, Elon Musk, the genius behind the Tesla electric car and PayPal, had stated that “with artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon,” comparing it unfavourably with nuclear war as the most potent threat to humanity’s existence.
Aside from the rise of the machines, many potential threats have been identified to our species, our civilization, even our planet. To keep you awake at night, here are seven of the most plausible.
Getty Images / ThinkStock
Getty Images / ThinkStockAn artist's depiction of an asteroid approaching Earth.
1. ASTEROID STRIKE
Our solar system is littered with billions of pieces of debris, from the size of large boulders to objects hundreds of kilometres across. We know that, from time to time, these hit the Earth. Sixty-five-million years ago, an object – possibly a comet a few times larger than the one on which the Philae probe landed last month – hit the Mexican coast and triggered a global winter that wiped out the dinosaurs. In 1908, a smaller object hit a remote part of Siberia and devastated hundreds of square kilometres of forest. Last week, 100 scientists, including Lord Rees of Ludlow, the Astronomer Royal, called for the creation of a global warning system to alert us if a killer rock is on the way.
Probability: remote in our lifetime, but one day we will be hit.
Result: there has been no strike big enough to wipe out all life on Earth – an “extinction-level event” – for at least three billion years. But a dino-killer would certainly be the end of our civilization and possibly our species.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.When artificial intelligence becomes self-aware, there is a chance it will look something like this scene from Terminator 3.
2. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Prof. Hawking is not worried about armies of autonomous drones taking over the world, but something more subtle – and more sinister. Some technologists believe that an event they call the Singularity is only a few decades away. This is a point at which the combined networked computing power of the world’s AI systems begins a massive, runaway increase in capability – an explosion in machine intelligence. By then, we will probably have handed over control to most of our vital systems, from food distribution networks to power plants, sewage and water treatment works, and the global banking system. The machines could bring us to our knees without a shot being fired. And we cannot simply pull the plug, because they control the power supplies.

Probability: unknown, although computing power is doubling every 18 months. We do not know if machines can be conscious or “want” to do anything, and sceptics point out that the cleverest computers in existence are currently no brighter than cockroaches.
Result: if the web wakes up and wants to sweep us aside, we may have a fight on our hands (perhaps even something similar to the man vs. machines battle in the Terminator films). But it is unlikely that the machines will want to destroy the planet – they “live” here, too.
Handout/AFP/Getty Images
Handout/AFP/Getty ImagesLaboratory technicians and physicians work on samples during research on the evolving Ebola disease in bats, at the Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases research Laboratory of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Pretoria on Nov. 21, 2011.
3. A GENETICALLY CREATED PLAGUE
This is possibly the most terrifying short-term threat because it is so plausible. The reason Ebola has not become a worldwide plague – and will not do so – is because it is so hard to transmit, and because it incapacitates and kills its victims so quickly. However, a modified version of the disease that can be transmitted through the air, or which allows its host to travel around for weeks, symptom-free, could kill many millions. It is unknown whether any terror group has the knowledge or facilities to do something like this, but it is chilling to realize that the main reason we understand Ebola so well is that its potential to be weaponized was quickly realized by defence experts.
Probability: someone will probably try it one day.
Result: potentially catastrophic. “Ordinary” infectious diseases such as avian-flu strains have the capability to wipe out hundreds of millions of people.
AP Photo/U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
AP Photo/U.S. Army via Hiroshima Peace Memorial MuseumA mushroom cloud billows about one hour after a nuclear bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan Aug. 6, 1945.
4. NUCLEAR WAR
This is still the most plausible “doomsday” scenario. Despite arms-limitations treaties, there are more than 15,000 nuclear warheads and bombs in existence – many more, in theory, than would be required to kill every human on Earth. Even a small nuclear war has the potential to cause widespread devastation. In 2011, a study by NASA scientists concluded that a limited atomic war between India and Pakistan involving just 100 Hiroshima-sized detonations would throw enough dust into the air to cause temperatures to drop more than 1.2C globally for a decade.
Probability: high. Nine states have nuclear weapons, and more want to join the club. The nuclear wannabes are not paragons of democracy.
Result: it is unlikely that even a global nuclear war between Russia and NATO would wipe us all out, but it would kill billions and wreck the world economy for a century. A regional war, we now know, could have effects far beyond the borders of the conflict.
CERN)/MCT
CERN)/MCTThis is one of the huge particle detectors in the Large Hadron Collider, a 17 mile-long tunnel under the French-Swiss border. Scientists are searching for evidence of what happened right after- and perhaps before- the Big Bang.
5. PARTICLE ACCELERATOR DISASTER
Before the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the massive machine at CERN in Switzerland that detected the Higgs boson a couple of years ago, was switched on, there was a legal challenge from a German scientist called Otto Rossler, who claimed the atom-smasher could theoretically create a small black hole by mistake – which would then go on to eat the Earth.
The claim was absurd: the collisions in the LHC are far less energetic than those caused naturally by cosmic rays hitting the planet. But it is possible that, one day, a souped-up version of the LHC could create something that destroys the Earth – or even the universe – at the speed of light.
Probability: very low indeed.
Result: potentially devastating, but don’t bother cancelling the house insurance just yet.
AP Photo/Oculus Rift/Fox
AP Photo/Oculus Rift/FoxThis photo shows a scene fromX-Men: Days of Future Past virtual reality experience. Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom has speculated that our universe may be one of countless "simulations" running in some alien computer, much like a computer game.
6. ‘GOD’ REACHES FOR THE OFF-SWITCH
Many scientists have pointed out that there is something fishy about our universe. The physical constants – the numbers governing the fundamental forces and masses of nature – seem fine-tuned to allow life of some form to exist. The great physicist Sir Fred Hoyle once wondered if the universe might be a “put-up job”.
More recently, the Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom has speculated that our universe may be one of countless “simulations” running in some alien computer, much like a computer game. If so, we have to hope that the beings behind our fake universe are benign – and do not reach for the off-button should we start misbehaving.
Probability: according to Professor Bostrom’s calculations, if certain assumptions are made, there is a greater than 50% chance that our universe is not real. And the increasingly puzzling absence of any evidence of alien life may be indirect evidence that the universe is not what it seems.
Result: catastrophic, if the gamers turn against us. The only consolation is the knowledge that there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastFloodwaters from the Souris River surround homes near Minot State University in Minot, N.D. on June 27, 2011. Global warming is rapidly turning America the beautiful into America the stormy and dangerous, according to the National Climate Assessment report released Tuesday, May 6, 2014.
7. CLIMATE CATASTROPHE
Almost no serious scientists now doubt that human carbon emissions are having an effect on the planet’s climate. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that containing temperature rises to below 2C above the pre-industrial average is now unlikely, and that we face a future three or four degrees warmer than today.
This will not literally be the end of the world – but humanity will need all the resources at its disposal to cope with such a dramatic shift. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change will really start to kick in just at the point when the human population is expected to peak – at about nine billion by the middle of this century. Millions of people, mostly poor, face losing their homes to sea-level rises (by up to a metre or more by 2100) and shifting weather patterns may disrupt agriculture dramatically.
Probability: it is now almost certain that CO2 levels will keep rising to 600 parts per billion and beyond. It is equally certain that the climate will respond accordingly.
Result: catastrophic in some places, less so in others (including northern Europe, where temperature rises will be moderated by the Atlantic). The good news is that, unlike with most of the disasters here, we have a chance to do something about climate change now.

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Mars Capsule Test Heralds New Space Age With Musk Alongside NASA




Excerpt from
bloomberg.com

The U.S. is preparing to launch the first craft developed to fly humans to Mars, presaging a second space age -- this one fueled by billionaires like Elon Musk rather than a Cold War contest with the Soviet Union. 

An unmanned version of the Orion spaceship built by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) is scheduled for liftoff tomorrow to an altitude of 3,600 miles (5,800 kilometers), the farthest from Earth by a vehicle designed for people since the Apollo program was scrapped in 1972. 

Entrepreneurs such as Musk and longtime contractors like Lockheed are helping shape the technology needed to find other homes for humanity in the solar system with an eye to one day commercializing their work. 

“These are really exciting times for space exploration and for our nation as we begin to return to the ability to fly humans to space,” said Jim Crocker, vice president and general manager of civil space at Lockheed Martin Space Systems. “What Orion is about is going further into space than humans have ever gone before.”
Photographer: Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a Delta IV rocket, the Orion capsule will test the riskiest systems needed to carry astronauts far beyond the moon, although its first flight will cover only about 2 percent of the 238,900-mile distance to the lunar surface.

Speed Limit

After orbiting earth twice, Orion will accelerate to 20,000 miles per hour during descent, mimicking the speeds of a craft returning from a mission to deep space. The capsule is supposed to make a parachute-cushioned splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico’s Baja peninsula. 

To explore the universe, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration must first redevelop capabilities abandoned more than 40 years ago when the U.S. shifted focus from Apollo’s lunar forays to rocketing crews a few hundred miles to low Earth orbit.
NASA has used Russian craft to reach the International Space Station since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. 

In a strategic shift, the Obama administration canceled plans to return to the moon, turning some flights to commercial companies while setting its sights -- and limited funds -- on pioneering deep space. The Orion capsule was originally commissioned in 2006 for the defunct Constellation program.

Musk, Bezos

Those moves paved the way for technology chieftains including Musk and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos to pursue their own space ambitions. 

Musk founded Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX in 2002 with the goal of enabling people to live on other planets, a massive endeavor that would require innovations such as reusable rocket stages to lower costs. 

Mars is also in focus for NASA as the space agency maps plans to “pioneer the space frontier,” according to a May 29 white paper.

$22 Billion

NASA proposes an initial $22 billion effort that includes two other Orion missions over the next eight years and building a powerful new rocket. The Delta IV being used tomorrow is manufactured by United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed-Boeing Co. (BA) venture.

A new Space Launch System rocket being developed by the partnership is slated to hoist the next Orion craft beyond the moon in fiscal 2018, Lockheed’s Crocker said in a phone interview. The first manned Orion mission is slated for early in the next decade.
NASA’s plans are “sketchy” beyond that, aside from broad goals to capture asteroid samples in the 2020s and reach Mars a decade later, said Marco Caceres, director of space studies with Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant Teal Group. 

Average Distance

While Mars’s distance from Earth varies because of the two planets’ orbits, the average is about 140 million miles, almost 600 times longer than a trip to the moon. It’s so far that radio communications take as long as 20 minutes to travel each way, according to Bill Hill, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development. 


Entrepreneurs such as Musk will have opportunities to get involved as NASA refines capsule and rocket designs. NASA plans to develop two larger rockets beyond the initial launch vehicle, which will be capable of hauling a 70-metric ton payload. 

“We’re not taking any options off the table,” Hill said. “We want to be sufficiently flexible so that if we find a new path, we can introduce it and not change course.” 

Expense, shifting political priorities and the lack of a clear NASA road map could still derail the latest effort as they did the Apollo program in the early 1970s, said Micah Walter-Range, director of research analysis with the Space Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

“All of the challenges that exist are surmountable,” Walter-Range said by phone. “It’s just a question of having the money to do it.”

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Scientists Unveiled the History of Human Alcohol Consumption




Excerpt from
rt.com 

Civilization has been enjoying a good tipple for much longer than we previously thought, according to a new study. In fact, it seems that our primate ancestors began getting tipsy 10 million years ago, by eating and metabolizing fermented fruit.

Until now, it was widely believed that man came into contact with alcohol around 9,000 years ago, when Chinese villagers combined fruit and honey to make an intoxicating brew.

But a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claims that humankind has been boozing for much longer than believed. 

Research led by Professor Matthew Carrigan from Santa Fe College in Florida, examined the alcohol gene ADH4, “the first enzyme exposed to ethanol in the digestive tract that is capable of metabolizing ethanol,” in samples of almost 70 million years of primate evolution. Scientists were able to identify a single gene variant that enabled our kind to first break down ethanol in the digestive system – and it took place about 10 million years ago.

AFP Photo/Vincent Jannink
AFP Photo/Vincent Jannink
“The evolving catalytic properties of these resurrected enzymes show that our ape ancestors gained a digestive dehydrogenase enzyme capable of metabolizing ethanol near the time they began using the forest floor about 10 million years ago,” Professor Carrigan said, as quoted by the Mirror.
The study of the ADH4 family was reconstructed using genes from 28 different mammals, including 17 primates from public databases or DNA extracted from tissue samples.
The research found that hominins – early humans – were able to metabolise ethanol long before “human-directed fermentation.” The mutation coincided with the transition to a “terrestrial lifestyle,” when our ancestors were forced to come down from a tree and eat fermented fruits during times of food scarcity.
As fruit on ground contains higher concentrations of fermenting yeast and ethanol than fruits hanging on trees, “this transition may also be the first time our ancestors were exposed to - and adapted to - substantial amounts of dietary ethanol,” Professor Carrigan said. 

“The ADH4 enzyme in our more ancient and arboreal ancestors did not efficiently oxidize ethanol. This change suggests exposure to dietary sources of ethanol increased in hominids during the early stages of our adaptation to a terrestrial lifestyle,” he added.
This transition, Carrigan concludes, “implies the genomes of modern human, chimpanzee and gorilla began adapting...to dietary ethanol...that is remarkably similar in concentration and form...to the moderate ethanol consumption now recognised to be healthy for many humans.”

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Top 10 Ridiculously Common Science Myths






listverse.com
There is nothing better than a bit of mythbusting (which accounts for the popularity of the television program of the same name), so here we are again, presenting you with a new list of terribly common misconceptions and myths – this time about science.

10
Evolutionary Improvements
Evolution Std.Jpg
The Myth: Evolution causes something to go from “lower” to “higher”
While it is a fact that natural selection weeds out unhealthy genes from the gene pool, there are many cases where an imperfect organism has survived. Some examples of this are fungi, sharks, crayfish, and mosses – these have all remained essentially the same over a great period of time. These organisms are all sufficiently adapted to their environment to survive without improvement.
Other taxa have changed a lot, but not necessarily for the better. Some creatures have had their environments changed and their adaptations may not be as well suited to their new situation. Fitness is linked to their environment, not to progress.

9
Humans Pop In Space
Ed-White.Jpg
The Myth: When exposed to the vacuum of space, the human body pops
This myth is the result of science fiction movies which use it to add excitement or drama to the plot. In fact, a human can survive for 15 – 30 seconds in outer space as long as they breathe out before the exposure (this prevents the lungs from bursting and sending air into the bloodstream). After 15 or so seconds, the lack of oxygen causes unconsciousness which eventually leads to death by asphyxiation.
8
Brightest Star
800Px-Sirius A And B Artwork.Jpg
The Myth: Polaris is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere night sky
Sirius is actually brighter with a magnitude of ?1.47 compared to Polaris’ 1.97 (the lower the number the brighter the star). The importance of Polaris is that its position in the sky marks North – and for that reason it is also called the “North Star”. Polaris is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor and, interestingly, is only the current North Star as pole stars change over time because stars exhibit a slow continuous drift with respect to the Earth’s axis.
7
Five Second Rule
5Seconds1.Jpg
The Myth: Food that drops on the floor is safe to eat if you pick it up within five seconds
This is utter bunkum which should be obvious to most readers. If there are germs on the floor and the food lands on them, they will immediately stick to the food. Having said that, eating germs and dirt is not always a bad thing as it helps us to develop a robust immune system. I prefer to have a “how-tasty-is-it” rule: if it is something really tasty, it can sit there for ten minutes for all I care – I will still eat it.
6
Dark side of the Moon
179077120 (1)
The Myth: There is a dark side of the moon
Actually – every part of the moon is illuminated at sometime by the sun. This misconception has come about because there is a side of the moon which is never visible to the earth. This is due to tidal locking; this is due to the fact that Earth’s gravitational pull on the moon is so immense that it can only show one face to us. Wikipedia puts it rather smartly thus: “Tidal locking occurs when the gravitational gradient makes one side of an astronomical body always face another; for example, one side of the Earth’s Moon always faces the Earth. A tidally locked body takes just as long to rotate around its own axis as it does to revolve around its partner. This synchronous rotation causes one hemisphere constantly to face the partner body.”


5
Brain Cells
Brain Cell.Jpg
The Myth: Brain cells can’t regenerate – if you kill a brain cell, it is never replaced
The reason for this myth being so common is that it was believed and taught by the science community for a very long time. But in 1998, scientists at the Sweden and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California discovered that brain cells in mature humans can regenerate. It had previously been long believed that complex brains would be severely disrupted by new cell growth, but the study found that the memory and learning center of the brain can create new cells – giving hope for an eventual cure for illnesses like Alzheimer’s.
4
Pennies from Heaven
Empirestatebuilding.Jpg
The Myth: A penny dropped from a very high building can kill a pedestrian below
This myth is so common it has even become a bit of a cliche in movies. The idea is that if you drop a penny from the top of a tall building (such as the Empire State Building) – it will pick up enough speed to kill a person if it lands on them on the ground. But the fact is, the aerodynamics of a penny are not sufficient to make it dangerous. What would happen in reality is that the person who gets hit would feel a sting – but they would certainly survive the impact.
3
Friction Heat
20050825-Meteor-Artist-Impression-110436.Jpg
The Myth: Meteors are heated by friction when entering the atmosphere
When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere of the earth (becoming a meteor), it is actually the speed compressing the air in front of the object that causes it to heat up. It is the pressure on the air that generates a heat intense enough to make the rock so hot that is glows brilliantly for our viewing pleasure (if we are lucky enough to be looking in the sky at the right time). We should also dispel the myth about meteors being hot when they hit the earth – becoming meteorites. Meteorites are almost always cold when they hit – and in fact they are often found covered in frost. This is because they are so cold from their journey through space that the entry heat is not sufficient to do more than burn off the outer layers.
2
Lightning
Lightning.Jpg
The Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice
Next time you see lightning strike and you consider running to the spot to protect yourself from the next bolt, remember this item! Lightning does strike the same place twice – in fact it is very common. Lightning obviously favors certain areas such as high trees or buildings. In a large field, the tallest object is likely to be struck multiple times until the lightning moves sufficiently far away to find a new target. The Empire State Building gets struck around 25 times a year.
1
Gravity in Space
Astronaut Banjo.Jpg
The Myth: There is no gravity in space
In fact, there is gravity in space – a lot of it. The reason that astronauts appear to be weightless because they are orbiting the earth. They are falling towards the earth but moving sufficiently sideways to miss it. So they are basically always falling but never landing. Gravity exists in virtually all areas of space. When a shuttle reaches orbit height (around 250 miles above the earth), gravity is reduced by only 10%.
Inspired by an excellent LiveScience Article. This article is licensed under the GFDL because it contains quotations from Wikipedia.

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Be Your Own Therapist ~ Tibetan Buddhist nun Robina Courtin ~ Video

We spend our lives being seduced by the outside world, believing without question that happiness and suffering come from "out there." In reality, Buddhist teachings explain that they come from the way we perceive and interpret things, not the things...

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You’re flying with NASA and you don’t even know it

Excerpt from cnn.comBy Thom Patterson You know those little "winglets" that point up from the tips of airliner wings? Those were developed by NASA. And, you know those little grooves in runways that channel away standing water?NASA again.America's spac...

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Elusive dark matter may be detected with GPS satellites


This two-clocks-illustration shows the pattern of how two atomic clocks would desynchronize and then resynchronize due to a lump of dark matter sweeping through a Global Positioning System or other atomic clock based network. Photo courtesy of Andrei Derevianko, University of Nevada, Reno.


Excerpt from
sciencerecorder.com


Global Positioning System, or GPS for short, devices are typically used for navigation purposes. But this satellite network could also alert us to something else: the presence of dark matter.

Dark matter is thought to form 80% of the universe, but is difficult to detect because it rarely interacts with ordinary matter. Its makeup is unknown, as it has never been viewed by science. Some have suggested that dark matter is a particle; however, a new study indicates that dark matter may consist of kinks in the quantum field.

According to Andrei Derevianko at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Maxim Pospelov at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, dark matter may be made of quantum field cracks that can be detected by GPS. The theory is a revolutionary one, and would change the nature of time and space where the kinds are located.

One of these elements is time, which is tracked by the extremely accurate GPS system. With a network of satellites spanning 50,000 kilometers and traveling through space at 300 kilometers a second, a cosmic kink could disturb the GPS clocks. This quantum crack would require 170 seconds to jump across the networks.

GPS clocks could be interrupted by other factors, but Deverianko and Pospelov believe that only dark matter could disturb the system’s timekeeping in a certain way.

Derevianko is currently pulling data from 15 years of GPS records to search for signs of dark matter’s presence. If no fingerprints are detected, he will use the ground-based atomic clocks belonging to the Network for European Accurate Time and Frequency Transfer.
If dark matter is nothing more than cosmic kinks, it could give some people a new thing to grumble about. “I hear these stories about people getting lost using GPS,” said Derevianko. “Now they could have another excuse: maybe it was dark matter that caused them to lose their way.”

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