Monday, June 25, 2012

Here's What Real Theocracy Looks Like

A man named Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri was beheaded in Saudi Arabia this week after being found in possession of spell books and talismans. Beheading is "God's punishment" for "sorcerers and charlatans," according to a statement that the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice issued in March.
Al-Asiri's execution was the latest accomplishment of Saudi Arabia's Anti-Witchcraft Unit, an elite police force specifically trained to track down and arrest practitioners of magic. The Anti-Witchcraft Unit was part of a larger campaign to exterminate sorcery from the kingdom which began in 2009 and has included a hotline for reporting witch sightings, raids on suspected houses, and lectures to inform the public about the dangers of magicians -- "key causers of religious and social instability in the country," according to the Commission's statement.  
(Foreign Policy, 6/26/2012)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Leap into the Unknown

Another one for the Courage file:

Later this summer, Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will ascend to 120,000 feet in a pressurized capsule and, wearing only a spacesuit, jump.

As he plummets 23 miles in the highest skydive ever, Baumgartner will become the first person to break the sound barrier in free fall. That’s the plan, anyway. To even attempt this will expose him to many challenges, including the risk that water in his body could vaporize. 

But one challenge in particular is foremost in everyone’s mind: What happens when Baumgartner encounters the shock waves that invariably occur when something exceeds the speed of sound?
No one really knows.
"Until you do it, it's still an unknown," says Jonathan Clark, the medical director for Red Bull Stratos, the team assembled to help Baumgartner reach his lofty goal.