Groundhog Day Storms the Web

Added 31/1/2012

by Claudine Zap

Groundhog Day is almost upon us, when rodent meteorologists take over the weather report to answer the pressing question: Is spring almost here, or are we subject to six more weeks of winter?

Searches on Yahoo! have forecasted a storm of interest, including 'what is groundhog day,' 'when is groundhog day,' and 'history of groundhog day.'

The history of this now American tradition stems from pagan and Christian holidays brought over from Europe that looked to hibernating animals to signal the end of winter. The Germans used hedgehogs as their weather guides. In Pennsylvania, early American settlers found groundhogs, not hedgehogs, and the forecasting began in the new country with a new rodent.

The story goes that on February 2, if the groundhog (also known as a woodchuck) emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. No shadow means an early spring.

Thanks to the movie 'Groundhog Day,' the marmot Punxsutawney Phil has reached celebrity status. The supposedly 125-year-old rodent, who gained fame in the comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, boasts a Facebook page along with media hype.

So how accurate is the forecast from Punxsutawney Phil? According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil's reading is 100% accurate, natch. But the National Climatic Data Center disagrees, noting that its research shows 'no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of this analysis.'

The most infamous groundhog has to be Staten Island Chuck, who gained notoriety for biting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg a few years back. Other groundhogs emerge on the day to make their own, possibly contradictory, predictions: The Huffington Post tracked down lesser-known furry mammals who forecast.

Groundhog or no, the first day of spring is officially March 20, and it can't come soon enough.

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Lego Man in Space Moves the Web

Added 27/1/2012

by Claudine Zap

Two teens from Toronto successfully launched a Lego figure into near space -- and launched a storm of interest on the Web.

Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, 17-year-old classmates at Agincourt Collegiate Institute, took four months, many Saturdays, and $400 to carry a Lego figurine and four cameras miles above the earth, a project that the two did for fun, not for class.

'We didn't really believe we could do it until we did,' Ho told the Toronto Star. You can see the video they made, using the stunning photos of the Lego man 78,000 feet off the ground, here.

The video of the Lego man in near space has gone viral, with 570,000 views and counting. Searches on Yahoo! for 'lego man in space' have soared 325% in just one day.

The high school students, both seniors, were inspired by a video of a similar project undertaken by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The DIY contraption included a GPS locator so the students could track the weather balloon (a professional-grade one they purchased online) once it landed. Using a website that calculates a weather balloon's landing position based on coordinates and variables like wind speed, the two waited to launch the object until the timing was right for a Canadian landing.

The video shows the two-inch high LEGO man holding a Canadian flag flying high above Earth and the clouds, until the tilt of the earth's axis can be seen. And then the balloon pops, sending the Lego guy back to the ground in a mere 32 minutes.

Ho and Muhammad may still be walking on air with all the accolades they've received for their successful project. The teens have been offered cameras from Canon and asked to speak at an engineering competitions, and they've been given funds to cover the cost of the project. Even Lego sent its congratulations.

Not bad for two kids who haven't even found out yet where they're going to college.

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Clooney Has a Big Prank Ready for Pitt

Added 27/1/2012

by Mike Krumboltz

George Clooney is a respected actor, director, and activist. But he's also a born prankster. The star of 'The Descendants' recently visited 'Inside the Actors Studio,' where he dished about his plans for pulling one over on his good friend and rival Brad Pitt.

In the clip, an audience member asks Clooney about some of his favorite pranks that he's pulled. Clooney says, 'I'm a big believer in making (movie) sets fun ... I have done some horrible things to people. Truly, truly horrible. I'm working on one now for Brad Pitt. It might end his career.' Clooney then added, 'I owe him, so I'm getting him.'

What did Pitt do to inspire such a revenge? We're not sure if this is the reason, but according to Matt Damon, while on the set of 'Ocean's Twelve,' Pitt constructed a fake memo and gave it to the Italian crew. The memo instructed the crew not to look Clooney in the eye and only call him 'Danny' or 'Mr. Ocean.' Clooney was apparently none too pleased.

Clooney's love of pranks goes way back. As the New York Post explains, the Oscar winner placed plants in front of Julia Roberts's trailer door on the set of 'Ocean's Eleven' so she couldn't exit. He arranged for a tailor to secretly take in Matt Damon's pants every day while Damon was trying to lose weight for a role. 'He couldn't understand how he seemed to be gaining weight while he was trying so hard to lose it,' Clooney explained.

He also once told his friend, actor Richard Kind, that he was studying art. Clooney found a horrible-looking painting in the trash and told Kind that he'd painted it. 'And then for his 40th birthday I gave him this horrible painting. He had to hang it on his wall, [it was by] his best friend! And for years people would come over -- everyone else knew it was out of the trash -- and go, 'That is a beautiful painting.''

The episode of 'Inside the Actors Studio' will air January 31.

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