Hilarious time world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking shared a beer with Homer on the Simpsons

You know you are famous when you get a guest appearance on the Simpsons.

World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking who died aged 76 today was famous enough to appear on the show four times.

Hawking first appeared in the Simpsons in season 10, episode 22, titled They Saved Lisa's Brain. 

The episode aired in 1999 and focused on Lisa Simpson's attempts to make the town of Springfield smarter by imposing new laws with fellow town brain boxes, including Professor Frink and Principal Skinner.

Hawking appears in town to help out and at one point shares a beer with Homer at Moe's Tavern.

"Your theory of a donut shaped universe is intriguing Homer I may have to steal it," Hawking says before Homer retorts: "Wow I can't believe someone I never heard of is hanging out with a guy like me."

Hawking went on to appear in three more Simpsons episodes before his death today.



'Prepare for the worst' - Typhoon Mangkhut makes it way to Hong Kong after killing 28 in Philippines

 Hong Kong and southern China hunkered down under red alert as strong winds and heavy rain from Typhoon Mangkhut lashed the densely populated coast, a day after the biggest storm of the year left at least 28 dead from landslides and drownings in the northern Philippines.

Nearly half a million people had been evacuated from seven cities in Guangdong province, the gambling enclave of Macau closed down casinos for the first time and the Hong Kong Observatory warned people to stay away from the Victoria Harbour landmark, where storm surges battered the waterfront reinforced with sandbags. Mangkhut is due to make landfall in Guangdong later today.

The national meteorological center said southern China "will face a severe test caused by wind and rain" and urged officials to prepare for possible disasters.

The typhoon packed sustained winds of 155 kilometers (96 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 190 kph (118 mph). The Hong Kong Observatory said although Mangkhut had weakened slightly, its extensive, intense rainbands were bringing heavy downfall and frequent squalls.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled. All high-speed and some normal rail services in Guangdong and Hainan provinces were also halted Sunday, the China Railway Guangzhou Group Co. said.

In Fujian province and elsewhere, tens of thousands of fishing boats returned to port and construction work came to a stop.

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde told The Associated Press that 20 people had died in the Cordillera mountain region, four in nearby Nueva Vizcaya province and another outside of the two regions. Three more deaths have been reported in northeastern Cagayan province, where the typhoon made landfall before dawn Saturday (local time).

Among the fatalities were an infant and a 2-year-old child who died with their parents after the couple refused to immediately evacuate from their high-risk community in a Nueva Vizcaya mountain town, said Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan said at least three people died and six others were missing in his mountain city of Baguio after strong winds and rain destroyed several houses and set off landslides, which also blocked roads to the popular vacation destination. 

About 87,000 people had evacuated from high-risk areas of the Philippines. Tolentino and other officials advised them not to return home until the lingering danger had passed.

In Cagayan's capital, Tuguegarao, where the typhoon hit land, Associated Press journalists saw a severely damaged public market, its roof ripped apart and wooden stalls and tarpaulin canopies in disarray. Outside a popular shopping mall, debris was scattered everywhere and government workers cleared roads of fallen trees.

In Hong Kong, Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst.

"Because Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of extraordinary speeds, scope and severity, our preparation and response efforts will be greater than in the past," Lee said. "Each department must have a sense of crisis, make a comprehensive assessment and plan, and prepare for the worst."

A resident walks beside toppled structures as Typhoon Mangkhut barreled across Tuguegarao city in Cagayan province, northeastern Philippines early Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The typhoon slammed into the Philippines northeastern coast early Saturday, it's ferocious winds and blinding rain ripping off tin roof sheets and knocking out power, and plowed through the agricultural region at the start of the onslaught. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A resident walks beside toppled structures as Typhoon Mangkhut barreled across Tuguegarao city in Cagayan province, northeastern Philippines. Source: Associated Press


Canterbury engineer hopes to quake-proof buildings with old tyres

A University of Canterbury team is a million dollars closer to its goal of developing quake-proof building foundations from old tyres.

The money from the Endeavour Fund, administered by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, will go to researching new foundation systems for low-rise homes and buildings.

The project's science leader said waste tyres were an affordable source of building materials that could be adapted for wider use.

Gabriele Chiaro, a senior engineering lecturer at Canterbury University, said 3.5 million used tyres were sent to landfills or dumped each year in New Zealand.

"This gives rise to stockpiles of tyres that cause enormous environmental issues."

Mr Chiaro and his team planned to use them to create what was described as an "eco-rubber, seismic-isolation foundation system" for buildings throughout the country.

It is a system that filters the energy of an earthquake by combining two critical elements: A rubber-gravel mixture that disperses seismic shock waves and a flexible "raft" foundation made of steel fibre-reinforced rubberised concrete, that does not crack like regular concrete.

The system would not only absorb the shock, but also prevent damage, Mr Chiaro said.

There were similar studies elsewhere in the world, but mainly in countries that did not have the same earthquake risk.

"In New Zealand we are trying to assess the problem of tyre waste management, and by doing so we are also able to minimise the seismic damage for medium-density, low-height residential buildings."

He said the development was aimed for use in housing developments, which was where a gap existed in earthquake strengthening, but the technology could also be used in small-scale commercial developments.

Mr Chiaro said preliminary studies were done in 2015, which revealed the potential for development. A prototype could be ready within two years before laboratory testing was done, and field trials could be expected within five years.

"After than, we anticipate that in 10 years' time this foundation will be used in most of the buildings built in New Zealand."

Mr Chiaro did not think it would be hard convincing regulatory authorities of its merits, provided it was affordable and resilient.

The $1m Endeavour Fund is New Zealand's largest contestable research fund, aimed at ambitious research projects to improve the lives of New Zealanders.

Mr Chiaro expected the project to attract interest.

"There is potential for great collaboration with Japan and the USA, with whom we already have a connection, and also with Europe."

By Tracy Neal

rnz.co.nz

Gabriele Chiaro, a senior engineering lecturer at Canterbury University, said 3.5 million used tyres were sent to landfills or dumped each year in New Zealand.
Gabriele Chiaro, a senior engineering lecturer at Canterbury University, said 3.5 million used tyres were sent to landfills or dumped each year in New Zealand. Source: University of Canterbury

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Two storms, Florence and Mangkhut, different as water and wind

Nature expresses its fury in sundry ways. Two deadly storms — Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut — roared ashore on the same day, half a world apart, but the way they spread devastation was as different as water and wind.

Storms in the western Pacific generally hit with much higher winds and the people who live in their way are often poorer and more vulnerable, Princeton University hurricane and climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi said Saturday. That will likely determine the type of destruction.

Mangkhut made landfall Friday on the northeastern tip of Luzon island in the Philippines with top-of-the-scale Category 5 winds of 165 mph. Florence had weakened to a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds by the time it arrived at North Carolina's coast.

Yet a day after landfall the faster-moving Mangkhut was back out over open water — weakened, but headed across the South China Sea toward China. Florence, meanwhile, was still plodding across South Carolina at a pace slower than a normal person walks. By Saturday morning, it had already dumped more than 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain, a record for North Carolina.

Experts say Mangkhut may well end up being the deadlier storm.

As of Saturday afternoon (local time), the death count in the Philippines was a bit higher, although still far below that of other storms that have hit the disaster-prone island nation.

The storm dropped 10 to 18 inches of rain along the North Carolina coast. Source: Associated Press

And with Mangkhut now headed toward the densely populated southeast coast of China, it is likely to cause more death and destruction.

But watery Florence's insured loses total will eventually be higher, Ernst Rauch, head of climate research for the world's largest reinsurer Munich Re, told German media.

That's because of a combination of geography, climatic conditions and human factors.

The western Pacific has two-and-a-half times more storms that reach the minimum hurricane strength of 74 mph. It has three-and-a-half times more storms that reach major hurricane strength of 111 mph, and three times more accumulated energy out of those hurricanes, an index that measures not just strength and number of storms but how long they last, according to more than 65 years of storm data.

It's feared the US state could be in for its most destructive flooding in its history. Source: Associated Press

So far this year there have been 23 named storms in the western Pacific and 10 in the Atlantic, both regions more than 30 percent busier than average years. Hurricanes and typhoons are the same type of storm; both are tropical cyclones, but those that occur in the Pacific west of the International Date Line are called typhoons.

The water in the western Pacific is warmer, and warm water fuels storms. There are also only a few pieces of land to get in the way and weaken them, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.

"If we are ever going to have a Category 6 (a speculated-on level that's above current measurement tools), the western Pacific is where it's going to be," said meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com.

The Philippines tends to get hit nearly every year, the Carolinas far less frequently though with lots of close calls, Maue said. That shows another big difference in the storms. Mangkhut formed further south and stayed south — over warmer water. Florence was out of the tropics when it hit land.

Because of that, Florence was weakened by the dry air and upper level winds of the higher latitudes. Not so the more southerly Mangkhut, which Maue said, "essentially had a perfect environment to intensify to a Category 5 and stay there."

"Mangkhut and Florence are certainly different animals," said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. Because Florence is moving so slowly, he said, it will dump more rain than Mangkhut, which is named for the Thai word for the mangosteen fruit.

Both storms have lasted a long time, especially Florence which formed all the way over near Africa 15 days before landfall, McNoldy said. Both storms cover a large area, but Mangkut still dwarfs Florence. Mangkhut's tropical storm force winds stretched more than 325 miles from the center, while Florence's spread about 195 miles, Klotzbach said.

"It was very dark, all you could see was water and wind, you couldn't really figure out what was going on out there," a neighbour said. Source: Associated Press

Economics also play a role in a storm's impact. As a developing country, the Philippines is much poorer than the southeastern United States, which means houses tend to be less sturdy and first responders less well equipped, among other factors. This is one reason why, when disaster does strike, the effects can be devastating. In 2013, one of the most powerful storms on record, Typhoon Haiyan , killed 7,300 people and displaced more than 5 million when it swept across the islands of the central Philippines.

Straddling the famous Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is also bedeviled by volcanoes and earthquakes, and while there are considerable patches of poverty in North and South Carolina, it is not the same as the rural area where Mangkhut hit.

Typhoon Mangkhut, a category five storm, could bring winds of more than 280km/h. Source: 1 NEWS

Munich Re's Rauch said about 30 to 50 percent of storm damage is usually insured in the United States but often less than 10 percent in developing countries, meaning nine-tenths of the people hit will end up shouldering a bigger economic burden.

In the United States, "you can't move houses, but people can move out of the way," reflecting mounting damages from storms and often lower losses in life, Vecchi said.

As the world warms from the burning of fossil fuels, the globe will see both more extremely intense storms like Mangkhut and wetter storms like Florence, Vecchi said.

Ferocious winds and rain tore off tin roof sheets and knocked out power through Baggao, in Cagayan province. Source: Associated Press


US Border Patrol agent suspected of being 'serial killer' after allegedly killing four women in two weeks

Texas state troopers arrested a US Border Patrol supervisor today who they say went on a two-week serial killing spree that left four female sex workers dead and ended only when a fifth woman escaped from him at a gas station and found help.

Juan David Ortiz, 35, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, fled from state troopers and was found hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2am today, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said at a news conference in the border city about 235 kilometres southwest of San Antonio.

Sheriff Cuellar said investigators have "very strong evidence" that he is responsible for the deaths of the four women working as prostitutes.

One of the victims was a transgender woman, said Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz.

"We do consider this to be a serial killer," Mr Alaniz said.

Mr Alaniz told The Texas Tribune that after the suspect picked up the fifth woman she quickly realised that she was in danger.

"When she tried to escape from him at a gas station that's when she ran into a [state] trooper," Mr Alaniz said.

Ortiz will be charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping, Mr Alaniz said.

He said that authorities believe Ortiz had killed all four women since September 3. The names of the victims were not immediately released.

Mr Alaniz said two of them were US citizens but the nationalities of the other two were not yet known.

"The manner in which they were killed is similar in all the cases from the evidence," said Mr Alaniz.

But both Mr Alaniz and Sheriff Cuellar declined to discuss the evidence or say how the women were killed.

Mr Alaniz said investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the killings. Sheriff Cuellar said investigators believe Ortiz acted alone.

"It's interesting that he would be observing and watching as law enforcement was looking for the killer, that he would be reporting to work every day like normal," Mr Alaniz said.

Ortiz was a 10-year veteran of the Border Patrol. US Customs and Border Protection issued a statement saying that it was fully cooperating with the investigation.

"Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims' family and friends. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated," the agency said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, whose Texas Rangers are investigating, did not return several messages seeking comment.

San Diego, California, USA - July 4, 2016: International Border fence between USA -San Diego, and Mexico - Tijuana,  with border patrol car driving along the road.
International Border fence between USA -San Diego, and Mexico (file picture). Source: istock.com