Pope Francis makes holy call to space station, gets philosophical with astronauts

Published: Thursday, October 26, 2017 @ 3:34 PM

Pope Francis speaks to the crew aboard the International Space Station from the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Pope Francis' hookup Thursday will mark the second papal phone call to space: Pope Benedict XVI rang the space station in 2011, and peppered its residents with questions about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faced. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
AP
Pope Francis speaks to the crew aboard the International Space Station from the Vatican, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Pope Francis' hookup Thursday will mark the second papal phone call to space: Pope Benedict XVI rang the space station in 2011, and peppered its residents with questions about the future of the planet and the environmental risks it faced. (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)(AP)

In a live streamed video call into the heavens Thursday, Pope Francis connected with astronauts aboard the International Space Agency and jumped right into the big question: What is our place in the universe?

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Francis, the first pope to call the space station and second to speak to astronauts orbiting the earth via video call, conversed with Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Misurkin and Sergey Ryazanskiy and NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik, Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba.

During his 23-minute call from the Vatican Library in Rome, Italy, the pope spoke in Italian and Nespoli translated for his fellow crew members.

“Your little glass palace in totality is greater than the sum of its parts, and this is the example that you give us,” Francis said through a translator.

He asked Nespoli, “What are your thoughts regarding the place of man in the universe?" 

“Holy Father, this is a complex question," Nespoli replied in Italian as NASA TV displayed an English translation for viewers. “When we speak of these much more internal questions of where we come from, I remain rather perplexed. I think that our objective here is that of knowing our being and to fill our knowledge to understand what's around us. But on the other hand, an interesting thing is that the more we know, the more we realize how little we know.”

Francis also asked why they became astronauts and what they love about spending time at the ISS.

Ryazanskiy told the pope he was honored to continue his family’s legacy. Ryazanskiy’s grandfather had worked on the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, which launched in 1957.

Francis, who has long exalted the role of grandparents, marveled at his response. “That's our strength: Never forget roots. It does me good to hear this! Thank you,” he said.

What You Need To Know: Pope Francis

Bresnik described the overwhelming joy of looking outside and seeing “God’s creation from his perspective.”

“As we see the peace and serenity of our planet … there's no borders, no conflict. It's just peaceful,” Breskin said. “We hope that an example of what we can achieve together [in space] sets an example for the rest of the world.”

Pope Francis’ conversation with the astronauts, particularly Russian cosmonauts Misurkin and Ryazanskiy, also marked a small step toward softening Vatican-Russian relations.

When he asked the astronauts what they thought about Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s verse that love is the force that moves the universe, Misurkin said he had been listening to the audiobook of Antoine de St. Exupery’s “The Little Prince” and was moved by the young boy’s understanding of love.

“Love is the force that gives you strength to give your life for someone else,” he told the pope.

Francis, overjoyed by Misurkin’s response, said, “It's clear you have understood the message that St. Exupery so poetically explained, and that you Russians have in your blood, in your humanistic and religious tradition.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Top 10 winter vacation destinations, according to Instagram

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 2:10 PM

The North Korean embassy is seen on December 19, 2011 in Muri Bei Berne, Berne, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images
The North Korean embassy is seen on December 19, 2011 in Muri Bei Berne, Berne, Switzerland. (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)(Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)

Snow? Check. Breathtaking mountain views? Check. Historical city charm and Instagram-worthy photo ops? Check and check. 

Bern, Switzerland, is the city with the most Instagram posts in the world for the winter season — and it truly has it all.

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That’s according to analysts at Focus Clinic, a popular laser eye surgery clinic in the United Kingdom, who gathered the 20 most popular winter travel destinations across the world based on Google search and ranked each by the number of times a city’s hashtag was used on Instagram to determine its popularity on the photo-sharing app.

According to the research, the #bern hashtag has been used more than 1,082,440 times.

A popular destination in the Swiss city is the medieval Old City of Bern, a city center surrounded by the Aare river. Old City is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with one of Europe’s longest weather-sheltered shopping centers.

The “gateway to the Alps” is also known for its mountain views, many fountains, walkable streets, cafes, museums and colorful weekly markets, according to MySwitzerland.com.

Rounding out the top 10 winter destinations according to Instagram are: Aspen, Colorado; the Northern Lights in Tromso, Norway; Chamonix, France; Yosemite National Park in California; Zermatt, Switzerland; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming; Bled, Slovenia; Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic and Grindelwald, Switzerland.

>> Explore the full list at focusclinics.com/most-popular-winter-sights

Take a look at some of our favorite Instagram shots of Bern:

Professor: Team has performed first successful human head transplant using cadavers

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 7:58 AM

WATCH: Professor Says First Successful Human Head Transplant Using Cadavers Performed

It sounds like something out of a horrible B movie, but a professor in Italy says a team has successfully transplanted a human head in China. It was done on corpses to see if surgeons could reconnect the spine, nerves and blood vessels. 

“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done,” Sergio Canavero, the director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, said. “A full head swap between brain dead organ donors is the next stage,” the Telegraph reported.

He added that it would be the last step before a full head transplant happens some time before the end of the year, USA Today reported.

A firm date for the living patient surgery has not been released.

Canavero said the procedure happened in China because “the Americans did not understand” and wouldn’t fund the experiments, USA Today reported.

Experts in the medical community said that a procedure like this would not be allowed in either the United States or Europe.

While it’s being called a head transplant, it’s technically a body transplant, where the recipient with a functioning brain will have his head transplanted to a donor’s body who has been declared brain dead, USA Today reported.

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Doctors will fuse the spinal cord and attach blood vessels and muscles then the patient will be kept in a coma for a month as the person heals, Newsweek reported. If it is successful, the patient could walk again, Canavero claims.

Many in the medical community said that not only is it doubtful the procedure will be successful, there also are ethical questions, saying that whoever undergoes the procedure will be in incredible pain, and not able to breathe or control their own heart rate, Newsweek reported.

Canavero cites studies on animals to support his plan, but other doctors say that, ‘You’re not going to jump from rodent to human” and that Canavero’s plan is “criminal,” Newsweek reported.

Anyone lose a house? Strange house appears on man’s property

Published: Friday, November 03, 2017 @ 10:14 AM

VIDEO: House Mysteriously Shows Up on Man’s Property

You’d think you’d know about all of the houses on your property. 

But a man in Canada had a surprise when he took a trip around his 320 acres of land: a house that he didn’t remember being there before. 

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So Patrick Maze did what anyone would do. He put a photo of the house on Facebook, asking if anyone knew how the house got on his property, Huffington Post reported.

It was a long shot, but eventually worked out and the woman who owned the structure came forward, CBC reported.

Brenda Robertson responded, “That’s my house.”

Robertson explained that the building was being taken to Winnipeg, when it was stopped by SaskPower because of permit issues. Robertson, prior to the post, had no idea where her house was. She thanked Maze for posting it and worked to get the house off the land quickly, Huffington Post reported.

Maze said that his tenant wasn’t currently using the land, but at the same time didn’t want to be held responsible if something happened to the house.

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Great Pyramid hidden area found

Published: Thursday, November 02, 2017 @ 11:38 AM

New Chamber Discovered in Great Pyramid Using Cosmic Rays

In a first since the 19th century, a hidden chamber within one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World is hidden no more.

Scientists have discovered a 153-foot-long void above the Great Pyramid’s Grand Gallery, National Geographic reported. The area is also 26 feet high. 

So far experts are not sure why it is there or if it holds anything.

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Scientists from France and Japan on the ScanPyramids team announced their finding two years after they studied the structure. They used muography that shows changes in density inside rock structures, The BBC reported.

A smaller, similar void had been found on the pyramid’s north face.

The team will not call the voids chambers, of which there are three large chambers already discovered, along with several passageways.

Some believe the void could have been built to relieve pressure and stress above the King’s Chamber. Others say that it isn’t the case, that it is too large to relieve the weight of the pyramid, The BBC reported.

Now the challenge that faces the experts is how to get a look inside the void without damaging or destroying the ancient pyramid. 

One scientist suggested drilling a 3 centimeter hole that they could use to fly a robot through and into the area, but Egyptian officials would have to approve it, The BBC reported.

The Great Pyramid was built during Egypt’s Old Kingdom’s Fourth Dynasty about 4,500 years ago by pharaoh Khufu, National Geographic reported