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Tonight: Frozen Planet: Edge of the Earth

Tonight (Saturday, December 22) at 9:00pm ET/PT on Discovery, take a look back at the Frozen Planet documentary, coproduced with the BBC. If you missed it the first time, tonight is a sort of "greatest hits" hour, with some of the best sequences from the much longer miniseries -- including excellent narration by David Attenborough. This is why you have an HDTV: it's a set of scenes from the north and south tips of the Earth, filmed with incredible care. While some scenes are hilarious (most of the penguin material) and some are tragic (much of the musk oxen stuff), everything is photographed with the kind of insane how did they do that? quality.

There's a sequence involving a pebble-stealing penguin that exemplifies this film: without narration, it might not make sense. But with narration, music, and a remarkable combination of filming angles, it becomes a nearly human comedy about penguins trying to build their nests. The audio work also deserves a nod, as the penguins' squawks add an extra layer of weird hilarity.

While the special starts with a series of near-misses (in other words, predators fail), eventually we do get into sequences where prey animals don't make it. The film does not revel in gore, and shies away from closeups for the most part (one image of a seal being dragged down by a killer whale is particularly impactful, though). Because it is trying so hard to be tasteful and explain why the sequences are happening (so the predator groups don't starve to death), I'd say this one is thoroughly family-appropriate, though as always, if you have extra-sensitive kids you'll want to screen it first.

Criminal Penguins

Here's a clip from the Alec Baldwin-narrated version, showing a bit of that penguin story. Tonight's special is narrated by Attenborough -- while you may prefer one narrator over the other, the story is wonderful either way. Enjoy:

And if you get the Discovery Channel, tune in tonight! For more on the program, check out the Frozen Planet site, including the penguin cam and great photography.

If you're into the whole Blu-ray thing, check out Frozen Planet: The Complete Series (with the Attenborough narration). It's the kind of thing you can put on at parties and people will say, "Wow, nice TV."

Blogger disclosure: I was not specially compensated for this review. I did get to see an early version of the program, and it's worth your time for the penguin material alone.

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Space
Look Up! Residents of Maine and Michigan Might Catch a Glimpse of the Northern Lights Tonight
iStock
iStock

The aurora borealis, a celestial show usually reserved for spectators near the arctic circle, could potentially appear over parts of the continental U.S. on the night of February 15. As Newsweek reports, a solar storm is on track to illuminate the skies above Maine and Michigan.

The Northern Lights (and the Southern Lights) are caused by electrons from the sun colliding with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. The solar particles transfer some of their energy to oxygen and nitrogen molecules on contact, and as these excited molecules settle back to their normal states they release light particles. The results are glowing waves of blue, green, purple, and pink light creating a spectacle for viewers on Earth.

The more solar particles pelt the atmosphere, the more vivid these lights become. Following a moderate solar flare that burst from the sun on Monday, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center forecast a solar light show for tonight. While the Northern Lights are most visible from higher latitudes where the planet’s magnetic field is strongest, northern states are occasionally treated to a view. This is because the magnetic North Pole is closer to the U.S. than the geographic North Pole.

This Thursday night into Friday morning is expected to be one of those occasions. To catch a glimpse of the phenomena from your backyard, wait for the sun to go down and look toward the sky. People living in places with little cloud cover and light pollution will have the best chance of spotting it.

[h/t Newsweek]

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The North Face
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Design
The North Face's New Geodesic Dome Tent Will Protect You in 60 mph Wind
The North Face
The North Face

You can find camping tents designed for easy set-up, large crowds, and sustainability, but when it comes to strength, there’s only so much abuse a foldable structure can take. Now, The North Face is pushing the limits of tent durability with a reimagined design. According to inhabitat, the Geodome 4 relies on its distinctive geodesic shape to survive wind gusts approaching hurricane strength.

Instead of the classic arching tent structure, the Geodome balloons outward like a globe. It owes its unique design to the five main poles and one equator pole that hold it in place. Packed up, the gear weighs just over 24 pounds, making it a practical option for car campers and four-season adventurers. When it’s erected, campers have floor space measuring roughly 7 feet by 7.5 feet, enough to sleep four people, and 6 feet and 9 inches of space from ground to ceiling if they want to stand. Hooks attached to the top create a system for gear storage.

While it works in mild conditions, the tent should really appeal to campers who like to trek through harsher weather. Geodesic domes are formed from interlocking triangles. A triangle’s fixed angles make it one of the strongest shapes in engineering, and when used in domes, triangles lend this strength to the overall structure. In the case of the tent, this means that the dome will maintain its form in winds reaching speeds of 60 mph. Meanwhile, the double-layered, water-resistant exterior keeps campers dry as they wait out the storm.

The Geodome 4 is set to sell for $1635 when it goes on sale in Japan this March. In the meantime, outdoorsy types in the U.S. will just have to wait until the innovative product expands to international markets.

[h/t inhabitat]

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