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Snake venom is highly modified saliva. The venom is part of a whole: the apparatus, which is made up of venom glands that synthesize venom; and an injection system, consisting of modified fangs with which to make the venom penetrate into a prey item or a possible threat or predator. The glands which secrete the zootoxins are a modification of the parotid salivary gland of other vertebrates, and are usually situated on each side of the head below and behind the eye, encapsulated in a muscular sheath. The glands have large alveoli in which the synthesized venom is stored before being conveyed by a duct to the base of channeled or tubular fangs, through which it is ejected. Venoms contain more than 20 different compounds, mostly proteins and polypeptides. Snake venom has two main functions: first, the immobilization of prey and second, the digestion of prey. It is a complex mixture of proteins, enzymes, and various other substances. The proteins are responsible for the toxic and lethal effect of the venom and its function is to immobilize prey, enzymes play an important role in the digestion of prey, and various other substances are responsible for important but non-lethal biological effects. Some of the proteins in snake venom are very particular in their effects on various biological functions including blood coagulation, blood pressure regulation, transmission of the nervous or muscular impulse and have turned out to be pharmacological or diagnostic tools or even useful drugs. Viper venom acts more on the vascular system, bringing about coagulation of the blood and clotting of the pulmonary arteries; its action on the nervous system is not great, no individual group of nerve-cells appears to be picked out, and the effect upon respiration is not so direct; the influence upon the circulation explains the great depression which is a symptom of viperine envenomation. The pain of the wound is severe, and is speedily followed by swelling and discoloration. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]

Big Boy was the name given to the Union Pacific Railroad's twenty-five 4000 class 4-8-8-4 articulated steam locomotives built between 1941 and 1944 by Alco. The Big Boys were the only locomotives to have the 4-8-8-4 wheel arrangement, combining two sets of eight driving wheels with both a four-wheel leading truck for stability entering curves and a four-wheel trailing truck to support the large firebox. The Big Boys were specifically designed to pull a 3,600 ton freight train over the long 1.14% grade of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. Before their arrival, Helpers were needed. Adding and removing helpers from a train slowed them down. For such locomotives to be worthwhile, they had to be faster and more powerful than slow mountain luggers like the earlier compound 2-8-8-2s that Union Pacific tried after World War I. To avoid locomotive changes, the new class would need to pull long trains at sustained speed — 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) — once past the mountain grades. Towards the end of the 4000's career in the late 1950s, it was found that they could still pull more than their rated tonnage of 3,600 tons. Their ratings were increased several times until they regularly pulled 4,450 tons up the Wasatch grade, unassisted. 25 Big Boys were built, in two groups of ten and one of five. All were coal burning, with large grates to burn low quality Wyoming coal from mines owned by the railroad. One locomotive, #4005, was experimentally converted to oil. Unlike experience with the Challenger types, this was not successful, and the locomotive was soon changed back to coal. The cited reason for this failure was the use of a single burner, which, with the Big Boy's large firebox, created unsatisfactory and uneven heating. The Big Boy is well represented among preserved steam locomotives in the United States. Eight of the 25 still exist: All except numbers 4005 and 4017 are in the open without protection from the elements. The dry air of Southern California has helped #4014 to remain well preserved, assisted by care of the local chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. The Steamtown example is also said to be in good condition, though the harsher weather of the northeast has taken its toll. The Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver moved the 4005 to a renovated building in January 2001. Thanks to considerable fundraising and volunteer efforts, number 4017 now resides with other pieces of railroad equipment in a climate-controlled shed at the museum in Green Bay. Number 4023 is the only known Big Boy to move by highway since preservation, to the new Kenefick Park in Omaha, NE. There are currently no operable Big Boys and no plans to return any to running condition. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]



Grave Digger is the name of a team of monster trucks currently racing in the USHRA Monster Jam series. There are several Grave Diggers being driven by different drivers to allow them to make appearances at more events, but their flagship driver is creator Dennis Anderson. Grave Digger is considered to be one of the most influential monster trucks of all time. Grave Digger was originally conceived in 1981 by Dennis Anderson as a mud bogger. This first truck was a red 1952 Ford pickup truck, which was later converted to a silver and blue 1951 Ford Panel Truck. The truck received its name when Anderson, amicably trash talking with his fellow racers, said the now famous line, "I'll take this old junk and dig you a grave with it", a reference to the age of his old pickup in comparison to their relatively modern trucks. Anderson gained a reputation for an all-or-nothing driving style and quickly became popular at local events. At one show, a scheduled monster truck failed to show up and Anderson, who already had large tractor tires on the truck, offered to crush cars in the absence of the full-size monster. The promoter accepted and Grave Digger was an instant success as a car crusher and led Anderson to leave mud bogging and pursue monster trucks instead. In 1986 Grave Digger underwent a transformation to complete monster truck and first received its famous black graveyard paint scheme. In 1987 and 1988 Anderson drove the truck primarily at TNT Motorsports races and became a crowd favorite for driving hard despite lacking major funding that more well known teams, like Bigfoot, had. In 1987, Anderson beat Bigfoot in St. Paul, MN on a show taped for ESPN. It was the first major victory for Grave Digger. Anderson moved to Grave Digger 2 in 1989, with a new 1950 Chevy panel van body. It was during this time that the reputation for wild passes was developed, and the popularity of the truck increased. TNT recognised his rising popularity and began promoting Grave Digger heavily, especially for races on the Tuff Trax syndicated television series. This was helped by Bigfoot not racing for points in the 1989 championship, leaving Grave Digger as the most popular truck on the tour. On October 17, 1998, a Grave Digger truck carrying twenty-five passengers flipped over, crushing Joy Kubitza’s right arm between the truck and the sand. This took place at a promotional show on Virginia Beach, featuring rides in Grave Digger for only US $5. All twenty-five passengers were treated at a hospital and released; Kubitza later returned for an additional 37 surgeries to help with the pain the accident caused. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]



MS Oasis of the Seas is an Oasis-class cruise ship in the fleet of Royal Caribbean International. The first of her class, she is expected to be joined by her sister ship Allure of the Seas in December 2010. Both vessels are expected to cruise the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She set a new record of carrying over 6,000 passengers. The ship surpasses the Freedom-class cruise ships (also owned by Royal Caribbean) as the world's largest passenger vessel. The vessel was ordered in February 2006 and designed under the name "Project Genesis". Her keel was laid down on 12 November 2007 at STX Europe (formerly Aker Yards) in Turku, Finland. The company announced that full funding for Oasis of the Seas was secured on 15 April 2009. The name Oasis of the Seas resulted from a competition held in May 2008. The ship was completed and turned over to Royal Caribbean on 28 October 2009. Two days later, she departed Finland for the United States. While exiting the Baltic Sea, the vessel passed underneath the Great Belt Fixed Link in Denmark on 1 November 2009. The bridge has a clearance of 65 m (213 ft) above the water; Oasis normally has an air draft of 72 m (236 ft). The passage under the bridge was possible due to retraction of the telescoping funnels, and an additional 30 cm (12 in) was gained by the squat effect whereby vessels travelling at speed in a shallow channel will be drawn deeper into the water. Approaching the bridge at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), the ship passed under it with less than 2 feet (60 cm) of clearance. The ship's power comes from six marine diesel engines, three Wärtsilä 16-cylinder common rail diesels producing 25,290 hp each, and three similar 12-cylinder engines each producing 18,590 hp. The total output of these prime movers, some 130,110 hp, is converted to electricity, used in hotel power for operation of the lights, elevators, electronics, galleys, water treatment plant, and all of the other systems used on the operation of the vessel, as well as propulsion. Propulsion is not provided by screws on the end of long shafts piercing the hull, as on most prior ships, but by three, 20,000 kilowatts (26,800 hp) "Azipods", ABB's brand of azimuth thrusters. These pods, suspended under the stern, contain electric motors driving 20-foot (6 m) propellers. Because they are rotatable, no rudders are needed to steer the ship. Docking is assisted by four 5,500 kilowatts (7,380 hp) bow thrusters in tunnels. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]



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