SeanChron | Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

Image credit: "Physicist Stephen Hawking in Zero Gravity", NASA; Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network.

I finished my evening run and returned to a phone full of notifications about the passing of Stephen Hawking. I was never lucky enough to attend one of his lectures but I, like so many, know his work well, have watched many videos, and have many of his books. He's an inspiration on so many levels. He's beat physical challenges, faced intellectual challenges to his theories, and - like Einstein and other great minds - has boldly crossed over into non-science topics, including art, politics, and religion. He helped us understand the universe and, in many ways, ourselves. If there are aliens watching us, they undoubtedly understand the huge loss that our planet is now experiencing...whether we humans realize the enormity of the loss or not.

Dispatch Dot Earth | Vilnius: an Old City in a Young Country

Street art as seen across the street from the old train station market, Hales Turgas, in old town Vilnius.

Dispatch Dot Earth is a collection of feature travel articles. The future may take us to Mars and beyond, but sometimes there's nothing like exploring our good old Earth.

In a quiet, less explored corner of northern Europe, Vilnius buzzes with the hum of city life mixed with deep ties to a culture established nearly 700 years ago. The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius tends to fly under the radar as a destination despite its many draws. Brimming with unique history, lovely Baroque architecture, and a thriving university scene, Vilnius is an old city in a young country. Remnants of a past Soviet era are still visible around its edges, but the rich heritage of this town shines through in its glowing, colorful churches, its burgeoning art and music scene, and its winding old town streets.
by Vanessa Bassett

As one of the last countries in Europe to be Christianized, Lithuania's pagan roots are held more closely in recent collective memory than other western countries. Some pagan sects have even carried on to the present day, despite the abundance of churches and cathedrals to be found at nearly every turn in Vilnius. While the city's energetic feel is forward moving, the stark memory of World War II's concentration camps and the remnants of Jewish ghettos still hover in certain shadowy corners. Memorials paying tribute to the thousands of Vilnius Jews who were murdered during Nazi rule can be seen throughout the old town, commemorating people and places who should not be forgotten.

But bold as ever, a bright street art scene has emerged, providing thoughtful surprises when you least expect them. Buildings flash grinning faces from high above the street, and walls confront you with colorful motifs as soon as you step around a corner. Revitalized, with it's UNESCO status old town thoughtfully preserved, Vilnius has become a cultural superstar on the map of Europe. Between its treasure trove of Orthodox churches, its unexpected architectural delights, its expansive arts scene and its charming, inviting old town, Vilnius cements its status as one of the jewels of the Baltic.

The Gate of Dawn is the only remaining gate still ensconced in the original city wall of Vilnius. Built between 1503 and 1522, the gate is also home to a chapel which contains an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, said to have miraculous powers.

Interior of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit. In addition to its dazzling iconostatis and its multitude of candles and religious images, the relics of three medieval saints rest at the center of this historic shrine.

All Saints Church in Vilnius old town. One of many candy-colored churches in the area, this Baroque style church was built between 1620 and 1630.

Vilnius Cathedral. In 1322, King Gediminas dreamt of an iron clad wolf on a hill, howling as though it were 1000 wolves. One of his pagan priests, Lizdeika, told him the dream meant that a city should be built at that exact place. Thus, Vilnius was born.

Vilnius street art. There is no shortage of thought-provoking art around town.

St. Paraskeva Eastern Orthodox church. The original structure was built in 1346, on the site of a temple to the pagan god Ragutis. After several fires and renovations, the present day structure, seen here, was completed in 1949. According to legend, the African prince Hannibal was baptized here in 1705.

Street art, as seen outside of the old town, in a more modern area of Vilnius.

St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church. The first wooden chapel was built on this same site in 1340, though the present day structure was completed in 1866.

The Apia Hotel. A nice example of the colorful, historic stylings of old town Vilnius.

St. Anne's Roman Catholic church. An important piece of Vilnius fabric, the 500 year old church is a contributing landmark which helped the old town gain UNESCO heritage status in 1994.

Miss Next Century 2018 | Kára McCullough

Image credit: Miss Universe

Kára Deidra McCullough is an American physical scientist and emergency preparedness specialist. McCullough is also the winner of the 2017 Miss USA pageant and represented the USA in the 2017 Miss Universe contest where she was a top 10 finalist.

McCullough was born in Naples, Italy to US military family but spent most of her childhood in Virginia Beach. Her mother's role as Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy gave Kára the opportunity to travel and learn about diverse cultures in places like Hawaii, Japan, Sicily, and South Korea.

McCullough often speaks about her interest in science from a very young age. Her interest continued to grow so pursuing a career in sciences was a clear choice for her. McCullough earned her Bachelor of Sciences in Chemistry with a focus on radiochemistry at South Carolina State University where she also first became a member of the American Chemical Society, the Health Physics Society, and the American Nuclear Society. She was also inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society and the National Society of Black Engineers. At the time of the Miss USA pageant, McCullough worked at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response as an emergency preparedness specialist.

McCullough interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) led her to create an outreach program called Science Exploration for Kids (SE4K) that she funds herself. SE4k creates interactive activities celebrating and cultivate a passion for STEM subjects among children. As Miss USA, McCullough plans to expand her program throughout the country

McCullough is also a great example of the importance of being well-rounded in interests and activities. In addition to her professional career and her work to inspire young minds to study STEM subjects, her personal love and participation in sports led her to coach a girls youth sports program in while she lived and worked in Washington, DC. She loves cooking Italian and soul food and she's making the most out of her new life in New York city by exploring the Big Apple on her bike or rollerblades.

McCullough was named Future-ish's 8th Miss Next Century in 2018.

Below is a video of McCullough talking about her love for science and starting Science Exploration for Kids (SE4K):