Saturday, July 31, 2010

Physicists Dream Up the Antilaser

Physicists Dream Up the Antilaser
By Alexandra Witze, Science News
July 30, 2010 | 3:53 pm | Categories: Physics, Tech

"Fifty years after physicists invented the laser, ushering in everything from supermarket scanners to music CDs, scientists have conceived its opposite — the “antilaser.”"

This is so cool*. Even if it is never practically implemented the concept is fascinating.

* Yes, I know. I'm a total geek.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mass. Legislature approves plan to bypass Electoral College

Mass. Legislature approves plan to bypass Electoral College
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

"The Massachusetts Legislature has approved a new law intended to bypass the Electoral College system and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote."

I have been saying that the Electoral College is no longer of any use. It was needed 200+ years ago, but since the ubiquitous usage of TV, Phone and now the Internet, there is no reason at all to have this extra layer in out electoral system. Now all that is needed is to keep poll results unreported until the very last poll closes and we'll start to see election results that actually reflect what the populous truly wants.

Monday, July 26, 2010

At Physics Conference, Scientists Say They Are Closing In on 'God Particle'

At Physics Conference, Scientists Say They Are Closing In on 'God Particle'
By Rebecca Boyle Posted 07.26.2010 at 2:15 pm

"As particle physicists gather this week for a conference in Paris, they’re reporting progress toward finding the elusive Higgs boson, with two groups suggesting a Higgs discovery may not be far off.

Physicists from Fermilab in Illinois announced they combined the results of two experiments to refine their search for the Higgs, sometimes called the “God particle” because it is thought to endow particles with mass.
"

I really hope they find this while I'm still alive. The only reason I would ever want to live forever is so that I could learn EVERYTHING.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Texas mom challenges transgender widow's marriage

Texas mom challenges transgender widow's marriage
By Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press Writer – Thu Jul 22, 8:00 pm ET

HOUSTON – "The family of a southeast Texas firefighter killed in a July 4 blaze has sued to void his marriage to his transgender widow and prevent her from getting his death benefits because she was born a man and Texas doesn't recognize same-sex marriages."

This couldn't be any more wrong if it tried. But there's a silver lining in this. If the injunction/lawsuit/whatever is upheld, then every same-sex-with-one-party-being-transgendered should go there and get married. If the law in Texas says it's the DNA then two guys or two girls getting married should be just fine if one is trans. I bet they also have a law there that says same sex marriage is illegal. Can't have it both ways, now, can you.

You know, I used to hope that this stupid hubbub over gender preference would be banished from the world in my lifetime. Lately, though, I'm just hoping my great-great-grand kids will see it done.

[Side note: I think the headline is not using proper grammar. Shouldn't it be "Texas mom challenges transgendered widow's marriage"]
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Israeli Palestinian man to appeal rape-by-deception conviction

Israeli Palestinian man to appeal rape-by-deception conviction
By the CNN Wire Staff
July 22, 2010 3:56 a.m. EDT

Jerusalem (CNN) -- "The lawyer for a 30-year-old Palestinian married father of two who has admitted in a plea bargain to rape by deception said Wednesday he will appeal his client's sentence, which was handed up Monday.

"Eighteen months in prison is too much," said Adnan Aladdin. He is representing Saber Kashour, the Israeli Palestinian who admitted pretending to be a single Jewish man before having sex with an Israeli woman.
"

I'm all for strict laws against violent crime but doesn't this seem a little over-the-top? If everyone who told a lie to get laid were jailed, all of us would be in jail. Or am I missing something.
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NASA'S Hubble Shows Hyperfast Star Was Booted From Milky Way

NASA'S Hubble Shows Hyperfast Star Was Booted From Milky Way

WASHINGTON -- "NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected a hypervelocity star, a rare phenomenon moving three times faster than our sun."

This is really fascinating. At least to me it is. I remember doing a report on stars when I was in grade school. Still like learning about them.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Scientists find most massive star ever discovered

Scientists find most massive star ever discovered
By Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jul 21, 11:12 am ET

LONDON – "A huge ball of brightly burning gas drifting through a neighboring galaxy may be the heaviest star ever discovered — hundreds of times more massive than the sun, scientists said Wednesday after working out its weight for the first time."

Size really is relative.
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Oil spill in Dalian, China

Oil spill in Dalian, China
July 21, 2010

"Five days ago, in the northeastern port city of Dalian, China, two oil pipelines exploded, sending flames hundreds of feet into the air and burning for over 15 hours, destroying several structures - the cause of the explosion is under investigation. The damaged pipes released thousands of gallons of oil, which flowed into the nearby harbor and the Yellow Sea. The total amount of oil spilled is still not clear, though China Central Television earlier reported an estimate of 1,500 (400,000 gallons), as compared to the estimated 94 - 184 million gallons in the BP oil spill off the Louisiana coast. The oil slick has now grown to at least 430 square kilometers (165 sq mi), forcing beaches and port facilities to close while government workers and local fishermen work to contain and clean up the spill."

If I were a conspiracy nut, this would really kick things into high gear. I am curious, though, as to what the US media will make of this new oil disaster. It makes the BP mess look like a spit in the ocean by comparison. Does this mean they will be going after the Chinese governments oil monopoly like they have BP? Will we here daily reports about how much oil as polluted the environment? Will there be a count of days since the initial disaster?

Of course not. People are extremely myopic about world events. If it isn't in their back yard they don't really give a schnitzel. They don't care that BP controls a fraction of a percentage of the world oil market compared to China.

And as to the conspiracy, what if both of these "accidents" were intentional? Who do you think will benefit most from these disasters? Is it for money? Power? Control? Did you know that the "Global Climate Change" industry is a multi-trillion dollar industry? Even though the real science has proven, beyond any doubt, that mans effect on the climate is negligible?

But then, as I said, I'm not a conspiracy nut.
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Mississippi school pays damages to lesbian teen over prom dispute

Mississippi school pays damages to lesbian teen over prom dispute
By the CNN Wire Staff
July 20, 2010 1:14 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- "A school district in Mississippi has agreed to pay a recent high school graduate $35,000 in damages and adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to a statement released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union."

Wouldn't it be nice if this were the last time we had to deal with the idiocy of segregated proms? Kids have more than enough to deal with at that age. They don't need external bulls**t making things more stressful.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Gay-lesbian group overcomes opposition at U.N.

Gay-lesbian group overcomes opposition at U.N.
Mon Jul 19, 7:53 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – "The United Nations on Monday accredited a major gay and lesbian organization that Egypt, Russia and others had tried to keep out as a group permitted to lobby at the world body."

More good news. But it's still a long way to go before this whole issue of finally put into the place it should really be... When people treat gender preference the same way they treat earlobe size the world will finally be one step closer to sanity.
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Microsoft Acknowledges Windows Shell Vulnerability

Microsoft Acknowledges Windows Shell Vulnerability
By Thomas Claburn
InformationWeek
July 19, 2010 04:45 PM

"Microsoft on Friday issued a Security Advisory stating that it is investigating limited attempts to exploit a vulnerability in the Windows Shell.

The zero-day vulnerability was disclosed last week by Belorussian antivirus company, VirusBlokAda. It takes advantage of Windows shortcut files by making them execute automatically when accessed from a USB drive via Windows Explorer.
"

Why anyone is still using Microsoft products is still beyond me. Might as well leave all the doors in your house open and place a sign in your front yard listing your name, DOB, SSN, bank accounts, credit cars and a nice little "Come in at take everything you want" message.
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Earth's upper atmosphere collapses. Nobody knows why.

Earth's upper atmosphere collapses. Nobody knows why.
By SPACE.com Staff / July 15, 2010

"An upper layer of Earth's atmosphere recently collapsed in an unexpectedly large contraction, the sheer size of which has scientists scratching their heads, NASA announced Thursday.

The layer of gas – called the thermosphere – is now rebounding again. This type of collapse is not rare, but its magnitude shocked scientists.
"

I'm betting that someone will link this to Global Climate Change.
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A Scientist Takes On Gravity

A Scientist Takes On Gravity
By DENNIS OVERBYE
Published: July 12, 2010

"It’s hard to imagine a more fundamental and ubiquitous aspect of life on the Earth than gravity, from the moment you first took a step and fell on your diapered bottom to the slow terminal sagging of flesh and dreams.

But what if it’s all an illusion, a sort of cosmic frill, or a side effect of something else going on at deeper levels of reality?
"

This is an interesting concept. There is much about the idea that I don't understand but since a large number of expert physicists don't understand it either I'm not to bothered. I can see, though, how it is beneficial to the advancement of science. We only advance when we question. There is a quote that is attributed to Issac Asimov that I like which captures my feelings on questioning things.
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..."
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Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm a WHAT?!?

This one is funny. I took a "test" on this personals site to determine my political bent. The following is what the results were.
Your true political self:
You are a

Social Liberal
(68% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(30% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Democrat

You exhibit a very well-developed sense of Right
and Wrong and believe in economic fairness.
This is, of course, completely wrong. I am as much a Democrat as I am a Republican. Which is to say, I am neither. I know some who would agree with this assessment, though. But there are just as many who would find it as ridiculous as I do. Just goes to show that tests aren't the be all and end all.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Argentine Senate backs bill legalising gay marriage

Argentine Senate backs bill legalizing gay marriage
15 July 2010 Last updated at 04:40 ET

"Argentina has become the first country in Latin America to legalize gay marriage after the Senate voted in favour."

Wouldn't this be great if it opened the floodgates? I'm not holding my breath, though.
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pay Attention: Researchers Debunk Game Link to Concentration Study

Pay Attention: Researchers Debunk Game Link to Concentration Study
July 9, 2010

"Remember that study from earlier this week which intimated that playing videogames and watching television were linked with attention problems in children? Texas A&M researcher Christopher J Ferguson and T. Atilla Ceranoglu, from Harvard Medical School, saw the research and responded with a scathing (for research anyway) rebuttal.

Ferguson, who has challenged the work of Iowa State University’s Craig Anderson before, and Ceranoglu, who uses games to assist in psychotherapy treatment, submitted their response—entitled Poor Measurement, Poor Controls and Spurious Results in Swing et al.—to Pediatrics, which also published the original research.
"

It never fails. Every time they try to blame video games or rock music for all the evils in the world they get proven wrong by independent review.
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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Proton Smaller Than Thought—May Rewrite Laws of Physics

Proton Smaller Than Thought—May Rewrite Laws of Physics
Kate Ravilious
for National Geographic News
Published July 7, 2010

"Protons, among the building blocks of atoms, are even smaller than we thought—and the unexpected discovery may alter some of the most trusted laws of physics.

All atoms are made up of nuclei orbited by electrons. The nuclei, in turn, are made of neutrons and protons, which are themselves made of particles called quarks. (Related: "'God Particle' May Be Five Distinct Particles, New Evidence Shows.")
"

This is an even bigger WOW! Nothing like rewriting the laws of physics to get your brain moving.
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"God Particle" May Be Five Distinct Particles, New Evidence Shows

"God Particle" May Be Five Distinct Particles, New Evidence Shows
Ker Than
for National Geographic News
Published June 16, 2010

"The "God particle" may actually be five distinct particles, evidence from a new atom-smashing experiment suggests.

Called the Higgs boson, the theoretical particle has been long sought by physicists who think it's responsible for all mass in the universe—hence the name God particle.

It's also one of the targets of experiments by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which began smashing subatomic particles together at half its maximum power in March.
"

This is just plain stunning. There's not much I can say about this concept other than, Wow!
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Large Hadron Collider Smashes Protons, Sets Record

Large Hadron Collider Smashes Protons, Sets Record
Ker Than
for National Geographic News
Published March 30, 2010

"The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) reached a much-anticipated milestone today when it began smashing subatomic particles together at half its maximum power."

I've mentioned the LHC before but you really can't talk to much about what its potential could be.
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Einstein's Gravity Confirmed on a Cosmic Scale

Einstein's Gravity Confirmed on a Cosmic Scale
Ker Than
for National Geographic News
Published March 10, 2010

"The theory of gravity proposed by Albert Einstein nearly a century ago can explain the dance of galaxies around one another just as well as it can model the motion of planets around the sun, according to a new study."

That Albert fellow was one pretty sharp cookie, huh?

If you have never heard of Dark Matter or Dark Energy, I would recommend you at least do a once-over to get an idea of what they are. It would be well worth your time.
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A flood of science

Get ready for a bunch of science related posts. These have been collecting as tabs in Firefox so it's time to get them out the door. So to speak.

If you don't like science, well, my condolences.
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Particles Larger Than Galaxies Fill the Universe?

Particles Larger Than Galaxies Fill the Universe?
Charles Q. Choi
for National Geographic News
June 2, 2009

"The oldest of the subatomic particles called neutrinos might each encompass a space larger than thousands of galaxies, new simulations suggest."
[. . .]
"But over the roughly 13.7-billion-year lifetime of the cosmos, "relic" neutrinos have been stretched out by the expansion of the universe, enlarging the range in which each neutrino can exist."

It's a year old article but I just happened across it the other day. This is fascinating stuff, really. The idea that what might start out as a subatomic particle could, theoretically, become one of the largest single things in the universe.

It's no wonder I love this stuff.
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Judge: Federal gay marriage ban unconstitutional

Judge: Federal gay marriage ban unconstitutional
by DENISE LAVOIE
AP Legal Affairs Writer
updated 17:42 - July 8th, 2010

BOSTON — "A U.S. judge in Boston has ruled that a federal gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples' rights in two separate challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.
"

As a choir sings the Hallelujah Chorus in the background!

Of course this will be challenged, but it's nice to see someone has a clue.
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Gay rights group warns soldiers not to cooperate with Pentagon Don't Ask, Don't Tell study

Gay rights group warns soldiers not to cooperate with Pentagon Don't Ask, Don't Tell study
By Liz Goodwin

"Gays in the military who participate in a new survey about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" could be discharged for outing themselves, a legal advocacy group has warned. The Pentagon denies that survey respondents would run any such risk."

I'm torn on this one. While it's true that DoD hasn't guaranteed privacy or "provide immunity to service members whose privacy may be inadvertently violated or who inadvertently outs himself or herself," the mechanism chosen (third party sanitation of all identifying data) has been effective in other situations. I would be inclined to participate in the study but I couldn't advise anyone else to beyond their own personal feelings.

Whatever that means.
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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Thailand fights to stem tide of child sex tourists

Thailand fights to stem tide of child sex tourists
By Dan Rivers, CNN
July 5, 2010 12:11 p.m. EDT

(CNN) -- "He seemed a little confused and unsure of his surroundings. Karl Kraus sat alone in a cell, his blue, watery eyes following me as I entered the holding area of a Chiang Mai courthouse. Karl Kraus is 90 years old, hard of hearing, frail and, according to the police, a dangerous pedophile."

While the article is a little light on specifics and overall coverage, it is still a telling portrait of the situation. Thailand has been a country that is very schizophrenic about the sex industry. On one hand they would really like to shut it down, or at least slow it down. But, on the other hand, it is a huge part of the country's income. The money that comes in from the sex trade is staggering when you look at it from a local Thai perspective. That's one reason you can still find young girls from the countryside sold into the industry by their families. With the possible exception of those in the Appalachian mountains, there is no one in the US that has any idea of what this kind of poor truly is.
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Saturday, July 03, 2010

"Worse Than a Nightmare" and "Wrong Track Distress"

Here are a couple of Op-Ed pieces from the NY Times columnist Bob Herbert.

Worse Than a Nightmare
Published: June 25, 2010
"President Obama can be applauded for his decisiveness in dispatching the chronically insubordinate Stanley McChrystal, but we are still left with a disaster of a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won and that the country as a whole will not support."

Wrong Track Distress
Published: June 28, 2010
"It’s getting harder and harder for most Americans, looking honestly at the state of the nation, to see the glass as half full. And that’s why the public opinion polls contain nothing but bad news for Barack Obama and the Democrats."

I am not advocating for or against his point-of-view. It is an interesting one, though, and worthy of discussion.
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