Archived entries for science

From the BBC:

A newly-developed heat-ray gun that burns the skin but doesn’t cause permanent injury is now with US troops in Afghanistan.

The Active Denial System (ADS) is a non-lethal weapon designed to disperse violent crowds and repel enemies.

It uses a focused invisible beam that causes an “intolerable heating sensation”, but only penetrates the skin to the equivalent of three sheets of paper.

The discomfort causes whoever it’s pointed at to immediately start moving away. They often scream but the US military says the chance of injury from the system is 0.1%.

It’s already been tested more than 11,000 times on around 700 volunteers. Even reporters have faced the heat-ray.

Interesting thing about tech like this is what happens once you improve it. Think about computers. Effectively, since the first difference engines, computers have done nothing but calculations. The only things that have changed are that the calculations got more abstract and complex, and the devices themselves got smaller – massively smaller.

Right now the ADS is mounted to a mobile armored vehicle. Imagine, instead, the ADS as a device implanted into, say, every street lamp in a city. Instant riot control. Or, to the wheels of a car. Instant car jacking defense. Or what about to the buttons on your clothes? Personal protection.

The ADS as it is now is little more than an expensive PR stunt, but what could be done with the tech in twenty or thirty years, now that’s the interesting stuff.

I have groped for years trying to find some solution of the most pressing problem of humanity that of insuring peace and, little by little, I have been led to the ideal means to this end. For they will afford perfect protection to every country without providing a new implement for attack. The International Peace Conference will insist on its immediate and universal adoption, for as long as the countries are imperfectly protected invasions are sure to occur.

Taken from a letter where he explains to an investor why he won’t be building his particle beam “death ray”.

Full text of the letter can be found at Gizmodo via Letters of Note.

‘Walls of fat’ removed from London’s sewers

Enough fat to fill nine double-decker buses is being removed from sewers under London’s Leicester Square.

A team of “flushers” equipped with full breathing apparatus has been drafted in with shovels to dig out an estimated 1,000 tonnes of putrid fat.

And powerful jets are being used to break it down.

The operation, which began in the early hours of this morning, is claimed to be the largest-ever sewer clean-up of its kind.

The build-up is the result of years of “sewer abuse” – when anything other than water, human waste and toilet paper is put down drains – according to Thames Water.

Danny Brackley, the water company’s sewer flusher, said: “We’re used to getting our hands dirty, but nothing on this scale.

“We couldn’t even access the sewer as it was blocked by a four-foot wall of solid fat.”

The clean-up is expected to last a couple of weeks.

Thames Water spends £12 million a year clearing around 55,000 sewer blockages across London and the Thames Valley.

From The Independent

Planets make sounds. Did you know this? And I’m not just talking about sounds like volcano eruptions and the crashing of waves, I’m talking about sounds that register on a cosmic scale. The sounds of something called their “Aurora Mechanisms”.

The aurora mechanism are probably known to most as those lovely lights at northern and southern latitudes of our planet. The crazy dance of color and light, high in the sky. But those auroras aren’t unique to earth. They exist in some form on every planet in our solar system and are the result of particles ejected from the sun, called solar winds, colliding with the magnetic field of a planet. The particles excite elements in the atmosphere, creating ions. Those ions react and produce photons, along with high frequency plasma emissions – super radio waves, essentially.

The Cassini space craft passed within several hundred million miles of Saturn back in 2002, and was able to make a recording of those super radio waves using something called the Cassini Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) device. Basically, it the RPWS is a radio receiver that records plasma emissions instead of slower radio waves. NASA was surprised to find that Saturn was exceptionally noisy, emitting sounds that would seem to imply that Saturn’s aurora mechanisms were numerous and mobile.

Would you like to hear what Saturn sounds like when they downshift the plasma frequency into radio waves and then compress 27 minutes of variance down to roughly 70 seconds?

(Don’t worry about any of that, think of it as you would the color retouching they do on those x-ray photographs of far-off nebulae.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

That right, folks. Saturn sounds like the score to the 1956 scifi classic, The Forbidden Planet.

There is no part of me that doesn’t take comfort from that.

This has been your Friday Frequency.

(…wait, you all knew those NASA photos of things in space don’t really look like that, right?)

Click for huge. No, really. Click. It is amazing.

Source.

Interesting way to present this data. One of those nice little “if money and resources weren’t a problem, we could do THIS!” sort of things.

But, if you want to take a little bit of – heh – sunshine from this, look at the metrics they give you for energy consumption. While the total amount of energy used is going up, the rate at which it is going up is decreasing.

Now you just have to wonder if we have the resources to survive the run up to the point where the curves intersect and we have just the right amount of resources to meet our energy needs.

This time, they’re from Australian and caused by the SpaceX Falcon9 rocket that went up last Friday.

That spiral look familiar? It might remind you of something similar that popped up over Norway last year that turned out to be a failed Russian rocket test.

The key difference being that the Falcon9 was supposed to be doing that, and the Russian rocket wasn’t. Ok, when I say that the Falcon9 was “supposed” to be doing that, I mean that the rocket was only designed to reach a set altitude then crash out safely in the Pacific Ocean. The spiral over Australia was the Falcon9 on it’s way to crashing out.

More images can be seen here.

Iceland’s economy completely collapses.England buys Iceland. Icelandic volcanoes decide to play with their new owners. All flights in the United Kingdom are now grounded due to the death rain of volcanic ash.

England can’t find the fucking receipt to take Iceland back.

I can pretty much assure that the entirety of the British Isles have taken a holiday and are now getting snockered at the local pub watching it black snow fall out of the sky.

Image source: NASA.

PS: Oh, the volcano that erupted is called “Eyjafjallajokull”. Which I swear is something I’ve had drunken hobos yell at me as I walked past.

PPS: Apparently, I was incorrect. Those weren’t hobos. People from Iceland just look like that.

The New York Times ran an interesting piece on advertising the space race recently, which itself was inspired by a book called Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race.

It was “Mad Men” meets “Flash Gordon.”

The years from 1957 to 1962 were a golden age of science fiction, as well as paranoia and exhilaration on a cosmic scale. The future was still the future back then, some of us could dream of farms on the moon and heroically finned rockets blasting off from alien landscapes. Others worried about Russian moon bases.

Scientists debated whether robots or humans should explore space. Satellites and transistors were jazzy emblems of postwar technology, and we were about to unravel the secrets of the universe and tame the atom (if it did not kill us first).

Some of the most extravagant of these visions of the future came not from cheap paperbacks, but from corporations buffing their high-tech credentials and recruiting engineering talent in the heady days when zooming budgets for defense and NASA had created a gold rush in outer space.

One of the high points of the article was a quote from the author of the book.

“These images suggest that the furthest reach of what humankind hoped to find in space was in fact the very essence of infinity,” Ms. Prelinger writes.

Think about that.

A perpetual frontier waiting to be conquered, with no end in sight, ever.

You can find a collection of the images the article refers to here.

The country’s highest court said that the woman — whom it didn’t identify — had failed to demonstrate any connection between experiments at the CERN collider outside Geneva and the apocalypse.

The Federal Constitutional Court in the western Germany city of Karlsruhe threw out the woman’s appeal because she was “unable to give a coherent account of how her fears would come about.”

Oh. Goodie.

From the Telegraph.co.uk.

I quoted Frank Drake about his famous equation last week. Calling it “a way to organize our ignorance“.

But math is a tricky, slippery thing.

Especially math that dips its toes into pools filled with terms like “chance to” and “infinite”.

Now, the Drake Equation was postulated to solve the Fermi Paradox, which wondered why the universe was so damn quiet.

I feel that I might have left you with a bit of a notion that the equation itself was completely worthless. Which, technically, it is. But, if you flip it over and look at it backwards, it tells us something very, very important.

It tells us that none of those numbers in the equation are zero.

And how does it tell us this? By the simple fact that we are around to think up the damned thing in the first place.

The equation is a multiplicative equation. Each variable is multiplied by a previous variable, and so on and so forth down the line. If any of those numbers were, in fact, zero, then we wouldn’t exist.

If you know a little bit about probability, then you also know that if you are dealing with data points numbering into the trillions, that the odds of getting a single positive return are so highly improbably, they are nearly impossible.

The Drake Equation won’t ever tell you what it is supposed to. But, it will always tell you something else.

That we are not alone.

N = R* × fp × ne × f × fi × fc × L

That’s the Drake Equation.

It’s a bunch of variables strung together by an astronomer named Frank Drake. The idea it is that if you know the numbers that plug into each of the variables, you can solve out the number of intelligent alien civilizations in our galaxy, the Milky Way.

The numbers break down like this

R* = The rate of yearly star formation in our galaxy.

fp = The percentage of those stars that will have planets.

ne = The average number of potentially life supporting planets that those stars will have.

f = The percentage of those planets that will develop life.

fi = The percentage of those kinds of life that will develop intelligence.

fc = The percentage of those intelligent lifeforms that will go on to develop a civilization with advanced enough technology to be noticed by another civilization.

L = The length of time those intelligent civilizations broadcast that noticeable signal.

And lastly, the solution is…

N = The potential number of civilizations in our galaxy that we could communicate with.

Now all of this was thought up  to answer a very simple question with a overly fancy name.

The question is this: If the galaxy, and thus the universe, is so damn big – where the hell is everybody?

The name for this question is the Fermi Paradox. It’s named for Enrico Fermi, one of those mad bastard scientists of the 20th century who was responsible for the atomic bomb. The question came from a casual discussion Fermi was having with some peers back in the 1950s. It, like most great question that smudge the line between science and philosophy, was a simple one with incredibly deep and far reaching implications. There are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy, and potentially thousands of billions of planets orbiting them. Surely, with those odds, more than one planet won the cosmic lottery and grew life that could reach out to the stars.

Yet, for all our shouting out into the night, both intentional and inadvertent, no one has shouted back.

Now, there are lots of theories why we haven’t seen signs of anyone else out there, and most of them are not completely crackpot. The galaxy is big, and even if there was another intelligent civilization on the other side of the galaxy shouting things out like we are, odds are we, the human race I mean, would die before those signals ever reached us.

You also have to consider time. The variables in the equation are continuous, and continuously changing. Civilizations could be blooming and then dying off before we event transition from the bronze age to the steel age. Think about how close we came to annihilation during the Cold War, now imagine that scenario acting itself out across any number of worlds with less favorable results.

There are an unlimited number of minor variables that can factor into the equation, too. Things like the potential of a civilization to exterminate itself with war, the likelihood a civilization to die because of a cosmic accident such as a star going nova or a meteor impact, essentially anything with the chance to end a civilization that is not factored in those seven original variables.

Ultimately, you run into the same problems volcanologists and meteorologists have in attempting to make a workable predictive model. That is, one of scale. In order to build an accurate mathematical model of prediction, the only way to ensure true accuracy would be to rebuild the universe itself as your equation.

Which makes the Drake Equation, as Frank Drake himself put it, little more than a way for us to organize our ignorance.

Still, it’s a rather fun way to organize our ignorance, though.

An update to yesterday’s bit about the Chilean earthquake, straight from NASA:

The Feb. 27 magnitude 8.8 earthquake in Chile may have shortened the length of each Earth day.

JPL research scientist Richard Gross computed how Earth’s rotation should have changed as a result of the Feb. 27 quake. Using a complex model, he and fellow scientists came up with a preliminary calculation that the quake should have shortened the length of an Earth day by about 1.26 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second).

Perhaps more impressive is how much the quake shifted Earth’s axis. Gross calculates the quake should have moved Earth’s figure axis (the axis about which Earth’s mass is balanced) by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 centimeters, or 3 inches). Earth’s figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis; they are offset by about 10 meters (about 33 feet).

By comparison, Gross said the same model estimated the 2004 magnitude 9.1 Sumatran earthquake should have shortened the length of day by 6.8 microseconds and shifted Earth’s axis by 2.32 milliarcseconds (about 7 centimeters, or 2.76 inches).

Gross said that even though the Chilean earthquake is much smaller than the Sumatran quake, it is predicted to have changed the position of the figure axis by a bit more for two reasons. First, unlike the 2004 Sumatran earthquake, which was located near the equator, the 2010 Chilean earthquake was located in Earth’s mid-latitudes, which makes it more effective in shifting Earth’s figure axis. Second, the fault responsible for the 2010 Chiliean earthquake dips into Earth at a slightly steeper angle than does the fault responsible for the 2004 Sumatran earthquake. This makes the Chile fault more effective in moving Earth’s mass vertically and hence more effective in shifting Earth’s figure axis.

Gross said the Chile predictions will likely change as data on the quake are further refined.

I really can’t help it if the last bit makes me snicker a bit. I feel like the people at NASA are saying this:

SOMETHING BIG HAPPENED! SOMETHING DEVASTATINGLY, AMAZINGLY, MIND-BOGGLINGLY HUGE!…and we’re going to ride it for press while the headlines are still hot. Besides, who cares, we could be making up these numbers and you’d have no way of knowing. High five! We’re the top of Reddit, Digg, Wired today! Nerd hat-trick!

It does make you think, though. Just how far has the Earth’s axis and rotation shifted over the years? Maybe the whole damn thing’s flipped itself over a few times along the way.

That’s Endeavour coming home from STS-130 last night. Probably the last night landing for an orbiter ever, unless something goes horribly wrong. One hundred and thirty orbiter missions down, only four left to go. The whole space shuttle program shuts down in September of this year. Leaving the United States, as I’ve pointed out, completely reliant on other nations for transport to space. This is, without a doubt, one of my greatest disappointments in this modern world.

I get a lot of questions as to why this is so important to me. “Put a man in a house before a man on the moon”, etc. And yes, social concerns are important…but they are also deceptive because of their immediately apparent return on investment. Issues of space exploration are akin to having a retirement account that you are putting money into when you are a teenager. The total benefit seems negligible, and the time when the investment will be used is many, many leagues beyond the edge of your vision. There will be a great return at some point, and a return that ensures your continued existence, but it might as well be a fantasy for as far away it is.

Think of it like this. Oceans and rivers and lakes, all aquatic ecosystems, are kept alive by motion. The water cycle keeps fresh water moving in, and photosynthesis infuses oxygen into the water as it moves. If the whole thing were to stop, then everything would die. The oxygen would rise to the surface of the water and dissipate back out into the atmosphere. It is only because of this regular motion that this doesn’t happen. The Earth is like a body of water that’s stopped flowing. Ever so slowly, but steadily, what we rely upon for life is escaping us. Eventually, this world won’t be able to support us, and that’ll be the end.

Space exploration is a way to keep that from happening. You lessen the load on this planet, and you spread the species around. Even if we were to suddenly start living in harmony with the planet, but never found a way to escape it, we’d still be vulnerable to meteor impacts and the unavoidable expansion and death of our sun.

I’m gonna let Carl Sagan take me out on this one:

Look, all I’m asking is for you to just have the tiniest bit of vision. You know, to just sit back for one minute and look at the big picture. To take a chance on something that just might end up being the most profoundly impactful moment for humanity, for the history… of history.

-Carl Sagan

From a TechnologyReview.com article called “Physicist Discovers How to Teleport Energy

The technique relies on the strange quantum phenomenon called entanglement, in which two particles share the same existence. This deep connection means that a measurement on one particle immediately influences the other, even though they are light-years apart. Bennett and company worked out how to exploit this to send information. (The influence between the particles may be immediate, but the process does not violate relativity because some information has to be sent classically at the speed of light.) They called the technique teleportation.

…..

Since quantum particles are indistinguishable but for the information they carry, there is no need to transmit them themselves. A much simpler idea is to send the information they contain instead and ensure that there is a ready supply of particles at the other end to take on their identity. Since then, physicists have used these ideas to actually teleport photons, atoms, and ions. And it’s not too hard to imagine that molecules and perhaps even viruses could be teleported in the not-too-distant future.

…..

All this is possible because there are always quantum fluctuations in the energy of any particle. The teleportation process allows you to inject quantum energy at one point in the universe and then exploit quantum energy fluctuations to extract it from another point. Of course, the energy of the system as whole is unchanged.

…..

There is a growing sense that the properties of the universe are best described not by the laws that govern matter but by the laws that govern information.

A while ago I imagined a planet killing weapon consisting of two entangled discs of metal. One would orbit very close to a sun, the other would be mounted on a space ship. When you want to scourge a planet from the galaxy, you just open the disc on the space ship and blast the planet below with the heat and radiation of a sun that wasn’t there two seconds ago.

Of course, the nerdy part I’m not telling you is that I envisioned the ships with the discs mounted on them looking like old carved Asian artillery and demon masks. Think of that. You’re living down below as this black brick blots out the sun. You look up, just in time to make out – and your brain never really gets a chance to make sense out of it – what looks like the face of a Japanese hannya demon hanging above you. Not that it really matters because your atmosphere explodes before your synapses have a chance to fire again because a galactic pinhole to a star’s corona just opened twenty miles straight up from your head. A doomsday weapon with a classic flare. Death by demon fire.

*Ahem* Moving on…

Mark my words: the most dangerous device anyone could ever create is a device that lets you lie to the universe.

Imagine a box. A simple, black box. It is a little taller than your cellphone, but it isn’t any longer and it is a bit narrower. It fits easily in  your pocket. There are no buttons on it, some one who didn’t know any better would think that they were holding maybe a piece of polished plastic. But this box is special, you see, this box holds an equation, a very simple equation, which is as follows: You = X. Where you are You, and X is, well, when/why/where/however you want to be. The catch about this equation is that the universe believes it. It believes that you are whatever the box says you are.

What if you told the box you were an idealized version of yourself? Then you would be.

What if you told the box that you were living in 1920s France? Then you would be.

What if you told the box that you were God? Then you would be.

This sounds outlandish, but it really isn’t. All that really exists of the universe is the perception of the content of information. I see my surroundings because I perceive the information of their context. They shape their surroundings and are shaped by their surroundings. And if you could redefine the context of something, then you would change that. Mind over matter, quite literally.

See the potential in some one actually making a box like this? Or in them mass producing them?

The day we find a way to recontextualize something, in the physics sense, is the day I turn in my life savings for the shelf stock of a liquor store and watch the universe tear itself apart.

Two things happened yesterday whose synchronicity was inescapable.

Apple released their tablet device, the iPad.

And the White House’s budget proposal for NASA was leaked, showing that they are killing the Ares and Constellation projects, effectively leaving the United States with no spacecraft at the end of September of this year.

Two seemingly unrelated news items, but they tell the story of scientific development over the last half of the 20th century.

Let’s just back to just after World War 2. Ballistics and rocketry were the new, hot sciences. The Americans were willing to let the Russians conquer part of Germany so they could snap up the German rocket scientists who had built the V2 and who were working on a German version of the Manhattan Project.

Back then, science was this big, epic thing. We were envisioning blasting off to the far reaches of space on rockets the size of skyscrapers powered by the safe and near limitless power of the atom.

(Don’t forget, this is the generation where we were irradiating people and spraying them with DDT just to show how safe it all was. The actions of history are relative unto their times.)

But, there was a catch with this titanic science: it was hard to control. There was a lot of math involved in the calculations necessary to put a several ton piece of metal in the sky. Government money was dumped into college campuses to develop computers that could plot a rocket trajectory from the heart of America to all those places where naughty people live.

The Russians beat us to a successful ICBM program by two years, you know. Those crazy frost bitten bastards were ahead of us, and we even had von Braun, the man who’d invented the science of modern rocketry. But the Russians didn’t need him. They just gave bits of a broken V2 rocket to an unknown man named Sergey Korolyov, who’d just barely managed to escape a purge of intellectuals by showing a flair for making rocket engines do things they weren’t supposed to be able to do. Korolyov was probably the most unknown genius of the 20th century, without him, God only knows when or how we’d have gone to space.

I’m getting sidetracked.

So we were building these amazing metal arrows to shoot into the heavens, but we needed computers to tell us where to point them and just how much of a kick to give them. Computers were basically vacuum-tube driven difference engines up until the advent of the microprocessor, when something interesting happened.

For the most part, the development of computers and rockets were tied together. The development of either came from military research and funding. You’d build a bigger rocket, so you’d need a new computer. You’d figure out something else you could do with a computer and that would let you build a new rocket. But with the release of the microprocessor in 1971, the commercial applications of computing exploded. No longer was a computer a huge investment that required whole rooms to house, but it was something that could be owned in an everyday home for day to day uses.

Those giant cylinders of metal that went up into the stars…well…they had less of a commercial application. Luckily, the Cold War was still raging, and the US’s dominance of space was a point of pride over those filthy Commies (who’d beaten us out of the gravity well in the first place). So we were able to justify the development of the the space shuttle program, which we’re still using today. But after that, things sort of stalled out for massive space science. The International Space Station was the last big project, and that took over a decade to full construct with no clear reason for existing in the first place.

While the space program was faltering, computing was booming. Moore’s Law was in full effect, with the processing power of a chip doubling every 18 months. Technology was obsolete within days of hitting the streets. Smaller, more powerful processors meant that you could put them in more and more things. By the 90s, they were in toys, in radios, in toasters; by the turn of the century, computers were in shoes, clothes, even inside of us in medical implants.

At some point, some small impossibly insignificant moment, we abandoned macro science for micro science. Rocketry, super-engineering and atomic energy gave way to digital devices, genetic engineering and sustainable, low-impact energy sources.

You might be curious why the two things I mentioned at the start had synchronicity for me. It is the trading of big, real, important science and engineering for frivolous and consumeristic pursuits. I can almost guarantee you that Apple spent more money on the iPad than the Russians spent to put Sputnik or Yuri Gagarin into space. The element of profit has changed everything with technological development.

I think I’ve said all of this before, but I’ll keep saying it for as long as I live.

We traded in our jetpack and rocket cars for an iPhone and Avatar in IMAX 3-D. And there’s no right or wrong to this, just simply a nagging doubt in the back of my head about what could have been.

That’s Newtons formula for acceleration, the converse of his formula for force, F=ma.

The variables are a for acceleration, F for the force applied to the object, and m for the mass of that object.

Of course, there are a lot more equations that can explain acceleration in more detail, and account for its varied forms (dynamic, constant, centripetal, etc), but this is the one I’m going to use for today’s random thought.

The speed of events in the world is increasing. That’s an irrefutable facts. Things are happening faster, everything, anything, what ever you can think of, it happens faster than it did a century ago, a half-century ago, a decade ago, maybe even a year ago. This is the acceleration of modern life.

We’ll refer to it as aml.

That leaves two parts to the equation, the force and the mass.

The force, is, at the root, the advancement of our knowledge. Both in the breadth of what we know, and the depth of what we know about what we know. The rule of thumb for knowledge is that what we know is doubling every ten years. So, linear growth. That’s not to say that we’re going to make twice as many brilliant discoveries as we did in the last last decade, because a lot of what we’re learning is pointless mundane shit. We’re learning tons about how people interact with digital devices right now, but that’s not going to solve the world’s problems or give us limitless clean energy. It will just make the next generation of iPhone more attractive than last year’s model. But, there are some real advancements, and they compound on existing knowledge.

Discovering lighter alloy metals makes airplanes faster and more fuel efficient, so they can travel farther for less money. Discovering new ways to increase the density of batteries increases the usefulness of everything from electric vehicles to laptop computers to vibrators. And I don’t even know where to begin with the Internet. Things are moving so much faster every year that it is only a matter of time before the entire industrialized world is blanketed under a sheet of high-speed wifi. Right now, from my $99 iPhone, I can download an app that lets me call Korea, for FREE, over the Internet. For less than the price of a nice pair of sneakers, I can talk to some one literally on the other side of the planet.

We’ll call our force the force of knowledge.

Fk

That leaves mass.

The average weight of a human being is around 160lbs. That’s taking both men and women into account. All of the force of knowledge built up by the summation of human existence, and it only has to move less than 200lbs.

I’m not meaning that as a piss answer, either. The reason that Gutenberg printing press was such a big deal was because it enabled more people to have copies of a book, in most cases a Bible. Give a missionary a Gutenberg Bible, a direction and send him off to spread the Word. He’s dead? Eaten by cannibalistic Slavs? Oh well! Print another Bible and get another acolyte!

It only takes one person with an idea to tell another person about that idea. From there, you’ve got the magnifying effect of word of mouth. Bloggers are the modern day Gutenberg presses. They are the individual advocates of ideas that spread them to the masses, who in turn spread word about that blog. Professional news sources are turning more and more to individual bloggers for editorial and news content. Just like a missionary wandering into a town, a single blogger, at the right moment in time, with the right thing to say, can change the world for everyone.

So, for our mass, let’s go with the mass of a human.

mh

Making our final formula aml=Fk/mh

The acceleration of modern life is equal to the force of knowledge divided by the mass of a human.

And the point and impetus to all of this?

The Massachusetts senatorial election last night. Where a Republican swept the Democrats out of a seat that had been under their control since World War II. There is potential for this to be the harbinger of a Democratic slaughter come the 2010 midterm elections. I’m not going to go down the political rabbit hole right now, but I do wonder what is going to happen as the political pendulum speeds up. Just this time last year we were all screaming our undying love for Obama (ok, those of us not decrying him as a demon Muslim socialist), and now we’re already predicting his ideology’s imminent doom. If changes in the political wind can happen this fast now, what happens as they get faster and faster? What if the country can go from Red to Blue to Red in a single week? Or day? Or hour?

Think about this economically, too. The economic collapse of the last three years is more or less over, and we’re digging out from under it right now. Three years it lasted, on the outside. The Great Depression? Oh, about a decade. It might have lasted even longer if the war hadn’t happened. This is entirely due to the speed at which financial transactions can happen now. No more waiting for wires from across the Atlantic. You can have real-time satellite connections to any bank in the world from any place in the world. Give me a satellite phone on the top of Mount Everest and I can apply for a Visa card. There’s an entire business model that revolves around banks of supercomputers making billions of stock transactions a day, buying and selling on marginal increases and decreases in the value of the stock, slowly but surely inflating the market with machine trading instead of human trading. Which is only possible because of the speed at which information moves these days.

What makes me wonder what’s going to happen as things keep speeding up, but our biology doesn’t. Eventually things happening so fast are going to have a detrimental affect on us. We’ll be overloaded with information and be completely unable to function because we’re drowning in data. You can’t decide if the choice keeps changing, you know?

Just something to muse about. The math of change. The formula for progression.

aml=Fk/mh

Accelerate.

Deep Discount on Space Shuttles

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Here is a recession bargain: the space shuttle. NASA has slashed the price of the 1970s-era spaceships to $28.8 million apiece from $42 million.

The shuttles are for sale once their flying days are over, which is scheduled to be this fall.

When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in December 2008 put out the call seeking buyers at museums, schools and elsewhere, the agency received about 20 inquiries. An agency spokesman, Mike Curie, said he expected more interest, especially with the discount.

“We’re confident that we’ll get other takers,” Mr. Curie said Friday.

The Discovery is already promised to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The Atlantis and the Endeavour are up for grabs. It is possible that the Enterprise, a shuttle prototype that never made it to space, will also be available. The Enterprise is currently at the Smithsonian.

Mr. Curie said no decisions would be made before summer.

The lower price is based on NASA’s estimate of the cost for transporting a shuttle from Kennedy Space Center to a major airport, and for displaying it indoors in a climate-controlled building. The travel cost may vary based on location. NASA has moved up the delivery date to the latter half of 2011, instead of 2012.

Potential customers have until Feb. 19 to put in a request.

As for the space shuttle main engines, those are now free. NASA advertised them in December 2008 for $400,000 to $800,000 each, but no one expressed interest. So now the engines are available, along with other shuttle artifacts, for the cost of transportation and handling.

Assembly will be required, however.

By The AP via NYT.

If there was a $100 million Powerball jackpot on for tonight, and I won it, this would be the first thing I bought.

Anyone want to trade me an even $30m (have to cover shipping) for one slightly used soul? Cash on delivery!

Just…just…read this and try to hold your laughter in.

From the Pakistan Daily:

Russian scientists are reporting to Prime Minister Putin today that the high-energy beam fired into the upper heavens from the United States High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) radar facility in Ramfjordmoen, Norway this past month has resulted in a “catastrophic puncturing” of our Plant’s thermosphere thus allowing into the troposphere an “unimpeded thermal  inversion” of the exosphere, which is the outermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere.

…..

To how catastrophic for our Planet this massive thermal inversion has been Anthony Nunan, an assistant general manager for risk management at Mitsubishi Corporation in Tokyo, is reporting today that the entire Northern Hemisphere is in winter chaos, with the greatest danger from this unprecedented Global event being the destruction of billions of dollars worth of crops in a World already nearing the end of its ability to feed its self.

So powerful has this thermal inversion become that reports from the United States are stating that their critical crops of strawberries, oranges, and other fruits and vegetables grown in their Southern States, are being destroyed by record cold temperatures. The US is further reporting record amounts of snowfall in what they are now warning may be their worst winter in 25 years.

…..

To the long-term consequences of this thermal inversion caused by the West, these reports further warn that by the puncturing of our atmosphere by the HHARP radars our Planet has, also, been “needlessly exposed” to the growing threat posed to us by the giant mysterious object currently approaching us (named by NASA as G1.9) which we had previously reported on in our January 3rd report titled “Russia Prepares For Asteroid Strike As New Comet Nears Sun”, and which has been blamed for the rapid shifting of our Earth’s North Pole that was first documented in 2005.

But to the most critical aspect of these events it surely lies with the Western World’s continued arrogance in regards to experimenting on both our Planets natural species and human beings, and though who may think that they are ‘gods’, are continuing to give evidence that they are acting more like devils.

And just in case you’ve missed the blinding insanity of this article, here’s the source’s statement of purpose:

Pakistan Daily is a premium online news agency dedicated to spreading positive image of Pakistan. We have dedicated editors and authors who strive to give you the news in the Pakistani flavor that you want to read and be updated about everyday. Pakistan Daily also has an open submission policy in which users can register and post their articles whenever they wish.

Why yes, some one from this reputable media outlet has drawn a bunch of disparate elements together and accused the United States of blowing a hole in the atmosphere.

Ahhh, god, what a world.

From the Guardian.co.uk:

Allegations fly over Iranian scientist’s assassination

Even for a country deep in political ­turmoil, the killing of Massoud Ali ­Mohammadi in Tehran today came as a shock. There have been arrests, disappearances and occasional shootings, but the manner of his death was as meticulous as it was disturbing.

Mohammadi was blown up outside his home in an smart northern suburb of Tehran by a remote-control bomb that had been attached to a motorcycle parked on the street. As his stunned neighbours cleared up the rubble they struggled to understand why a little-known ­academic would have fallen victim to such a highly professional assassination.

The answer may lie in Mohammadi’s profession and political inclinations. He was a particle physicist and a supporter of the Iranian opposition movement, raising the possibility he had become the latest victim in a covert war over Iran’s nuclear aspirations. It is a war in which scientists find themselves potential soft targets.

…..

The regime in Tehran has alleged the west is behind the disappearances, and was quick to blame the US and Israel for Mohammadi’s death. “Given the fact that Massoud Ali Mohammadi was a nuclear scientist, the CIA and Mossad services and agents most likely have had a hand in it,” Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, told a state news agency.

…..

Against that background, a parallel, secret effort to disrupt Iran’s nuclear progress looks increasingly like the only battle the west is winning. Amid anger and disillusion over last year’s election, Iran’s counter-intelligence department dedicated to defending the country’s nuclear secrets, Oghab 2, is having increasing problems assuring the loyalty of scientists and officials. In February 2007, Ali Reza Asgari – a former Revolutionary Guard general who had risen to cabinet rank – checked into a hotel in Istanbul and promptly vanished. According to various accounts, he was either abducted or he defected, but there is general consensus he is now in the west providing a rich stream of intelligence.

A month earlier, a nuclear scientist named Ardeshir Hassanpour, 44, died in what was officially described as a gas poisoning incident but was widely reported as an assassination, possibly by Mossad.

Last June, Shahram Amiri, a nuclear physicist at Malek Ashtar University in Tehran went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and never returned. Iran said he was seized, but according to many reports, he defected.

Vincent Cannistraro, former head of operations at the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre, said: “It is clear one of them, likely Amiri, is under a different identity living in the US and has been a major source of information. So it’s possible the guy just assassinated in Tehran was killed by the Iranians fearing he was one source on the programme revealed by the defector.”

I’ve always wondered if the current people behind the intelligence agencies wished they could shut up the former co-workers and bosses who are now commentating on their current activities. But, anyway.

Some one is disappearing scientists. Sounds like something out of the Cold War, when spies were pawns and scientists the kings they were sacrificed to get to. Oppenheimer, the father of the American atomic bomb, spoke openly about being approached repeatedly by Soviet agents, which probably didn’t help him when the House Committee on Un-American Activities came sniffing around. But, near as I can tell, neither the Americans or the Soviets went around killing each other’s scientists. They were too valuable, and if they didn’t defect, you just waited around and stole their finished research.

But this is different. Secrets are kept much better these days. We didn’t know anything about the enrichment facility at Qum until we were told about it by what was most likely an Iranian defector. We can’t just wait around for the next level of espionage to catch something because it doesn’t exist. The suspicion that the Iranians could be killing their own to keep them out of our hands is interesting, but I don’t know how true it is. We could just start leaking rumors that everyone is going to defect and that tactic is worthless. I also don’t think we’re the ones doing the killing. Iran getting the bomb is sort of an inevitability. They are far richer and better off that North Korea, and the those crazy bastards have had the bomb for almost a decade now. Killing scientists just seems like a way to attract a lot of unwanted and unjustified risk.

The writer in me is twisting the idea of a criminal enterprise around in this. Pakistan’s AQ Khan was responsible for getting nuclear secrets to Iran and North Korean through criminal means, and I have no reason to think that those channels just disappeared the second he was put under house arrest. This killing could be a message from one side to the other. Criminals to the government showing them who’s in control, or from the government to the criminals telling them they won’t have their scientists taken.



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