Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Boulevard of Broken Dreams....Green Day

Redefining the American Dream

The ideal American dream of the fifties; prosperity, happiness and the achievment of goals came to those who played fair and worked hard.
Happy young people living in the moment at a typical diner of the fifties

The freedom of the open road called to Americans

Veterans came back from the war and wanted to settle down and have families

Movies  inspired dreams

If you didn't like motorcycles then you probably owned a big American car.

The right to bear  arms is a constitutional right in America and played a part in the world's view of the American image.
Marilyn Monroe enhanced the dream and created her own legend
James Dean seen as the epitome of cool in America
 ( An image that lives on)
Walks his 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' for eternity 

The Reverend Martin Luthor King had a dream.
Disneyland opened in the fifties. A veritable dream maker and myth builder.

What is today's American Dream?

It seemed so much more attainable in the fifties didn't it, prosperity and happiness for everyone? The world had just come out of a devastating war, something they said, they would never allow to happen again. Happiness and prosperity were just around the corner. The world was your oyster. Americans were more innocent back then, more idealistic and more trusting. They had a simple exuberance for life.
The old American dream is no longer viable. Was it ever?  Was it a post WWII syndrome;  all part of the baby boom and recovering economy. Is the American Dream  achievable in 2011, amid lingering economic hard times, wars and political discord? Not to mention global warming and horrendous natural disasters.  Veteran US pollster John Zogby says fewer Americans think it is achievable, but many have redefined  the American dream to fit the times..

John Zogby:
Steadily over the past decade, I have witnessed in my polling a fundamental redefinition of the American Dream, even for that matter, the American character. While fewer Americans believe that the American Dream still exists for themselves or for the middle class than before (57% compared with 74% just prior to the Great Recession), more Americans say that the American Dream means something different to them than it did before.

In the late 1990s, I began probing how Americans define the dream. I discovered in 1999 that about one-third believed the American Dream meant some form of financial success: the acquisition of goods, a bigger house, a home with a piece of land around it and so on. I called them the Traditional Materialists.
But I found an equal-size group that eschewed both that label and that aspiration. I called this group the Secular Spiritualists, finding they had decided to reorder their priorities away from material things and rejected the notion that he who dies with the most toys wins. Instead, for Secular Spiritualists, life was about being genuine, about achieving a legacy larger than one's self, about leaving this earth a better place for family, community, and planet.

For the record, I found two other groups: The Deferred Dreamers (about 18%) who felt the dream of material acquisition could still be alive, but just not for themselves or their children.
And then there were the Dreamful Dead (15%), who felt the American Dream was simply dead. This last group included minorities, the poor and too many single mothers.

What I have witnessed over the past decade is the steady growth of the Secular Spiritualists to around 42%, while the Traditional Materialists now number about 31%.
Sub Group of Traditional  Materialism:
Today, fully 35% of materialists work for less than in a previous job. This group is the most affected by status anxiety. They are often one or two pay cheques away from poverty and worry about health and healthcare, government costs, and being squeezed. They are the new "haves" in the sense that they are paying the costs for those below who need help and think they are paying disproportionately to cover those higher on the financial score sheet who do not get socked as much by taxes. They are afraid of losing ground, and most have changed their goals in life because the traditional materialist goals are simply unachievable.

The group on the polar end of the economic spectrum - the now approximately 10-11 million Americans who actually have succeeded quite well financially and now are concluding that they have too much, they do not need more, and that they actually can - and must - do with less.
They are part of an active and engaged simplification movement in the US - people who have concluded that they do not need the next iteration of the iPhone because the last version did not make them a better person.
Some Americans are actively trying to simplify their lives and reduce material clutter.

 The Final group is my peer group, Baby Boomers - 78 million strong. I call us "Woodstockers", a paean to our self-indulgence.We did such a great job creating adolescence that we still find it difficult to give it up. But give it up we must. We are the first age cohort who will have one million of us reach the age of one hundred.
That means record numbers of us have 25 to 30 years of healthy living ahead of us. We will not (and most cannot) be retiring at 65, so we are entering a stage historian Robert Fogel argues will be one dominated by "vol-work" - as opposed to "earn-work" - in which we are ready to do something that really counts, that is fulfilling, that is on our own terms and leaves a legacy.

Lastly, the rise of Secular Spiritualism is born of a trait for which we Americans seldom credit ourselves: a spirit of sacrifice. The continent was not settled by John Wayne and the Marlboro Man but by families who built communities and braved the elements together.
In the 1970s, presidents from two different parties asked Americans to conserve energy and we did. In recent decades, despite the fact that we were very spoiled by creature comforts, we have begun to recycle massive amounts of waste, we have stopped littering our highways and towns, and we have largely given up smoking. And this change away from materialism and toward this new American Dream is embodied by the under-30s among us - America's first global citizens.

They have passports and have travelled abroad. The world is in the palm of their hands, they are the least likely to say that American culture is superior to other cultures of the world, and they are by far the most likely of any age cohort to call themselves "citizens of the planet Earth". They are multi-cultural (in 20 years America will look like Barack Obama, they say) and 40% say they expect (not hope or wish, but expect) to live and work in a foreign capital in their lives. They are revolutionizing the worlds of work, philanthropy, relationships, governing, and music.

The American Dream has changed. It has adjusted to the new world in which we live.

George Carlin Speaks on the American Dream

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Japan Nuclear: PM Naoto Kan Signals 'Maximum Alert'

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said his government is in a state of maximum alert over the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.  Plutonium has been detected in soil at the facility and highly radioactive water has leaked from a reactor building.  Officials say the priority remains injecting water to cool the fuel rods.  Mr Kan told parliament the situation at the quake-hit plant "continues to be unpredictable".  "The government "will tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert", he said, adding that he was seeking advice on whether to extend the evacuation zone around the plant.  "We are doing our utmost efforts to contain the damage," Mr Edano said.  "We need to avoid the fuel rods from heating up and drying up. Continuing the cooling is unavoidable... We need to prioritise injecting water." But he said work to safely remove contaminated water was also a priority.

Meanwhile National Strategy Minister Koichiro Gemba said the government could consider temporarily nationalising Tepco, the company running the plant.  On Monday shares in the company dropped to their lowest level in three decades.  Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, in another press briefing, described the situation at Fukushima as "very grave". Workers are battling to restore power and restart the cooling systems at the stricken nuclear plant, which was hit by a powerful quake and subsequent tsunami over two weeks ago.
The twin disasters are now known to have killed 10,901 people, with more than 17,000 people still missing across a swathe of northern Japan.

Update:Reactor 1: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas explosion. Highly radioactive water detected in reactor

Reactor 2: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas blast; containment damage suspected. Highly radioactive water detected in reactor and adjoining tunnel

Reactor 3: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas blast; containment damage possible. Spent fuel pond partly refilled with water after running low. Highly radioactive water detected in reactor

Reactor 4: Reactor shut down prior to quake. Fires and explosion in spent fuel pond; water level partly restored

Reactors 5 & 6: Reactors shut down. Temperature of spent fuel pools now lowered after rising high

On Monday highly radioactive water was found for the first time outside one of the reactor buildings at Fukushima plant.The leak in a tunnel linked to the No 2 reactor has raised fears of radioactive liquid seeping into the environment.
Plutonium - used in the fuel mix for one of the six reactors - has also been found in soil at the plant, but not at levels that threaten human health, officials say.
Correspondents say the government has been accused of indecision and delay in tackling the crisis.  Tepco, meanwhile, was criticised by the government after issuing incorrect radiation readings.
On Sunday it said radiation levels at reactor No 2 were 10 million times higher than normal, before correcting that figure to 100,000 - something the government called "absolutely unacceptable". It has also been accused of a lack of transparency and failing to provide information more promptly.

Officials in China, South Korea and the United States say they have recorded traces of radioactive material in the air. The US Environmental Protection Agency said it had detected traces of radiation in rain water in the north-east of the country. It said these were consistent with the Fukushima nuclear accident and also said they did not constitute a health hazard.

China's Ministry of Environmental Protection has said that "extremely low-level" doses of iodine-131, a radioactive material, have been found in coastal areas including Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Anhui, Guangdong and Guangxi. It had already reported traces of the radioactive material in the air above the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
However, the doses were so small as to not pose a threat to public health and no measures against it were necessary, the agency statement said. In Vietnam, the Thanh Nien newspaper has reported that Vietnamese scientists have found small amounts of radiation in the air. The Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety said it had detected traces of iodine-131 in Seoul and seven other places across South Korea.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Move over, Einstein!...12 Year Has New theory of Relativity

It's a scene out of "A Beautiful Mind." A mathematical genius scrawls his equations on the glass pane of a window. This genius, however, happens to be only 12 years old. And he's about to disprove Einstein's theory of relativity. Diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at a very young age, Jacob Barnett astonished family and teachers alike with his advanced intellect; he taught himself calculus and completed high school at the age of 8.
Jacob has an IQ of 170. He currently attends college-level advanced astrophysics classes. He can recite the first 200 digits of pi. And he's likely to make mathematical history before he's of legal age. "Whenever I try talking about math with anyone in my family they just stare blankly," he told The Indianapolis Star.

Jacob's mother, Kristine, was unsure if her son's ideas were nonsense or genius; she sent a video of his theory, a "new expanded theory of relativity," to the Institute for Advanced Study near Princeton. The Barnett's heard back from a professor. Diagnosis: math wizard. "I'm impressed by his interest in physics and the amount that he has learned so far," astrophysics Professor Scott Tremaine wrote in an email, shared by the family. "The theory that he's working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics. Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize."

Jacob, who, in many ways is your typical 12-year-old kid who loves basketball, video games and the Disney Channel, stays awake at night with numbers and equations swimming in his head.His mathematical sights are set on disproving the big bang theory, something Jacob claims doesn't make scientific sense. "I'm still working on that," he said. "I have an idea, but… I'm still working out the details.Einstein published his theory at the age of 26; Jacob is just weeks shy of being half that age. Justin's currently being recruited for a paid research position at Indiana University. Watch Justin teach Calculus 2 below.
 Warning: Very smart kid at work

Ray Kurzweil: Solar Will Power the World in 16 Years

Solar power, driven by exponentially-increasing nanotechnology, will satisfy the entire world's need for energy in less than twenty years.
Why Is It Groundbreaking?
Currently, solar power supplies less than 1% of the world's energy needs, which has led many to disregard its future significance. Where they're wrong is that they fail to understand the exponential nature of technology, says eminent inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. Just like computer processing speed—which doubles every 18 months in accordance with Moore's law—the nanotechnology that drives innovations in solar power progresses exponentially, he says.
During his latest Big Think interview, Kurweil explained:
"Solar panels are coming down dramatically in cost per watt. And as a result of that, the total amount of solar energy is growing, not linearly, but exponentially. It’s doubling every 2 years and has been for 20 years. And again, it’s a very smooth curve. There’s all these arguments, subsidies and political battles and companies going bankrupt, they’re raising billions of dollars, but behind all that chaos is this very smooth progression."
So how far away is solar from meeting 100% of the world's energy needs?
 Eight doublings, says Kurzweil, which will take just 16 years. And supply is not an issue either, he adds: "After we double eight more times and we’re meeting all of the world’s energy needs through solar, we’ll be using 1 part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the earth. And we could put efficient solar farms on a few percent of the unused deserts of the world and meet all of our energy needs."

Reducing this bold of a prediction to simple mathematics sounds absurd, but it has served Kurzweil in the past. Using this formula, he accurately predicted the fall of the Soviet Union, chessmaster Garry Kasparov's defeat to a robot, and the proliferation of the Internet—as well as over 100 other predictions. (He also says that humans will merge with machines in 2045!)
Why Should You Care?
Needless to say, the implications of cheap solar power would be truly staggering, revolutionizing virtually every aspect of life and geopolitics. Potentially dangerous nuclear power would become obsolete; dirty energy sources like coal and oil would be a thing of the past; and the world would no longer have to kowtow to corrupt governments that just happen to be resource-rich.

So many other global issues—like impending water and food crises—would also no longer be issues if a cheap, renewable energy source existed. "We’re awash with water, but most of it's salinated or dirty," says Kurzweil. We have the technology to desalinate and clean water, but it is very costly. Cheap solar would change that. If we had inexpensive energy, scientists could also grow hydroponic fruits and vegetables, supplying the growing demand for food and "recycling all the nutrients and materials so there's no ecological impact at all." They could even "grow meat without animals by cloning muscle tissue," eliminating the need for disastrous factory farming, he says.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another Setback at Reactor Creates Race Against Time

Michio Kaku on March 27, 2011, 3:14 PM

The reactor situation in Japan suffered yet another setback today, with water levels in Unit 2 registering 10 million times normal levels. The radiation was so high that workers fled the reactor rather than take a second reading. Radiation levels were an astonishing 1,000 msv/hour (which will cause radiation sickness within an hour and even deaths starting at 6 hours). Given this near-lethal radiation field, workers evacuated Unit 2.

One question is: where did this radiation come from? Most of it was in the form of iodine-134 (with a half-life of 53 minutes) and iodine-131 (with a half life of 8 days). This indicates that the radiation came directly from the core at Unit 2, rather than the spent fuel pond (where most of the iodine has already decayed). So there seems to be a direct path way from the core to the outside, meaning a breach of containment, similar to the situation in Unit 3. In other words, there could be a crack in the pressure vessel surrounding the super hot uranium core, as well as a crack in the outer primary containment vessel surrounding the pressure vessel. These cracks may allow radiation to escape from the core directly into the environment.

At the very least, this means continued leaks of deadly radiation from the core to the outside world. But in a worst case scenario, it could be a preview of the day when radiation levels are so high that a complete evacuation is necessary. This means that the cores, without cooling water, will heat up and eventually cause an explosion, (via a hydrogen gas or steam explosion). Remember the only thing preventing this worst case scenario are brave firemen shooting hose water into the cores and spent fuel ponds. Once they are evacuated, then simultaneous meltdowns at 3 nuclear sites is inevitable. Then a steam or hydrogen gas explosion may crack open the pressure vessel, leading to a catastrophic release of radiation, perhaps worse than Chernobyl.

So it is a race against time. On one hand, we have the brave workers trying desperately to keep thecore and spent fuel pond covered with water. On the other hand, the reactors are deteriorating every day, with the possibility of cracks, pipe breaks, secondary earthquakes, which could easily tip the accident into the worst case scenario. At that point, when all the workers have to evacuate, let's hope that the utility took my advice to prepare the Chernobyl option (i.e use the air force for bury the reactors in concrete and sand). However, I doubt that the utility has thought that far ahead.

NATO Takes charge in Libya


Nato's Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has said it has decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya "with immediate effect". The alliance will enforce "all aspects" of the UN resolution authorising action to protect civilians. "Nothing more, nothing less," Mr Rasmussen added. 
Libyan rebels have been advancing westwards, capturing towns abandoned by Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces.  Explosions were also heard in Sirte and the capital, Tripoli, on Sunday night. It is not clear what the causes of the blasts were, though state TV said the cities were being bombed by "Crusader and colonialist" forces. A government spokesman also said the town of Sabha had been targeted.

Sirte, the Libyan leader's stronghold, is only 100km (60 miles) west of the town of Nufaila, which rebel forces said they had reached. Foreign journalists said the city was swarming with soldiers on patrol.
The rebels earlier retook the eastern coastal towns of Ras Lanuf, Brega, Uqayla and Bin Jawad, only a day after seizing control of Ajdabiya.

Nato's plan to take responsibility for operations in Libya had already been agreed by military representatives of the 28 member states, but it needed ambassadors to provide political approval at a meeting in Brussels.
Nato will now take over command of all aspects of the aerial campaign In a communique hailing the "very significant step", Mr Rasmussen said that in the past week the alliance had "put together a complete package of operations in support of the United Nations resolution by sea and by air".  We are already enforcing the arms embargo and the no-fly zone, and with today's decision we are going beyond. We will be acting in close co-ordination with our international and regional partners to protect the people of Libya."
Mr Rasmussen said Nato's goal was to "protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack from the Gaddafi regime". Nato will implement all aspects of the UN Resolution. Nothing more, nothing less," he added. [Col Gaddafi's] ability to move armour, to move toward Benghazi or a place like that, has pretty well been eliminated” Nato's top operational commander, Gen Charles Bouchard of Canada, would "begin executing this operation with immediate effect", he concluded.

There were disagreements notably between France and Turkey about political control of the mission, but they have now been resolved.  But the precise rules of engagement have not been revealed.
Alongside the Nato command structure will be a separate, high-level committee of representatives of all countries taking part in the military action, including Arab states. It will give what one official called "broad political guidance." While Nato ambassadors discussed the international military operation, rebel forces in eastern Libya took advantage of the devastating effect of the air and missile strikes on Col Gaddafi's forces to advance westwards.

"Gaddafi's forces are now scared rats," Mohammed Ali al-Atwish, a rebel fighter in Bin Jawad, told the AFP news agency.  In the last 24 hours, the rebels have pushed hundreds of kilometres to the west. The next big city in their path is Sirte. It is Col Gaddafi's hometown and one of the very few places untouched by the spirit of rebellion.  "They are dropping their weapons and uniforms and dressing as civilians. We are no longer concerned about Gaddafi's forces at all." They claim that they could be in Sirte by Monday, but the further they advance towards Tripoli, the greater the fight the regime is likely to put up, the AFP correspondent says.

So here is the dilemma: if the rebels do manage to get that far and the people of Sirte do not rise up, either because they are loyal to Gaddafi or too afraid to act, what do the allies do? If civilians are not being threatened, they arguably have no mandate for action and that would stall the rebels advance and leave them exposed and vulnerable to attack and that could mean an open-ended engagement for the coalition.
If the coalition launches attacks anyway to weaken Col Gaddafi's forces, that will convince many that this really is about regime-change and that could create splits within the alliance.

 The rebel advance may be quietly cheered in London, Paris and Washington, but it also potentially brings a host of problems for the coalition.
A rebel commander said pro-Gaddafi forces were in full retreat, running for their lives Meanwhile, Col Gaddafi's troops have continued heir bombardment of Misrata, the only significant rebel-held city left in the west. On Sunday evening, a resident told the AFP that eight people had been killed and 26 wounded - five of them critically - as Col Gaddafi's forces advanced on the al-Jazeera residential area in the west of the city.
"They used mortars and heavy anti-aircraft guns," he said. "The injuries are mainly from the explosions, I am talking about severed limbs and big injuries in the trunk area. There are also crush injuries due to the collapse of buildings."
 A rebel spokesman reported that fighting was continuing for control of the main road through the city.
Libyan state TV earlier said Misrata was "secure" and life was "going back to normal". Security forces had arrested "terrorist gangs", it said. Meanwhile, the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council said the rebels could begin exporting oil in less than a week. Spokesman Ali Tarhouni said oil fields in territory under opposition control were already producing more than 100,000 barrels of crude a day. He said the Gulf state of Qatar had agreed to help bring it to market.
To what degree are we giving aid for oil? Were our motives truly humanitarian. Honestly, I think it was some from column A and some from column B.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Japan: Sea Radiation Near Fukushima Plant Rises Further

Lighting is restored in the control room of reactor 2 at Fukushima

Levels of radioactive iodine in the sea near the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant have risen further to 1,850 times higher than the usual level, says Japan's nuclear agency. It is believed the radiation is coming from one of the reactors, but a specific leak has not been identified. The plant's operator has been berated for a lack of transparency.
The government said Tokyo Electric Power Co had to provide information more promptly. The nation's nuclear agency said the operator of the Fukushima plant had made a number of mistakes, including worker clothing. The plant was damaged in the deadly 11 March earthquake and tsunami. The death toll has now passed 10,000, and more than 17,440 people are still missing.  The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has now sent extra teams to the Japanese nuclear plant. The radiation found in the sea will no longer be a risk after eight days because of iodine's half-life, officials say.

Japanese government spokesman Yukio Edano said Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) had to be more transparent in the wake of an incident this week in which three workers were exposed to radiation levels 10,000 times higher than normal, suffering burns. The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the Japanese government has tried to reassure people about the plant's safety "We strongly urge Tepco to provide information to the government more promptly," Mr Edano said. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa), said two injured workers were wearing boots that only came up to their ankles and afforded little protection. He said Tepco also knew of high air radiation at one reactor several days before the incident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant 240km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.
"Regardless of whether there was an awareness of high radioactivity in the stagnant water, there were problems in the way work was conducted," Mr Nishiyama said. Mass burials have been held, including here at Yamamoto He said Tepco had been warned and measures to improve safety had been put in place.
He said that leakage from reactors had probably caused the high levels of radiation found in water at the Fukushima plant.
Emergency workers are continuing to cool the reactors in an effort to prevent a
meltdown. They have now switched to using more favoured fresh water as a coolant, rather than sea water. There had been fears the salt in sea water could further corrode machinery. The fresh water is being pumped in so that contaminated radioactive water can be extracted. The team of more than 700 engineers has found radioactive water in three of the six reactors. Four of the reactors are still considered volatile. The US 7th Fleet is sending barges loaded with 500,000 gallons of fresh water. Mr Edano said: "We seem to be keeping the situation from turning worse. But we still cannot be optimistic."

Mr Amano told the New York Times that Japan was "still far from the end of the accident". Although he saw some "positive signs", particularly the restoration of electric power, he said: "More efforts should be done to put an end to the accident." His main fears were that the lack of coolant would mean spent fuel rods would remain exposed to the air, and then heat up, releasing radioactive material.

China, Singapore, Hong Kong and other Asian importers have banned some imports of vegetables, seafood and milk products for fear of contamination. Australia, the European Union, the United States and Russia have followed suit. Meanwhile in Japan's tsunami disaster zone, the military has helped supply food and water and has continued clearing areas to try to recover more bodies. There has been a need for mass burials in some areas along the coast. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are still housed in temporary shelters such as gymnasiums. The Japanese government has put the rebuilding cost at $309bn .

Stephen Hawking Warns Abandon Earth - Or Face Extinction

 Dr. Hawking made these pronouncements in 2010

Let's face it: The planet is heating up, Earth's population is expanding at an exponential rate, and the the natural resources vital to our survival are running out faster than we can replace them with sustainable alternatives. Even if the human race manages not to push itself to the brink of nuclear extinction, it is still a foregone conclusion that our aging sun will expand and swallow the Earth in roughly 7.6 billion years.

So, according to famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, it's time to free ourselves from Mother Earth. "I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space." "It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next hundred years, let alone the next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load."

Hawking says he is an optimist, but his outlook for the future of man's existence is fairly bleak. In the recent past, humankind's survival has been nothing short of "a question of touch and go" he says, citing the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963 as just one example of how man has narrowly escaped extinction. According to the Federation of American Scientists there are still about 22,600 stockpiled nuclear weapons scattered around the planet, 7,770 of which are still operational. In light of the inability of nuclear states to commit to a global nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the threat of a nuclear holocaust has not subsided.

In fact, "the frequency of such occasions is likely to increase in the future," says Hawking, "We shall need great care and judgment to negotiate them all successfully."

Even if humans manage to avoid a nuclear stand-off over the next thousand years, our fate on this planet is still pretty much certain. University of Sussex astrophysicist Dr. Robert Smith says eventually the aging Sun will accelerate global warming to a point where all of Earth's water will simply evaporate.

"Life on Earth will have disappeared long before 7.6 billion years," says Smith, "Scientists have shown that the Sun's slow expansion will cause the temperature at the surface of the Earth to rise. Oceans will evaporate, and the atmosphere will become laden with water vapor, which (like carbon dioxide) is a very effective greenhouse gas. Eventually, the oceans will boil dry and the water vapor will escape into space. In a billion years from now the Earth will be a very hot, dry and uninhabitable ball."

Finally, between the next thousand years or so that Hawking says it will take man to make the planet uninhabitable and the billion years it will take for the sun to turn our planet into an arid wasteland, there is always the chance that a nearby supernova, an asteroid, or a quick and painless black hole could do us in.

One way or another, the life on Earth will likely become uninhabitable for mankind in the future. We need to start seriously thinking about how we will free ourselves from the constraints of this dying planet.

Why We Should Reject This Idea
Despite what Hawking describes as humankind's "selfish and aggressive instinct," there may be some biological impediments to finding another planet to inhabit.  "The nearest star [to Earth] is Proxima Centauri which is 4.2 light years away," says University of Michigan astrophysicist Katherine Freese, "That means that, if you were traveling at the speed of light the whole time, it would take 4.2 years to get there."

Unfortunately, at the moment we can only travel at about ten thousandth of light speed, which means if man were to use chemical fuel rockets similar to the those used during the Apollo mission to the moon, the journey would take about 50,000 years. Without the use of a science-fiction-like warp drive or cryogenic freezing technology, no human would live long enough to survive the journey. In addition, "the radiation you would encounter alone would kill you, even if you could get a rocket to go anywhere near that fast," says Freese.
On the upside, if man ever develops the technology to travel at the speed of light while remaining shielded from cosmic radiation, he could effectively travel into the future. "A five year trip at light speed could push an astronaut forward by 1000 earth years," says Freese, "If he wanted to see if any humans were still around by then."

As we have discussed in the previous article, the propulsion technology for travelling into interstellar space may be a lot closer than you think  Dr. Freese. I don`t know from cosmic radiation. I imagine it`s very intense. But I wouldn`t consign the idea of interstellar travel to science fiction.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Future of Interstellar Space Travel

I've been troubled of late by the scale of things, by the vastness of space. It's been brought into focus by two things, I think. The first is the Voyager 1 probe - the most distant man-made object from Earth. Launched in 1977 on a grand tour of the outer planets, it's now making a push to leave the Solar System. It's getting very close to crossing into interstellar space. Scientists know this from the way particles thrown off our star are behaving in the vicinity of the probe. Whereas this "solar wind" has always streamed past Voyager, the particles have now slowed and are moving sideways from it. In other words, Voyager has reached the point where the Sun's domain of influence is pressed right up against that of other stars.

And yet, as extraordinary as Voyager is, its efforts to reach out across space still seem quite puny. In 33 years, it has travelled 17.4 billion kilometres. That sounds a lot - and it is. But it's a tiny fraction (1/2,300) of the distance to the nearest star - Proxima Centauri. The implications of the "sluggish performance" from this piece of 20th Century technology are underlined by the latest discoveries from Nasa's Kepler space telescope.

Kepler was launched in 2009 to identify planets by looking for the periodic, tell-tale dips in light as these objects pass in front of their host stars. The telescope views only a small patch of sky but its findings can be extrapolated across the Milky Way Galaxy. Initial projections would indicate that within about 1,000 light-years of Earth, there may be 30,000 or more planets with potentially habitable conditions. And here's the point that's been troubling me: if we have difficulty in reaching out to a distance equivalent to the nearest star (4.2 light-years), can we seriously ever think of getting to some of these far-flung planets?

For sure, the next generation of giant telescopes will be able to probe their atmospheres and tell us what sort of worlds they are. But what if we discover that a number of them betray tantalizing evidence of biology? What then?

The current edition of Spaceflight runs an article from an international team of scientists and engineers - with members in the UK, the US, Germany, Australia and Hungary - who have applied themselves to just this issue. Project Icarus, as they call their venture, has tried to envisage the ships we could be building in the decades and centuries ahead that might just get us a decent distance across space in a time which means something on a human scale. New propulsion technologies are key, of course. The feeble chemical rocketry that sent Voyager on its way in 1977 will not do. Most favoured are the emerging electric propulsion systems. These rely on the motion of highly excited gases, or plasmas, through magnetic fields to provide thrust. Although they don't give the initial big kick you get from chemical combustion, their supreme efficiency means they can go on thrusting for extended periods, achieving far more acceleration per kilogram of fuel consumed.

A glimpse of what may be possible in the future can be seen in what appears to be the current pacesetter - a type of electric engine called Vasimr (Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket).

"World" ships that crossed space to visit other star systems would still take centuries and would be colossal in scale.  Labelled a "game changer" by Nasa, this technology is likely to be fitted to the International Space Station in the next few years to help boost its orbit, which has a tendency to decay over time as the platform skirts the top of the atmosphere.

Vasmir prototypes have already produced remarkable performance in laboratory tests. The developers, Ad Astra or Texas, believe their megawatt-class units could get a ship to Mars in as little as three months.
Project Icarus envisages bigger systems that could push deep into interstellar space in just a few decades. Nuclear fusion reactors that drive gigawatt-class vessels may eventually get robots and even humans to other star systems.

Kelvin Long, Project Icarus team-member and co-author of this month's Spaceflight magazine article, said:
"To include a crew on a mission that will take decades to centuries presents many engineering and environmental control issues. For human transport the only credible way is a generation ship or a World Ship, carrying tens to hundreds of people who will arrive at the destination and attempt to colonise one of the planets. Before they go, much about the planet will already be known, from long distance exoplanet discoveries.

"In terms of sending an unmanned probe, the main motivation for this is science return. Long range astronomical observations will improve over time with higher fidelity measurements, but it is difficult to compete with having an actual spacecraft in the system able to study any stars or planets close up, perhaps deploying planetary probes and landers - ultimately looking for signs of life. Along the way, the probe can also conduct valuable science such as improving astronomical parallax measurements or looking for gravity waves. The exploration of the cosmos is the main reason for launching a probe like Icarus.

"Ultimately, we would like to find life in the Universe and ideally intelligent life other than our own. Conducting theoretical studies like... Project Icarus is the only way we can push forward to the stage where we can eventually build something like it, and then perhaps someday go see for ourselves."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Syria Pledges Reform to Quell Rebellion

 The main hospital in the town of Deraa Syria in the south of the country, has received the bodies of at least 25 protesters who died in clashes with security forces said a member of staff ,Thursday. Security forces opened fire on hundreds of young people in the north entrance of Deraa on Wednesday afternoon, witnesses said, in a dramatic escalation after nearly a week of protests that killed at least 32 civilians.

Syrian leaders have pledged to introduce reforms to meet the demands of protesters, after days of violence in the southern city of Deraa. Officials promised to study the need for lifting the state of emergency, in place since 1963. The government also said it would bring to trial those suspected of killing several protesters in Deraa. President Bashar al-Assad later ordered the release of everyone arrested during the "recent events", state media said.
Presidential spokeswoman Bouthaina Shaaban blamed outside agitators for whipping up trouble, and denied that the government had ordered security forces to open fire on protesters. Bouthaina Shaaban said the president expressed his condolences to the people of Deraa. But she said this "did not mean mistakes had not been made".
"We should not confuse the behaviour of an individual with  the desire and determination of President Bashar al-Assad to move Syria to more prosperity," she told a news conference in Damascus. A committee would be set up to talk to "our brothers in Deraa" and bring to justice those responsible for killing protesters, Ms Shaaban said. She also said the government would raise workers' wages, introduce health reforms, allow more political parties to compete in elections, relax media restrictions and establish a new mechanism for fighting corruption. Ms Shaaban announced a similar package of reforms in 2005, but critics say her pledges were never enacted.
The announcement came as a surprise to many observers here.  Soon after the press conference, some political activists arrested in recent days were released. The prominent writer Louay Husein, arrested two days ago, is now out of detention and with his family.  The president's spokeswoman confessed that mistakes were made in Deraa, but said they were not the responsibility of the leadership. She reinforced  her denial  that security forces attacked protesters in the city. A call for a nationwide protest on Friday went out following the violence in Deraa. Those demonstrations will be a test of how the public receives the government concessions.
Opposition groups reacted to the news conference immediately, telling Reuters news agency that the Deraa committee would do nothing to meet the aspirations of the people. Reuters reported that dissidents in Syria and in exile dismissed the reforms, calling for the immediate scrapping of the state of emergency and freeing of thousands of political prisoners.
Abdul-Karim Rihawi, who heads the Syrian Human Rights League, later said authorities had released several activists including prominent journalist Mazen Darwish and writer Louay Husein. Ms Shaaban accused international media of exaggerating the crackdown on the protesters. Estimates vary as to how many people were killed in Wednesday's unrest. Some reports quoting witnesses and activists have put the figure as high as 100; others have claimed about 15 people were killed. The government said 10 people had died. So who you gonna believe?
 Security forces opened fired on crowds three times in Deraa on Wednesday, activists and witnesses said.
The first clashes took place in the early hours outside a mosque. Later, witnesses said crowds at a funeral for those who were killed were themselves fired on.  Later on Thursday, the US issued a strongly worded statement condemning Syria's "brutal repression" of demonstrations. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US called on the government in Damascus to "exercise restraint and respect the rights of its people".
President Assad succeeded his father in 2000 and has tolerated little dissent.

A Tribute

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goodbye Elizabeth of the Violet Eyes

 Born in London in 1932 of American Parents. She was discovered in Los Angeles by a  movie scout
 Married first husband Conrad (Nicky) Hilton in 1950
 She wed second husband Michael Wilding in 1952 and bore him two sons Michael and Christopher

 Married Mike Todd in 1957 - He died in a plane crash
 Married Eddie Fisher in 1959 and divorced him in 1964
 Wed to Richard Burton in 1964, parted in 1974 - Re-wed in 1975 and divorced in 1976
 Married to John Warner - former US Naval Secretary later senator - 1976-1982
 Larry Fortensky - building contractor - 1982-87
 Made Dame by the queen with Julie Andrews in 1999
 With her dear friend Michael Jackson at Aids Benefit
 Struggled with drugs and alcohol - two hip replacements and later brain tumor
Her last performance - 2007 - in AR Gurney's Love Letters - for Aids charity

Dame Elizabeth Taylor, one of the 20th Century's biggest, most flamboyant and beautiful movie stars, died Wednesday in Los Angeles at the age of 79. The double Oscar-winning actress had a long history of ill health and was being treated for symptoms of congestive heart failure. Her four children were with her when she died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. In a statement, her son Michael Wilding called her "an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest". "We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it," he continued. "Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts."

In her prime she was equally well-known for her glamor, her beauty and gorgeous violet eyes as she was for her scandalous private life and film partnership with Richard Burton, one of seven husbands.
She spent almost her entire life in the public eye, from tiny dancer performing at age 3 before the future queen of England, to child screen star to home-wrecker to three-time Academy Award winner for both acting and humanitarian work.

"A diva, she made a spectacle of her private life — eight marriages, ravenous appetites for drugs, booze and food, ill health that sparked headlines constantly. All of it often overshadowed the fireworks she created on screen. Yet for all her infamy and indulgences, Taylor died Wednesday a beloved idol, a woman who somehow held onto her status as one of old Hollywood's last larger-than-life legends, adored even as she waned to a tabloid figure." - Quote from David Germain - AP -Says it all

The peak of her film career came in the 1950s and 1960s, with four Oscar nominations in a row from 1958 to 1961. She lost out in her first three attempts - for Raintree County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly, Last Summer - but triumphed at her fourth attempt with Butterfield 8. Her second Oscar came in 1967 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, one of 12 films with Richard Burton. She met the actor while filming 1963's Cleopatra - which became notorious as one of the most expensive films of all time, but which also sparked one of Hollywood's greatest romances.

Taylor had already been married four times - to Conrad Hilton Jr, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd and Eddie Fisher - before she wed Burton in 1964. Their tempestuous relationship saw them divorce and remarry in 1975 before she moved on to further marriages with John W Warner and Larry Fortensky.

Her health problems began with a fall while filming her first hit film, National Velvet, which led to a lifetime of back problems. A rare strain of pneumonia almost killed her in 1961 and she also battled addictions to alcohol and painkillers. In the 1990s, she endured two hip replacement operations and another near-fatal bout of pneumonia and survived surgery for a benign brain tumour in 1997.
In 2004, it was revealed that she was suffering from congestive heart failure, with symptoms including fatigue and shortness of breath, and scoliosis, which twisted her spine. But she continued to campaign for her Aids charity, which she set up in 1991 after the death of her friend and co-star Rock Hudson.

In addition to her four children - Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Maria Burton-Carson and Liza Todd-Tivey - Dame Elizabeth is survived by 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.A private family funeral will be held later this week. Instead of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made to the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.

Sleep with the angels Elizabeth. We will never forget your incredible beauty, talent and indomitable spirit and your image will haunt us all far into the misty future.

Hygienic Sharks Go to Cleaner Stations

Thresher sharks visit cleaning stations to rid themselves of nasty parasites, say researchers. Scientists filmed sharks off the coast of the Philippines visiting a tropical seamount - or undersea mountain. This is a habitat for cleaner fish, which nibble off parasites and dead skin.  The sharks repeatedly visited the station and swam slowly around, giving the fish time to delouse them.  The findings were recently published in the journal PLoS One. This is the first time the behaviour has been seen in this species and the researchers say it shows how vital these shallow reef habitats are for the large, threatened predators.

The lead researcher, Simon Oliver from Bangor University in the UK, has been studying thresher sharks for more than five years and founded the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project.  For the PLoS One study , he filmed over 1,000 hours of footage of the sharks at a seamount off the northern tip of Cebu in the Philippines.  "They visit the site very regularly," Mr Oliver told said. "A huge dive tourism site has evolved around them."

The sharks' behaviour suggests that they go there specifically to be cleaned. "They pose, lowering their tails to make themselves more attractive to the cleaners," he explained.  "And they systematically circle for about 45 minutes at speeds lower than one metre per second." This is about half the speed at which the sharks usually swim.

These reefs, which are habitats for cleaner wrasses - as the industrious little fish are known - are probably vital for the sharks' health.  "It's like us going to our local GP if we had a head full of lice," said Mr Oliver. "If we weren't able to get them treated, they could cause infections and other complications.  "Our findings underscore the importance of protecting areas like seamounts which play an important part in [the sharks'] life strategy to maintain health and hygiene."  Mr Oliver pointed out that site of this research had already been badly damaged by dynamite fishing.

Bangor University marine biologist, Dr John Turner, who also took part in the research, said: "The work uniquely describes why some oceanic sharks come into coastal waters to perform an important life function which is easily disturbed by man."

Gadaffi Speech -' We Will Be Victorious'

The Libyan leader, Col Muammar Gaddafi, has appeared at a site in Tripoli that was recently attacked by the Western coalition and told his followers: "We will be victorious in the end." In a brief speech at the Bab al-Aziziya compound, targeted on Sunday, he said "all Islamic armies" should join him. Forces loyal to Col Gaddafi are engaged in fierce fighting with rebels.

Col Gaddafi made a speech that lasted about three minutes and was carried on state television. He said there was a "new crusader battle launched by crusader countries on Islam". "Long live Islam everywhere. All Islamic armies must take part in the battle, all free [people] must take party in the battle.... We will be victorious in the end."

Col Gaddafi denounced the bombing campaign, saying: "We shall not surrender and we shall not fear passers by. We jeer at their missiles. These are passing missiles." "In the short term, we will beat them. In the long term, we will beat them." "The most powerful air defence, the most powerful air defence is the people. Here are the people. Gaddafi is in the middle of the people. This is the air defence," he added. He concluded his address by saying: "I do not fear storms that sweep the horizon, nor do I fear the planes that throw black destruction. I am resistant, my house is here in my tent... I am the rightful owner, and the creator of tomorrow. I, I am here! I am here! I am here!"

The coalition is enforcing a UN Security Council resolution to protect civilians and set up a no-fly zone. Major partners in the alliance have been thrashing out a new command structure that will tone down US leadership. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said people close to Col Gaddafi are making contact with other states to explore options for the future. "We've heard about other people close to him reaching out to people that they know around the world - Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, beyond - saying what do we do? How do we get out of this? What happens next?" she told ABC News. "I'm not aware that he personally has reached out, but I do know that people allegedly on his behalf have been reaching out."

Western warplanes have flown more than 300 sorties over Libya and more than 162 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired, but Col Gaddafi's troops continue to be engaged in fierce fighting with rebels.
Misrata - the last rebel-held city in western Libya - is one of the bloodiest battlegrounds. It has been under siege for weeks, and the situation is becoming increasingly desperate with supplies of food, water and medicine running low. "The situation in the local hospital is disastrous," a doctor said. "The doctors and medical teams are exhausted beyond human physical ability and some of them cannot reach the hospital because of tanks and snipers." A resident said there is heavy bombardment  from government forces every day. "The day starts with heavy shelling, and artillery fire through the city centre, and the residential areas," he said.  "The tanks will then pave the way for snipers to climb on the top of tall buildings in the city centre, and provide a good cover for the artillery, and for the tanks to enter, or to try to enter into the city centre."

Fighting was also reported on Tuesday in Zintan, near the Tunisian border, and in Yafran, 130km south-west of Tripoli. Witnesses in the towns reported 10 deaths in each. Overnight, a series of explosions were heard in the Libyan capital. It was not known if the coalition was carrying out more air and missile strikes.
Monday night's strikes included a port area of Tripoli and a naval base at Bussetta, about 10km (six miles) east of the capital.

Also on Monday, two US airmen were rescued after ejecting from their F-15E Eagle warplane just before it crashed during allied operations in eastern Libya. The plane appeared to suffer mechanical failure near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
There were reports six villagers were shot and hurt in the US rescue effort.

Meanwhile US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke by telephone on Tuesday after Nato talks in Brussels had failed to secure an agreement on how to proceed on a new command structure. The US has taken a leading role so far, but Mr Obama said on a visit to El Salvador: "I have absolutely no doubt that we will be able to transfer the control of this operation to an international coalition."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lawyer Jokes For a Friend


Funny lawyer quotes
•There are three sorts of lawyers - able, unable and lamentable. - Robert Smith Surtees
•Whoever tells the best story wins. - John Quincy Adams
•A Lawyer will do anything to win a case, sometimes he will even tell the truth. - Patrick Murray
•Ignorance of the law excuses no man - from practicing it. - Adison Mizner
•In almost every case, you have to read between the lies. - Angie Papadakis
•A lawyer is a gentleman who rescues your estate from your enemies and keeps it for himself.
 - Lord Brougham
A man is innocent until proven broke. - Anonymous

A frightened young woman went to see her doctor one day. She nervously asked, "Doctor, please tell me. Can I get pregnant from anal intercourse?"

The doctor immediately responded, "My dear, where do you think lawyers come from?``

Greetings Long Shank