Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Cassini space probe pictures three of Saturn's small moons in conjunction with its immense ring system. Prometheus and Pandora, on the right, are "shepherd moons" whose gravity keeps the edge of the F-ring sharp. Janus is the third moon pictured. (Image: Nasa/JPL/Space Science Institute)
Monday, February 26, 2007
me trying to explain what's like when a star bigger than our own sun dies, and it ends compressing itself into an incredibly dense volume of space.
in the case of a neutron star, for example, a thimble-full of this material has a mass of almost 1,000,000,000 tonnes!!! and a single tonne is equal to 1,000 kg, or 2,205 lbs.
that means that a single thimble full of matter in a neutron star would weigh 2,205,000,000,000,000 lbs!
i think my gnarly facial expression has to be worth a few points...
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Wales will aim to upset the form book when they face France in the RBS Six Nations at Stade de France on Saturday. i'm rooting for the welsh, especially so after england's bashing from the irish, but it's hard to see france losing this match, especially as it's being played in paris.
Friday, February 23, 2007
A new chapter in space flight began on July 1950 with the launch of the first rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.: the Bumper 2. Shown above, the Bumper 2 was an ambitious two-stage rocket program that topped a V-2 missile base with a WAC Corporal rocket. The upper stage was able to reach then-record altitudes of almost 400 kilometers, higher than even modern space shuttles fly today.
Launched under the direction of the General Electric Company, the Bumper 2 was used primarily for testing rocket systems and for research on the upper atmosphere. Bumper 2 rockets carried small payloads that allowed them to measure attributes including air temperature and cosmic ray impacts. Seven years later, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I and II, the Earth's first artificial satellites.
...the bumper 2? what a great name for a rocket!
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Re today's article: The End of the Alliance
I'm not surprised the United States is doing so poorly in Iraq with regard to accurate intelligence gathering, and how to best deal with an ever-increasing out-of- control situation.
Your graphic artist doesn't even know how to correctly depict the Union Jack of Great Britain! The British soldier is shown holding a flag that cannot, and doesn't exist!
Anthony Russo (the artist): I suggest you actually do some homework. Try putting the pole on the other side...
How very impressive...
I wonder how Americans would feel if we showed the same complete ignorance to your national flag?
About the same as me, I'd have thought...
You are the New York Times, yes? who is responsible for signing off on this artwork?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Rugby union is played by two teams of 15 players.
The aim of the game is very simple - use the ball to score more points than the other team.
You can run with the ball, kick it and pass it, but passing forwards is not allowed.
Rugby union is a contact sport, so you can tackle an opponent in order to get the ball, as long as you stay within the rules.
There is a referee, aided by two touch judges (one on each side of the pitch), to decide how the rules should be applied during a game.
There are several ways to score points.
* A try - five points are awarded for touching the ball down in your opponent's goal area.
* A conversion - two points are added for a successful kick through the goalposts after a try
* A goal kick - three points are awarded for a penalty kick or drop goal through the posts
If both teams score the same amount of points, or no points are scored, then the match is a draw. In some cases, extra time is played to decide who wins.
A game of rugby union has two periods of 40 minutes each. In international matches the referee will stop the clock for stoppages.
Between the two halves, there is a maximum 10-minute interval, after which both teams change ends.
The referee's whistle indicates the start and finish of the half.
Extra time will only be played if it's a knockout competition.
Before the start of the match, the referee tosses a coin to decide which team will kick off the match.
The captain of the team that wins the toss gets to decide which end he wants to attack first, or whether his side or the opposition will kick off.
The game is started by a place kick or a drop kick from the middle of the halfway line.
The ball must travel forwards at least 10 metres from the kick-off. If it does not, the opposition get the choice of a scrum or line-out on the halfway line, with the advantage of the feed or throw.
If a penalty or drop goal is scored during the game, play is restarted with a drop kick from the halfway line. The team that has conceded the points takes the kick.
Rugby union is played with an oval-shaped ball.
All balls must be between 28cm and 30cm in length (approximately 11-13 inches).
Most full-size balls weigh between 383 and 440 grammes (approximately 13.5-15.5 ounces)
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Car Bombs Kill 60 at Market in Baghdad
Vice President Cheney said yesterday that the administration has achieved "enormous successes" in Iraq but complained that critics and the media "are so eager to write off this effort or declare it a failure" that they are undermining U.S. troops in a war zone, striking a far more combative tone than President Bush did in his State of the Union address the night before.
In a television interview that turned increasingly contentious as it wore on, Cheney rejected the gloomy portrayal of Iraq that has become commonly accepted even among Bush supporters. "There's problems" in Iraq, he said, but it is not a "terrible situation."
not a terrible situation unless you happen to be living in the building in the photo above...
People across China are celebrating the arrival of the Lunar New Year - China's most important festival which is seen as particularly auspicious this year.
The year of the pig is supposed to bring good luck and prosperity. But this time it is a golden pig year, which happens once in six decades.
happy new year!
Saturday, February 17, 2007
the photo above is of a cadillac, stuffed with techno-bollocks to make idiots feel like they can actually drive. can't wait for the smug adverts...
below is a real car that can actually handle the ice. of course, it also requires a real driver with real driving skill and ability...
which would you rather have?, and more besides, who would you rather be...?
give me the subaru everyday.
cadilaacs on ice? that's funny, because i thought the real pros were competing in the world rally championship, and cadillac don't seem to have any cars entered in this year's championship series...ford make one (the focus), but they're too busy trying to sell you pick-up trucks for anyone in the united states to notice.
each day, for the next seven days, i'm going to post a simple lesson on the game of rugby. as there seems to be a lot of confusion, we'll start with the players themselves. we'll get into more of what each of these positions do later.
from the new york times:
I’ve been haunted all week by the distraught face of Lisa Nowak as it appeared in her mug shot, reproduced endlessly on television and newspaper front pages. She is the astronaut who has been accused of trying to kidnap and perhaps kill a rival for the affections of a fellow astronaut.
We all know someone who has been there or in the neighborhood. Maybe not so far as Captain Nowak is accused of going, but making one phone call too many or taking a late-night cruise past the house to see whose car is in the driveway.
Captain Nowak’s situation might seem inexplicable to people who have bought into the media image of science and spaceflight as a robotic realm of light and reason inhabited by drones more interested in crossword puzzles and chess than in the latest exploits of Jack Bauer or the White Stripes.
In fact, the opposite is more often true. It takes guts and gumption, as well as no small amount of ego, to endure years of training and competition to ascend the ranks of military and government bureaucracies to the levels of test pilot or astronaut, or to survive the ego bashing at the blackboard during physics seminars and presume to crack the mysteries of the universe.
Not to mention vast reserves of talent and stubbornness. You’ve got to think you’re pretty special to fly in space or to engage, as an astronomer once described it to me, in a bar fight with God.
These are qualities that don’t get switched off going in or out of the lab door, and the results are often as messy as the lives of the rest of us who aren’t regularly weighted with cosmic destiny. It would not be surprising if their lives, like those of rock stars, were even messier.
Only three days before Captain Nowak was arrested, William French Anderson, a geneticist at the University of Southern California and a hero of the once-promising technique of gene therapy whose work has been described (among other places) on the front page of this newspaper, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for molesting a girl when she was 10 to 14 years old.
The girl’s mother worked for Dr. Anderson and had recruited him to teach her daughter martial arts.
Confronted by the girl years later, Dr. Anderson was recorded saying, “I will love you forever,” but also admitting, “Something inside me was evil.”
Last month Andrew Pakhomov, a physics professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, pleaded not guilty to the murder of his wife, Yelena Zakin. She was found dumped in the Tennessee River last summer, a week after she had caught him with another woman, a staff assistant, in his office and attacked them.
A successful merger of sex and science was engineered by Erwin Schrödinger, the Austrian quantum physicist, who gave us the parable of the cat that is both alive and dead. In 1925 Schrödinger invited a still-mysterious woman friend to join him over the year-end holidays in a lodge in Arosa, Switzerland. While he was there he invented a wave equation that won him the Nobel Prize. It now bears his name and has been the basis of quantum mechanics ever since.
At Oxford, where he fled the Nazis, Schrödinger lived openly in a threesome with his wife and a mistress (the wife of his assistant), who bore him a daughter in 1934. In Dublin, where Schrödinger and his two “wives” eventually landed in 1940 as he became the director of the School for Theoretical Physics, the quantum genius had more love affairs and fathered more children.
Captain Nowak’s humiliation brings to mind the plight of Marie Curie, who won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband, Pierre, for discovering radium and who has been a role model for female scientists ever since. As detailed in Susan Quinn’s biography, “Marie Curie: A Life,” she was nearly hounded out of Paris in 1911 when it was discovered that she was having an affair with Paul Langevin, one of Pierre’s students, who was married with four children.
Pierre was run over by a carriage in the street in 1906. Drawn together by mutual grief, Paul and Marie set up an apartment near the Sorbonne as a love nest. Langevin’s wife sent a man to break into the apartment, obtaining love letters, which his mother-in-law then shared with the newspapers.
“The fires of radium which beam so mysteriously have just lit a fire in the heart of one of the scientists who studies their action so devotedly; and the wife and children of this scientist are in tears,” read one article.
France was apparently more strait-laced then than now, and the press vilified the lovebirds. Langevin challenged the editor of one newspaper to a duel, but neither man could bring himself to fire his pistol. The only violence occurred when Langevin showed up for work bruised and beaten and said his wife had hit him with a chair.
In the midst of the brouhaha, Curie won another Nobel, for chemistry, but the Swedish academy suggested she stay away from the awards ceremony. She went anyway.
Albert Einstein, who met Curie for the first time at a meeting in Brussels that year, wrote home that he didn’t really see what the fuss was all about. “She has a sparkling intelligence, but despite her passionate nature, she is not attractive enough to represent a threat to anyone,” he wrote.
Einstein was soon to have his own problems with adultery. For most of the years that he was inventing his supreme achievement, the general theory of relativity, which predicted the bending of light, the expanding universe and black holes, he was having an affair with his cousin Elsa and fending off suspicions, accusations and emotional breakdowns from his wife, Mileva. His oldest son stopped speaking to him at various times.
In his divorce deposition, Einstein admitted that there had been physical violence in the marriage, but said his wife was the one who had started it.
Einstein continued to have affairs after he married Elsa in 1919. One of them, according to a letter in the Einstein archive at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, commenced with the by-then-famous physicist sneaking into the house of his friend Hans Muhsam, to be with his niece Betty Neumann, whom he then hired as a secretary. With his wife’s explicit permission, Einstein carried on with Neumann for about a year.
Einstein broke off the affair in 1924, saying that he had to seek in the stars what had been denied him on the Earth.
But he was pursued by and involved with other women for the rest of his life. If you are an Einstein, the stars are never enough.
there's just one big gaping problem with your writing: you mention Schrödinger, Curie, and Einstein. These are true giants of modern science, furthering mankind's knowledge in huge leaps and bounds. Einstein gave us a new way of looking at time and space. Nowak is just a failed an astronaut who'll never fly again, and will never appear in any physics text book.
i had a dog once i named 'bongo', he was a bit mad, too...but i don't think he deserved sharing the same page as einstein, et al.
oh, and one other thing, no human being has ever 'reached' for the stars...the best we can do is to look at them through telescopes. change your title or your contributor, because they both suck!
Thursday, February 15, 2007
from the bbc:
The Queen will have tea with the Arsenal team, four months after a bad back forced her to cancel plans to open their new stadium.
Prince Philip stood in for her at the official opening of the Emirates stadium in October.
Now she is meeting players including captain Thierry Henry and manager Arsene Wenger at Buckingham Palace.
The players, the board and other staff members will tour the State Apartments, before meeting the Queen.
...i think stefania had better keep an eye out on all her boyfriends!
from the new york times:
A DANGER with auto advertising — like Ford ads that promise innovation and bold vehicles — is that people might expect the creation of such vehicles (you think?)
A crossover looks like a sport utility, but is made with car-type components. While a crossover cannot handle traditional S.U.V. tasks like heavy-duty towing or rugged off-pavement travel, in theory it should have a smoother ride, better handling and higher gas mileage than a truck.
One factor that keeps the Edge from being an enthusiast’s delight is its weight. It is a fatso with a curb weight of almost 4,300 pounds with all-wheel drive — hundreds of pounds more than its competitors.
While the brake pedal has a responsive feel, tests by Car and Driver magazine and Edmunds.com’s Inside Line showed it took several car lengths longer than the Murano and Highlander to stop from highway speeds, a clear failure to deal with the curse of inertia.
...that'll be reassuring news to everyone, when the person travelling in front of you on the highway slams their brakes on...
The transmission, a six-speed automatic developed by Ford and General Motors, makes its Ford family debut in the Edge and MKX. The E. P. A. estimates mileage at 17 m.p.g. in town and 24 on the highway. Ford recommends regular fuel.
well, at least it doesn't look like a pick-up truck...
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
from the bbc:
Ancient chimps 'used stone tools'
Chimpanzees in West Africa used stone tools to crack nuts 4,300 years ago.
...if only they could possibly have imagined...
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
there's something wrong with them.
forget the morals.
shouldn't god's commandments stand the test of all time, and appeal to modern man's actual intelligence and knowledge as well as of that of 2,000 years ago?
i mean, how incredible (and much more believable) would it be to see an eleventh commandment written in the bible for everyone to see:
"oh, and by the way, thou shalt not exceed the speed of light"
this was asked by the truly great carl sagan (see photo above)
you know what, if i saw that written in the bible, that would make me think very hard indeed!, but it's not!
it's very convenient to claim salvation exists, but you have to die to find out...
in science, incredible claims, require incredible evidence. i'd say heaven (and hell) are incredible claims, backed up by absolutely no evidence whatsoever.
however much we might like to think they might exist, because it hurts when we lose someone close, but never when it's someone we don't know. our brains do a lot of complicated, funny things, like dreams, emotions, passions, rage, contemplations. none of these are real. yet we consider them. but step beyond mere considerations, and all of a sudden we require very real physical assurance backed up by scientific proof. want to try jumping out of a plane without a parachute, and a carefully packed one at that...?
anyway, why exactly does an-all powerful god need his little experiment (the entire human civilization) to worship him? that doesn't sound very omnipotent. i'm just one ordinary bloke. i don't need (or want) anyone to worship me...
oh, you know what, i forgot, i'm not suppose to ask questions either...
and as i read my newspaper and look at what's happening in the world around me, i don't blame adam and eve for eating an apple(and that's why all of humanity throughout of all of its history has had to endure such terrible suffering...?) - no; i'm pointing my finger squarely at you, and wondering what sort of god it is that enjoys what i'm seeing, and why this supposed omnipotent being, the creator of the universe, who managed to take a day off after creating the earth, doesn't pull his finger out of his ass, and get back to work again.
i'm sure there's a few people in baghdad, that won't die a horrific death tomorrow in some car bomb attack, that would exult you in the highest, if you acted right this very instant.
after all, you're god. you know very well that i'm typing this...
Monday, February 12, 2007
1991: US bombers strike civilians in Baghdad
Hundreds of Iraqi civilians have been killed and wounded in Baghdad by American bombers.
Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz said: "This was a criminal, pre-meditated, planned attack against civilians."
Local reports say two laser-guided precision bombs hit an air-raid shelter in the middle class district of Amiriya, five miles from the centre of the Iraqi capital.
So far 235 bodies have been recovered, 12 hours after the attacks at 0445 GMT and 0450 GMT.
The chip is the size of a fingernail. 11 years ago...
11 years ago, the same computing power required 2,000 square feet...!
from the bbc:
A chip with 80 processing cores and capable of more than a trillion calculations per second (teraflop) has been unveiled by Intel.
The Teraflop chip is not a commercial release but could point the way to more powerful processors, said the firm.
The chip achieves performance on a piece of silicon no bigger than a fingernail that 11 years ago required a machine with 10,000 chips inside it.
The challenge is to find a way to program the many cores simultaneously.
Current desktop machines have up to four separate cores, while the Cell processor inside the PlayStation 3 has eight (seven of them useable). Each core is effectively a programmable chip in its own right.
But to take advantage of the extra processing power, programmers need to gives instructions to each core that work in parallel with one another.
team nutty could definitely use some of that....
Sunday, February 11, 2007
from the new york times:
Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — The 110th Congress opened with the passage of new rules intended to curb the influence of lobbyists by prohibiting them from treating lawmakers to meals, trips, stadium box seats or the discounted use of private jets.
But it did not take long for lawmakers to find ways to keep having lobbyist-financed fun.
In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for a catalog of outings: lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker’s honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like “Mary Poppins” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (also $2,500 for two).
The lobbyists and their employers typically end up paying for the events, but within the new rules.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
from the bbc:
England aim to continue their revival under head coach Brian Ashton when they face Italy at Twickenham on Saturday.
Jonny Wilkinson inspired England to a 42-20 win over Scotland last week and he can become the highest points scorer in championship history against Italy.
There are two changes to the starting XV, Nick Easter and Iain Balshaw replacing Joe Worsley and Olly Morgan.
Italy coach Pierre Berbizier has made seven changes to his starting line-up following the 39-3 defeat by France.
England are in buoyant mood following the Calcutta Cup victory on Saturday which saw returning fly-half Wilkinson claim 27 points in a stunning display.
And Wilkinson's first score against Italy will take him past former Wales star Neil Jenkins as the most prolific points accumulator in Five or Six Nations Championship history.
Wilkinson is currently tied with Jenkins on 406 points.
The Newcastle fly-half will also, if he gets on the board, join a select group of players to have racked up 900 points in international rugby.
The Scotland match was Brian Ashton's first game in charge following Andy Robinson's sacking in November, which came after a run of eight defeats in nine Tests.
And although England claimed a comfortable win, Ashton wants an improvement from his side on Saturday.
"We have talked about the mentality of winning, and we have enough experience in this team now to know what it takes to win Test matches," he said.
"Italy will take us on in the scrum and in the lineout, they will box-kick and they will be very confrontational.
"The lineout could be a huge theatre because Italy did a lot of damage to France in that area. I do know it will be a battlefield between numbers eight down to number one, and whatever the weather throws at us, we will throw it right back. It is not a concern.
"Discipline is hugely important, and conceding 14 penalties last week was unacceptable.
"You are never 100% happy as a a coach. For example, we didn't get enough go-forward possession in the first 20 minutes last Saturday - there was too much of us going from side to side."
england should land this comfortably...
from the bbc:
A Bangladeshi immigrant taxi driver in New York is the toast of the Big Apple after returning a $500,000 lost bag of diamond rings to their rightful owner.
get this; turns out that the owner of the diamonds had a $10.70 fare, and she paid him $11.00. that's a 30 cent tip... (or 2.8%)! not even a measly dollar!
i'd she got very lucky, wouldn't you?
how much do you reckon this same woman tips her hair stylist...?
Thursday, February 08, 2007
the hubble space telescope passes at an elevation high enough to be seen in the d.c. metro area this evening. not once, but twice!
the first pass occurs between 6:00pm, from the South West West horizon, and reaches it's highest angular elevation of 20 degress, with respect to the horizon to the South at approx. 6:06pm. it will dip below the South Eastern horizon at 6:12pm.
the second pass (much darker and easier to see, but also lower in the sky) will occur at 7:42pm, again rising from the South West West horizon, reaching a maximum angular elevation of 12 degrees, with respect to the horizon to the South at approx. 7:48pm. it will dip below the South Eastern horizon at approximately 7:52pm.
to get a good view, you will need a good southerly horizon, unobstructed by buildings if you are at ground level. if this is impossible, then try and get up somewhere highto improve your chances.
bundle up with all your cold weather gear. it will be cold outside. amateur astronomy in winter is no joke!
i will be up on my roof deck, fully kitted out, looking like i'm off on a polar expedition somewhere, but hopefully i won't get cold, and i stand a very good chance of seeing the hubble space telescope with nothing more than my eyes and a pair of binoculars. i should get to see venus and mercury, too (no extra charge...)
should be a good test of my winter weather gear...
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
from sky & telescope magazine:
Catch the solar system's two inner planets at once; this week elusive Mercury is lower right of Venus in twilight. They're much more different in brightness than indicated here. Look too early and Mercury will be invisible; look too late and it will have set!
(The blue 10° scale is about the size of your fist at arm's length.)
Sky & Telescope diagram.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
while light pollution kills most faint deep sky objects in the middle of washington, d.c., there's still a few great sights that anyone can see with nothing more expensive than a pair of binoculars. in fact a telescope won't allow you to see big open clusters as well as binoculars because of their smaller field of view. there are many misconceptions about amateur astronomy, and needing a 'powerful' telescope always comes in at number 1.
take this open star cluster in the constellation taurus, for example.
it's called the hyades, and is the nearest open star cluster to us at a distance of only 150 light years - 900 trillion miles...
space is a vast empty place. but very pretty in a few places.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
as exxon and shell execs and shareholders enjoy shamefully record profits at the expense of the planet, did you know that your nation's leader is about to
ask lawmakers to cut more than $70 billion from medicare and medicaid in the next five years?
yep. this is the white house's great idea on how best to balance the budget by 2012.
and good news in the united states'position with regard to climate change..(no, not really)
from the new york times:
The Bush administration, which until recently avoided directly accepting that humans were warming the planet in potentially harmful ways, embraced the findings, which had been approved by representatives from the United States and 112 other countries on Thursday night.
Administration officials asserted Friday that the United States had played a leading role in studying and combating climate change, (what, by refusing to sign the kyoto protocol, or adopt any enforced reductions in emissions, you mean?) in part by an investment of an average of almost $5 billion a year for the past six years in research and tax incentives for new technologies. (that's really working out so well for the planet, isn't it?)
At the same time, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman rejected the idea of unilateral limits on emissions. (to do so would be ridiculous...) “We are a small contributor to the overall,(we're the world's largest polluter) when you look at the rest of the world, so it’s really got to be a global solution,” he said. (i really would like just to punch his lights out)
The United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, contributes about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other country.(doesn't that completely contradict what the secretary of energy said? - see above comment)
we have a saying back home that so aptly applies to this psychotic:
"i wouldn't cross the road to piss on him if he were on fire"
england vs. scotland
come on england!
i have live bbc tv coverage! that means no adverts, no dancing in the end zone, no stopping the play every 20 seconds, no adverts for pick-up trucks!!!!, NO ADVERTS AT ALL, IN FACT!!!, no prima donna 'stars', no kevlar body armour, players helping each other up after hard tackles, no trash-talking, and finally, no media talk about how hard it's been for this player or that player, blah, blah, blah, and finally, the commentator's have no idea how much money anyone is making...
in your face the NFL!
alright; first we have:
Saturday, 3 February
Stadio Flaminio, Rome
Italy v France (Sat)
Kick-off: 1330 GMT
Live - BBC One, BBC Sport website. Updates - Five Live
Italy host defending champions France in the opening match of the 2007 RBS Six Nations in Rome on Saturday.
The Azzurri finished bottom of the table last year after four defeats and an 18-18 draw against Wales.
The hosts have claimed the Wooden Spoon five times in seven tournaments but led France at half-time in 2006 before running out of steam in a 37-12 defeat.
France, who won the title on points from Ireland, will be desperate to impress in World Cup year on home soil.
But France, who have won the Five/Six Nations title 15 times, lost twice to the All Blacks and scraped to a 27-26 win over Argentina in the autumn. (yes, but the all-blacks have played some of the best rugby in the world this past year, and must be highly tipped to lift the world cup…)
Saturday, 3 February
England v Scotland (Sat)
Kick-off: 1600 GMT
Live on BBC One, Five Live, BBC Sport website
England are looking to launch a successful new era under coach Brian Ashton when they host auld enemy Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.
The world champions (that’s us, believe it or not…) are desperate to bounce back after losing eight (eight!) of their last nine Tests under Andy Robinson.
Scotland are on the up after coming third in last year's Six Nations with wins over England, France and Italy.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Thursday, February 01, 2007
hundreds of climate scientists and government officials from around the world have worked all week behind closed doors and frequently darkened windows in a united nations building in paris to summarize the factors behind global warming in a report to be released friday.
so how exactly is the collective world going to tackle the issue of global warming? you can have all the meetings you like, but someone’s actually got to do something, and soon.
here’s a crazy idea: one that can’t possibly work, of course… why not implement a special climate-change 5% tax on the net profits of all companies whose business is the extraction of fossil fuels? i’m speaking primarily of the coal, oil and gas industries.
i propose this as exxon reports a $39.5 billion annual profit, the largest annual profit ever for an american company, and yet surely, is anyone left in any doubt now, that the continued burning of fossil fuels directly affects all peoples living on this planet, and fragile ecosystems alike. the overwhelming scientific consensus agrees that the world’s largest consumer of energy (1/20th of the world’s population consumes ¼ of the world’s energy) cannot go on ignoring the mounting evidence that it is now a global problem.
exxon’s absolutely staggering profits (let me just explain how much money that really is: $39,500,000,000) – that’s $108 million dollars a day profit! , along with those of the rest of the oil and gas industry, will be enjoyed only by their respective executives and shareholders. the by-product of what they sell can now be demonstrated to be directly contributing to global warming. these companies and their shareholders are getting rich at the expense of everyone else. doesn’t this seem completely wrong?
they can all very easily afford to pay a 5% tax on their net profits. i think that leaves them with with 95% profit, doesn't it?...so they’re not going out of business, but look at the massive capital investment that alternative energy research projects would receive if this were to become reality.
undeniably, they can afford to pay. these corporations don’t own the planet, and yet why does it seem they do?...
anyone remember the exxon valdez oil spill? some ten years later:
‘To the naked eye, Prince William Sound may appear “normal.” But if you look beneath the surface, oil continues to contaminate beaches, national parks, and designated wilderness. In fact, the Office of Technology Assessment estimated beach cleanup and oil skinning only recovered 3-4% of the Exxon Valdez oil and studies by government scientists estimated that only 14% of the oil was removed during cleanup operations.
A decade later, the ecosystem still suffers. Substantial contamination of mussel beds persists and this remarkably unweathered oil is a continuing source of toxic hydrocarbons. Sea otters, river otters, Barrow’s goldeneyes, and harlequin ducks have showed evidence of continued hydrocarbon exposure in the past few years.
The depressed population of Pacific herring – a critical source of food for over 40 predators including seabirds, harbor seals and Steller sea lions – is having severe impacts up the food chain. Wildlife population declines continue for harbor seal, killer whales, harlequin ducks, common loon, pigeon guillemot, and pelagic, red-faced cormorant, and double-crested cormorants.
it’s everyone’s planet, not the oil and gas companies. i say if they want to get super rich digging it up, extracting fossil fuels buried deep beneath the surface so we can all burn it, well then let them, and make them pay for the consequences of their actions. in doing so, alternative energies receive massive capital investment, thereby driving new technologies. not only that, but the oil and gas companies themselves will be quick to jump on the bandwagon once they see a marketable product/technology that they can sell to industry. they still want want to make a lot of money out of selling energy, long after the fossil fuels have run out...
and after we’ve started with the ones that sell it, i say we quickly slap a progressive climate tax on the fossil fuels themselves. after all, we're the ones burning them, releasing all the CO2 into the atmosphere because we actually rather like having power for our homes, our cars, our computers, our big flat screen tv's, our sound systems, and our x-box's...that way, everyone is forced to change their individual usage habits, and let's be honest, people just don't change their habits unless they have a strong incentive to do so, or they have to. so you just have make them, and changing everyone's habits (yes, you ridiculous-looking escalade xlt & hummer owners) is exactly what it’s going to take to stop all the geography maps from having to be redrawn because there's now a lot more water, and a lot less land to look at (sorry polar bears...)
and the united states of america has an opportunity to step up and actually do something really good for a change, instead of kicking sand in the world's face, refusing to sign the kyoto treaty, silently proclaiming that their economy is the most important thing on the planet, wanting everyone else to put their house in order first, and not look like the arrogant, spoilt, uncaring bastard it does right now.
because otherwise, it's all just a load of hot air...
12:30am: daisy just texted me from pennsylvania to tell me there's a halo around the moon. it looks a lot better there than it does in d.c....
this is actually a fairly common sight and is caused by high, thin, cirrus (read hazy) clouds containing millions of tiny ice crystals scattering the moonlight. each ice crystal acts like a miniature lens.
we see a halo because most of the crystals have a similar elongated hexagonal shape, and the light entering one crystal face and exiting through the opposing face refracts 22 degrees, which corresponds to the radius of the moon halo. luckily, it looks a lot prettier than it sounds...
so, to produce a lunar halo, you must have:
* moonlight, and
* a thin veil of hexagonal ice crystals between our eyes and the moon.
this is very similar to sunlight and rain falling between our eyes and the sun to produce a rainbow.
we also sometimes see a similar sun halo visible during the day.
so now you know!