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Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Jerry Brown seeks $1-billion emergency drought relief plan for California

Source: LA Times

As California braces for a fourth consecutive year of drought, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Thursday will unveil a $1-billion relief plan, two sources told The Times late Wednesday.

This will mark the second consecutive year in which the Legislature has had to act on emergency drought relief. In 2014, Brown signed a $687.4-million drought package, which offered aid to communities facing acute water shortages and food and housing assistance to those harmed by the drought.

Brown, along with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), will introduce emergency drought legislation, Brown's office said Wednesday evening. The office did not elaborate on details of the plan.

The Legislature also crafted a $7.5-billion water bond that was approved by voters last November; most of those funds would go to longer-term projects to bolster the state's water infrastructure.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-brown-emergency-drought-20150318-story.html

Palestinians will ride Netanyahu’s coattails right into statehood


Riccardo Fabiani

...From a foreign policy perspective, Israel will face an increasingly hostile environment both regionally and internationally. The re-election of Netanyahu and the markedly right-wing nature of his next government are likely to exacerbate diplomatic tensions with Europe and to a lesser extent Barack Obama’s administration, while aggravating the already tense relations with the Palestinian population.

The right-wing majority is likely to pursue a series of controversial policies, such as the adoption of the Jewish nationhood bill as well as the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. These decisions will exacerbate already heightened tensions with the Palestinian leadership as well as the current US administration and most European governments.

In turn, this will only accelerate the Palestinians’ plan to obtain unilateral statehood at the UN and boost recognition among European countries. Moreover, the risk of a “Third Intifada” will also increase. Although over the past months violence in East Jerusalem has failed to spill over into the West Bank, the Arab population is losing its remaining confidence in the Israeli authorities’ ability to solve the underlying causes of their discontent. Economically, this government will continue to implement market-friendly policies and will only increase welfare spending marginally to appease the ultra-Orthodox constituencies.

Netanyahu may have triumphed at the polls. But with a fractious, controversy-prone coalition, his victory is likely to be fleeting.


The Secret History of the Supernova at the Bottom of the Sea

In February 1987, Neil Gehrels, a young researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, boarded a military plane bound for the Australian Outback. Gehrels carried some peculiar cargo: a polyethylene space balloon and a set of radiation detectors he had just finished building back in the lab. He was in a hurry to get to Alice Springs, a remote outpost in the Northern Territory, where he would launch these instruments high above Earth’s atmosphere to get a peek at the most exciting event in our neck of the cosmos: a supernova exploding in one of the Milky Way’s nearby satellite galaxies.

Like many supernovas, SN 1987A announced the violent collapse of a massive star. What set it apart was its proximity to Earth; it was the closest stellar cataclysm since Johannes Kepler spotted one in our own Milky Way galaxy in 1604. Since then, scientists have thought up many questions that to answer would require a front row seat to another supernova. They were questions like this: How close does a supernova need to be to devastate life on Earth?

Back in the 1970s, researchers hypothesized that radiation from a nearby supernova could annihilate the ozone layer, exposing plants and animals to harmful ultraviolet light, and possibly cause a mass extinction. Armed with new data from SN 1987A, Gehrels could now calculate a theoretical radius of doom, inside which a supernova would have grievous effects, and how often dying stars might stray inside it.

“The bottom line was that there would be a supernova close enough to the Earth to drastically affect the ozone layer about once every billion years,” says Gehrels, who still works at Goddard. That’s not very often, he admits, and no threatening stars prowl the solar system today. But Earth has existed for 4.6 billion years, and life for about half that time, meaning the odds are good that a supernova blasted the planet sometime in the past. The problem is figuring out when. Because supernovas mainly affect the atmosphere, it’s hard to find the smoking gun,”Gehrels says.



A Possible Detection of Dark Matter in a Dwarf Galaxy!

by Ben Cook

Most readers of this blog have likely heard of dark matter before; you may even take it for granted that it exists. A huge body of astronomical research exists offering conclusive evidence for some kind of mass in the universe which a) exerts gravitational force on regular matter, b) doesn’t emit light, and c) seems to be 5 times more abundant than regular matter. Evidence for this extra mass comes from gravitational effects, including

The high velocities of stars/gas in galaxies, and of galaxies in larger clusters
The oscillations of the CMB power spectrum
Direct measurements of cluster masses from gravitational lensing (Fig. 1)
These observations indicate that there is much more mass in the universe than we can see with light.

But these gravitational clues are only “indirect evidence” for dark matter’s existence. It is like seeing a dancing marionette puppet (the gravitational effects), and inferring there must be strings (dark matter) to make it move.

Some models (such as Modified Newtonian Dynamics) try to explain these gravitational effects through a subtle change to General Relativity. These changes could make gravity stronger in certain places without requiring more mass. This explanation is like saying the puppet is held up by magnets: it could explain the puppet’s movement just as well as strings could. To prove dark matter really exists, we must actually see the strings, not just the puppet. Today’s paper offers some of the best evidence yet!



Netanyahu Unmasks Israel

For years, U.S. politicians have rejected allegations of Israeli racism and excused mistreatment of the Palestinians as a temporary necessity that would be fixed by a two-state solution. But Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has destroyed those arguments in his panic to keep his job.
by Robert Parry

Desperate to win reelection, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stripped off Israel’s mask and exposed the ugliness that has deformed his country over the past several decades. He abandoned the subterfuge of a two-state solution, exposed the crass racism that underlies Israeli politics, and revealed Israel’s blatant control of the U.S. Congress.

For years, these realities were known to many Americans, but – if they spoke up – they were condemned as anti-Semites, so most stayed silent to protect their careers and reputations. But – given Netanyahu’s brazen admissions – the American people may have little choice but to finally take notice of this troubling reality and demand a change in U.S. policy.

The truth is that the two-state solution has been a fiction for at least the past two decades, dying in 1995 with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. But the two-state illusion still served important political purposes both for Israelis, who would pay it lip service while continuing their steady encroachment on Palestinian lands, and for U.S. politicians who could point to the mirage as an excuse not to pressure Israel too hard on its human rights violations.

Yet, whenever any U.S. official actually tried to reach that shimmering oasis of a two-state solution, it would recede into the distance. Then, the Israelis would rely on their friends and allies in the news media and politics to blame the Palestinians. Now, however, the illusion of Israel seeking such an outcome in good faith has been lost in Netanyahu’s anything-goes determination to keep his office – a case of political expediency trumping strategic expediency.



Thursday TOON Roundup 3- The Rest






Chez Ronald






Thursday Toon Roundup 2- GOP

Thursday Toon Roundup 1- Drop Dead, Mid eastern Peace Dove

A Visualization Depicts a Sunset With the Sun Replaced by Other Stars

(yes yes I realize that the environmental conditions would vary greatly with different stars at the same distance, still an interesting visualization)


Every Star Could Have at Least One Planet That Could Support Liquid Water

Astronomers worldwide agree: there's a heck of a lot of planets out there. Thanks to tools like the Kepler Space Telescope, scientists have been discovering hundreds of new planets each year, and many believe it's only a matter of time until we find one very similar to our own earth. The big question now is, just how common are planets, and how many of them can we expect to look like Earth—or least hold liquid water?

In new study, researchers led by Steffen Jacobsen at the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark have taken a crack at these questions and come up with some pretty stunning conclusions. By extrapolating on recent planet discoveries found though the Kepler mission, the astronomers have estimated that, on average, every star has between one to three planets nestled into its liquid water-supporting habitable zone. And of those planets, one in six should be rocky like the Earth, Jacobsen says.

"In our galaxy alone, this would mean billions and billions of planets , with very good chances at finding an Earth twin," Jacobsen says. "But to be clear, these numbers are highly dependent on many assumptions at work here."

How they got those numbers
Since it started staring at the stars in 2009, Kepler has spotted hundreds of new planets and many more planet candidates that could be confirmed in time. It upended what we know and how we think about what's out there in the cosmos.



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