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

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What goes on inside a proton?

by Jon Butterworth

I spent part of last week at a meeting in the Pyrenees, northern Spain, discussing the internal structure of the proton. The meeting was in the small village of Benasque, hosted by Juan Rojo at the Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual.

The proton (my favourite particle) is the nucleus of a hydrogren atom, is useful for curing some cancers, and is the particle collided by the Large Hadron Collider as it extends the frontiers of our knowledge of the structure of matter. Protons are made of two up-quarks and a down-quark, but there is quite a lot more than that to discover about their internal structure.

Most what we know about proton structure comes from the scattering of electrons off protons. Electrons and quarks are both electrically charged, so they repel or attract each other, depending whether the quark in question is positively or negatively charged (the electron has negative charge). By measuring how often, and with what energy and angle, electrons scatter off protons, we can work out several things. Firstly, we can tell the proton is not fundamental; it has something inside it. Consider this sketch:

This is a rough sketch of what we might see if the proton was fundamental - infinitely small and with no internal strucure. The vertical axis (labelled σ, “sigma”) is proportional to the number of times an electron-proton scattering happens, and the horizontal axis (x) is the fraction of the proton which the electron “saw”. If the proton is fundamental, this is always one, hence the spike at unity.



Walgreens worker disarms shoplifting suspect who grabbed gun from cop

With two Chicago police officers beaten and on the verge of getting shot by a shoplifting suspect, Ray Robinson knew he needed to join the fray.

Undeterred by the sound of a single gunshot that missed its mark, the short and slender Walgreens employee rolled on the ground with the officers and the 6-foot-3, 250-pound customer he had just helped moments before, forcing the man's fingers off the trigger as the man was about to fire a second time.

The mere seconds before he was finally subdued seemed like an eternity to Robinson. He later noticed that his work uniform was covered in the blood of one of the officers, who according to charges was punched by Thomas Thompson.

"They need help. They don't have this. And I knew the one cop was hurt," a soft-spoken Robinson, who is about 5 foot 6 and 130 pounds, said in an interview Sunday. "I just knew they needed help."



Plastic people

Epigenetics has shown that there’s no such thing as a normal human body, so how did it get hijacked by the body police?

by Julie Guthman and Becky Mansfield

The past decade has seen an avalanche of paradigm-shattering studies in the biological, toxicological and behavioural sciences: from findings published recently in Science and in Nature showing that sperm carry the marks of a man’s trauma and undernourishment, which leads to depression and metabolic glitches in his offspring, to the steady flow of research from the lab of the reproductive biologist Michael Skinner. Skinner’s research at Washington State University shows that in-utero exposure to environmental chemicals, such as those in plastics and pesticides, affects reproductive development, obesity and a wide range of diseases in adulthood. The weight of argument behind such findings suggests a radical conclusion: namely, that the environment not only influences the human body, it comes into it, shaping what it is – and who you are.

Such thinking cuts against the grain of what we’ve always thought about the human body: that its boundary is impermeable, its integrity complete, its unity sovereign. It suggests that we humans are nothing of the sort. We are porous, changeable, plastic.

At the individual level, each of us is the unique expression of the total environment specific to our place and time: the products of our diet and nutritional status, and of the social and environmental conditions that influence it. We are shaped by, even made of the bacteria and viruses we encounter in our everyday lives, as well as a whole range of chemicals we’re exposed to through food, air, water and soil, at work, home, and in our consumer goods. We embody the stressful or stress-relieving aspects of our work and family life, socioeconomic status, racial privilege, trauma and war, and our experience of the built environment (from the stress of traffic jams to the calm of walking on the beach at sunset). And we are not only the expression of all these things in the current moment, but perhaps even more, in our past: the combined environment of our parents and grandparents is our molecular inheritance.

How might this novel understanding of biological development affect our understanding of human variation and difference? Or how we understand responsibility for biological outcomes, for example in health and disease? Evidence that we are, each of us, the crystallisation of a unique set of environmental influences suggests that responsibility for health is something dispersed across time and space, and that variation is the only possible outcome of development. Or does it? Do we see responsibility for health and disease as something collective; or do we reinforce the present obsession with individual behaviour? Do we embrace difference, or use knowledge of environmental influence to strive to achieve the ‘perfect’ human – blaming individuals when they fail to hit the mark?


Rent walkouts point to strains in U.S. farm economy

(Reuters) - Across the U.S. Midwest, the plunge in grain prices to near four-year lows is pitting landowners determined to sustain rental incomes against farmer tenants worried about making rent payments because their revenues are squeezed.

Some grain farmers already see the burden as too big. They are taking an extreme step, one not widely seen since the 1980s: breaching lease contracts, reducing how much land they will sow this spring and risking years-long legal battles with landlords.

The tensions add to other signs the agricultural boom that the U.S. grain farming sector has enjoyed for a decade is over. On Friday, tractor maker John Deere cut its profit forecast citing falling sales caused by lower farm income and grain prices.

Many rent payments – which vary from a few thousand dollars for a tiny farm to millions for a major operation – are due on March 1, just weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated net farm income, which peaked at $129 billion in 2013, could slide by almost a third this year to $74 billion.


Lobbyist dubbed Dr Evil behind front groups attacking Obama power rules

To Washington insiders he is Dr Evil: the hidden orchestrator of industry campaigns against the Humane Society, Mothers against Drunk Driving, and other seemingly uncontroversial groups.

Now Richard Berman, a one-time lobbyist turned industry strategist, has zeroed in on another target: Barack Obama’s new power plant rules.

Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding for at least 16 studies and launched at least five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.

The rules, the centre-piece of Obama’s climate agenda, are due to be finalised in mid-summer. They have come under sustained assault from industry and Republican-controlled Congress – and Berman is right at the heart of it.


Warren now all in on fiduciary fight

Joined by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), President Obama will move ahead on Monday with plans to impose new regulations for financial advisers that are vehemently opposed by the business community.

Obama will announce his intentions during a speech at AARP's Washington offices on Monday afternoon, as The Hill first reported, on Monday, where he will be joined by Warren and other senior White House officials. AARP has joined progressives and other groups, including the AFL-CIO in backing Obama's efforts for the new regulations.
Obama officials say the new regulations -- dubbed "fiduciary rules" -- are needed to protect consumers from financial advisers who have conflicts of interests. They say too many financial advisers earn commissions from big banks after selling faulty retirement advice to unsuspecting Americans.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups -- backed by moderate Democrats and Republicans -- argue that Obama's new regulations decrease low- and middle-income Americans' access to retirement advice. They say that the regulations will mean advisers have less incentive to take on low- and middle-income Americans' retirement accounts, which are less lucrative than more wealthy Americans.



Madison360: Walker more ‘Nixonian’ than Nixon, says John Dean

For baby boomers and anyone older, John W. Dean’s name conjures up 1973 television images of an earnest, bespectacled young White House lawyer testifying before the Senate Watergate Committee.

That summer, Dean’s precise monotone belied his stunning testimony about the impeachable role of President Richard Nixon and illegal activities by Dean and others in the cover-up after the 1972 break-in at Democratic National Headquarters inside the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.

Four decades later, Dean is an author in Beverly Hills, Calif., and is taking special note of Scott Walker, our embattled Republican governor.

Dean’s recent column on the legal website Justia.com likens Walker’s dictatorial governing style to themes Dean developed in his 2006 book titled “Conservatives Without Conscience,” in which he explores and indicts the troubling personalities of recent Republican leaders.

Dean wrote of Walker: “If I lived in Wisconsin, I would be uncomfortable with this man, whom I find more Nixonian than even Richard Nixon himself (the authoritarian leader with whom I was, and am, so very familiar).”

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/madison_360/madison-walker-more-nixonian-than-nixon-says-john-dean/article_6577b896-8732-11e1-9697-0019bb2963f4.html

Monday Toon Roundup 2- The Rest





Monday Toon Roundup 1- GOP and Politics



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Toon: Is We Learning Yet?

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