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

Journal Archives

Gravitational waves discovery now officially dead

A team of astronomers that last year reported evidence for gravitational waves from the early Universe has now withdrawn the claim. A joint analysis of data recorded by the team's South Pole telescope and by the European spacecraft Planck has revealed that the signal can be entirely attributed to dust in the Milky Way rather than having a more ancient, cosmic origin.

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced the long-awaited results on 30 January, a day after a summary of it had been unintentionally posted online by French members of the Planck team and then widely circulated before it was taken down.

The March finding was released by researchers using a radio telescope at the South Pole called BICEP2. It had hinged on finding a curlicue pattern in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, the Big Bang's relic radiation. The team attributed the pattern to gravitational waves — ripples in space-time — generated during the earliest moment of the Universe when cosmologists believe the cosmos underwent a brief but tumultuous episode of expansion known as inflation. If detected, the primordial waves would confirm the highly successful but unproven theory of inflation.

But dust in the Milky Way also emits polarized light that can have the same curlicue pattern imprinted on it. Astronomers have suggested several times over the past year that the BICEP2 team had been fooled by that galactic signal (see 'Full-Galaxy dust map muddles search for gravitational waves'). The Planck-BICEP2 analysis confirms that BICEP2 cannot claim to have seen evidence of primordial gravitational waves.



Science working as it should.

Boyfriend sought in murder of transgender woman in Los Angeles

VAN NUYS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A search is underway for a man after his transgender girlfriend was found stabbed to death at the scene of an apartment fire in Van Nuys.

The fire at the two-story structure was reported shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday in the 14600 block of Saticoy Street.

Firefighters forced entry into the apartment and quickly put out fire in a rear bedroom. They also found a woman, later identified as Michelle Vash Payne, stabbed to death on the kitchen floor. Investigators said the victim's body may have possibly been burned.

A murder weapon was recovered at the scene.

The victim lived at the location with her boyfriend, whom authorities have since identified as the prime suspect.



The day the river turned grey

Posted on Feb 1, 2015
by Taft Wireback
EDEN — At 6 that morning, a guard at the Duke Energy plant made his rounds and noticed that the coal ash ponds by the river were iced over. That’s all — nothing dramatic or unusual for a cold February dawn.

But eight hours later, on that Super Bowl Sunday, that same guard checked again and did a double take. The water level in the larger of the two ponds looked suspiciously low.

By midnight, a platoon of environmental experts was on the scene at the Dan River Steam Station, trying to staunch the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would later describe what happened that day at the retired power plant near Eden as the “sudden collapse” of a drainage pipe running under the main pond.

much more


Homeless Jesus sleeping on a bench statue to be installed where homeless aren't allowed to sleep

Bungalower (and others) are reporting this week that a statue of a homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench is being installed in downtown Orlando at the corner of East Jackson Street and Rosalind Avenue. The First Presbyterian Church of Orlando is installing the sculpture near the place where they feed homeless people.

We can't help but point out that the statue is going to be installed in a place where homeless people are generally not allowed to lie down on benches, and just blocks from Lake Eola Park, where these signs are everywhere:

This is not at all the church's fault, of course. But it's still worth pointing out.


Meet the Grindr Rabbi Who Says the Gay Sex App Can Bring Jews Together

‘There are a ton of Jews of all stripes, especially people who have nothing to do with organized religion,’ he says. ‘Why not try getting to them on Grindr?’

Grindr is just about the last place I’d expect to find a rabbi. I mean, sure, a rabbi would probably less likely be at, say, a brothel, too, but Grindr’s pretty high up on the list.

And yet 24-year-old Matt Greene, a second year rabbinical student at New York City’s Hebrew Union College, is making a name for himself as the Grindr Rebbe.

Having returned to the United States this summer after his first year of rabbinical school in Israel, Greene quirkily decided to indicate that fact in his personal Grindr profile. The response, Greene recalls, was overwhelming. “People were contacting me saying are you Jewish? How was Israel? Then,” he adds, “when I mentioned I was in rabbinical school, everyone kept asking about Kashrut , and Judaism!”


Mississippi Tea Party Shows Support for Vaccine 'Choice' Bill

ACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Tea Party is now showing support for a vaccine choice bill (HB 130) which is being discussed at the state legislature.

In Mississippi, children have to be vaccinated before attending school unless they are exempt for medical reasons. If passed, the vaccine choice bill would change that, allowing for philosophical exemptions.

According to Mississippi Tea Party Chairman Laura Van Overschelde, the bill goes hand and hand with one of the Tea Party’s basic principles of having a “Constitutionally Limited Government. She also accuses the Mississippi Department of health for exercising “inordinate pressure on physicians and clinics to heavy vaccination schedules, sometimes in contradiction to prudent “best practices.”

The Tea Party says they are calling on the Mississippi Legislature to carefully review the bill to “protect children, families and liberty in Mississippi.”

- See more at: http://www.newsms.fm/miss-tea-party-shows-support-vaccine-choice-bill/#sthash.jynsyPjz.kdYfQGzx.dpuf

State senator wants to ban foreign control of Alamo

SAN ANTONIO — One state lawmaker wants the world to remember this about the Alamo: It belongs to Texas.

A legislative proposal by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would ban any foreign entity from owning, controlling or managing the Alamo complex. Campbell proposed the Protect the Alamo Act in response to a nomination that could make the San Antonio Missions — including the emblematic Alamo — a World Heritage site in July through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“It's already one of the most recognizable landmarks on the planet,” Campbell said. “The Alamo is the story of Texas. It was there that Texas first stood her ground to be free, and the U.N. doesn't have any business there.”

If passed, the bill would prohibit the Texas General Land Office, which manages the Alamo and surrounding properties, from entering into a contract that would allow an “entity formed under the laws of another country” to manage the historic site, known for the pivotal Battle of the Alamo in 1836.


Scott Walker leads GOP pack in Iowa Poll

DES MOINES, Iowa — Presidential stage newcomer Scott Walker, the conservative reform pit bull who inspired death threats from the left, has become the one to watch in the race for the Republican nomination a year out from the Iowa caucuses.

At 15 percentage points, he leads a big, tightly packed field of potential contenders in a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll of likely Republican caucusgoers. The caucuses are scheduled for Feb. 1, 2016.

The Wisconsin governor is also the No. 2 most popular choice for likely caucusgoers who want an establishment candidate, and he's the No. 2 for those who want an anti-establishment candidate, the poll shows.

"He's in a sweet spot," pollster J. Ann Selzer said. "People who don't want an ultra-conservative think he's OK. People who don't want a moderate think he's OK."


The Koch Kandidate.

Toon: Everything is a reboot

Amid measles outbreak, anti-vaccine doctor revels in his notoriety

It’s 6:30 p.m. in eastern Arizona, and an energetic doctor who has gained notice due to his disdain for vaccinations has just gotten home. It’s been a busy day. He’s already spoken to USA Today. He just did a segment on CNN. And he’s closely monitored his Facebook page, which has collected 4,000 “likes” in the span of 48 hours. But Jack Wolfson always has time to discuss vaccinations — his hatred of them and his abhorrence of the parents who defend them.

“Don’t be mad at me for speaking the truth about vaccines,” Wolfson said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “Be mad at yourself, because you’re, frankly, a bad mother. You didn’t ask once about those vaccines. You didn’t ask about the chemicals in them. You didn’t ask about all the harmful things in those vaccines…. People need to learn the facts.”

But whose facts is he talking about? Every respectable expert totally disagrees with him and his anti-vaccine movement and, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges parents to get their kids vaccinated. And Wolfson himself, who has quickly become something of a spokesman for the anti-vaxxers, is in no way an expert on vaccines or infectious diseases. He’s cardiologist who now does holistic medicine.

What the experts say: “The measles vaccine is one of the most highly effective vaccines that we have against any virus or any microbe, and it is safe, number one,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS. “Number two, measles is one of the top two most contagious infectious viruses that we know of…. So you have a highly infectious virus and you have an extraordinarily effective vaccine.”

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