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

Journal Archives

Homer Simpson predicts Mass of the Higgs Boson

'If you work it out you get the mass of a Higgs boson that's only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is.

'It's kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered.'

He added: 'One of the equations relates to Fermat's Last Theorem, and my first book was about all about this notorious equations, so leapt out of the screen.

'My PhD is in particle physics, so I was similarly shocked by Homer's equation predicting the mass of the Higgs boson.'




'Spocking' Laurier on $5 not illegal, says Bank of Canada

The death of Leonard Nimoy last week inspired people to post photos of marked-up banknotes on social media that show the former prime minister transformed to look like Spock, Nimoy's famous Star Trek character.

Actor Leonard Nimoy, who played the ultra-logical character Spock in the TV series Star Trek, died on Friday, Feb. 28, 2015, at age 83 at his L.A. home. His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed to the New York Times that he had end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

For years, Canadians have been wielding pens to draw Spock's pointy Vulcan ears, sharp eyebrows and signature bowl haircut on the fiver's image of Laurier.

Contrary to what many believe, the Bank of Canada said Monday it's not illegal to deface or even mutilate banknotes, although there are laws that prohibit reproducing both sides of a current bill electronically.

Nonetheless, bank spokeswoman Josianne Menard pointed out there are reasons to resist the urge to scribble on bills.


Really Pathetic: DEA warns of stoned rabbits if Utah passes medical marijuana

Utah is considering a bill that would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to be treated with edible forms of marijuana. If the bill passes, the state's wildlife may "cultivate a taste" for the plant, lose their fear of humans, and basically be high all the time. That's according to testimony presented to a Utah Senate panel (time stamp 58:00) last week by an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"I deal in facts. I deal in science," said special agent Matt Fairbanks, who's been working in the state for a decade. He is member of the "marijuana eradication" team in Utah. Some of his colleagues in Georgia recently achieved notoriety by raiding a retiree's garden and seizing a number of okra plants.

Fairbanks spoke of his time eliminating back-country marijuana grows in the Utah mountains, specifically the environmental costs associated with large-scale weed cultivation on public land: "Personally, I have seen entire mountainsides subjected to pesticides, harmful chemicals, deforestation and erosion," he said. "The ramifications to the flora, the animal life, the contaminated water, are still unknown."

Fairbanks said that at some illegal marijuana grow sites he saw "rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana. ..." He continued: "One of them refused to leave us, and we took all the marijuana around him, but his natural instincts to run were somehow gone."


Scott Walker Wants To Stop Funding Renewable Energy Research Center

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) wants to end funding to a university renewable energy program that works to find ways to convert wood chips and grasses grown in Wisconsin into sources of energy.

Walker is proposing to cut $8.1 million over two years from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a move that would cut a total of 35 jobs from the center, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Along with working to develop new sources of energy in Wisconsin, including native grasses and corn stalks, the research center helps fund research in fields such as energy efficiency and power generation.

State funding of a research institution can help the institution get federal grants, Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, told the Journal Sentinel. He didn’t say, however, whether or not he thought Walker’s defunding would impact Wisconsin’s ability to get federal energy grants.

“It is common practice that federal agencies handing out grants expect a state or private match,” Still said. “They are looking for skin in the game.”

Companies have also used the research center for better lab equipment. GluCan, a company based in St. Louis, didn’t have the money to buy the equipment it needed for a project involving using a biologically-based chemical instead of a petroleum-based one in papermaking, and was able to receive lab equipment and space as well as research funding from the research center.



Vermin. Koch Vermin.

Does the Sun Have a Heart of Dark Matter?

Something is amiss in our Sun. Or, rather, something is amiss in our theories of what the Sun is and how it behaves—theories that are known collectively as the standard solar model. This model, which is in part based on spectroscopic observations of the Sun's photosphere (the layer that radiates light), offers powerful predictions about the temperature, density, and chemical makeup of our local solar furnace.

However, more recent observations of the Sun's internal pressure waves reveal a major discrepancy: the churning, circulating convection zone of the Sun should feature more heavy elements ​by about 10 percent. We see too much helium and hydrogen.

According to ​a new paper from astrophysicists at Durham University, this missing material could be explained by the presence of a certain variety of dark matter known as weakly interacting asymmetric dark matter. This is a version of the elusive material featuring a lower proportion of dark antimatter. (The balance between dark and regular matter being the asymmetric thing.) This keeps dark matter/antimatter collisions in check enough to allow for the stuff to hang around in the Sun for long periods.

Moreover, unlike many theorized dark matter forms, this one is allowed to interact with regular matter through transfers of momentum as dark matter particles collide with regular matter particles. This would allow dark matter to help shuttle heat from the deeper guts of the Sun to the surface. This, the physicists argue, could explain the discrepancy between spectroscopic observations and helioseismic (pressure/acoustic waves) observations.



The Myth of Republican Governance

If your ideology says government can’t succeed, why prove yourself wrong?

Any day now, we are often assured, Republicans in Congress will start to take their jobs seriously. It hasn’t happened yet, but soon.

“I think a lot of people better get serious about governing,” Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent said last Friday, after the House failed to fund the Department of Homeland Security past next Friday. It’ll happen. Any day. Any minute.

Of course, they were very serious about governing during the George W. Bush administration. But nobody — not even Bush’s closest relatives — want to think too hard about those days now.

And then the Obama landslide of 2008 made Republicans almost irrelevant for two years. Suddenly there was no point trying to take responsibility for anything, and Republicans discovered the invigorating thrill of pure nihilism. They were free to propose nothing and say no to everything, even their own ideas from that era we don’t talk about any more.

So when Obama based his healthcare proposal on Romneycare, Romney opposed it. McCain turned against the McCain-Lieberman cap-and-trade plan, and voted against his own immigration reform. Republicans were all mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it any more — whatever it was.



Artist Claims He Included Lewinsky’s Blue Dress In Clinton Portrait

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — The artist who painted Bill Clinton’s portrait for the National Portrait Gallery claims that he slipped in a Monica Lewinsky reference into the painting.

Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News that he “subtly” incorporated Lewinsky’s infamous blue dress into the 2006 portrait.

“The reality is he’s probably the most famous liar of all time. He and his administration did some very good things, of course, but I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting,” Shanks said.

He explained that he put a shadow of the blue dress into the painting.

“If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things,” Shanks told the Daily News. “It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.”



Wonder if there are any shadows of dead soldiers on W's portrait?

Putin’s Culture of Fear and Death

March 1, 2015 5:41 p.m. ET

Boris Nemtsov, my longtime friend and colleague in the Russian opposition, was murdered in the middle of Moscow on Friday night. Four bullets in the back ended his life in sight of the Kremlin, where he once worked as Boris Yeltsin ’s deputy prime minister. Photos showed a cleaning crew scrubbing his blood off the pavement within hours of the murder, so it is not difficult to imagine the quality of the investigation to come.

Vladimir Putin actually started, and ended, the inquiry while Boris’s body was still warm by calling the murder a “provocation,” the term of art for suggesting that the Russian president’s enemies are murdering one another to bring shame upon the shameless. He then brazenly sent his condolences to Boris’s mother, who had often warned her fearless son that his actions could get him killed in Putin’s Russia.

Hours after Boris’s death, news reports said that police were raiding his home and confiscating papers and computers. President Putin’s enemies are often victims and his victims are always suspects.

Boris was a passionate critic of Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine and was finishing a report on the presence of Russian soldiers in the ravaged Donbas region, a matter that the Kremlin has spared no effort to cover up. But the question “Did Putin give the order?” rings as hollow today as when journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in 2006, the same year that Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London—or when a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine last year.



Private police carry guns and make arrests, and their ranks are swelling

Michael Youlen stopped a driver in a Manassas, Virginia, apartment complex on a recent night and wrote the man a ticket for driving on a suspended license. With a badge on his chest and a gun on his hip, Youlen gave the driver a stern warning to stay off the road.

The stop was routine police work, except for one fact: Youlen is not a Manassas officer. The citation came courtesy of the private force he created that, until recently, he called the "Manassas Junction Police Department."

He is its chief and sole officer.

He is a force of one.

And he is not alone. Like more and more Virginians, Youlen gained his police powers using a little-known provision of state law that allows private citizens to petition the courts for the authority to carry a gun, display a badge and make arrests. The number of "special conservators of the peace" — or SCOPs, as they are known — has doubled in Virginia over the past decade to roughly 750, according to state records.


Right wingers dream come true.....

Republicans say they have a plan if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare. They don't.

by Ezra Klein

On Sunday night, three Senate Republicans — Lamar Alexander, John Barrasso and Orrin Hatch — published a Washington Post op-ed promising that if the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare and rips subsidies out of federal exchanges, "Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions."

The problem is they don't have a plan. And Republicans spent the last week showing that even if they did have a plan, there's no way the House would pass it.

Let's start with GOP plan, such as it exists, or doesn't. "First and most important," the three senators write, "we would provide financial assistance to help Americans keep the coverage they picked for a transitional period."

How long is this transitional period? What happens when it runs out? They don't say.

Next, they promise to "give states the freedom and flexibility to create better, more competitive health insurance markets offering more options and different choices."

There's nothing wrong with this idea, but to a great extent, it already exists. Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act permits states to design replacements for Obamacare so long as their new system covers as many people with insurance of similar quality. So far, no state has tried. (To be clear, the waivers begin in 2017, but as of yet, no state seems to be seriously preparing to use them. Though that may change!)



And...that's it. Seriously. There are no more ideas to be found; no more detail to be had. This isn't a plan. It's the barest possible sketch of some nascent ideas that could, one day, be used as the basis for a plan.
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