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

Journal Archives

Danziger Nails Congress on Gun Control Failure

For the Love of God, Just Call It a Filibuster


I am in Internet range for only a few minutes, so let me just type this right out:

Today a provision that would increase background checks for gun purchases was blocked in the Senate, even though consideration of the bill was supported by 54 senators representing states that make up (at quick estimate) at least 60 percent of the American population.

The bill did not fail to "pass" the Senate, which according to Constitutional provisions and accepted practice for more than two centuries requires a simple majority, 51 votes. Even 50 votes should do it, since the vice president is constitutionally empowered to cast the tie-breaking and deciding vote, and Joe Biden would have voted yes.

It failed because a 54-vote majority was not enough to break the threat of a filibuster, which (with some twists of labeling) was the real story of what happened with this bill. Breaking the filibuster would have required 60 votes.

Since the Democrats regained majority control of the Senate six years ago, the Republicans under Mitch McConnell have applied filibuster threats (under a variety of names) at a frequency not seen before in American history. Filibusters used to be exceptional. Now they are used as blocking tacticals for nearly any significant legislation or nomination. The goal of this strategy, which maximizes minority blocking power in a way not foreseen in the Constitution, has been to make the 60-vote requirement seem routine.

As part of the "making it routine" strategy, the minority relying on this strategy keeps repeating that it takes 60 votes to "pass" a bill -- and this Orwellian language-strategy comes one step closer to fulfillment each time press reports present 60 votes as the norm for passing a law.


Need to Test the World's Largest Particle Accelerator? Try a Ping-Pong Ball


The Large Hadron Collider, the largest and highest-energy particle accelerator in the world -- the thing some people once feared would destroy the Earth, and the thing which so far has not -- is a complicated piece of machinery. It is composed of eight straight sections joined together by eight arcs -- 17 miles in circumference, in all -- and it features more than 1,600 magnets that bend and focus beams of particles as they travel close to the speed of light. Imagine all the maintenance. And complicating things even more is the fact that the LHC, when it's operating, does so at a temperature well below freezing, which causes its many metal elements to contract ever-so-slightly. Occasionally, the contraction leads to equipment buckling and then bulging and, in turn, blocking particle beams.

Which is not good, when the whole purpose of your existence is to facilitate the movement of particle beams.

So scientists at CERN, as they overhaul the collider to prepare it for future research, need to test the LHC to make sure it offers a pothole-free path for the particles that travel it. And they have developed a delightfully low-tech tool for doing that: a ping-pong ball. Technically a "radiofrequency ball," because Science ... but the lightweight sphere is a pretty faithful rendition of the one you might know from college or camp or world-class sporting events.

CERN's modified version is slightly smaller than a regulation ping-pong ball: 34 mm in diameter, which is also just slightly smaller than the LHC beam pipes' diameter of 36 mm. The thing is carefully sterilized. And it carries a transmitter within its hollow insides. Researchers feed it into a section of the LHC, and the ball travels along the vacuum pipe -- for about half a mile -- sucked forward by a pumping system at the other end. The ball's transmitter, yep, pings its position every 164 feet, and the transmissions are received by Beam Position Monitors (BPMs) studded along the pipe. If all goes well, the test takes about 15 minutes per section.


The Postman who built a Palace made of Pebbles

This is the story of a French postman who spent thirty years of his life building his dream home– a palace made of pebbles and stones he found along his postal route….

Ferdinand Cheval allegedly first began building his “Palais Ideale” in 1879 when he tripped over an unusual stone. Inspired by its shape, he began collecting more small stones each day. At first he would carry home the pebbles he found on his mail rounds in his pockets, but as he began collecting more, he started carrying them home in baskets, and eventually a wheelbarrow.

Cheval spent the first 20 years building the outer walls of the palace near his home in Drôme, France, using cement, lime and mortar to bound the stones he found together. He worked alone, after his work shift at night with just an oil lamp.


Canada starts the day with Holy Crap

A Canadian couple are coining it in after changing the name of their breakfast cereal to 'Holy Crap'.

Brian and Corin Mullins developed their gluten-free, vegan, organic cereal to address Mr Mullins' allergies.

It was originally called 'Hapi Food' cereal and sold only at the Sechelt Farmers Market on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia.

But after one of their very first customers said: "Holy Crap... this is amazing!", they changed the name to Holy Crap. Sales increased 1000% - from ten bags a day to over one hundred.

Holy Crap received international attention when Mr and Mrs Mullins sold it from a kiosk at Granville Island Market in Vancouver during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.


DeKalb, Ga, cop arrested for alleged assault at McDonald’s

By Alexis Stevens
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A sergeant with the DeKalb County police department was arrested Wednesday morning following an alleged assault against a teenager at a McDonald’s, according to police.

Scott A. Biumi, 48, of Cumming, was charged with aggravated assault for the April 9 incident at the McDonald’s on Old Atlanta Road, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said.

Biumi was in the drive-through of the restaurant at 10:30 p.m. when he allegedly became upset with another customer, according to police.

“He exited his car, and following a verbal exchange with the customer, Biumi drew a gun and pointed it at the victim,” Deputy Courtney Spriggs with the Forsyth sheriff’s office said in an emailed statement.

Video footage from McDonald’s and released by the sheriff’s office shows a man, identified as Biumi, lunging into a pickup truck at the drive-through window. The alleged teenage victim, Ryan Mash, told Channel 2 Action News that Biumi got made because it was taken too long to get his order.


Wednesday Toon Roundup 2-The Rest








Wednesday Toon Roundup 1- Look for the Helpers

Scientists quietly announce a potentially huge discovery in physics

By Eric Berger

Lost amid the tragedy of Monday’s explosions in Boston was a fascinating piece of physics news: an unexpected glimpse of what is very likely dark matter.

Sam Ting got all the headlines two weeks ago with his first release of data from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, but this news from an Earth-bound detector may ultimately prove more momentous.

Here’s what happened, and why it’s so interesting.


A leading candidate for dark matter, which scientists believe makes up about 27 percent of the universe but which they have never directly observed, are the delightfully named WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles. These are theoretical, and they are just what they’re called: they almost never interact with normal matter, and they’re large because they make up a lot of the universe.



Luckovich Toon: Book Deposit

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