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Physicists Describe New Class of Dyson Sphere

Physicists have overlooked an obvious place to search for shell-like structures constructed around stars by advanced civilizations to capture their energy.

Back in 1960, the physicist Freeman Dyson publish an unusual paper in the journalScience entitled “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infra-red Radiation.” In it, he outlined a hypothetical structure that entirely encapsulates a star to capture its energy, which has since become known as a Dyson sphere.

The basic idea is that all technological civilizations require ever greater sources of energy. Once the energy of their home planet has been entirely exhausted, the next obvious source is the mother star. So such a civilization is likely to build a shell around its star that captures the energy it produces.

Of course, such a sphere must also radiate the energy it absorbs and this would produce a special signature in the infrared part of the spectrum. Such a source of infrared radiation would be entirely unlike any naturally occurring one and so provide a unique way of spotting such as advanced civilization.


Bizarre Bulge Found on Ganymede, Solar System's Largest Moon

By Nadia Drake

Ganymede’s bulge appears to be made of thick ice, suggesting that once upon a time, the moon’s icy shell rotated atop the rest of the moon.

There’s a big, weird bulge on Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system. Protruding from a spot on the moon’s equator, the bulge is about 375 miles (600 kilometers) across, about the area of Ecuador, and two miles (three kilometers) tall, about half the height of Mount Kilimanjaro.

It’s not at all what scientists expected to find on this moon of Jupiter.

“I found it a bit by accident while I was looking to complete the global mapping of Ganymede,” says planetary scientist Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, in Houston. He reported the weird feature on March 20 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

The size and location of Ganymede’s bulge, which appears to be made of thick ice, suggest that once upon a time, the moon’s icy shell rotated atop the rest of the moon, like an interplanetary Magic 8 Ball.


How ALEC helps conservatives and businesses turn state election wins into new laws

Republicans have long been viewed as more effective than Democrats in pushing their policy priorities in state legislatures. One reason why? A group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, that has helped push state-level conservative proposals. ALEC has helped develop and popularize a host of ideas designed to benefit businesses, as well as the Stand Your Ground bills that became so controversial after Trayvon Martin's death — and it frequently manages to get its proposals enacted into law.

This year, Republicans control 30 state legislatures, and control one chamber in 8 more. So it's more important than ever to understand what ALEC actually is — and what it does.

1) What is ALEC?

Essentially, ALEC is a group that helps craft and standardize various conservative and pro-business policies so they can be pushed in state legislatures across the country. It has facilitated collaboration among state legislators, businesses, and conservative think tanks and advocacy groups to craft many "model bills" — bills those legislators can then introduce in their home states, and perhaps get passed into law. In recent years, about 1,000 of ALEC's model bills have been introduced to state legislatures across the country, and around 200 usually become law, the group has estimated.

While ALEC is technically run by its state legislators, it raises the bulk of its yearly funding — around $8 million a year — from corporations and conservative groups or foundations. Accordingly, ALEC's model bills tend to reflect the business interests of those corporate members. In 2010, ALEC's policy director told NPR, "Most of the [model] bills are written by outside sources and companies, attorneys, [and legislative] counsels." The charitable interpretation of this is that ALEC helps policy experts and stakeholders share their knowledge with state legislators who might not have the legal expertise to write high-quality bills on their own. The more critical take is that ALEC is just helping state legislators more effectively do the bidding of corporate and conservative interests.



Progressives push for Warren as next Senate Democratic leader

Getty Images
By Jonathan Easley - 03/27/15 10:55 AM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) announcement Friday that he will not seek reelection next year has progressive groups licking their chops at the prospect of seeing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as the Democratic leader.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, currently Democrats' No. 3 in the Senate, is the heavy favorite to succeed Reid, but progressive groups have other ideas.

Democracy for America (DFA) and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) are urging Warren to run for president but say that if she passes, they’d back her or someone from her wing of the party as the next Democratic leader in the Senate.

“There are real concerns about whether Chuck Schumer should be the frontrunner for leadership in the Senate among progressives,” DFA spokesman Neil Sroka told The Hill. “The Wall Street wing of the party, that Chuck has been close to, is dying, and the Warren wing is rising. So if Sen. Warren chooses not to run for president … she should run for leader of the Senate. She’d make a great leader.”


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Russian cancer patients are killing themselves because they can’t get pain meds

by Katerina Gordeeva

In Feb. 2014 in Moscow alone, 11 cancer patients committed suicide.

“There’s no end to the pain. It won’t stop the next morning, or tomorrow, or the day after,” whispers Tanya, 29, a Russian cancer patient. “It won’t disappear if a tooth is pulled out or if drops of medicine are squeezed into your ear. If you don’t relieve the pain somehow, it eats you up right to the end. It’s absolutely unbearable.”

In line at the oncologist’s office with 14 other people, Tanya and her son, Maxim, wait to see the doctor who will give them a diagnosis and a prescription. Maxim is five years old. Between a green plant, a windowsill gray from cracks, and the battered, old waiting room chairs, Maxim amuses himself, commanding an imaginary army. This isn’t the first time he and his mother have been here. People in line frown at the boy. A pallid-faced man can’t resist and says, “You should have left him at home. You know that, don’t you?”

Young children are a source of infection for older patients. They are dangerous for adults whose bodies have been weakened by cancer and chemotherapy. But Tanya has nobody to watch Maxim. Her mother, Maxim’s grandmother, is at work. And there is nobody else in the family.



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