(Click here for posts on geophysics and the energy industry.)
Heather B. Hamilton: Collecting Unemployment.
"I lost my job today. My direct boss and the human resources representative pulled me into one of three relatively tiny conference rooms and informed me that The Company no longer had any use for me. Essentially, they explained, they didn't like what I had expressed on my website. I got fired because of dooce.com."
The Indianapolis Star: Board suspends coach for biting sparrow's head off.
"`It was innocent fun,' Bright said after the meeting. The students who saw him do it `laughed and laughed. They're still laughing about it. I think everyone took it as such -- as innocent fun.'"
> Indianapolis must be a really weird place.
Science News: The Milky Way's Middle. Getting a clear view.
"Only 26,000 light-years from Earth, the galaxy's core is like a smoggy metropolis. Shrouds of dust mask a hotbed of activity. In this teeming galactic city, hundreds of thousands of young stars emerge from their birthing clouds, and massive, elderly stars meet explosive deaths that leave behind X ray-emitting corpses. And at the very center lies a quiescent monster, a black hole some 2.5 million times as heavy as the sun."
Scientific American: Study Hints at How Gamma-Ray Bursts Form.
"When a rotating black hole starts spinning twice as fast as its torus, they propose, a beamlike burst of energy flows out along the rotational axis of the pair, culminating several billion miles away in an explosion of gamma rays."
It sounds like the AAAS meeting last week was really interesting --
Nature: Star trek criteria. Interstellar travellers should be "motivated, tolerant and nice".
"Travel to planets orbiting other stars will soon be technically possible, the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in Boston heard last week. But the 200-year odyssey will require a certain kind of crew."
Nature: They know we're here. Evolved space civilisations will be eyeing Earth.
"Within 15 years, next-generation telescopes will be scouring the skies for light from other Earth-like planets. A slight technological edge would mean that any life-forms on those planets could already be peering at us."
Nature: Intellect thrives on sleep.
"`I think sleep is involved in rehearsing, restructuring and reclassifying our existing world view to allow us to function better,' [Robert Stickgold of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] said."
It's a slow news day.
Scientific American: What exactly is the North Star?
"Although many cultures succeeded in making long ocean voyages using only the stars, weather and currents, the `longitude problem' plagued sailors for millennia and remained unsolved until the invention of a clock that could keep accurate time while a ship rolled, pitched and yawed on the sea (circa 1740)."
Here's an interesting Brazilian site: Art by Psychotics ...
... and here's a recording of Enron's current voice mail.
(If you're at work, you might want to turn down the volume before you click that link.)
What do Herbie Hancock, Trent Reznor and Steve Wozniak have in common?
Wired News: Mac Fiends Who Live for Updates.
"VersionTracker is so popular, it is the most visited Macintosh-related site on the Web, aside from Apple's. It has more than 2 million regular users, who visit 25 million times a month, the company said." ...
"VersionTracker lists about 12,000 software applications, including Palm and Windows programs. It attracts about 200,000 regular Windows users."
Some sick puppy spent way too much time using Photoshop to paste Dubya's face on centerfold bodies.
I thought you might like to see the results.
Scientific American: Study Links Longer Night's Sleep to Increased Death Rate.
"A new study suggests that individuals who sleep eight hours or more a night actually have an increased death rate compared with those who average just six or seven hours.... Moreover, people sleeping as little as five hours a night also lived longer than eight-hours-plus sleepers did."
Nature: Oversleepers may die early. 'Sleeping your life away' could be more than a saying.
"... there are trade-offs to consider. Cranky moods, heightened susceptibility to disease, and glucose intolerance are just some of the side-effects of sleep deprivation that diminish quality of life, even if they don't cause early death."
> Yeah? So bite me, short-timer.
Warning: physics post.
I thought I linked to this story last year, but I can't find the post. Anyway, this new angle doesn't surprise me --
Physics Today (subscription!): Correcting a Correction Weakens a Whiff of Supersymmetry.
"Hughes and company attracted considerable attention last year by reporting a 2.6-standard-deviation (sigma) discrepancy between their first results and the standard-model prediction. The discrepancy was particularly tantalizing because its magnitude and sign hinted at the much-sought-after supersymmetric extension of the standard model." ...
The new Hayakawa-Kinoshita paper, however, has somewhat dampened all this anticipation.... What they tell us in their new paper is that, ever since 1995, they and other theorists have been getting the sign of this so-called hadronic light-by-light scattering term wrong! Now we are told that it should be an additive rather than a subtractive correction ..."
"And in this case, with an extraordinarily precise experiment confronting a similarly precise theoretical calculation, flipping the sign is enough to bring the standard-model prediction up to within 1.6 sigma of the measurement.... That could leave the issue of [the muon] as a harbinger of `new physics' in limbo for some time to come."
> I know the entire physics world is in love with supersymmetry, but so far it has been a complete bust experimentally.
> Maybe I can catch a re-run of this interview over the weekend. MTV's "town meeting" interviews are better by far than any others I've ever seen. The kids usually ask really good questions. When other networks put a town meeting together, they always get the dumbest members of the audience to ask questions -- some misguided attempt to represent "Average Joe's."
This link died a couple of days after I posted it.
MSNBC: More than nine lives for this cat. Domestic feline cloned in Texas, sources say.
"The closely guarded effort at Texas A&M University appears to have met with success sometime late last year. Scientists at the university declined to comment, but several independent experts said people affiliated with the project had claimed success in producing the world's first cloned companion animal."
> No comment.
Oh, yeah, Happy Valentine's Day, or whatever.
I just realized today was Mardi Gras.
I hope somebody out there had a good Mardi Gras party!
Scientific American: A Recycled Universe. Crashing branes and cosmic acceleration may power an infinite cycle in which our universe is but a phase.
"[Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an author of inflation,] is also unmoved. He explains that although he awaits the day when cosmology merges with string theory, he expects inflation to be that cosmology. In general, not all physicists are convinced that colliding branes can generate the small fluctuations in matter and energy density that inflation neatly resolves. Such minute variations in these quantities are required to explain the way in which stars and galaxies clump together and the detailed properties of the cosmic microwave background radiation."
"Galaxies, which consist of stars, gas and dust, rotate extremely slowly. Our sun, located in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, goes around the galactic center about once every 250 million years."
"About 35 of the thousands of stars in this group, known as the Scorpius-Centaurus (Sco-Cen) OB association, weigh several times as much as the sun. These heavyweights -- the group's brightest stars -- tend to end their relatively brief lives with a powerful bang called a supernova. Other astronomers have determined that previous supernovas within the Sco-Cen association carved out the Local Bubble, a low-density cavity of interstellar gas that extends about 150 light-years around the sun."
Nature: Sperm and eggs fall foul of fallout. Nuclear tests up gene mutation risk.
"The Soviet Union detonated 470 nuclear weapons at the Semipalatinsk nuclear-testing site between 1949 and 1989, many above ground. The blasts showered radioactive dust over a 100-kilometre area. Inhabitants received up to one-fifth of a lethal radiation dose." ...
"The researchers found double the normal rate of genetic changes in people's sperm and eggs. These cells form future offspring, so the mutations are likely to be hereditary."
> For the easily amused --
> Oh, what the heck. There's more where that came from --
Wired News: Philips Burning on Protection.
"Gerry Wirtz, general manager of the Philips copyright office that administers the CD logo, told Reuters that not only would Philips yank the logo from copy-protected discs, it would force the major labels to add warning stickers for consumers. Most controversially, he claimed future models of Philips players would both read and burn the copy-protected discs."
Happy Groundhog Day, or whatever.