(Click here for posts on geophysics and the energy industry.)
Today's Papers, Slate: Iraq, the Vote.
"And so it was a rare day in which, according to USA Today and the NYT, both Al Jazeera and Fox News broadcasted much of the same upbeat news."
> I don't know whether the upbeat news coverage was deservedly or undeservedly optimistic. However, the determination of the Iraqis to hold an election -- flawed or not -- was enough to give me hope. Maybe, despite all the death and destruction, Iraq may yet succeed in making itself a better place.
> Here's a more level-headed veiw --
Time: Making Sense of Iraq's Vote.
"Suffice to say that it will likely be at least a month, if not more, before the makeup of the new government is settled. Still, that government will be the first that the Bush administration has had to deal with in Iraq that has not been of its making. And indications are that it might not be smooth sailing."
He must have been really disappointed to discover there wasn't going to be a football game.
John Scott Roy, The Herald (UK): Left alone, Iran could become a democracy.
"In the late 1970s I was conducting seismic surveys relating to the stability of two sites, near the cities of Isfahan and Hamadan, for nuclear power plants. US companies such as Westinghouse were actively engaged and the whole effort was being strongly promoted by the US government. The Germans were also heavily involved."
Science News: Modern echoes of the early universe.
"In 1999, researchers detected a specific pattern of acoustic oscillations in the faint, ancient whisper of radiation -- the cosmic microwave background -- left over from the Big Bang. This week, Shaun Cole of the University of Durham in England and his colleagues announced that they had discerned remnants of that pattern ... [in] a large-scale analysis of 220,000 galaxies." ...
"The small size of the fluctuations, both in the microwave background and the galaxy distribution today, provides additional evidence that most of the mass of the universe is composed of dark matter -- an exotic, invisible, and primordial material that has never interacted with light and so had never generated sound waves...."
Washington Post: Extinction Tied to Global Warmingo. Greenhouse Effect Cited in Mass Decline 250 Million Years Ago.
"Huge amounts of carbon dioxide were released into the air from open volcanic fissures known to geologists as the "Siberian Traps," researchers said, triggering a greenhouse effect that warmed the earth and depleted oxygen from the atmosphere, causing environmental deterioration and finally collapse.
"A second set of findings suggested that the warming also crippled the oceans' ability to refresh their oxygen supply, causing the seas to go sterile, destroying marine life and allowing anaerobic bacteria (which do not require oxygen) to release poisonous hydrogen sulfide "swamp" gas into the air. "
Science News: Reptilian Repast: Ancient mammals preyed on young dinosaurs. [130 mya]
"The newly described finds counter the common presumption that such creatures remained small and ecologically suppressed until dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago."
This was really exciting when these photos were released, but you should be aware that there have been some revisions to the initial analysis.
Science News: A World Unveiled: Crème brûlée on Titan.
"Penetrating the orange haze of a frigid, alien world, a space probe parachuted onto Saturn's moon Titan late last week and came face-to-face with an unexpected landscape -- a terrain that looks a lot like Earth."
"The composition of Titan's solid ground has thrown up a shock: it's made of water ice rather than rock. Photographs of the landscape that show the same region from two different angles have highlighted a clear distinction between the bright hilltops and darker valleys."
"Slowed by parachutes, Huygens took more than two hours to float to the icy surface, where it defied expectations of a quick death and continued to transmit for hours. That surface, which scientists have said was the consistency of wet sand or even creme brulee, features ice rocks, channels, and abundant indications of liquid from rain. "
"NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) usually process images from space missions using sophisticated computer software before being releasing them to the public. Changing the contrast, brightness and even colouring the pictures can help to pick out key features that would otherwise go unnoticed. But with the Huygens mission (and NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission in 2004), the scientists involved released the raw images as soon as they came in.... Computer enthusiasts pounced on the images immediately, and improved them using a range of free or commercially available software before swapping their pictures in Internet chatrooms."
Anthony Liekens: Enthusiast compositions of the Huygens images.
Nature: Huygens: the missing data.
"As it fell towards Titan, Huygens transmitted a continuous stream of information to the Cassini mother ship passing overhead, which collected all the data before turning towards Earth to send it to the waiting scientists. The Huygens transmissions were sent on two channels that used slightly different microwave frequencies.... That redundancy saved the mission from failure. Cassini had two different receivers to collect the data from Huygens, and one of them did not work."
I don't know where this is from originally, but I'm going to give Dan Hersam credit for giving up the bandwidth --
Digital Media Asia: Aussie students invent tsunami warning software.
"Two students from the University of Technology in Sydney are reported to have developed a desktop application to warn of impending tsunamis."
> Here it is --
"Saves from Waves"
The Times, UK: The global spread of English is a seismic event in Man's history.
"This is the first time in history that it has been possible to denote one language as predominant.... Within a few generations and for the first time in the story of Homo sapiens, most of our species may be able to communicate in a single language."
"A federal judge Thursday ordered a suburban Atlanta school system to remove stickers from its high school biology textbooks that call evolution ‘a theory, not a fact,’ saying the disclaimers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion."
Evolution Outreach Projects: Textbook disclaimer stickers.
"... it's really too bad the Cobb County school district, the loser in the decision, now has to pay the rather large legal fees, sucking valuable assets away from school budgets. To cover the expected revenue shortfall, and to avoid tax increases in Cobb County, perhaps Marjorie Rogers (the Creationist who started the whole mess) can extract donations from the 2,300 supporters who signed her original petition that objected to evolution instruction. Just an idea."
Sorry, I'm trying to stay out of politics here, but I can't let this one pass --
Associated Press: Bush has second thoughts about some of his remarks.
"President Bush expressed misgivings for two of his most famous expressions: ‘Bring 'em on,’ in reference to Iraqis attacking U.S. troops, and his vow to get Osama bin Laden ‘dead or alive.’ Bush acknowledged that his tough language ‘had an unintended consequence.’"
> What an elequant speaker this man is! --
"‘I don't know if you'd call it a regret, but it certainly is a lesson that a president must be mindful of, that the words that you sometimes say. I speak plainly sometimes, but you've got to be mindful of the consequences of the words. So put that down. I don't know if you'd call that a confession, a regret, something.’"
"A New Jersey man was arrested and charged under the Patriot Act last week for aiming a green laser at a small jet flying over his home near Teterboro Airport. The man, David Banach, said he had been using the device to point at the stars from his back yard."
> Bullfeathers! But wait --
"That type of laser pointer ... produces a bright green beam that can be seen up to 25,000 feet away, and is used by bird watchers, astronomers and lecturers to point out faraway objects."
> Astronomers?!!! What are they pointing out, craters on the moon?
> Three cards make a set. For a set, each "attribute" must be the same for all three cards or different for all three cards. Attributes are number, shape, color and filling.
It's not too late for those New Year's resolutions, folks --
Washington Post: Working Into Working Out.
"In what Consumer Reports called ‘one of the most striking differences between successful and unsuccessful exercisers,’ 31 percent of successful folks lifted weights, compared with 3 percent of those in the equally large ‘unsuccessful exerciser’ group. Aside from boosting strength, weight training helps prevent injury now and later by slowing the natural decline of muscle mass."
> Here's the Consumer Reports link --
Consumer Reports (subscription): Making workouts work.
"Almost anything that gets you moving--be it walking, tap dancing, mountain climbing, or Ping-Pong--can provide health benefits. You can exercise in small doses. And yes, you can keep at it, once youšve found a stretch of time in the day to call your own."
Houston Chronicle: Mexicans may be siblings split by 'dirty war' in 1975.
"However, Hernández said he is open-minded about the possibility of being Lucio Gallangos, but he will not be certain until after the DNA tests. After hearing the story, he said, he found a scar on his leg that could be from a bullet wound but could just be a birthmark."
Washington Post: A Wrenching Choice.
"... Hannah [in the fourth grade in South Korea] soon would be facing the maxim of "four in, five out," a Korean proverb that means those who settle for four hours of sleep a night will get into the most prestigious universities and those who sleep five hours will not."
"The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck the ocean bottom west of Indonesia on the morning of Dec. 26, 2004, triggered several tsunamis that killed an estimated 145,000 coastal residents and tourists, claiming lives on shores even thousands of kilometers away.... The region struck by the massive quake had previously been identified as one of about 80 areas likely to be stricken by a temblor of magnitude 7.0 or greater in the years between 2000 and 2010."
The Quicksilver Web: Starbucks Drinks Simplified (kinda).
O.K., I figured out this bittorrent stuff a little more. To get a reasonable download speed, you need to get in the right swarm...
Lone Star Times: Asteroid has chance of hitting Earth in 2029.
"It should be noted that the most recent calculations show only a 2.2% probability of an impact."
> Man, if I could get those odds for winning the lottery ...
AP: Taiwan Celebrates Opening Of World's Tallest Skyscraper. Building Stands 1,679 Feet Tall.
"The building is 184 feet taller than the previous record-holder, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And Taipei 101 is 271 feet higher than the tallest U.S. skyscraper, the Sears Tower in Chicago."
WSJ (subscription): Some Advice To Apple, Google and Hollywood.
"A new generation of programs, like BitTorrent, is causing headaches for the movie industry because, for the first time, the programs make it almost as easy to download very large movie and TV-show files as it is to download much smaller MP3 music files."
> O.K., I'm going to take issue with this.
> This weekend, I took an interest in downloading tsunami videos off the internet. When I started looking, I quickly found that the way to do this was BitTorrent, so I installed it, and it did a great job of delivering numerous first-hand accounts of the devastation.
> Afterwards, since I finally was in possession of this reputed great new pirate tool, I figured I might as well try to, you know, pirate something. Using my DSL service, it took 18 hours to download a half-hour TV comedy. And while it was downloading, web surfing was like the bad ol' days of dial-up.
> It's not TIVO, and it's just not worth it.
But BitTorrent is great for downloading five minute home videos like this --
> Warning: Lots of Bubba's using 4-letter exclamations!
One more for the end of the year wrap-up:
Science News: Science News of the Year 2004.
"Calculations of the age of the universe became more precise, and indirect evidence mounted that the very first stars formed fewer than 200 million years after the Big Bang."
I'm about to watch Saban's last game with LSU. [Later: Well, that sucked.]
I should mention these results from two days ago --
Houston Chronicle: Tech topples Cal with ease.
"And so this final element of the BCS formula should be easy to compute: Cal lost by 14 points to Tech, which lost to Texas by 30, which means UT's theoretical point margin would be ..."