Bridge Comes to San Francisco With a Made-in-China Label
|7:35:49 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011|
"Talk about outsourcing.
At a sprawling manufacturing complex here, hundreds of Chinese laborers are now completing work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Next month, the last four of more than two dozen giant steel modules — each with a roadbed segment about half the size of a football field — will be loaded onto a huge ship and transported 6,500 miles to Oakland. There, they will be assembled to fit into the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge.
The project is part of China’s continual move up the global economic value chain — from cheap toys to Apple iPads to commercial jetliners — as it aims to become the world’s civil engineer.
The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans. But construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them are a Made in China affair. California officials say the state saved hundreds of millions of dollars by turning to China.
“They’ve produced a pretty impressive bridge for us,” Tony Anziano, a program manager at the California Department of Transportation, said a few weeks ago. He was touring the 1.2-square-mile manufacturing site that the Chinese company created to do the bridge work. “Four years ago, there were just steel plates here and lots of orange groves.”
On the reputation of showcase projects like Beijing’s Olympic-size airport terminal and the mammoth hydroelectric Three Gorges Dam, Chinese companies have been hired to build copper mines in the Congo, high-speed rail lines in Brazil and huge apartment complexes in Saudi Arabia.
In New York City alone, Chinese companies have won contracts to help renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium. As with the Bay Bridge, American union labor would carry out most of the work done on United States soil..."
Snail Attack: Snail Consumes a Worm
|3:26:21 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011|
-- Ahh!!! Damn nature you scary!
Tiny Marine Crustaceans Construct Wax 'Weight Belts' to Stay Deep
|1:13:59 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011|
"At high latitudes, the open ocean is treacherous in winter. The water is frigid and turbulent, food is scarce, and predators are on the prowl. So copepods, tiny herbivorous crustaceans that look like microminiaturized shrimp, head down deep and wait out the winter months in a hibernation-like state called diapause. A new study helps explain how they manage to stay down without constant swimming. Surprisingly, the trick is similar to the one sperm whales use when diving.
Copepods are abundant, calorie-packed morsels that numerous marine creatures depend on for food, so biologists are keenly interested in their survival strategies, especially diapause. During diapause, copepods gather in layers, generally between 500 and 3500 meters deep depending on the species, for 6 months at a stretch. They don't eat. They don't move. Their metabolism slows way down.
Yet after copepods gorge on diatoms at the surface all summer, their bodies can be half fat and presumably pretty buoyant. For decades, researchers have puzzled over how diapausing copepods manage to stay at depth without wasting calories swimming downward. After all, their lives depend on it. "If the animals can't maintain neutral buoyancy, then they burn up their energy really quickly, so they have to either reascend to the surface at the wrong time or they just die," says David Pond, lead author of the new paper, published this month in Limnology and Oceanography.
Pond, a biochemist, and Geraint Tarling, a zooplankton ecologist, both at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, U.K., collected Calanoides acutus copepods from various depths in the Southern Ocean. Analyzing the copepods' fat stores, the duo found that the deeper the animals had been caught, the more fat they tended to have and the richer the fat was in compounds called polyunsaturated wax esters. Moreover, lab tests showed that these wax esters had the peculiar property of changing from an oily liquid to a butterlike solid at temperatures and pressures that occur below 500 meters in the Southern Ocean.
Pond and Tarling think that, as summer ends and Antarctic copepods journey downward to enter diapause, their fat solidifies and becomes denser and thus less buoyant. Once they pass 500 meters, it functionally transforms from balloon to ballast. The descent ends at a depth where the copepod is neutrally buoyant, which depends on the composition of the fat it stored eating diatoms all summer..."
Astronomy Picture of the Day: Globular Cluster M15 from Hubble
|1:08:13 PM, Tuesday, June 28, 2011|
-- "Stars, like bees, swarm around the center of bright globular cluster M15. This ball of over 100,000 stars is a relic from the early years of our Galaxy, and continues to orbit the Milky Way's center. M15, one of about 150 globular clusters remaining, is noted for being easily visible with only binoculars, having at its center one of the densest concentrations of stars known, and containing a high abundance of variable stars and pulsars. This sharp image, taken by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope, spans about 120 light years. It shows the dramatic increase in density of stars toward the cluster's center. M15 lies about 35,000 light years away toward the constellation of the Winged Horse (Pegasus). Recent evidence indicates that a massive black hole might reside as the center of M15."
This Trimaran Must Really Be a Secret Alien Ship
|10:51:54 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011|
"I love sailboats. I despise yachts. But I can see myself zooming through the Mediterranean on board the 139-foot Adastra, a high speed trimaran that looks like an alien attack vessel. It isn't a fantasy prototype. It's very real.
It's being built in China right now for a Anto and Elaine Marden, a couple from Hong Kong. With a 16-metre long beam, this spaceship looks like a perfect place not just to fly through the oceans, but to live in. The ship can host nine people and a crew of five or six.
It's powered by a Caterpillar C18 in the main hull, a 1150hp, 2300 rpm engine. The two outer hulls hold Yanmar 110hp engines. They allow the Adastra to push a maximum speed of 22.5 knots. According to the designer's testing, it would be an exceptionally stable ship:
Extensive tank testing and radio controlled model tests in waves have been carried out to analyze stability and performance. Outrigger height has been optimized for ease of motion at sea, and a new outrigger shape has been developed to increase stability in waves.
But, apart from the design, the ship has other space-age qualities: A superstructure made of carbon fibre with Nomex honeycomb core and a hull made of a fibre-glass/Kevlar foam sandwich. Inside, everything is custom made to reduce weight. The oak cabinetry, for example, is built using honeycomb panels instead of solid wood..."
Iraq And Afghanistan War Debt Includes Steep Price Tag For Air Conditioning
|10:39:50 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011|
"This week, Beltway lawmakers have ramped up the efforts to negotiate the terms of how and when the nation's debt ceiling will be raised, with President Barack Obama reportedly stepping into the fray to bring about a deal. But once everyone has decided on how the debt ceiling will be renovated, will the stifling DC summer heat still make it uncomfortable to enter the "debt room" to marvel at the new "debt ceiling?" Perhaps we should relocate our debt to Iraq or Afghanistan, where a lot of it is going anyway and where we are at least spending a king's ransom on air conditioning. NPR's "All Things Considered" has the news:
The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2 billion.
That's more than NASA's budget. It's more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It's what the G-8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia.
"When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world -- escorting, command and control, medevac support -- when you throw all that infrastructure in, we're talking over $20 billion," Steven Anderson tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host Rachel Martin. Anderson is a retired brigadier general who served as Gen. David Patreaus' chief logistician in Iraq..."
-- I'd agree with the sentiment of the people that say leave the troops alone, but somehow I really doubt the troops spend much time just sitting around in air conditioned offices. They don't.
Japan Setting Out To Get Its Own GPS Off The Ground
|1:44:44 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011|
"Some GPS-related news. The Japanese government – with the the assistance of private firms – is ramping up research on a Japanese version of the Global Positioning System in a bid to turn satellite-based technologies into a key export, the Nikkei reports.
Plans are afoot to conduct joint reserach and development on this – nine firms and two organisations are slated to participate in a study group to be formed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry at the end of the month, with an aim to come up with new services in five years, the report says.
The venture will include companies such as NEC and Mitsubishi Electric Corp, which develop satellites or ground facilities, as well as those with a broad range of businesses, including transport systems, logistics and machinery.
Having launched a quasi-zenith positioning satellite last September, the addition of two or three more satellites will enable an around-the-clock service, though specific plans for the second satellite haven’t been drawn up yet. The Japanese satellite system is designed to supplement the GPS currently operated by the US, and is meant to cover the region, including that of Southeast Asia and Australia.
A domestic GPS would yield many benefits beyond just making and launching satellites – with a projection that the overall market will grow from around four trillion yen in 2008 to roughly 10 trillion yen in 2013, a wide range of infrastructure-related fields will stand to grow as well."
China Tests Beijing-Shanghai Bullet Train
|1:32:27 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011|
"The BBC's Martin Patience was on board the maiden voyage.
Engineers have conducted a test-run of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link, days before its public launch.
Officials, reporters and company bosses were on board for the 300 km/h (190mph) train's maiden voyage, which the government has promised will halve the journey time to under five hours.
China is planning to roll out high-speed lines across the country.
But the project has come under fire for its high cost - the Beijing-Shanghai line cost 215bn yuan ($33bn; £21bn).
And the government has earmarked a further 700bn yuan for the rest of the project, which would see 16,000km of track being laid by 2020.
Critics say the government has channelled too much money into high-speed lines, where the cost of tickets is out of reach of most Chinese workers.
In response, the government has announced lower ticket prices.
Tickets on the fast train range from 555 yuan for a second-class seat, to 1,750 yuan for business class.
He Huawu, the chief engineer of the Chinese Railway Ministry, said China was in a leading position in the industry worldwide..."
INCOMING! Asteroid to Narrowly Miss Earth on Monday
|1:18:20 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011|
"This may sound like late notice, but astronomers have just spotted a rather chunky asteroid heading our way, set to narrowly miss us on Monday.
In fact, it will be such a narrow miss that astronomers in the Southern Hemisphere should be able to spot the flyby with fairly modest telescopes.
Coincidentally, I was watching yet another re-run of Armageddon the other night when the heroic Bruce Willis and his motley crew of oil drillers-turned-astronauts saved Earth from certain asteroid doom. On arrival at the asteroid, and having sacrificed many of the team, Willis et al. succeeded in dropping a typical Hollywood-style uber-bomb into the depths of the incoming asteroid and blew it to bits, giving everyone on Earth a glitzy meteor shower.
I'm not so sure it will be really that easy to destroy an incoming asteroid (see my previous Discovery News article "How do we dodge the next incoming asteroid?") particularly given the 12 days notice they had in the film.
Yet we are forced to consider our delicate position when the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project discovered an asteroid called 2011 MD. It's heading our way, and we've only been given four days notice..."
Russian Women Prove It's Hip To Be A Babushka
|12:59:43 PM, Monday, June 27, 2011|
"In Russian culture, one iconic image is the elderly woman — in Russian, she's called a "babushka" — sitting on a roadside, selling vegetables from her garden.
One group of babushkas from the village of Buranovo, 600 miles east of Moscow, is blowing up that stereotype.
The dozen or so women — mostly in their 70s and 80s — have become a musical sensation, charming audiences across Russia. They sing Beatles tunes and songs by iconic Russian rocker Viktor Tsoi. They fly around the country for concerts. They made it to the Russian finals of the Eurovision music contest. And they have a Facebook page.
These women are sending a message loud and clear: It can be hip to be a babushka..."
After N.Y. Senate Vote, Governor Cuomo Signs Gay Marriage Bill To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage In New York
|1:51:41 AM, Saturday, June 25, 2011|
"Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.
The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate who supported the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.
With his position still undeclared, Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo who had sought office promising to oppose same-sex marriage, told his colleagues he had agonized for months before concluding he had been wrong.
“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, adding, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife.”
Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.
Passage of same-sex marriage here followed a daunting run of defeats in other states where voters barred same-sex marriage by legislative action, constitutional amendment or referendum. Just five states currently permit same-sex marriage: Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia..."
-- WOOT! Suck it Cali!!! ;)
Why Penguins Are Afraid of the Dark
|2:55:36 PM, Friday, June 24, 2011|
"Like daily commuters, Adélie and emperor penguins are up at dawn, catching krill and fish in Antarctic waters, and back home to shore at dusk. Yet the food they prefer to dine on is easiest to catch after dark. Most researchers assumed that penguins had poor nighttime vision, which was why they stayed out of the water after dusk.
But in a new study, two marine ecologists argue that the penguins actually have no trouble seeing in the dark. Instead, they say, penguins head for shore at night because they cannot gauge the risk of being eaten by leopard seals or killer whales. Even their migration patterns, when they move from some of the Southern Ocean's most productive waters into those that are marginal, are likely shaped by the fear of predators. "They would rather be hungry" than dead, says the study's lead author, David Ainley, a marine ecologist at H. T. Harvey and Associates, an ecological consulting firm in Los Gatos, California.
To show that the penguins can see in the dark, Ainley and his colleague, Grant Ballard, a marine ecologist at PRBO Conservation Science, a conservation organization in Petaluma, California, outfitted 65 adult Adélie penguins with time-depth recorders. The devices, which register depth and light every second, were taped to the lower back, so that they caused the least amount of drag. Data collected on nearly 22,000 of the birds' foraging dives showed that most were hunting prey at 50 to 100 meters below the surface, where the water is quite dark—akin to early night. The birds also made a significant number of dives into deeper, darker waters, where they can forage successfully.
Although the two researchers did not collect similar data on emperor penguins, other scientists have shown that these birds dive even deeper, into waters more than 500 meters below the surface. "At that depth, it's absolutely black," Ainley says..."
Is This the World's Smelliest Man? The Farm Worker Who Has Not Had a Wash in 37 years
|2:43:21 PM, Friday, June 24, 2011|
"It is not an achievement that can readily be savoured by his nearest and dearest.
But Kailash Singh has as good a claim as any to the accolade of world's smelliest man - after refusing to wash for more than 37 years.
Mr Singh, 65, has not bathed or cut his 6ft-long dreadlocks since 1974, shortly after he married.
Explaining his unconventional decision, Mr Singh claimed a priest guaranteed him a much-prized son and heir if he followed the advice.
Despite neighbours joking the sweaty farmer would be lucky persuade his wife to have any children at all, his religious guidance clearly failed - he has seven daughters.
Mr Singh spends his days tending cows in 47C heat, yet the only 'cleansing' he does allow himself is a 'fire bath' each evening, which involves smoking marijuana, praying to the Hindu Lord Shiva and dancing around a bonfire.
His long-suffering family admit they did once tried to force him into a stream..."
Would You Pay $100,000 for a Razor?
|1:22:03 PM, Friday, June 24, 2011|
"$100,000 can buy many things: a brand new sports car, a boat, or a ridiculously luxurious vacation, just to name a few. But if you already have a new Audi in your driveway, a yacht at the marina, and just got back from a trip around the world, perhaps you'd rather drop your cold hard cash on a limited edition iridium razor. The pricey item is crafted by Zafirro, a company which seems to have just one product in its lineup, and just 99 of the "Zafirro Iridium" razors will be made.
The handle of the razor is made entirely of iridium, an extremely scarce and expensive metal that is so dense it could survive a drop into molten lava. Most iridium that appears on Earth is the result of crashed meteorites. The blades of the beast are made from artificially grown sapphire, making them hypoallergenic, not to mention many orders of magnitude sharper than your average Bic. The company boasts a 10-year blade life, and backs it up with free sharpening for a decade if the razor ever dulls.
The Zafirro Iridium, while promising "generations" of enjoyable use, is clearly made for the millionaire who already has everything. The company says the upgrade from a traditional razor to the $100,000 model is like changing from a CB radio to an iPhone, but unless your morning shave takes place at the mouth of a volcano, we're not sure it's worth it."
Evolution to the Rescue: Species May Adapt Quickly to Rapid Environmental Change, Yeast Study Shows
|1:50:33 PM, Thursday, June 23, 2011|
"Evolution is usually thought to be a very slow process, something that happens over many generations, thanks to adaptive mutations. But environmental change due to things like climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, etc. is happening very fast. There are just two options for species of all kinds: either adapt to environmental change or become extinct.
So, according to McGill biology professor, Andrew Gonzalez, the question arises, "Can evolution happen quickly enough to help a species survive?" The answer, according to his most recent study, published in Science, is a resounding yes.
By using a long-armed robot working 24/7 over a period of several of months, McGill Professors Graham Bell and Gonzalez were able to track the fate of over 2000 populations of baker's yeast for many generations. Yeast was chosen for the experiment because a lot is known about the genetic makeup of this model organism and because it can reproduce in a matter of hours. Bell and Gonzalez used the robot to submit different yeast populations to varying degrees of environmental stress in the form of salt and so study evolutionary rescue, which is the ability of a population to adapt rapidly through evolution, in real time.
What they observed was that the likelihood of evolutionary rescue depended on the severity and rate of change of the environment and the degree of prior exposure of populations to the environmental stressor (salt). The degree of isolation from neighboring populations also affected the capacity of the yeast populations to adapt through the accumulation of beneficial mutations..."
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