Astronomy Picture of the Day: NGC 6914 Nebulae

11:55:56 PM, Friday, March 18, 2011

-- "A dramatic study in contrasts, this colorful skyscape features stars, dust, and glowing gas in NGC 6914. The complex of nebulae lies some 6,000 light-years away, toward the high-flying northern constellation Cygnus and the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. With foreground dust clouds in silhouette, both reddish hydrogen emission nebulae and dusty blue reflection nebulae fill the 1/2 degree wide field. The view spans nearly 50 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 6914. Ultraviolet radiation from the massive, hot, young stars of the extensive Cygnus OB2 association ionize the region's atomic hydrogen gas, producing the characteristic red glow as protons and electrons recombine. Embedded Cygnus OB2 stars also provide the blue starlight strongly reflected by the dusty clouds. Constructed as a two-panel mosaic, the image was processed to bring out both bright and dim colors and detailed structures."

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Mark Vanderloo for El Pais

11:41:41 PM, Friday, March 18, 2011
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Charlie Sheen Beats Sarah Palin in Presidential Poll

11:31:48 PM, Friday, March 18, 2011

"Tickets to Charlie Sheen's live shows are selling like crazy. He broke the speed record for acquiring Twitter followers. He's become a folk hero with fans. So why not Charlie Sheen for president!?

According to a new poll, independent voters say they favor Sheen over Sarah Palin by a 41/36 margin.

And it's not just independents who are supporting the tiger-blooded warlock. Democrats would support him by a 44-24 margin for president over Palin and Republicans would support him 37-28 over Obama.

The conclusion from Public Policy Polling.com: People may not have any respect for Sheen but they still think he'd be a better alternative than their opposing party's leading figure.

Notes our On Politics blog: This poll is particularly important independents because they're a crucial bloc needed for winning the White House.

And is everyone on board with a president who would have two goddesses as First Ladies?"

-- I would vote for Charlie Sheen before Palin too...

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Jessie J - Price Tag ft. B.o.B.

1:10:24 PM, Friday, March 18, 2011
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Inside Gadhafi’s Secret Underground Arsenal

4:27:47 PM, Thursday, March 17, 2011

"BENGHAZI, Libya — It took a while to get into the underground bunker. There were too many men in the way, hauling too many crates of machine guns, ammunition, and 30-year-old rockets. But eventually, there was a lull. I ducked past the steel-reinforced door to the bunker’s entrance and moved down the debris-laden concrete ramp — trying very, very hard not to disturb the dozens of weapons-bearers bringing their arms to the surface.

Below, the ramp opened into a large room supported by cement columns. The air was dense and the only light came from small air ducts near the ceiling. The cases sat piled wall-to-wall, just one of many arms caches hidden away by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But now the weapons are in the hands of his enemies here, a rebellious city of nearly 1 million people who, relatively unarmed, recently drove out Gadhafi’s special forces and mercenaries. Today, the rebels are preparing for further battle — and maybe even an attack on Gadhafi’s stronghold in Tripoli. But this time, they’ve got the weapons that the eccentric tyrant used to oppress his people for 41 years.

“We’ve found everything from bullets to rockets,” the man in the headlamp and blue spelunking jumpsuit said as he climbed out of a nearby hole that led into a small, concrete room. He led me to a manhole that descended around 50 feet to a tunnel not unlike a large sewer system. “There is a huge network of tunnels underneath us. A few friends went in two hours ago and they haven’t come out yet.” Gadhafi’s men torched the compound before they escaped in Land Rovers and through the secret tunnels.

The bunker and the tunnels form part of the Katiba, a vast, white-and green military and administrative complex from which Gadhafi could run the country. But only his inner circle and paid mercenaries were allowed inside. Until now..."

-- Closing some browser tabs I've saved open, so some of this is a bit old, but not very. Still very relevant.

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Lion Kittens!

11:21:32 AM, Thursday, March 17, 2011

-- Okay, they're not so much kittens as they're older lion cubs, but look at that love! Awwwww...

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How Hormone Puts a Kick in the Sperm's Tail

10:56:18 AM, Thursday, March 17, 2011

"It's exhausting being a sperm. Having made the long-distance swim up the fallopian tube, a sperm must then rev up its tail to propel itself through the thick jelly-like coating of the egg. The female hormone progesterone, released by the egg, prompts the tail to switch from a smooth swimming motion to a frantic flicking, but exactly how has been puzzling. Researchers have now shown that the hormone acts directly on a sperm surface protein, a discovery that may suggest new nonhormonal contraceptives.

For 10 years, researchers have suspected that progesterone, which the egg releases in huge quantities, is responsible for the asymmetrical, whiplike tail movements that give sperm enough torque to penetrate the ovum. Because sperm respond to progesterone within seconds, scientists reasoned that the hormone must bind to a surface protein and not one within the cells, which would take longer for the progesterone to reach.

In 2001, researchers hoped they had found the progesterone receptor when they discovered that infertile men and mice sometimes had mutations that disrupted a protein, called CatSper, which ferries calcium ions in and out of sperm. This so-called calcium channel is found exclusively within sperms' tails, but working out whether it responds to progesterone proved a thornier exercise than expected. Sperm are not easy cells to work with—for one thing, they don't stay still.

Now, two research teams have finally connected progesterone to CatSper by inserting a tiny electrode into individual sperm, a technique usually reserved for measuring the electrical signals in neurons. In independent studies appearing online in Nature today, the groups have documented the change in current inside a sperm as progesterone causes positively charged calcium ions to pass into the cell. And because a working ion channel produces a characteristic electrical fingerprint, the researchers were able to use their electrodes to demonstrate that CatSper was responsible for letting in the calcium..."

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The Known Universe by American Museum of Natural History

12:07:38 AM, Thursday, March 17, 2011

-- And this is based on a data that is dated! In December of '10 ALONE a new estimation proved that there are at least three times more stars in the universe that previously thought....

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Squirrel Attacking Residents of Vt. Neighborhood

8:05:43 PM, Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"BENNINGTON, Vt. – A Vermont neighborhood is being stalked by a renegade gray squirrel.

Several people in Bennington say they've been attacked by a squirrel over the last few weeks.

Kevin McDonald tells the Bennington Banner he was shoveling snow when the squirrel jumped onto him. He says he threw the animal off, but it twice jumped back onto him. A game warden says there have been other reports, too.

One woman is being treated for exposure to rabies, but Vermont Public Health Veterinarian Robert Johnson says there's never been a case of a squirrel passing rabies to a human.

Johnson says it's possible the squirrel was raised as a pet and lost its fear of humans. He says the squirrel might "go ballistic" when it encounters people it doesn't recognize."

-- Today, it's a squirrel terrorizing the neighborhood, tomorrow, it's a group of gang-affiliated kittens.

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Assface

7:12:18 PM, Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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Speed Demon Creates a Shock

11:57:51 AM, Wednesday, March 16, 2011

“Just as some drivers obey the speed limit while others treat every road as if it were the Autobahn, some stars move through space faster than others. NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, captured this image of the star Alpha Camelopardalis, or Alpha Cam, in astronomer-speak, speeding through the sky like a motorcyclist zipping through rush-hour traffic. The supergiant star Alpha Cam is the bright star in the middle of this image, surrounded on one side by an arc-shaped cloud of dust and gas -- a bow shock -- which is colored red in this infrared view.

Such fast-moving stars are called runaway stars. The distance and speed of Alpha Cam is somewhat uncertain. It is probably somewhere between 1,600 and 6,900 light-years away and moving at an astonishing rate of somewhere between 680 and 4,200 kilometers per second (between 1.5 and 9.4 million mph). It turns out that WISE is particularly adept at imaging bow shocks from runaway stars. Previous examples can be seen around Zeta Ophiuchi , AE Aurigae, and Menkhib. But Alpha Cam revs things up into a different gear. To put its speed into perspective, if Alpha Cam were a car driving across the United States at 4,200 kilometers per second, it would take less than one second to travel from San Francisco to New York City!

Astronomers believe runaway stars are set into motion either through the supernova explosion of a companion star or through gravitational interactions with other stars in a cluster. Because Alpha Cam is a supergiant star, it gives off a very strong wind. The speed of the wind is boosted in the forward direction the star is moving in space. When this fast-moving wind slams into the slower-moving interstellar material, a bow shock is created, similar to the wake in front of the bow of a ship in water. The stellar wind compresses the interstellar gas and dust, causing it to heat up and glow in infrared. Alpha Cam's bow shock cannot be seen in visible light, but WISE's infrared detectors show us the graceful arc of heated gas and dust around the star.

JPL manages and operates the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. “

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Nuclear Powerhouse: Now Is The Time For The Next Atomic Boom

10:35:39 PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

“France’s most powerful businesswoman believes now is the time for the next atomic boom.

The Middle East is in turmoil, oil prices have skyrocketed, the cost of gas is through the roof. All of which is good news—if you’re Anne Lauvergeon.

Lauvergeon may be the world’s most effective proselytizer for nuclear energy. “Atomic Anne,” as she’s known, heads France’s Areva, the largest builder of nuclear reactors on the planet. The 51-year-old executive, a perennial member of the Forbesmost-powerful-women list (recently outranking Melinda Gates, Meg Whitman, and Queen Elizabeth, though trailing Lady Gaga), has been the guiding force behind her country’s massive push into nuclear energy, which today fuels 75 percent of all its electricity. And now, she believes, nuclear’s next big global moment has arrived. “The cheap price of oil and gas is over for the future,” she tells NEWSWEEK. “Nuclear isn’t the only solution, but it is part of the solution.”

The world may still need convincing.

While a handful of countries rely primarily on nuclear power—tiny Lithuania is 85 percent nuclear—resistance remains strong elsewhere. In the U.S., which is just 20 percent nuclear-powered, President Obama has championed it as a way to wean the country off fossil fuels, devoting $36 billion of his latest budget to nuclear projects. But despite somewhat successful efforts to rebrand nuclear as a clean-energy source, the industry hasn’t fully outgrown the stigma of the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster.

If Lauvergeon is correct that now is a turning point, the timing couldn’t be better for her. The hard-charging CEO has morphed from a media darling in her home country (“You can’t fire me. I am an icon in this country,” she reportedly told a minister who criticized her) to an embattled titan, following missteps that included the loss of a $40 billion nuclear project in Abu Dhabi. She has until June, when her current mandate expires, to turn things around—or she will be removed from the government-controlled Areva by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been a major supporter but appears to have soured on her. “We have transformed this company,” she says in her defense, pointing to major expansion into the U.S., China, Japan, India, and the Middle East…”

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'Mario' - Live Action Film Trailer

3:48:59 PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

-- Incontestably the best movie to come out this year. Brilliance.

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Mushroom Cloud Play/Tree House

1:42:04 PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

-- ""We experience a contradiction between what our eyes enjoy and what our mind knows."- Dietrich Wegner

At first glance, this happy-go-lucky playhouse could look like any child's dream. But then, the shape reminds us of a mushroom cloud and we're left feeling a little uneasy...

"In Playhouse, I combine an atomic bomb’s mushroom cloud, with one of the safest places one can go, their childhood playhouse," artist Dietrich Wegner tells us. "The playhouse is a place of escape, imagination, and comfort. Often we have used bombs to preserve our playhouse, causing us to be stuck in limbo, between comfort and fear. I question how mindful we are of the consequences of our actions. I search for images that articulate the confusion between the intentions, outcomes and ideals of my nation, while focusing on the spaces between beauty, fantasy, and reality.

"I make my statement from confusion with what I see around me. I want to make images that help me think around my world, so I can, in the end, know what I see a little better. I hope my work helps people think about our collective fears, our innocence and the decisions we make to be safe. My hope is that we climb above our terror enough to think about the reality and consequences of our actions."

When asked what kind of reaction Playhouse has received, here's what Wegner said. "Unfortunately, at least judging from blog reactions to Playhouse , people just seem to think it is cool fun and cozy and I am not sure internet viewers get farther than that.""

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China’s Highly Unequal Economy

1:35:06 PM, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Double-digit growth can’t hide the fact that China’s state-controlled economy is leaving the vast majority of citizens behind.

During a round table with business leaders during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States in January, US President Barack Obama stated optimistically that ‘With China’s growing middle class, I believe that over the coming years, we can more than double our exports to China and create more jobs here in the United States.’ To be sure, that is a reasonable expectation. When other Asian economies like Japan and Korea grew toward the GDP per capita level of $10,000, sizable middle class populations did indeed emerge.

However, when looking under the bonnet at China’s economic engine, it’s clear that a growing middle class with rising disposable income and consumption is missing. Instead, there’s an economy that is still dominated by state owned firms and state-led investment, as well as by rapidly rising inequality. Instead of an enlarging urban middle class, China is increasingly splitting into a small upper class that spends freely on luxury goods, and a remaining population whose earnings and savings are eroded by inflation and state confiscation.

The underlying dynamics are clear in a recent statistical release by the government. First, real urban disposable income rose a comparatively tepid 7.8 percent in 2010, despite economic growth of nearly 10 percent. However, urban retail sales of consumer goods grew 14.5 percent. While the growth of consumption is good for China's economy, the pattern of this growth suggests rising inequality.

The biggest growth in consumption included jewellery (46 percent), furniture (37 percent), cars (34 percent) and construction material (34 percent). Essentially, these are items related to the spending of the upper class. These ‘consumer’ goods also made up 33 percent of all retail consumption in China. The large size and strong growth in luxury items implies that grey income was substantial in 2010, as suggested by a Credit Swiss report authored by Prof. Wang Xiaolu.

In this report, released last year and based on a survey of urban households in 2009, Wang found nearly 1.5 trillion dollars in grey income unreported in the official household income numbers. He further found that over 60 percent of this grey income accrued to the top 10 percent of households. The latest numbers also suggest that while income of normal households likely grew at around 8 percent, the top 10 percent of households may have seen income growth above 25 percent.

A growing middle class is also absent among recent college graduates. According to the Ministry of Education, only 68 percent of college graduates in 2010 were able to find permanent employment. Even among those who found employment, wages were often no better or sometimes even worse than those for migrant workers in factories. Unlike the rest of the world, however, China enjoyed a spectacular 10 percent growth rate. This impressive growth, however, didn’t translate to high paying jobs for college graduates. In major cities, many college graduates live as an ‘ant tribe,’ packed tightly in small dormitory rooms with four or more roommates..."

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