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Photos of Japan After the Massive 8.9-Magnitude Earthquake
|2:02:24 PM, Friday, March 11, 2011|
-- Heart-breaking images that show the destruction and the immensity of the flooding… It'll take a while for that whole part of the world to recover from this one, I hope the world can come together and speed up that process and not have politics and greed interfere.
Space Shuttle Discovery STS-131
|12:36:17 PM, Thursday, March 10, 2011|
-- Beautiful. STS-131, if you're interested.
Humans, Version 3.0
|10:46:02 AM, Thursday, March 10, 2011|
“Where are we humans going, as a species? If science fiction is any guide, we will genetically evolve like in X-Men, become genetically engineered as in Gattaca, or become cybernetically enhanced like General Grievous in Star Wars.All of these may well be part of the story of our future, but I’m not holding my breath. The first of these—natural selection—is impracticably slow, and there’s a plausible case to be made that naturalselection has all but stopped acting on us.Genetic engineering could engender marked changes in us, but it requires a scientific bridge between genotypes—an organism’s genetic blueprints—and phenotypes, which are the organisms themselves and their suite of abilities. A sufficiently sophisticated bridge between these extremes is nowhere in sight.
And machine-enhancement is part of our world even today, manifesting in the smartphones and desktop computers most of us rely on each day. Such devices will continue to further empower us in the future, but serious hardware additions to our brains will not be forthcoming until we figure out how to build human-level artificial intelligences (and meld them to our neurons), something that will require cracking the mind’s deepest mysteries. I have argued that we’re centuries or more away from that.Simply put, none of these scenarios are plausible for the immediate future. If there issomething next, some imminently arriving transformative development for human capabilities, then the key will not be improved genes or cortical plug-ins. But what other way forward could humans possibly have? With genetic and cyborg enhancement off the table for many years, it would seem we are presently stuck as-is, sans upgrades.
There is, however, another avenue for human evolution, one mostly unappreciated in both science and fiction. It is this unheralded mechanism that will usher in the next stage of human, giving future people exquisite powers we do not currently possess, powers worthy of natural selection itself. And, importantly, it doesn’t require us to transform into cyborgs or bio-engineered lab rats. It merely relies on our natural bodies and brains functioning as they have for millions of years.
This mystery mechanism of human transformation is neuronal recycling, coined by neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, wherein the brain’s innate capabilities are harnessed for altogether novel functions…”
A Seriously Jaw-Dropping Close-Up Photo Of The Sun
|1:05:29 AM, Thursday, March 10, 2011|
-- "This picture was taken by Alan Friedman...
...Alan used a filter that lets through only a very narrow wavelength of light emitted by hydrogen (called Hα for those of you keeping track at home), so this tracks the activity of gas on the solar surface. He also inverts the image of the solar disk (makes it a negative) to increase contrast. Somehow this adds a three-dimensional quality to the picture, and reveals an amazing amount of texture. I swear I had a rug in my bedroom growing up that was this texture (though somewhat cooler and less burny).
The scene-stealer is that detached prominence off to the left. That’s the leftover material ejected from the Sun by an erupting sunspot (you can see other sunspots in the picture as well). The gas is ionized — a plasma — and so it’s affected by magnetic fields. The material follows the magnetic field of the Sun in the explosion, lifting it off the surface and into space. Sometimes it falls back, and sometimes it leaves the Sun entirely. In this case, Alan caught some of the material at what looks like the top of its trajectory.
The beauty of this picture belies its violence and sheer magnitude: the mass of material in a prominence can easily top 10 billion tons! As for size, see that dark elongated sunspot near the base of the prominence, just to the right of the bigger, speckly one? That spot is roughly twice the size of the Earth...
...Making this even more amazing, these images are taken with a 90mm telescope — that’s a lens not even 4 inches across! Superior optics, a good mount, and a steady hand can do wonders.
Prisoners Help Build Patriot Missiles
|12:59:26 AM, Thursday, March 10, 2011|
"This spring, the United Arab Emirates is expected to close a deal for $7 billion dollars’ worth of American arms. Nearly half of the cash will be spent on Patriot missiles, which cost as much as $5.9 million apiece.
But what makes those eye-popping sums even more shocking is that some of the workers manufacturing parts for those Patriot missiles are prisoners, earning as little as 23 cents an hour. (Credit Justin Rohrlich with the catch.)
The work is done by Unicor, previously known as Federal Prison Industries. It’s a government-owned corporation, established during the Depression, that employs about 20,000 inmates in 70 prisons to make everything from clothing to office furniture to solar panels to military electronics.
One of the company’s high-tech specialties: Patriot missile parts. “UNICOR/FPI supplies numerous electronic components and services for guided missiles, including the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile,” Unicor’s website explains. “We assemble and distribute the Intermediate Frequency Processor (IFP) for the PAC-3s seeker. The IFP receives and filters radio-frequency signals that guide the missile toward its target.”
The missiles are then marketed worldwide — sometimes by Washington’s top officials. Last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pitched the Patriots to the Turkish government last year, a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reveals: “SecDef stressed that ‘nothing can compete with the PAC-3 when it comes to capabilities.’”
Patriot assemblers Raytheon and Lockheed Martin aren’t the only defense contractors relying on prison help. As Rohrlich notes, Unicor “inmates also make cable assemblies for the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F-15, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, Bell/Textron’s Cobra helicopter, as well as electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder.”
Unicor used to make helmets for the military, as well. But that work was suspended when 44,000 helmets were recalled for shoddy quality..."
Space Shuttle Discovery Landed Today, Ending Its Flying Career
|12:43:13 PM, Wednesday, March 09, 2011|
as the world's most flown spaceship Wednesday, returning from orbit for the last time and taking off in a new direction as a museum piece.
NASA's oldest shuttle swooped through a mostly clear noontime sky to a touchdown at its home base.
"To the ship that has led the way time and time again, we say, 'Farewell Discovery,'" radioed the Mission Control commentator.
Florida's spaceport was packed with shuttle program workers, journalists and even some schoolchildren eager to see history in the making.
The six astronauts on board went through their landing checklists with the bittersweet realization no one would ever ride Discovery again. They said during their 13-day space station delivery mission that they expected that to hit them hard when the shuttle came to a stop on the runway.
At three minutes before noon Eastern Time — Discovery landed and ceased being a reusable rocketship.
"For the final time: wheels stop," Discovery's commander Steven Lindsey called out as the shuttle rolled to a stop.
Even after shuttles Endeavour and Atlantis make their final voyages in the coming months, Discovery will still hold the all-time record with 39 missions, 148 million miles, 5,830 orbits of Earth, and 365 days spent in space. All that was achieved in under 27 years.
Discovery now leads the way to retirement as NASA winds down the 30-year shuttle program in favor of interplanetary travel.
NASA estimates it will take several months of work — removing the three main engines and draining all hazardous fuels — before Discovery is ready to head to the Smithsonian Institution. It will make the 750-mile journey strapped to the top of a jumbo jet.
Throughout the flight, Lindsey and his crew marveled at how well Discovery was performing. They noted that the spacecraft was going into retirement still "at the top of her game."
"A dream machine," observed Lindsey's co-pilot, Eric Boe, on the eve of landing.
Discovery's last mission ended up being flawless despite a four-month grounding for fuel tank repairs.
Perhaps more than any other shuttle, Discovery consistently delivered..."
-- I support retiring the shuttles. I do not support not having a replacement... This is very bittersweet, disillusioning really. =(
The photo is of Space Shuttle Discovery catching a ride by Lori Losey NASA, August 19, 2005.
Mount Roraima, Venezuela
|12:04:25 PM, Wednesday, March 09, 2011|
A Homeless City in the Woods
|12:33:51 AM, Wednesday, March 09, 2011|
"A crusading minister has built a forested Utopia for the itinerant and destitute. But is a social experiment what they’re looking for, or just a place to live?
The shower is a thing of beauty. Stainless-steel well point buried twenty feet below a cast-iron hand pump connected by gutter pipe to a 55-gallon drum draining through a garden hose into a propane-fueled heater hooked to an electric pump hooked to a car battery hooked to a gas generator. Flick a switch, turn a valve, and voilà: a hot shower in the woods.
Roughly three hundred feet down a rutted dirt road, in a dappled expanse of scrub pine and oak on the outskirts of Lakewood, New Jersey, about 40 men and women have made for themselves a provisional home. Dozens of tents sprawl across several acres. In addition to the shower, there is an outhouse tent with a flushable toilet pilfered from an old RV. There’s a kitchen trailer with a working range. There’s a community tent with turquoise leatherette sofas, and a washer and dryer that, when connected to the generator and filled with collected rainwater, operate as a de facto laundromat. There’s a chicken coop and a vegetable garden. There was even once a goat named Molly, passed off to a local farm because no one could stomach the taste of her milk.
The camp looks something like the scene of an extended hunting trip, but it is in fact a homeless encampment—possibly the largest in the tri-state area, not that any governmental body has bothered to keep track. Some call it Cedar Bridge, after the nearest paved road.
At night, its residents gather around campfires telling Tales of My Homelessness. Some begin with a release from jail, others with a failed business, a failed marriage, a failed drug test, or a failed ability to deal with the daily grind of a nine-to-five. Michael’s story began in New York City, where his work as a union electrician dwindled with the Dow.
“I was working with my landlord. I would send him 500 bucks, 300 bucks. Then finally I got a summons to appear in court.”
“Don’t you just love that?” asks Mary Beth, who is playing hostess tonight outside her low polyester tent.
“Three days later, I’m walking up to the apartment, I see the doorknob is different. There’s a sticker on the door: NO TRESPASSING. TENANT HAS BEEN EVICTED. Well, I managed to salvage what I wanted.”
Mary Beth nods in understanding. “I had the same thing happen, but I made sure I kept the windows unlocked, and I crawled through at night.” This was after she had been fired from Wal-Mart in what she believes to be a systematic effort to rid the company of full-time employees. “Wal-Mart sucks.” Her first night at the camp, listening to all the unknown noises of the forest, she was petrified. The next day she met Big Gerry, who had lost his house and his wife after his fitness center failed. She moved into his tent that night..."
-- Follow the link for a 31 photo slide-show even if you don't plan on reading.
Astronomy Picture of the Day: NGC 4449, Close-up of a Small Galaxy
|5:15:03 PM, Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
-- "Grand spiral galaxies often seem to get all the glory. Their young, blue star clusters and pink star forming regions along sweeping spiral arms are guaranteed to attract attention. But small irregular galaxies form stars too, like NGC 4449, about 12 million light-years distant. Less than 20,000 light-years across, the small island universe is similar in size, and often compared to our Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). This remarkable Hubble Space Telescope close-up of the well-studied galaxy was reprocessed to highlight the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen gas. The glow traces NGC 4449's widespread star forming regions, some even larger than those in the LMC, with enormous interstellar arcs and bubbles blown by short-lived, massive stars. NGC 4449 is a member of a group of galaxies found in the constellation Canes Venatici. Interactions with the nearby galaxies are thought to have influenced star formation in NGC 4449."
Le Journal - Block CLXXIX by Julien Coquentin
|3:06:37 PM, Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
-- Reminded me of "The Road", if you've read the book, or seen the movie. Also very Matrix/Gotham-esque.
The Atlantic - In Focus: Afghanistan, February 2011 (38 Photos)
|2:04:45 PM, Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
"Earlier this month, the U.S. military began a withdrawal from the Pech Valley in eastern Afghanistan, a narrow canyon where U.S. forces have been battling insurgents for the past 8 years. American officials say the reason for the withdrawal is to be able to refocus its efforts on providing security to the Afghan capital, Kabul. More than 100 American soldiers have died in the Pech Valley since 2003. Across Afghanistan, 34 NATO personnel were killed this month, bringing the total to 60 deaths so far this year. Civilian casualties have been much higher than usual recently, as both insurgent attacks and NATO raids have reportedly killed scores of Afghan citizens across the country. As NATO forces prepare for warmer weather and anticipate more fighting, President Hamid Karzai now claims to be in talks with the United States about the possible establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in his country. Collected here are images of Afghanistan and the continued conflict there during the month of February."
'Slow Loris' Loves His Tiny Umbrella
|1:39:15 PM, Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
Obama To Restart Guantanamo Bay Trials
|12:29:54 PM, Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
"President Barack Obama reversed course Monday and ordered a resumption of military trials for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, making his once ironclad promise to close the isolated prison look even more distant.
Guantanamo has been a major political and national security headache for the president since he took office promising to close the prison within a year, a deadline that came and went without him ever setting a new one.
Obama made the change with clear reluctance, bowing to the reality that Congress' vehement opposition to trying detainees on U.S. soil leaves them nowhere else to go. The president emphasized his preference for trials in federal civilian courts, and his administration blamed congressional meddling for closing off that avenue.
"I strongly believe that the American system of justice is a key part of our arsenal in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates, and we will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system – including (federal) courts – to ensure that our security and our values are strengthened," Obama said in a statement.
"Going forward, all branches of government have a responsibility to come together to forge a strong and durable approach to defend our nation and the values that define who we are as a nation."
The first Guantanamo trial likely to proceed under Obama's new order would involve Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Al-Nashiri, a Saudi of Yemeni descent, has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2006.
Defense officials have said that of around 170 detainees at Guantanamo, about 80 are expected to face trial by military commission.
On Monday, the White House reiterated that the administration remains committed to eventually closing Guantanamo – which is on a U.S. Navy base – and that Monday's actions were in pursuit of that goal..."
-- Change we can't believe in.
Yin - Yang - Do Not Care
|12:43:08 AM, Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
-- The clip is quite a bit WTF reaction inducing, but awesomeness.. haha...
Subway Restaurants Now Outnumber McDonald's
|12:17:52 AM, Tuesday, March 08, 2011|
“It's official: the Subway sandwich chain has surpassed McDonald's Corp. as the world's largest restaurant chain, in terms of units.
At the end of last year, Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide, compared to McDonald's 32,737. The burger giant disclosed its year-end store count in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late last month.
The race for global dominance is an important one for an industry that's mostly saturated in the U.S. High unemployment and economic uncertainty have battered the restaurant industry in the U.S., and chains are increasingly looking overseas for growth, particularly in Asia.
Starbucks Corp. recently said it plans to triple its number of outlets in China, for example. Dunkin' Brands Inc., parent of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, plans to open thousands of new outlets in China in coming years as well as its first stores in Vietnam in the next 18 months. Subway just opened its 1,000th location in Asia, including its first in Vietnam.
Subway, which opened its first international restaurant in 1984, in Bahrain, expects its number of international restaurants to exceed its domestic ones by 2020, says Don Fertman, Subway's Chief Development Officer. The chain currently has just over 24,000 restaurants in the U.S., where it generated $10.5 billion of its $15.2 billion in revenue last year.
The closely held company, owned by Doctor's Associates Inc., does not disclose its profits.
McDonald's is still the leader when it comes to sales. The burger chain reported $24 billion in revenue last year. "We remain focused on listening to and serving our customers, and are committed to being better, not just bigger," a McDonald's spokeswoman says…”
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