Image used by permission. Copyright 2010 by Indigogrrl, all rights reserved.
Good morning Conflucians! It’s cold in Virginia and there’s a lot of snow on the ground. The weather had been teasing us into thinking it was spring already with flowers and trees budding. And now this. Thanks to Indigogrrl for the use of her barn again. Just spectacular. Below is some of the weeks news plus a few new bits here and there. Please chime in with any news you’re seeing.
On with a bit of random News
The tragedy in Haiti continues. There are some recent issues with the airlift efforts:
A senior US medic told the BBC that scores of patients could die if they did not get treatment in the US soon.
The US military stopped the flights to Florida on Wednesday.
A White House spokesman told the BBC the move was due to “logistical issues”, not over medical costs as had been reported earlier.
JD Salinger dies:
J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died on Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.
Catcher in the Rye had a big impact on me as a kid. He had me with the first line in the book:
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
In a hopeful bit of news, a step towards making fusion based energy looks brighter with a laser based test.
The controlled fusion of atoms – creating conditions like those in our Sun – has long been touted as a possible revolutionary energy source.
However, there have been doubts about the use of powerful lasers for fusion energy because the “plasma” they create could interrupt the fusion.
An article in Science showed the plasma is far less of a problem than expected.
The report is based on the first experiments from the National Ignition Facility (Nif) in the US that used all 192 of its laser beams.
In the approach Nif takes, called inertial confinement fusion, the target is a centimetre-scale cylinder of gold called a hohlraum.
Crucially, the recent experiments provided proof that the plasma did not reduce the hohlraum’s ability to absorb the incident laser light; it absorbed about 95%.
But more than that, Dr Glenzer’s team discovered that the plasma can actually be carefully manipulated to increase the uniformity of the compression.
“For the first time ever in the 50-year journey of laser fusion, these laser-plasma interactions have been shown to be less of a problem than predicted, not more,” said Mike Dunne, director of the UK’s Central Laser Facility and leader of the European laser fusion effort known as HiPER.
Adding momentum to the ignition quest, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced on Wednesday that, since the Science results were first obtained, the pulse energy record had been smashed again.
They now report an energy of one megajoule on target – 50% higher than the amount reported in Science.
In related news, there is another line of work using levitating magnets for clean energy, also based on fusion:
A new experiment that reproduces the magnetic fields of the Earth and other planets has yielded its first significant results. The findings confirm that its unique approach has some potential to be developed as a new way of creating a power-producing plant based on nuclear fusion — the process that generates the sun’s prodigious output of energy.
U.S. citizen to be put on CIA hit list
No U.S. citizen has ever been on the CIA’s target list, which mainly names Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, according to current and former U.S. officials. But that is expected to change as CIA analysts compile a case against a Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico but now resides in Yemen.
China threatens sanctions against us for Taiwan arms sales.
According to Henry Paulson, apparently Russia was being very naughty
Russia urged China to dump its Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds in 2008 in a bid to force a bailout of the largest U.S. mortgage-finance companies, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said.
Paulson learned of the “disruptive scheme” while attending the Beijing Summer Olympics, according to his memoir, “On The Brink.”
Also in the news, the president speech-ified and gave the SOTU and then talked to some Republicans. Consistent with his well documented track record to date, he said some words that signified nothing. But some people peed their pants, witnessed the rapture, and were taken up to heaven. Or so it seems from reading the Obot blogs. And we learned after the speech that Chris Matthews is a full blown racist. Though funnily enough MSNBC didn’t care. Perhaps the tingle was back, going up his leg, and who knows where, and that’s what made him forget the thing Chris is most obsessed about. To me this was all a big fumble. But then I didn’t expect any better.
And just when you thought it was safe out there, apparently police are now using prayer to fight crime. I keep calling for Scotty to beam me up, but nothing happens.
There are a pile of news shows today. They are on way too early to start drinking, so I’ll have to miss them. Don’t even try to watch those sober people.
We discussed the new iPad this week. A fascinating outcome is that apparently eBook wars have begun now with Amazon launching the first salvo by deleting Macmillan books from their store.
The problem publishers have with Amazon is two-fold: Amazon’s overwhelming marketshare in ebooks (because that leads to more control for Amazon, and less for them) and the establishment of $9.99 as the price of a book, which publishers feel cheapens the value of books. (Hardcover bestsellers go for up to $30, after all.)
Sounds like the usual large market share owner, i.e., near monopoly, not liking new competition coming in. Amazon is trying to flex their muscles. Come on guys, play nice.
And while we’re talking about eBooks, just a reminder that there over 100,000 free books available online. Mostly books past their copyright term, but some newer books that have been offered for free. Among many free libraries available, a favorite of mine is Project Gutenberg. Reading is fundamental.
Serena Williams wins the Australian Open. And what’s amazing about it is that she catches Billy Jean King with now 12 grand slam titles. Congrats Serena!
As we saw last week amid all the fumbles and interceptions with such a painfully close game between the Vikings and the Saints, football is closing up shop for the season soon. Next week will be the Superbowl between the Indiana Colts and the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have never been and it would certainly be a great thing for them to win. But alas the Colts are the favorites. Perhaps it’s just an excuse to have an indoor picnic. Place your bets soon.
The winter olympics will be starting in two weeks. Thanks to SoD for this link to a nice gallery of the top 15 winter olympic moments. Opening ceremony will be February 12th. Here’s the Vancouver schedule and the NBC schedule.
Grammys are tonight. Taylor Swift is favored to win big. Maybe Jay Leno will interrupt her speech and take her spot this time.
Apparently aliens may no longer be able to hear us. Yes, you heard that right. Because we’re all moving to digital and mostly wired communications (cable, DSL, etc.), we just not broadcasting over the air like we used to.
At a special meeting on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti), the US astronomer Frank Drake – who has been seeking radio signals from alien civilisations for almost 50 years – told scientists that earthlings were making it less likely they would be heard in space.
Tell us what’s newsy in your neck of the woods.
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