Archive for August, 2011

Swedish Man Caught Trying to Split Atoms at Home

August 4, 2011

Here is another, stranger story from Yahoo News. It seems that one Richard Handl of Stockholm has a keen interest in nuclear physics. I suppose he could have gone to college, majored in physics and eventually found work in a laboratory somewhere. Or, he could skip all of that and build a nuclear reactor in his home.

Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.

Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden’s Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

“I have always been interested in physics and chemistry,” Handl said, adding he just wanted to “see if it’s possible to split atoms at home.”

The police raid took place in late July, but police have refused to comment. If convicted, Handl could face fines or up to two years in prison.

Although he says police didn’t detect dangerous levels of radiation in his apartment, he now acknowledges the project wasn’t such a good idea.

“From now on, I will stick to the theory,” he said.

I wonder where he got the uranium, radium, and americium. You can’t exactly find radioactive materials at your local shopping center. Radium is highly radioactive and americium is not found in nature and is therefore very rare. The article states that Mr. Handl kept a blog describing his experiments but I can’t seem to locate it.

In any case, if Richard Hardl needs a job, after he gets out of jail, I am sure he can find work in North Korea or Iran.

Earth Once Had Two Moons

August 4, 2011
Artist's depiction of the giant impact that is...

Image via Wikipedia

From Yahoo News. This is an interesting article. Some astronomers are speculating that the reason that the two sides of the Moon, facing and away from Earth, are so different is that long ago Earth actually had two moons which collided to form the present day satellite.

A tiny second moon may once have orbited Earth before catastrophically slamming into the other one, a titanic clash that could explain why the two sides of the surviving lunar satellite are so different from each other, a new study suggests.

The second moon around Earth would have been about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) wide and could have formed from the same collision between the planet and a Mars-sized object that scientists suspect helped create the moon we see in the sky today, astronomers said.

The moon’s far side is very different than its near side.

For instance, widespread plains of volcanic rock called “maria” (Latin for seas) cover much of the near hemisphere, but only a few maria are seen on the far one. In addition, while the surface of the near side is mostly low and flat, the far side is often high and mountainous, with the lunar surface elevated 1.2 miles (1.9 km) higher on average on the far side.

Now computer simulations hint a second moon essentially pancaked itself against its larger companion, broadly explaining the differences seen between the near and far sides.

Their calculations suggest this second moon would have formed at the same time as our moon. Scientists have suggested that our moon was born from massive amounts of debris left over from a giant impact Earth suffered from a Mars-size body early on in the history of the solar system. Spare rubble might also have coalesced into another companion moon, one just 4 percent its mass and about 750 miles wide, or one-third of our moon’s diameter.

I assume that by 750 miles wide they mean the object’s diameter was 750 miles, in comparison the Moon’s diameter is about 2160 miles. This second moon, then, was fairly small. It still would have been an amazing sight to see two moons in the sky, though I don’t know what effect that would have on the tides.

At any rate, it would seem that the second moon’s orbit was not stable so the two moons collided.

To imagine where this other moon once was, picture the Earth and the moon as being two points in a triangle whose sides are equal in length.

The other point of such a triangle is known as a Trojan point, or a Lagrangian point, named after the mathematician who discovered them. At such a point, the gravitational attraction of the Earth and moon essentially balances out, meaning objects there can stay relatively stably. The Earth and moon have two Trojan points, one leading ahead of the moon, known as the L-4 point of the system, and one trailing behind, its L-5 point.

The researchers computed that this second moon could have stayed at a Trojan point for tens of millions of years. Eventually, however, this Trojan moon‘s orbit would have destabilized once our moon’s orbit expanded far enough away from Earth.

The resulting collision would have been relatively slow at 4,500 to 6,700 miles per hour (7,200 to 10,800 kph), leading its matter to splatter itself across our moon as a thick extra layer of solid crust tens of miles thick instead of forming a crater.

Of course, this is all speculation and computer simulation. We are going to have to go back to the Moon and see what we can find.

Happy Birthday Mr. President

August 4, 2011

Today Barack Obama turns fifty. Although I do not care for the man or his policies, I hope all Americans can wish him a happy birthday.

You can sign his card here, but then they will ask to contribute to his re-election campaign.

 

Debt Deal Winners

August 3, 2011

I am still not certain who has come out ahead in the debt ceiling deal. Michael Barone seems to think that the Republicans go the better of the deal. In his latest column, courtesy of Human Events, he explains that the Republicans win when the debate is over spending cuts.

First of all, the liberals seem to be a whole lot angrier over the deal.

Democrats seem especially unhappy. They could have avoided the fight in the first place by raising the debt ceiling in the lame duck session in December, when they had large majorities in both houses of Congress.

But they decided not to. Reid’s comments then suggested that he expected the issue to split the House Republicans, pitting the leadership against the 87 Tea Party-sympathizing freshmen. The leaders would have to agree to a tax increase in order to get a deal, with a party schism like the one that followed George H.W. Bush’s agreement to a tax increase in 1990.

That didn’t happen. Instead Reid abandoned his demand for a tax increase. The reason, I think, is that he hasn’t had a 50-vote majority for a tax increase in the Senate, just as Senate Democrats haven’t been able to pass a budget.

All of which left Barack Obama looking somewhat ridiculous when he called for more taxes in his televised speech Monday night. When you’re trying to show you’re leading and your followers have already gone off in another direction, you tend to look like something other than a leader.

Some Democrats, in frustration, have said House Republicans are acting “almost like a dictatorship” or are using “terrorist tactics.” But in opposing tax increases, House Republicans are just being true to the voters who gave them in November 2010 a larger majority than they have won since 1946.

Other Democrats have taken to blaming Obama. Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, decries an empty bully pulpit. Paul Krugman​, the trade economist who writes partisan vitriol for The New York Times, talks about a centrist copout.

That’s what they get for being too clever. Here is the point of the column.

All of which weakens Boehner’s bargaining position and may mean a final bill less tilted to Republican demands. But, as many Democrats note, the battle is being fought over how much spending to cut, which means that Republicans are winning. The question is just how much.

Democrats went into this fight with a precedent in mind, the budget fight between President Clinton​ and Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995-96. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton won that fight and Republicans lost.

That’s not quite right: After shifting to noticeably more moderate policies, Clinton was re-elected in 1996, but Republicans lost few House seats and held onto their congressional majorities at the same time.

The difference this time is that Obama has not shifted policies noticeably, but instead has seemed to position himself as a complainer on the sidelines, asking voters to call their congressman. He has presented no specific plan of his own. His chief of staff reports that he hasn’t spoken at all to Boehner lately.

One major difference which Barone neglects to mention is the simply fact that with the loss of their monopoly over the news media, the Liberals are no longer able to completely control the narrative. Back in Clinton’s day, before Fox, the Internet, and when Conservative talk radio was just beginning to get big, Clinton enjoyed the advantage of being able to fight almost entirely on his own terms. If the media slammed the Republicans for being extreme and stubborn, there was really only Rush Limbaugh to tell the other side. Now, of course, Obama does not have that advantage and the fight is more equal.

I think that on the whole the republicans did get the better of the deal. It’s no where near enough to avert eventual catastrophe but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Apocalypse Averted For Now

August 2, 2011

I see that the deal to raise the debt ceiling has passed. I can’t comment on it because I don’t know the details. I’ve been working. I do know that this deal is far from perfect. I would have preferred not raising the debt ceiling at all. At some point we have got to realize that we cannot continue to borrow 5 billion dollars every business day.

Norman Borlaug

August 1, 2011
Dr. Norman Borlaug

Here I want to bring a little bit of attention to the greatest hero that you have never heard of, Norman Borlaug. What did he do that was so great. He only saved about a billion people from starvation. I know that is not quite as important as the latest celebrity antics but I think he deserves more recognition than he has gotten.

Borlaug lived from 1914-2009. He was an agronomist. He worked with wheat in Mexico, producing dwarfed varieties that had thicker stems, which effectively double the yield. He brought his expertise and his dwarf wheat to India and Pakistan averting the mass starvation predicted by Paul Ehrlich and other Malthusians. From there, he played a key role in launching the Green Revolution which helped to feed millions of people in Asia and Africa.

Naturally the environmentalists hated him. They tried to prevent his work in Africa. They condemned his methods as producing unnatural and possibly harmful crossbreeds. They objected to his bringing  large-scale agriculture to poor countries, which led to profits to large agricultural companies, and incidentally helped lift the subsidence farmers out of poverty. They didn’t like the development that his methods brought to previously undeveloped regions because roads, etc hurt the environment. Borlaug didn’t have much patience for this kind of criticism.

Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things

Norman Borlaug did get some recognition during his life. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, back when the Peace Prize was actually awarded to people who promoted peace. He also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and a Congressional Gold Medal in 2006. Still, it would be a nobler world if his name were a household word.

Here is an interview which appeared in reason.com in 2000.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ Changes Name

August 1, 2011

From the Appealdemocrat. The Campus Crusade for Christ is changing its name to “Cru”. What is Cru supposed to mean?

After 60 years, officials announced Tuesday night that the international evangelical ministry is changing its name – to “Cru.”

“This is the right time to embrace a new name, and … this name meets our objective of achieving a greater level of effectiveness in ministry,” said Steve Douglass, the organization’s president. “This decision has been saturated with prayer. We only want what God wants for us … We believe this new name will position us to connect better with the next generation.”

Chosen from 1,600 suggestions, the name already has been used on a majority of the group’s U.S. campus ministries since the mid-1990s. Though some followers worried in online forums the name might be confused with a rowing club, the organization said change was due.

“Has the old name hurt the organization? We do believe so,” said Steve Sellers, vice president of the expansive Orlando-based organization. “The name alienation among the general population was significant.”

I can see that Christ might alienate some people. We wouldn’t want to think that Cru has anything to do with Christianity.

If the directors of Cru are concerned that having the name of Christ in their name might make them unpopular, perhaps they should refer to the words of Jesus, who warned his disciples they should not expect to be popular.

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’[b] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:18-25)

And John writes,

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:15-27)

And I will finish with this warning.

  8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.        (Luke 12:8-9)

 


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