Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Years!

Happy New Years!

Blog at you next year.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Asteroid Collison?

Astronomers have good news, better news and some bad news about an asteroid known as 2007 WD5. The good news is that this 164-ft.-wide chunk of speeding space rock, discovered in November in an ongoing search for potential threats to Earth, won't hit our planet any time in the foreseeable future. The better news — for eager space-watchers — is that the asteroid, currently about halfway between Earth and Mars, has a plausible chance of hitting the Red Planet at the end of January. If it does, astronomers will be treated to an unprecedented sight.
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The Mars Rover is still sending striking images back from the surface of the Red Planet

The event itself, however, will have plenty of precedent. The craters that pock the surface of Mars, the Moon, Mercury and other Solar System bodies come from about four billion years' worth of this sort of thing. Earth has had plenty of collisions too; it's just that erosion, continental drift and vegetation have erased or hidden most of them. Not all, though: Meteor Crater, in Arizona, was blasted out some 50,000 years ago by an asteroid about the same size as 2007 WD5. A much bigger object, a few miles across, is thought by many scientists to be the reason the dinosaurs died out some 65 million years ago.
If 2007 WD5 does smack into Mars, every telescope on Earth will be pointed in that direction — just as they were in 1994 when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter. In that case, the comet broke up while it was still in orbit, so astronomers watched nearly two dozen individual impacts. But Jupiter is made mostly of thick clouds, so there was no lasting scar, and because it lies so far from Earth, the event wasn't quite as spectacular as this one promises to be. Asteroid 2007 WD5 should release some 3 megatons of energy if it slams into solid ground near Mars' equator, and orbiting satellites will show the aftermath with crystal clarity.
Finally, the bad news: 2007 WD5 has only a 1-in-75 chance of actually hitting Mars, which means astronomers would be wise to be pessimistic. But the possibility of impact calls to mind a loosely related incident that occurred almost exactly 100 years ago, when something exploded above the Tunguska region of Siberia, flattening trees in a 25-mile radius, their trunks pointing outward from the epicenter of the blast. Scientists are pretty sure it was a comet or asteroid — about the same size as 2007 WD5, as it happens — that disintegrated from its own shock wave as it plowed through the atmosphere. (UFO enthusiasts have long been convinced it was a flying saucer that somehow made it across trillions of miles of interstellar space safely, only to blow up above Russia.) The scientific explanation would account for the aerial explosion, and also the fact that no crater has been found.
Except that now maybe it has. An Italian team has measured seismic waves reflecting off a high-density spot in the bottom of the suspiciously crater-shaped Lake Cheko, which lies close to the event's ground zero. It could be a piece of the original object — and finding it could help investigators understand exactly what happened a century ago.
If they find a burned-out flying-saucer engine, all bets are off.
I would love to see this if it happens! This would give us a chance to see what would happen, but from a safe distance. Thank you!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas To All

Merry Christmas to all!
It's been a nice 5 days of vacation and looking forward to 6 mores for New Years.
Hope everyone enjoyed the festivities with their families.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fuel Efficiency Standards

Finally! However, we are paying a price for reduction of fuel consumption. Cost of corn is up which affects our food bill. I don't think this whole process was well thought out. I have a feeling that we are just seeing the beginning of trouble.


Following weeks of negotiation, President Bush signed into law Wednesday the first major increase in vehicle fuel efficiency standards in over three decades.
The law also calls for greater use of biofuels like ethanol and more energy-efficient homes and appliances - but left out some provisions called for by Congressional Democrats.
Automakers will have to make sure the average fuel efficiency level for all vehicles they sell in the U.S. is 35 miles per gallon by 2020, up from 25 miles per gallon currently.
"We make a major step... toward reducing our dependence on oil, fighting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations... a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure," said Bush at a signing ceremony at the Energy Department.
The current fuel-economy standards of 27.5 mpg for passenger cars and 22.2 for light trucks were established in 1975. The new bill sets a single average standard for manufacturers.

Automakers had long resisted raising fuel economy standards, saying it would be a costly change that customers didn't want.
But opposition melted away in the last year of so, as high gasoline prices drove sales of foreign cars at the expense of domestic manufactures.
Environmental groups seemed happy with the law.
"This is an extraordinary change from just a little while ago," The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a statement. "Everyone from the auto lobby to one-time Congressional opponents have thrown their support behind it."
The law also requires refiners to replace 36 billion gallons of gasoline with biofuel by 2022. The U.S. currently consumes about 140 billion gallons of gas annually, and uses about 6 billion gallons of biofuel.
The mandate also says that no more than 15 billion gallons of biofuel can come from corn-based ethanol, in part due to concerns about food prices. The rest must come from "advanced biofuels," like ethanol made from switch grass or other biofuels.

But the bill left out two major provisions that Congressional Democrats had pushed for months - over $20 billion in funding for renewable energy, paid for largely by taxes on Big Oil, and a requirement that utilities buy 15 percent of their power from renewable sources.
Debate on the bill in both the House and Senate had been intense for the last few weeks. Ultimately, a likely filibuster from Senate Republicans and a veto threat from the White House left those measures out of the bill.
Critics of the tax provision said taxes on Big Oil would discourage domestic production, increasing costs for consumers.
Southeastern utilities said a federal law mandating the purchases of renewable energy would be an unfair burden on them, as their region has fewer renewable options like wind. About half the states have already passed such a requirement.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Democrats would continue fighting for those measures, presumably after the holiday recess.
Even the measures signed into law Wednesday - raising vehicle fuel economy standards, home and appliance efficiency standards, and using more biofuels - were not without critics.
House opponents such as Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, complained that the bill will undo many of the efforts made to foster increased production of fossil fuels in an energy bill passed in 2005.
"I understand the consequences of elections. I understand there's a new majority," said Barton, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "I do not understand how what made sense two years ago doesn't make sense today."
Barton called the bill a "no-energy" bill and "a recipe for recession," arguing that the conservation measures mandated by the bill would raise prices for fuel, homes and appliances for consumers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

NFL PLayoff Hunt

For those who want to know what the playoff picture looks like, here is what the standing is right now:


New England: Clinched AFC East Division and home-field advantage.

Indianapolis: Clinched AFC South Division and first-round bye.
San Diego: Clinched AFC West Division.

ELIMINATED Miami, N.Y. Jets, Kansas City, Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, Buffalo, Denver.

WEEK 16 SCENARIOS Pittsburgh: Can clinch AFC North title: 1) PIT win + CLE loss. Pittsburgh clinches playoff berth: 1) TEN loss OR 2) PIT win or tie + TEN tie.
Cleveland: Can clinch playoff berth: 1) CLE win; OR 2) TEN loss; OR 3) CLE tie + TEN tie.
Jacksonville: Can clinch playoff berth: 1) JAC win or tie; OR 2) TEN loss or tie; OR 3) CLE loss.


Dallas: Clinched NFC East Division and first-round bye.

Green Bay: Clinched NFC North Division and first-round bye.

Seattle: Clinched NFC West Division.

Tampa Bay: Clinched NFC South Division.

ELIMINATED San Francisco, St. Louis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Arizona, Chicago and Detroit.

WEEK 16 SCENARIOS Dallas: Can clinch home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs: 1) DAL win + GB loss.
N.Y. Giants: Can clinch playoff berth: 1) NYG win or tie; OR 2) WAS loss or tie + NO loss or tie.
Minnesota: Can clinch playoff berth: 1) MIN win + NO loss or tie.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Garbage Dump

"A garbage patch in the Pacific is double the size of Texas. The president is likely to sign the cleanup law."

This is absolutely astounding! I could not believe this when I saw the news this morning. The article I found is below.

A biologically rich coral island chain in the Pacific Ocean northwest of Hawaii, which President Bush designated as a marine national monument, is under assault from floating garbage ranging from plastic bottlecaps to baby diapers.
Hailed by environmentalists as one of the president's most enduring contributions to the environment, the Montana-sized monument includes uninhabited islands home to some 7,000 marine species, at least a quarter of which are found nowhere else on earth. But the new national monument also resides on the edge what marine scientists call the great "eastern garbage patch": a section of slowly rotating Pacific Ocean currents - or gyre - double the size of Texas that acts as a giant garbage collector.
Sitting between Hawaii and northern California, the patch's sluggish currents wash onto the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument. That 1,200-mile-long island chain north of Kauai acts as the teeth of a giant comb, straining onto its otherwise pristine beaches and coral reefs floating trash, such as syringes, bags, six-pack rings, and tons of fishing nets and other gear.
Concern about the problem has risen to such a level that Congress has acted on it. On Sept. 27 the House passed a bill that would give a lift to struggling ad-hoc efforts to clear debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Their move follows the Senate's approval of the legislation last year. Observers are optimistic that the bill will be finalized, and Mr. Bush will sign it into law after the November election.
It would not be a moment too soon, experts say. About 3 million tons of the trash floating in the garbage patch is plastic, estimates Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, Ca., who has traversed the gyre on research expeditions.
Samples he collected in a recent study showed that there were more tiny bits of plastic by weight than there were plankton per cubic meter of sea water.
"It's a toilet that never flushes, but just keeps accumulating," he says of the patch. "If you're an organism in this area you have six times as much chance of bumping into something plastic as you do something natural."
Globally, millions of tons of trash enter the ocean each year. Between 60 and 80 percent of it is land-based, washing into streams and rivers and finally the ocean from landfills, storm water discharges, litter, and sewage overflows.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Glow In The Dark Cats

I have never seen a cat like this before. Too cool! I would love to have a cat like this. I wouldn't have to worry about tripping over them in the dark.
I found this to be quite interesting.
This may be the fluffiest, freakiest thing since Alba, the green fluorescent bunny from artist Eduardo Kac.
South Korean scientists tinkering with fluorescence protein genes say they have bred white Turkish Angora cats to glow red under ultraviolet light.
The pair of cats cloned from a mother's altered skin cell are nearly a year old. The researchers told the
AFP that their work could help unravel mysteries of some 250 genetic diseases suffered by both humans and cats. The findings also could be used to clone endangered tigers, leopards, and other animals, the report said.
However, it's unlikely that such psychedelic-looking cats would come to pet stores anytime soon. Debates about the ethics and safety of concocting cloned and
transgenic animals continue to rage.
Genetic Savings & Clone, which charged between $32,000 to $50,000 for cloning cats, shut shop last year. But Spot's or Mittens' genes can be banked in a cryogenic chamber for $1,500, and hypoallergenic kittens cost between $6,000 and $28,000. California officials in 2004 banned the sale of GloFish, the world's first transgenic pet.
British scientists injected jellyfish genes into chickens and pigs to make them glow several years ago. Last year, Taiwanese scientists said they also spawned glow-in-the-dark pigs.
The cat experiment took place at Gyeongsang National University with funding from the Korean government.
Perhaps the biggest cloning story to hail from South Korea was the revelation in 2005 that a prominent doctor had faked a breakthrough in cloning humans.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Led Zepplin Back On Stage

I grew up listening to their music and would love to see them in concert! It just isn't the same without John Bonham. He was a great drummer and is missed by the fans. Here is an article I found on CNN about the concert in London after 30 years.
The reunited rock 'n' roll legends were superb Monday in their first full concert in nearly three decades, mixing in classics like "Stairway to Heaven" and "Black Dog" with the thumping "Kashmir" and the hard-rocking "Dazed and Confused."
The band's three surviving members -- singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones -- were joined by the late John Bonham's son Jason on drums.
And it was the newest member of the band that was given the honor of kicking off the sold-out benefit show, pounding out the beat before the others joined in on a near-perfect "Good Times Bad Times."
After the lights went down at the O2 Arena, newsreel footage of the band arriving in Tampa, Florida, for a 1973 performance was projected onstage. Then Bonham jumped in, soon to be joined by the rest.
They followed that with "Ramble On," and with it destroyed all rumors that the 59-year-old Plant could no longer reproduce his trademark wail.
With his button-down shirt mercifully buttoned up, Plant roamed the stage belting out hit after hit, rarely giving his critics anything to work with.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The New Warring Ways

It's two feet tall, travels ten miles an hour, and spins on a dime. Remote-controlled over an encrypted frequency that jams nearby radios and cellphones, it'll blow a ten-inch hole through a steel door with deadly accuracy from 400 meters."

This is the new age of war. Robote, a Silicon Valley start-up company, has found a new technology to create soldier robots. Just think of the savings. I guess this is better than losing our soldiers. Here is the article that I found for this story.

Robotex is the brainchild of Terry Izumi, a reclusive filmmaker who comes from a long line of samurai warriors, has trained Secret Service agents, and worked both at DreamWorks (Charts) and in Disney's (Charts, Fortune 500) Imagineering division.
When Izumi decided to build a better war robot in 2005, he recruited Nathan Gettings, a former PayPal software engineer and founder of Palantir Technologies, who brought in his brother Adam as well as a fourth (silent) partner who hails from both PayPal and YouTube. They had a prototype in no time. But they needed a weapon, and that's how Jerry Baber, his revolutionary shotgun, and a pilotless mini-helicopter come into the picture.
Baber is the fast-talking, white-haired founder of Military Police Systems, an arms manufacturer and ammunition distributor based in the hills of eastern Tennessee. When his chums at Blackwater, the security contractor, told him that the Robotex guys were the real deal, he invited them for a visit.
"I called Nathan and Adam on a Monday, and on Thursday they were here," says Baber.
With that meeting, he turned a promising little robot into something both multifunctional and truly scary. His company's $8,000 Atchisson Assault-12 shotgun was fresh off the assembly line after a dozen years in development. It's made of aircraft-grade stainless steel, never needs lubrication or cleaning, and won't rust. Pour sand through it and it won't clog. It doesn't recoil, so it's accurate even when it's firing in automatic mode, which it does at a rate of 300 rounds per minute.
"It delivers the lead equivalent of 132 M16s," says Baber. "When they start firing from every direction, it's all over."
Is the military really ready to deploy robot soldiers?
And the AA-12 is versatile. Along with firing ridiculously powerful FRAG-12 ammo - a straight-out-of-Terminator shell that contains a whirling miniature grenade - the AA-12 can handle non-lethal Tasers and even bullets that are deadly up to 120 feet but fall harmlessly by 800 feet.
Limited-range bullets are important in urban combat situations, Baber explains, because once an insurgent gets between the robot and a soldier operating it on the ground, the bot is rendered useless - unless the soldier wants to shoot at himself.
Baber has paired the AH and its smaller sibling, the MH, with a remote-control mini-helicopter called the AutoCopter, which holds two AA-12s and can carry the bots into battle. His plan is to buy the robots from Robotex and the helicopter from Neural Robotics in Huntsville, Ala. Then he's going to arm them, resell the systems, and split the profits.
It's a classic Silicon Valley tale of a few engineers who do what they're best at, team up with some kindred spirits, and together build a product to take on the establishment.
The wild cards here, of course, are Beltway bureaucracy and public sentiment. Is the military really ready for low-cost killer robots? Are you?
At 72, Baber says he doesn't have a lot of time to wait to see his system deployed. And the next step is the toughest. "It's a bitch, let me tell you," he says of trying to sell innovative concepts into an entrenched government procurement system. But he has a plan.
First, the entire armory will go on display in Blackwater's lobby. That should get some attention. If not, he's counting on a public outcry.
"If moms and dads around the country find out this system is available while their sons are off sopping up bullets in Iraq, they're going to tear the White House down," he says. "This will take the soldiers out of harm's way."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Housing Slump

As the U.S. housing slump enters its third year, there is no sign of recovery anytime soon.
Standard & Poor's 15-member Supercomposite Homebuilding Index tumbled 62 percent this year as of yesterday, the largest drop since the benchmark was started in 1995. The companies have lost about $35 billion of market value.
The outlook is bleak with new home sales projected to fall 13 percent in 2008, according to estimates from the National Association of Realtors in Chicago, even as interest rates drop. Losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two biggest U.S. providers of mortgage financing, may restrict the availability of home loans, and chief executive officers at D.R. Horton Inc. and Centex Corp. expect another tough year.

``This looks like it's going to be the deepest correction of any housing correction since World War II, and the question really is, `What's the duration, how long will it be?'''
Centex CEO Timothy Eller said at a JPMorgan Chase & Co. conference in Las Vegas on Nov. 27. Many homebuilding executives at the conference said they expect the slump to last through 2008.
A housing rebound is unlikely, as about 1 million adjustable loans made to subprime borrowers, those with weak or incomplete credit histories, are scheduled to reset at a higher rate in 2008, according to RealtyTrac. That may put many homeowners at risk of foreclosure and lower the value of neighboring houses.
About 1.3 million subprime mortgages will be in foreclosure by September 2009, including actions already under way, according to estimates from New York- based analysts at Credit Suisse Group. ``There is just no quick fix, including further rate cuts, to stabilize the current weakness in the housing market,'' said CreditSights analysts Frank Lee and Sarah Rowin in a Nov. 23 report to clients.
New York, Ohio and at least six other states are investigating the mortgage industry, including whether appraisers, mortgage brokers and lenders may have inflated home values. Resolving the complaints ``could run into the millions or billions'' of dollars, CreditSights's Lee said.
``There will be some bankruptcies, some consolidations, some private equity plays,'' said Kenneth Rosen, chairman of the University of California's Fisher School of Real Estate and Urban Economics in Berkeley. ``It's going to be another hard year.''

To make things worse, there is talk about who is going to pay for all the bad loans. One of the choices was "the tax payer".

Sunday, December 2, 2007

In Memory of Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins(Safety) was gunned down the other day in his home. Four men have been arrested, which one of them was hired to mow his lawn. He was maturing into a great player and will be missed!
On the first defensive play for Washington, ten players were on the field, leaving a spot open for were Sean would have played.
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