Amateur Scientist Caught Trying to Split Atoms in His Kitchen

10:25:18 PM, Sunday, August 07, 2011

"A Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen says he was only doing it as a hobby.

Richard Handl said 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 realise 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..."

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Man Finds Suspicious White Powder in Florida Keys, Decides to Snort It, and Dies

11:16:25 PM, Friday, August 05, 2011

"On the list of things not to do when you discover a mysterious package full of white powder, snorting the substance is probably near the top of the list.

Unfortunately for 53-year-old Thomas Swindal, he did not heed that advice and died last week after he thought he'd just found a floating kilo of blow, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

Swindal was fishing with his brother off the shore of Marathon when they found a brick floating in the water they believed to be a package of cocaine, police say.

Swindal's brother told police that Thomas Swindal decided to put the brick on their boat and, when he looked back at his brother a bit later, noticed he had the package open and was snorting it up.

Around 90 minutes later, Swindal began to run around the boat, throwing his cell phone and radio into the water, and then began mangling the engine with random tools to the point that it wouldn't start, according to the cops.

Swindal's brother then threw all the sharp things and the mystery package of powder off the boat before signaling state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers to rescue them.

Swindal was taken to a Miami hospital and died the next day, police say.

The cops say they believe the package could have possibly been cocaine, but they're waiting for autopsy results to come back to find out.

Meanwhile, the sheriff's office ask that you not salvage bricks of powder from the ocean, and it's probably not a good idea to snort it either..."

-- Careful what you recover from the waters around Florida and snort.

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Beyond Angry Birds

11:04:33 PM, Friday, August 05, 2011

"A few months ago, a producer at a major video-game company startled me by admitting that the economic viability of the triple-A video-game production cycle — the expensive development process, in other words, by which games like Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Uncharted, and BioShock are unleashed upon the world — is in all likelihood doomed. Shortly after that, a developer told me he has a hard time imagining how single-player narrative video games are going to survive in the long run; such games, he believes, will eventually be seen as a historical anomaly. Neither man was particularly thrilled to imagine a future largely absent of the kinds of games he makes and most cares about, but current trends could not be ignored.

I told the developer that he sounded a bit like my fiction-writer friends going on about the inevitable death of the novel. "It takes one person to write a novel," he told me. "To make the kinds of games we're talking about, you need several dozen people — probably more like a hundred — with training across several fields. If the money's not there, which is increasingly the case, the games can't be made."

The two most enjoyable console video games I have played in the past six months, Bulletstorm and Dead Space 2, underperformed commercially despite superlative reviews. (Not even the condemnation of Fox News, which asked if Bulletstorm was "the worst video game in the world," could push that game into best-sellerdom.) Another game I loved, Shadows of the Damned, which was developed by Shinji Mikami and Suda 51, two of the most admired, influential, and eccentric minds in games today, moved something like 26,000 copies in its first month of release. Even recent "successes" like Portal 2 and L.A. Noire, which were reviewed everywhere, failed to sell as many copies as projected..."

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S&P Downgrades U.S. Debt Rating — Press Release

10:47:48 PM, Friday, August 05, 2011

"Standard & Poor’s took the unprecedented step of downgrading the U.S. government’s “AAA” sovereign credit rating Friday in a move that could send shock waves through global. The following is a press release from Standard & Poor’s:

– We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’ and affirmed the ‘A-1+’ short-term rating.

– We have also removed both the short- and long-term ratings from CreditWatch negative.

– The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.

– More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.

– Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.

– The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. We could lower the long-term rating to ‘AA’ within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.

TORONTO (Standard & Poor’s) Aug. 5, 2011–Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it lowered its long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’. Standard & Poor’s also said that the outlook on the long-term rating is negative. At the same time, Standard & Poor’s affirmed its ‘A-1+’ short-term rating on the U.S. In addition, Standard & Poor’s removed both ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed on July 14, 2011, with negative implications...

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Catholic Church Child Protection Chief Caught With 4,000 Child Porn Pictures

3:56:37 PM, Wednesday, August 03, 2011

"A child protection official for the Catholic Church has been caught with 4,000 pictures of child porn.

Father-of-four Christopher Jarvis was arrested after uploading pictures of children being abused to a website.

Married Jarvis, 49, a former social worker, was employed by the church following sex scandals about pervert priests.

His job was to monitor church groups to ensure paedophiles did not gain access to children in the church’s congregations.

But he was caught by police in March with more than 4,000 child porn images on his home computer and his work laptop.

He admitted 12 counts of making, ­possessing and distributing indecent ­images when he appeared before ­magistrates in Plymouth and is likely to face jail when he returns to court for sentencing next month.

Jarvis, who has been sacked from his job as child safeguarding ­officer, worked the Diocese of ­Plymouth for nine years..."

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Record Radiation Level at Japan Nuclear Plant

3:23:02 PM, Wednesday, August 03, 2011

"Record levels of radiation have been recorded at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant reactor, just months after the nuclear accident resulting from the earthquake and tsunami in March.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that Geiger counters - a hand-held device used to measure radiation - registered their highest possible reading at the site on Monday.

TEPCO said that radiation exceeding 10 sieverts [10,000 millisieverts] per hour was found at the bottom of a ventilation stack standing between two reactors.

Al Jazeera's Aela Callan, reporting from Japan's Ibaraki prefecture, said the level recorded was "fatal to humans" but that it was contained just to the plant's site. However, scientists are planning to carry out more tests on Tuesday.

"Authorities are working on the theory though that it has come from those initial hydrogen explosions that we've seen at the plant in the days after the earthquake and tsunami," she said.

"It is now looking more likely that this area has been this radioactive since the earthquake and tsunami but no one realised until now."

On Tuesday, TEPCO said it found another spot on the ventilation stack itself where radiation exceeded 10 sieverts per hour, a level that could lead to incapacitation or death after just several seconds of exposure.

The company used equipment to measure radiation from a distance and was unable to ascertain the exact level because the device's maximum reading is 10 sieverts..."

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Ruki Vverh - On Tebja Celuet

12:57:48 AM, Wednesday, August 03, 2011
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Scientists Stunned by Surface of Asteroid Vesta

12:34:39 AM, Wednesday, August 03, 2011

"The first close-up pictures of the massive asteroid Vesta reveal a northern hemisphere littered with craters — including a trio nicknamed "Snowman" — and a smoother southern half, researchers reported Monday.

Running along the asteroid's equator are deep grooves — a surprise to scientists who did not expect to see such features.

"We're seeing quite a varied surface," said chief scientist Christopher Russell of the University of California, Los Angeles. The images were taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which began orbiting the 330-mile-wide rocky body last month and beaming back incredible surface details that the team is only beginning to pore over. It's the first time that Vesta has been viewed up close. Until now, it has only been photographed from afar.

Since entering orbit, Dawn has taken more than 500 pictures, while refining its path and inching ever closer to the surface to get a better view. The probe will officially start collecting science data next week once it is 1,700 miles from the surface. It will get as close as 110 miles while it orbits Vesta for a year.

Vesta's southern section is dominated by a giant crater, the result of a collision eons ago that's believed to have pelted Earth with numerous meteorites, or broken off pieces of asteroids. The northern side is filled with older craters including three that scientists dubbed "Snowman."

Vesta is "so rich in features" that it will keep scientists busy for years, said Holger Sierks, of the Max Planck Society in Germany, who helps operate the camera..."

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In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945

12:01:00 AM, Wednesday, August 03, 2011

"We will undermine the morale of the people of America. . .. Once there is confusion and after we have succeeded in undermining the faith of the American people in their own government, a new group will take over; this will be the German-American group, and we will help them to assume power.

-- Adolf Hitler, 1933

The Great Depression and the World Wars were the major historical influences on Americans between 1933 and 1945. The 1929 stock market crash had left 13 million people unemployed and 2 million homeless. A documentary of the period would have revealed Hoovervilles, dust storms, labor union strikes, violent farmers protesting foreclosures and unarmed WWI Vets marching on the White House for their promised bonuses, only to be met by U.S. Army tanks.

In 1933 Adolf Hitler became the head of Germany's Third Reich and Franklin Delano Roosevelt entered the Oval Office. In the United States, the New Deal brought hope for recovery. In Germany, Jews and other victims were being beaten in the streets. Many Americans were scared and vulnerable. In the battle of ideologies that followed, it was only a short leap from the logical questioning of the viability of democracy to the illogical blaming of an entire race for the world's economic and political problems.

The Nazi Propaganda period, 1933 to 1945, chronicles a crucial twelve years in American history. This exhibit's story about the local threat to American ideals demonstrates how European events reached across the ocean and affected people in Southern California -- in our own backyard. It is the story of the exploitative behavior that resulted from distorted beliefs.

The approximately 200 items in this exhibit focus on the clashing ideologies of this era and the activities of the various groups that embraced them. The original books, pamphlets, flyers, newspapers, letters and photographs reflect the profusion of media barraging the public as it searched for answers in a period of turmoil..."

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The Navy Bought Fake Chinese Microchips That Could Have Disarmed U.S. Missiles

11:45:43 PM, Tuesday, August 02, 2011

"Last year, the U.S. Navy bought 59,000 microchips for use in everything from missiles to transponders and all of them turned out to be counterfeits from China.

Wired reports the chips weren't only low-quality fakes, they had been made with a "back-door" and could have been remotely shut down at any time.

If left undiscovered the result could have rendered useless U.S. missiles and killed the signal from aircraft that tells everyone whether it's friend or foe.

Apparently foreign chip makers are often better at making cheap microchips and U.S. defense contractors are loathe to pass up the better deal.

The problem remains with these "trojan-horse" circuits that can be built into the chip and are almost impossible to detect -- especially without the original plans to compare them to.

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) is now looking for ways to check the chips to make sure they haven't been hacked in the production process.

Expect to see a whole lot more funding directed to this goal. Or, considering IARPA is the research and development section of the intelligence community -- expect the money to be spent -- don't expect to see where."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: The Great Carina Nebula

11:33:25 PM, Tuesday, August 02, 2011

-- "A jewel of the southern sky, the Great Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light-years, one of our galaxy's largest star forming regions. Like the smaller, more northerly Great Orion Nebula, the Carina Nebula is easily visible to the unaided eye, though at a distance of 7,500 light-years it is some 5 times farther away. This gorgeous telescopic portrait reveals remarkable details of the region's glowing filaments of interstellar gas and obscuring cosmic dust clouds. Wider than the Full Moon in angular size, the field of view stretches nearly 100 light-years across the nebula. The Carina Nebula is home to young, extremely massive stars, including the still enigmatic variable Eta Carinae, a star with well over 100 times the mass of the Sun. Eta Carinae is the brightest star at the left, near the dusty Keyhole Nebula (NGC 3324). While Eta Carinae itself maybe on the verge of a supernova explosion, X-ray images indicate that the Great Carina Nebula has been a veritable supernova factory. "

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Artificial Nanoparticles Influence the Heart Rate

9:21:02 PM, Monday, August 01, 2011

"In light of the increasing demand for artificial nanoparticles in medicine and industry, it is important for manufacturers to understand just how these particles influence bodily functions and which mechanisms are at play – questions to which there has been a dearth of knowledge.

Studies on heart patients have shown for decades that particulate matter has a negative effect on the cardiovascular system. Yet, it remained unclear whether the nanoparticles do their damage directly or indirectly, for example through metabolic processes or inflammatory reactions. The reactions of the body are simply too complex.

Using a so-called Langendorff heart – an isolated rodent heart flushed with a nutrient solution in place of blood – scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen and the TU Muenchen were for the first time able to show that nanoparticles have a clearly measurable effect on the heart. When exposed to a series of commonly used artificial nanoparticles, the heart reacted to certain types of particles with an increased heart rate, cardiac arrhythmia and modified ECG values that are typical for heart disease. "We use the heart as a detector," explains Professor Reinhard Nießner, Director of the Institute of Hydrochemistry at the TU Muenchen. "In this way we can test whether specific nanoparticles have an effect on the heart function. Such an option did not exist hitherto."

Scientists can also use this new model heart to shed light on the mechanism by which the nanoparticles influence the heart rate. In order to do this, they enhanced Langendorff's experimental setup to allow the nutrient solution to be fed back into the loop once it has flown through the heart. This allows the scientists to enrich substances released by the heart and understand the heart's reaction to the nanoparticles.

According to Stampfl and Nießner, it is very likely that the neurotransmitter noradrenaline is responsible for the increased heart rate brought on by nanoparticles. Noradrenaline is released by nerve endings in the inner wall of the heart. It increases the heart rate and also plays an important role in the central nervous system – a tip-off that nanoparticles might also have a damaging effect there..."

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North Korea Demands Peace Treaty With US

11:06:52 PM, Sunday, July 31, 2011

"North Korea demanded Wednesday that the United States sign a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War, as a senior North Korean diplomat visited New York to negotiate ways to restart six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

In an editorial marking the 58th anniversary of an armistice that ended the 1950-53 war, the North's official Korean Central News Agency insisted a peace treaty could go a long way toward resolving a deadlock over Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

North Korea has long called for a peace treaty with the United States. The armistice left the Korean peninsula in a technical state of war. Its latest push comes as North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan makes a fresh attempt to reopen six-nation talks that were last held in December 2008.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Kim to New York to meet with U.S. officials later this week only after nuclear envoys from the rival Koreas held surprise talks last week.

Seoul blames North Korea for two attacks that killed 50 South Koreans last year and has demanded that Pyongyang show remorse. The United States has insisted that its ally Seoul must be satisfied that inter-Korean ties are improving before it will pursue more nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang.

Kim told reporters after landing Tuesday in New York that he was "optimistic of the prospects for the six-way talks and the North Korea-U.S. relationship," according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "I believe North Korea-U.S. relations will improve, as now is the time for countries to reconcile."

Despite Kim's positive tone, North Korea is making clear ahead of the New York talks that it wants a separate dialogue on signing a peace treaty, in addition to six-nation nuclear negotiations, said Kim Keun-sik, a North Korea expert at Kyungnam University in South Korea..."

-- I don't think Kim understands how peace talks work.

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Hydrothermal Worm Haunts Your Nightmares

10:57:05 PM, Sunday, July 31, 2011

"We’d love to claim the photo below was taken in outer space, but that isn’t true. Seen below is the hydrothermal worm, a rather obscure microorganism that lurks in thermal vents deep (really deep) in the ocean. It’s a recent discovery and its scientific name is still unknown.

The hydrothermal worm is so small it’s no use giving its exact measurement. Just think of it as roughly the size of your friendly neighborhood bacteria. No doubt its not the only miniscule creature lurking beyond the naked eye and beyond the human imagination. There must be trillions of undiscovered species out there. Lurking. Waiting. Feeding.

Just to give credit where credit is due, the epic photograph up north was taken by Philippe Crassous using an electron microscope. The FEI Quanta Sem zoomed unto the organism more than 500 times to capture a portrait of its ferocious mug. Staring intently at it, the hydrothermal worm’s visage reminds us of sandworms from Dune..."

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King Bones & DJ Aaron in 'Finger Food' New York City Subway | YAK FILMS Flexing Bonebreaking Dance

10:34:45 PM, Saturday, July 30, 2011

-- Watch it.

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