Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 5 January 2012

What mystifies Dr. Stephen Hawking? Women -

What mystifies Dr. Stephen Hawking? Women - 

As famed physicist Stephen Hawking turns 70, the subject that most occupies his thoughts is not how the universe arose from nothing, or how he's been able to live with neurodegenerative disease for so long. Here's what he thinks about most: "Women. They are a complete mystery."
That's the bottom line from New Scientist's interview with Hawking, timed to coincide with this weekend's birthday celebration at Cambridge. The theorist is almost completely paralyzed due to his decades-long struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and had to provide his answers by laboriously twitching his cheek to operate a computerized speech-translation system.

Hawking also listed what he saw as his "biggest blunder in science" (his now-repudiated insistence that information was destroyed in black holes), the most exciting development in physics during his career (the discovery of the big bang's imprint in cosmic microwave radiation) and the potential discovery that would do the most to revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos (discovery of supersymmetric particles at the Large Hadron Collider).
But it's his brief comment on women that attracted the most attention: How could it be that a scientist who has plumbed the deepest mysteries of the cosmos finds himself mystified by women?

Based on the view most folks have of geniuses, how could it not be?
The saga of the super-smart professor who is flummoxed by interpersonal relations, particularly with the opposite sex, is at least as old as Sigmund Freud (who famously wondered, "What does a woman want?"), Jerry Lewis' fictional "Nutty Professor" and the stereotype we have of Albert Einstein. It's as up to date as the TV astrophysicist on "The Big Bang Theory" who can't say a word to women unless he's under the influence.
Somehow, folks get a satisfying sense of karma from the idea that geniuses are socially stupid. But the stereotype doesn't really hold true, particularly in Hawking's case.
Like the real-life Einstein, Hawking has had an active romantic life, marked by two marriages. (Einstein's second marriage ended with the death of his wife and cousin Elsa; Hawking's ended in an ugly divorce.) Hawking's disease does not affect his sexual ability or his potency, and the fact that he's fathered three children is evidence of that. 

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First mixed-embryo monkeys are born in US -

First mixed-embryo monkeys are born in US - 

US researchers said Thursday they have created the world's first mixed-embryo monkeys by merging cells from up to six different embryos, in what could be a big advance for medical research.
Until now, rodents have been the primary creatures used to make chimeras, a lab animal produced by combining two or more fertilized eggs or early embryos together.
Scientists have long been able to create "knock-out" mice with certain genes deleted in order to study a host of ailments and remedies, including obesity, heart disease, anxiety, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
Attempts to create melded primates have failed in the past, but scientists in the western state of Oregon succeeded by altering the method used to make mice.
The breakthrough came when they mixed cells together from very early stage rhesus monkey embryos, in a state known as totipotent, when they are able to give rise to a whole animal as well as the placenta and other life-sustaining tissues.
"Knock-out" mice are typically made by introducing embryonic stem cells that have been cultured in a lab dish into a mouse embryo, but that method failed in monkeys.
Primate embryos do not allow cultured embryonic stem cells to become integrated, as mice do.

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GM to "Call back" 8,000 Chevy Volts - "similar to a recall" - to strengthen the structure around the batteries -

GM to "Call back" 8,000 Chevy Volts - "similar to a recall" - to strengthen the structure around the batteries - 

A person briefed on the matter says General Motors will ask Volt owners to bring their electric cars into dealers to strengthen the structure around the batteries.
The move is similar to a recall and involves the 8,000 Volts sold in the U.S. in the past two years.
The move comes after three batteries caught fire after side-impact crash tests done by federal safety regulators. The fires occurred seven days to three weeks after the tests and have been blamed on a coolant leak that caused an electrical short. No fires have broken out in real-world crashes.
The person says GM will contact Volt owners and have them return the cars to dealers for several structural repairs.
The repairs are a step below a formal recall.
The person did not want to be identified because GM executives will announce the plan later Thursday.


Naked man in children’s clothing ad a major fashion faux pas -

Naked man in children’s clothing ad a major fashion faux pas - 
A censored version of the offending photograph from La Redoute's website.

Call it an advertising faux pas.

French clothing company La Redoute published a promotional photo for children’s clothing complete with kids smiling in the foreground and a naked man strolling in the background.

From a distance the man is barely noticeable, but when the image was scrolled over to zoom in on the kids’ beachwear, the man’s genitals were clearly visible.

The offending photo was online for at least 16 hours, according to French news site Le Figaro. It has since been taken down, but not before it stirred up online buzz.

La Redoute issued apologies via social media almost immediately after the photo was brought to its attention.

“La Redoute apologizes for the photograph published on its site and is taking steps to remove it,” the company wrote on Twitter.

“We will strengthen the validation process of all brand communications for this cannot happen again in the future,” it added on Facebook.

More than 1,000 consumers commented on the apology. While some found the image quite comical (after all, the French are known for their liberal attitudes toward nudity), others were alarmed that a naked man was so near the children.

It’s unclear whether La Redoute’s team of photographers, marketers and web managers simply didn’t notice the full frontal shot in the background or if an office prankster Photoshopped the image.

Some fashion companies intentionally use controversial advertising to call attention to their brands. Benetton, for example, drew gasps when it digitally manipulated photos to show world leaders kissing.

Regardless if his presence was intentional, the naked man has become an Internet meme with a Tumblr account created in his honour.


Skynet: Hackers Dream Up Censor-Proof Satellite Internet Grid -

Skynet: Hackers Dream Up Censor-Proof Satellite Internet Grid - 

Editor's Note: How about an open mesh ad-hoc internet setup between each other? --MV
Organizers of a project called the "Hackerspace Global Grid" want to launch a network of small, low-orbiting satellites in order to facilitate Internet access that can't be blocked by government censors. The network would also include an array of base stations around the world. The project's developers are excited, but doubters say it's not going to fly.

A group of computer enthusiasts have begun working on creating a satellite network that could be used to thwart censorship on the Internet.
Called the "Hackerspace Global Grid" (HGG), the network could provide a way for activists to access the Net when a repressive regime suppresses access within its borders.
The network would be based on a number of low orbiting "cube" satellites that would be networked in a way similar to the Internet. If one satellite were to be disabled, for example, its functions could be rerouted to others in the network.
Various amateur and educational organizations -- HAM radio operators, for example -- have found ways to get their cube satellites in orbit, and the hacker grid hopes to use those methods, as well as others, to get its spacecraft in low orbit too, according to Nick Farr, a hacker and accountant who is working on the project.
Cube Sat Explosion
"What we're seeing right now is a big explosion in people launching cube sats," Farr told TechNewsWorld.
Those satellites are small, have a near-earth orbit and have a small communication window with base stations on the ground.
To get a cube sat in the sky, amateur satellite launchers typically piggyback their bird on a bigger payload, Farr explained. Oftentimes launchers have more rocket than they need for their payload because of security, safety or some other reason. "So they'll have room for lots of smaller payloads that they can detach in near earth orbit," Farr said.
The HGG is now at its infancy stage. One of the first problems it has to solve is how to track the low orbiting satellites from the ground.
High orbiting satellites, like those used for telecommunications and geographic positioning, have a fixed position in the sky. That makes them easy to find from the ground.
The position of low orbiting satellites is more variable. What's more, they're moving fast, so the window for finding one and maintaining a connection to it is short.
Cellphone Net in Space
What the HGG is doing now is establishing a network of base stations around the world. Those stations won't be limited to tracking satellites, according to Armin Bauer, one of the lead hackers on the project.
"The first goal is to have the stations being able to track various things, for example airplanes, satellites, weather information," he told TechNewsWorld. "For various science fields, a large distributed sensor array is a good way to measure data."
Once the stations in the grid reach a certain critical mass, it would be possible for a network of low-orbiting satellites to be used much the way a cellular network operates. In a cellular network, calls are handed off to towers as a phone moves. With HGG, a communication link would be handed off from station to station as the satellite moves.
"We plan to have quite a lot of those stations distributed over the planet's whole surface, thus the grid can be used with these satellites since a satellite will always be in radio range of a ground station," Bauer explained.
Sidestepping Censors
Once the network is up and running, anyone could tap into it and reach the Internet from anywhere. "The whole point of it is to connect back to the global network to a place that's not as censored," Farr observed. So a person in China, for example, could link to the HGG and connect to the Internet through Germany or Japan and sidestep the domestic restrictions on their access.
"What they're doing is really cool and has a lot of interesting goals," Josh King, technology lead with the New America Foundation, told TechNewsWorld.
The foundation's Open Technology Initiative supports efforts to set up communication networks on the neighborhood, community and municipal level.
"They're creating a satellite network to connect people all over the world," King noted. "An endpoint of one of those satellite links might be an individual or a community network. Our project is building those community networks."
Lame Scheme
Creating a new satellite network is an ambitious project -- too ambitious in some people's minds.
"Satellite connections are expensive and slow," Tor Project development director Karen Reilly told TechNewsWorld. "It will take a lot of work to make this a more viable option."
The Tor Project offers free software that allows people to communicate anonymously on the Internet.
"This is the lamest scheme I have ever seen," Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst with IT-Harvest, told TechNewsWorld.
"The guys proposing this spouted off way before they put any thought into it," he said. "Give them points for dreaming big, but this project is going to need big dollars."
A satellite the size of Sputnik could contain enough equipment to allow text over IP communications along the lines of Twitter, he acknowledged. "But the cost would be over (US)$20 million to launch just one, and you would need almost 100 of them to give good coverage," he said.


34 Shocking Facts About U.S. Debt That Should Set America On Fire With Anger -

34 Shocking Facts About U.S. Debt That Should Set America On Fire With Anger - 

We have all been lied to. For decades, the leaders of both major political parties have promised us that they can fix our current system and that they can get our national debt under control. As the 2012 election approaches, they are making all kinds of wild promises once again. Well you know what? It is all a giant sham. The United States has gotten into so much debt that there will be no coming back from this. The current system is irretrievably broken. 30 years ago the U.S. debt was a horrific crisis that was completely and totally out of control. If we would have dealt with it back then maybe we could have done something about it. But now it is 15 times larger, and we are adding more than a trillion dollars to the debt every single year. The facts that you are about to read below should set America on fire with anger. Please share them with as many people as you can. What we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is absolutely nightmarish. Words like “abuse”, “financial rape”, “theft” and “crime” do not even begin to describe what we are doing to future generations. We were the wealthiest nation on earth, but it wasn’t good enough just to squander all of our own money. We had to squander the money of our children and our grandchildren as well. America has been so selfish and so self-centered that it is hard to argue that we don’t deserve what is about to happen to this country. We have stolen the future of America, and yet we strut around as if we are the smartest generation that ever walked the face of the earth.
All of this prosperity that we see all around us is just an illusion. It is a false prosperity that has been purchased by the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world.
Did you know that if you added up all forms of debt in the United States and divided it up equally that every single family in the country would owe more than $683,000?
We are a nation that is absolutely addicted to debt, and the U.S. debt crisis threatens to destroy everything that our forefathers built.
Yes, everything may seem fine for the moment, but what do you think would happen if the federal government suddenly adopted a balanced budget?
1.3 trillion dollars a year would be sucked right out of the economy and we would be looking at an “economic readjustment” that would be mind blowing.
Enjoy this false prosperity while you can, because it is not going to last.
Debt is a very cruel master, and our day of reckoning is almost here.
The following are 34 shocking facts about U.S. debt that should set America on fire with anger….
#1 During fiscal year 2011, the U.S. government spent 3.7 trillion dollars but it only brought in 2.4 trillion dollars.
#2 When Ronald Reagan took office, the U.S. national debt was less than 1 trillion dollars. Today, the U.S. national debt is over 15.2 trillion dollars.
#3 During 2011, U.S. debt surpassed 100 percent of GDP for the first time ever.
#4 According to Wikipedia, the monetary base “consists of coins, paper money (both as bank vault cash and as currency circulating in the public), and commercial banks’ reserves with the central bank.” Currently the U.S. monetary base is sitting somewhere around 2.7 trillion dollars. So if you went out and gathered all of that money up it would only make a small dent in our national debt. But afterwards there would be no currency for anyone to use.
#5 The U.S. government spent over 454 billion dollars just on interest on the national debt during fiscal 2011.
#6 The U.S. government has total assets of 2.7 trillion dollars and has total liabilities of17.5 trillion dollars. The liabilities do not even count 4.7 trillion dollars of intragovernmental debt that is currently outstanding.
#7 During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.
#8 It is being projected that the U.S. national debt will surpass 23 trillion dollars in 2015.
#9 According to the GAO, the U.S. government is facing 34 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities for social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare. These are obligations that we have already committed ourselves to but that we do not have any money for.
#10 Others estimate that the unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government now total over117 trillion dollars.
#11 According to the GAO, the ratio of debt held by the public to GDP is projected to reach287 percent of GDP by 2086.
#12 Others are much less optimistic. A recently revised IMF policy paper entitled “An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?” projects that U.S. government debt will rise to about 400 percent of GDP by the year 2050.
#13 The United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
#14 If you divide up the national debt equally among all U.S. taxpayers, each taxpayer would owe approximately $134,685.
#15 Mandatory federal spending surpassed total federal revenue for the first time ever in fiscal 2011. That was not supposed to happen until 50 years from now.
#16 Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.
#17 During Barack Obama’s first two years in office, the U.S. government added more to the U.S. national debt than the first 100 U.S. Congresses combined.
#18 When you add up all spending by the federal government, state governments and local governments, it comes to 46.6% of GDP.
#19 Our nation is more addicted to government checks than ever before. In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7% of all income. Today, government transfer payments account for 18.4% of all income.
#20 U.S. households are now actually receiving more money directly from the U.S. government than they are paying to the government in taxes.
#21 A staggering 48.5% of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of government benefits. Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.
#22 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.
#23 In 1950, each retiree’s Social Security benefit was paid for by 16U.S. workers. According to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are now only 1.75 full-time private sector workers for each person that is receiving Social Security benefits in the United States.
#24 The U.S. government now says that the Medicare trust fund will run outfive years faster than they were projecting just last year.
#25 Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP. Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.
#26 If the U.S. government was forced to use GAAP accounting principles (like all publicly-traded corporations must), the U.S. government budget deficit would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 trillion to $5 trillion each and every year.
#27 If you were alive when Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now. But this year alone the U.S. government is going to add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt.
#28 If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
#29 A trillion $10 bills, if they were taped end to end, would wrap around the globe more than 380 times. That amount of money would still not be enough to pay off the U.S. national debt.
#30 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 470,000 years to pay off the national debt.
#31 If Bill Gates gave every penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
#32 According to Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, the U.S. is facing a “fiscal gap” of over 200 trillion dollars in the future. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article that he didfor CNN….
The government’s total indebtedness — its fiscal gap — now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations — including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt — and all projected future taxes.
#33 If you add up all forms of debt in the United States (government, business and consumer), it comes to more than 56 trillion dollars. That is more than$683,000 per family. Unfortunately, the average amount of savings per family in the U.S. is only about $4,735.
#34 The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913. 

But do our leaders care about statistics such as these?
In fact, Barack Obama says that we need to raise the debt limit by another 1.2 trillion dollars.
The absurdity of raising the debt limit when we are already in so much debt is beautifully illustrated by the video posted below….

I just thought that video was so well done.
The “huge cuts” that Congress has agreed to are absolutely meaningless when compared to how rapidly our debt is exploding.
Calling those cuts “pocket change” would be an insult to pocket change.
But it is not just U.S. debt that is the problem. The European debt crisisthreatens to completely unravel in 2012 and Japan actually has the highest debt to GDP ratio in the entire industrialized world.
In 2012, a total of 7,600,000,000,000 dollars of debt must be rolled over by the G-7 nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China.
That doesn’t even count new borrowing. That number just represents old debts that are coming due that must be refinanced.
Anyone out there that insists that this debt bubble can be fixed under our current system is lying.
A massive amount of financial pain is coming.
It is time for Americans to wake up from their television-induced comas.
It is time for Americans to get very angry.
Your future has been destroyed and the future of your children and grandchildren has been destroyed.
You better take action while you still can.

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