Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 23 March 2012

America Fires the Most Powerful Laser In History -

America Fires the Most Powerful Laser In History - 

The United States' National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California has fired the most powerful laser in history, a record-breaking 2-megajoule shot. The laser was originally designed to reach 1.875-megajoules, but beat everyone's expectations—and set a new world record in the process.
192 laser beams combined to form the single shot, initially reaching 1.875 megajoules. By the time it passed through its final focusing lens, the laser maxed out at 2.03 megajoules, making it the world's first 2-megajoule ultraviolet laser. Better yet, the blast caused less damage to the laser optics than predicted, which allowed the facility to fire another shot just 36 hours after the 2.03-megajoule one.

How it works

It all starts with a single laser, which is split into 48 separate beams. The beams are then redirected, using mirrors, into amplifiers that have been previously pumped by a total of 7,680 Xenon flash lamps. After four bounces, the beams are further split into 192 rays through all the facility—which is the size of three football fields. As they travel through those endless tubes, the beams are amplified again at an exponential rate.

The result: from a tiny 1/billionth of a joule laser, the scientists at the National Ignition Facility obtain rays "a foot on their side" with a combined "2.03 million joules of ultraviolet energy," 1,000 times the energy of all the power plants in the United States combined, even while it's only for a fraction of a second.

This time, the facility wasn't firing into any target. This will come later in the year, as the facility—which is supported by the US Nuclear Weapons Complex—races to achieve ignition in its first nuclear fusion experiment.

Read more -

British lawmakers in bid to rename Big Ben after Queen - to be named "Elizabeth Tower, to mark her Diamond Jubilee -

British lawmakers in bid to rename Big Ben after Queen - to be named "Elizabeth Tower, to mark her Diamond Jubilee - 

British lawmakers Friday launched a bid to rename London's famous Big Ben tower after Queen Elizabeth II to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
Lawmaker Tobias Ellwood filed a motion in parliament calling for the iconic landmark -- officially named the Clock Tower, but known to millions as Big Ben -- to be named "Elizabeth Tower, in recognition of Her Majesty's 60 years of unbroken public service on behalf of her country."
The motion, which already was supported by lawmakers from all three of Britain's major political parties, notes that the Palace of Westminster's other tower was renamed the Victoria Tower in 1860 to commemorate the long reign of Queen Victoria.

It adds that of the 41 monarchs who have reigned the country since William the Conqueror in 1066, only Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II reached the "landmark" Diamond Jubilee.
"I cannot think of a greater tribute for parliament to bestow than to rename such an iconic landmark as the Clock Tower," Ellwood told The Sun. "Most people will continue to call it Big Ben, but it would be appropriate to change the official name."
It comes a day after Buckingham Palace announced the latest details of celebrations to be held in June in honor of the queen's Diamond Jubilee. 

Read more: - http://www.nypost.com/p/news/international/british_lawmakers_in_bid_to_rename_uGjSeqvLAdTeFUFLlQGglN

Americans now watch more online movies than DVDs -

Americans now watch more online movies than DVDs - 

U.S. movie buffs will pay to watch more movies online in 2012 than they will on physical video formats like DVD. That historic first marks a tipping point for Hollywood -- and its business model.
The stat comes a report that research firm IHS iSuppli released late Thursday. Online views, or paid "transactions," will hit 3.4 billion this year, compared with 2.4 billion for physical copies, according to IHS's forecast.

It's a big change from the figures IHS clocked last year. In 2011, physical videos easily stayed on top with 2.6 billion views, compared to 1.4 billion for online.
That's a 135% year-over-year increase for online video. IHS expects the trend to accelerate.
"2012 will be the final nail to the coffin on the old idea that consumers won't accept premium content distribution over the Internet," Dan Cryan, IHS's senior principal analyst of broadband and digital media, said in the report.


New Ron Paul Ad Slams ‘Etch-a’Sketch’ Idiocy - other candidates are playing games, Paul is fighting to Restore America -

New Ron Paul Ad Slams ‘Etch-a’Sketch’ Idiocy - other candidates are playing games, Paul is fighting to Restore America - 

For the past week the media, along with GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, as well as the incumbent president, have fixated on a throw away remark about an ‘etch-a-sketch’ by a Romney communications advisor.
That’s right, while the economy continues its seemingly never ending spiral into a black hole, while innocent people continue to be slaughtered needlessly in Afghanistan, while the rhetoric over attacking Iran increases, and while everyday Americans are stripped of more and more basic freedoms, the candidates have held up plastic toys and beat the American voting public around the head with a distinctly average metaphor.
Enough is enough for Ron Paul, who today released a new ad outlining the idiocy of the spectacle and how it reflects a wider picture where the presidential race is concerned.
The internet only ad uses cringe inducing clips of Santorum and Gingrich brandishing Etch-a-Sketches at campaign events, along with corporate media hacks relentlessly filling their already comatizing schedules with fluff and nonsense about the children’s game.
“Tired of the games?” the hollywood trailer style video asks, before touting Paul as the only candidate who is “principled” and “consistent” with a “serious” plan to address the real problems America faces.
The ad “will be pushed to conservative email lists” and websites, according to a press release from the Paul campaign.

“In the context of $15 trillion in federal government debt, 12 million Americans jobless, and a country perpetually at war there is zero justification for treating the election as something to be toyed with.” the statement reads.
“Conservatives and Constitutionalists have long been concerned about Mitt Romney’s track record of position changes and flip-flops, and his top adviser’s slip of the tongue only reinforces this suspicion,” said Ron Paul 2012 National Campaign Chairman Jesse Benton.
“It is equally off-putting to see Santorum and Gingrich react like carnival barkers, not the statesmen America sorely needs. But, none of this is surprising,” added Mr. Benton.
“While the other candidates and the political chattering class are obsessed with horse-race politics and scoring public relations points, Dr. Paul stands alone in offering real solutions to difficult problems. He is the only candidate with a ‘Plan to Restore America’ that cuts real spending and balances the budget in one term, ends the foreign wars and nation-building, cuts taxes and regulations to create jobs, and reigns in the Federal Reserve,” the statement concludes.


10 Signs That America Is On The Verge Of A Horrible Municipal Debt Crisis -

10 Signs That America Is On The Verge Of A Horrible Municipal Debt Crisis - 

Is America on the verge of a horrible municipal debt crisis?  Unfortunately, the answer is yes.  From coast to coast there are an increasing number of cities, towns and counties that are rapidly going broke.  Financial analyst Meredith Whitney took a lot of heat when her prediction of a municipal bond crash in 2011 did not happen, but she was not fundamentally wrong in her analysis.  A horrifying municipal debt crisis is starting to unfold right in front of our eyes.  It just did not happen as soon as she thought that it would.  When most Americans think of our "debt problem", they think of the federal government.  But the truth is that we have hundreds and hundreds of smaller "debt problems" all across the country.  In 2012, cities such as Stockton, California and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania have already defaulted and a whole bunch of other cities and towns are headed down the exact same path.  Once we see the first major wave of municipal defaults, creditors will become much tighter with their money and that will cause even more municipalities to get into financial trouble.  This crisis could start spinning out of control at any time.

The frightening thing is that all of this is happening at a time when we are supposed to be having an "economic recovery".

So what will things look like when the economy gets even worse than this?

If hundreds of cities, towns and counties are barely able to keep their heads above water financially right now, what is going to happen when the next recession hits?

That is frightening to think about.

The following are 10 signs that America is on the verge of a horrible municipal debt crisis....

#1 Moody's has downgraded Detroit's debt again.  The following is from the Detroit News....

The city received a downgrade to B2 from Ba3 for its $553.1 million in outstanding general obligation unlimited tax debt and also a downgrade to B3 from B1 for the $486.4 million in outstanding general obligation limited tax debt. Both ratings fell two points.

#2 The city of Indianapolis is facing an unprecedented 75 million dollar budget deficit in 2012.  City officials are warning that there may soon not be enough money to keep the streetlights on.

#3 Suffolk County in New York has declared a "fiscal emergency" after discovering that it is projected to take on a total of more than 500 million dollars of additional debt by the end of 2013.

#4 The city of Trenton, New Jersey is so broke that it has put off buying more toilet paper for city buildings.  At last report, there were a total of 15 rolls remaining and after that those that use city restrooms will be on their own.

#5 Some cities are slashing expenses dramatically in an attempt to stay afloat.  The following is one example from California....

Costa Mesa, a city of 110,000 south of Los Angeles, has slashed its payroll from 611 to 450. It is selling its police helicopters and has hired a neighboring city for air patrols. It's also pursuing a controversial effort to convert to a charter city from a general law city, which would give City Hall more power to outsource more work, said councilman Jim Righeimer.

#6 In New York, state officials are deeply concerned that city and local governments are paying their pension obligations by borrowing from the state pension fund.  This is essentially like making your minimum monthly payment on a credit card by borrowing more money on that same credit card....

And now, their fears are being realized: cities throughout the state, wealthy towns such as Southampton and East Hampton, counties like Nassau and Suffolk, and other public employers like the Westchester Medical Center and the New York Public Library are all managing their rising pension bills by borrowing from the very same $140 billion pension fund to which they owe money.

Across New York, state and local governments are borrowing $750 million this year to finance their contributions to the state pension system, and are likely to borrow at least $1 billion more over the next year. The number of municipalities and public institutions using this new borrowing mechanism to pay off their annual pension bills has tripled in a year.

#7 Pension problems are catching up with a lot of cities all over the nation.  For example, CBS News reported recently that the city of Central Falls, Rh0de Island has been forced to declare bankruptcy because of pension woes....

For years, city officials promised robust union contracts and pensions without raising revenue to pay for them. Last August, the math caught up with them. Central Falls was broke, its pension fund short $46 million. It declared bankruptcy.

"My daughters grew up here, went to school here. It's all gone," said Mike Geoffroy, a retired firefighter.

He said he could not make the payments on his house after his pension was cut by $1,100 a month.

#8 Last November, Jefferson County, Alabama filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.  At the time, they had accumulated a total of approximately 4.2 billion dollars of debt.

#9 Several other U.S. large cities have defaulted on their debts in early 2012 as a Bloomberg article recently reported....

The California cities of Stockton and Hercules, as well as Pennsylvania's capital, Harrisburg, have opted to default on some of their insured debt in recent months.

#10 In all, there have been 21 municipal defaults so far in 2012.  The grand total of those defaults comes to 978 million dollars.

Of course a lot of state governments are experiencing massive budget problems right now as well.

For example, in California state government revenues for February 2012 were down by about 22 percent compared to February 2011.  The state government is quickly running out of money once again, and nobody is quite sure how to fix California's rapidly deteriorating financial situation.

And we all know that the biggest debt problem of all is the U.S. national debt.

Read more -