Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 12th, 2007

Arctic ocean 5º C warmer

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This is bad news:

Record-breaking amounts of ice-free water have deprived the Arctic of more of its natural “sunscreen” than ever in recent summers. The effect is so pronounced that sea surface temperatures rose to 5 C above average in one place this year, a high never before observed, says the oceanographer who has compiled the first-ever look at average sea surface temperatures for the region.

Such superwarming of surface waters can affect how thick ice grows back in the winter, as well as its ability to withstand melting the next summer, according to Michael Steele, an oceanographer with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. Indeed, since September, the end of summer in the Arctic, winter freeze-up in some areas is two months later than usual.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 12:38 pm

How to study rogue waves

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Rogue waves are difficult to study because their occurrence is difficult to predict: you can scarcely hang out in the ocean waiting for one—and they’re extremely dangerous, to boot (see link above).

But now scientists have found a way to bring them into the laboratory to study: use light waves.

Maritime folklore tells tales of giant “rogue waves” that can appear and disappear without warning in the open ocean. Also known as “freak waves,” these ominous monsters have been described by mariners for ages and have even appeared prominently in many legendary literary works, from Homer’s “Odyssey” to “Robinson Crusoe.”

Once dismissed by scientists as fanciful sailors’ stories akin to sea monsters and uncharted inlands, recent observations have shown that they are a real phenomenon, capable of destroying even large modern ships. However, this mysterious phenomenon has continued to elude researchers, as man-made rouge waves have not been reported in scientific literature — in water or in any other medium.

Now, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have succeeded in creating and capturing rogue waves. In their experiments, they have discovered optical rogue waves — freak, brief pulses of intense light analogous to the infamous oceanic monsters — propagating through optical fiber. Their findings appear in the Dec. 13 issue of the journal Nature.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Science

Huckabee slogan: “Mostly not so bad as the others”

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Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 11:47 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Cool: bamboo civil engineering

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I like this:

In China bamboo is used for furniture, artwork, building scaffolding, panels for concrete casting and now, truck bridges.

Yan Xiao, a professor at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering is the designer of a new span in the village of Leiyang, Hunan Province, which formally opens for traffic December 12.

Made from pre-fabricated structural elements, the bridge was erected within a week by a team of eight workers without heavy construction equipment. While traffic on the Leiyang bridge will be limited to the 8-ton design capacity, preliminary tests on a duplicate bridge erected on the campus of Hunan University have shown much higher strength – tests are continuing.

The new bridge is the latest installment in research on structural bamboo being carried on by Xiao, who in addition to his appointment at the USC Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Enviornmental Engineering holds an appointment at the College of Civil Engineering of the Hunan University, China.

Last year, Xiao demonstrated a high capacity bamboo footbridge, which was a featured attraction at a recent conference organized by Xioa in Changsha, China.

Prof. Xiao expects his modern bamboo bridge technology to be widely used in pedestrian crossing, large number of bridges in rural areas in China, as a environmental friendly and sustainable construction material. Besides bridges, Xiao’s team has also built a mobile house using similar technology they developed.

Meanwhile, they are also constructing a prototype 250 square meter, two-story single-family house, similar to the lightweight wood frame houses widely built in California, where Dr. Xiao lives.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 10:28 am

Neo-cons and the views of Jews

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Glenn Greenwald has an intriguing column:

A new survey of American Jewish opinion, released by the American Jewish Committee, demonstrates several important propositions: (1) right-wing neocons (the Bill Kristol/Commentary/ AIPAC/Marty Peretz faction) who relentlessly claim to speak for Israel and for Jews generally hold views that are shared only by a small minority of American Jews; (2) viewpoints that are routinely demonized as reflective of animus towards Israel or even anti-Semitism are ones that are held by large majorities of American Jews; and (3) most American Jews oppose U.S. military action in the Middle East — including both in Iraq and against Iran.

It is beyond dispute that American Jews overwhelmingly oppose core neoconservative foreign policy principles. Hence, in large numbers, they disapprove of the way the U.S. is handling its “campaign against terrorism” (59-31); overwhelmingly believe the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq (67-27); believe that things are going “somewhat badly” or “very badly” in Iraq (76-23); and believe that the “surge” has either made things worse or has had no impact (68-30).

When asked whether they would support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran, a large majority — 57-35% — say they would oppose such action, even if it were being undertaken “to prevent [Iran] from developing nuclear weapons.” While Jews hold views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which are quite pessimistic about the prospects for Israel’s ability to achieve a lasting peace with its “Arab neighbors,” even there, a plurality (46-43) supports the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In the realm of U.S. domestic politics, it is even clearer that right-wing neoconservatives are a fringe segment of American Jewish public opinion. By a large margin, American Jews identify as some shade of liberal rather than conservative (43-25), and overwhelmingly identify themselves as Democrats rather than Republicans (58-15). And, most strikingly, by a 3-1 margin (61-21), they believe that Democrats, rather than Republicans, are “more likely to make the right decision about the war in Iraq,” and by a similarly lopsided margin (53-30), believe that Democrats are “more likely to make the right decision when it comes to dealing with terrorism.” They have overwhelmingly favorable views of the top 3 Democratic presidential candidates, and overwhelmingly negative views of 3 out of the top 4 GOP candidates (Giuliani being the sole exception, where opinion is split).

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Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 9:45 am

Posted in GOP

Yet another journalistic hack: Peter Beinart

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When will journalism reform itself? Read this:

Just eight months ago, PBS’s Bill Moyers aired perhaps the single most devastating indictment of the Washington press corps that I have ever seen. In his documentary, which looked at how the media cheered on President Bush’s push for a war with Iraq, Moyers interviewed one of the key cheerleaders: then-New Republic editor Peter Beinart. Moyers asked Beinart “what made you present yourself as a Middle East expert” in the lead up to war? Beinart said that though he had never been to Iraq, he is “a political journalist.” So Moyers naturally asked what kind of “political journalism” and reporting Beinart did to make sure his pro-war cheerleading was sound? Beinart’s answer was the stuff of journalism infamy:

“Well, I was doing mostly, for a large part it was reading, reading the statements and the things that people said. I was not a beat reporter. I was editing a magazine and writing a column. So I was not doing a lot of primary reporting. But what I was doing was a lot of reading of other people’s reporting and reading of what officials were saying.”

This is the kind of quote that your journalism professor puts on the board during your freshman year as an example of all that is wrong with the reporting today. And you might think that after such an utterly humiliating admission, Beinart would change his ways, and do, ya know, real reporting the next time he opens his mouth about Iraq.

But you would be wrong.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 9:02 am

Posted in Iraq War, Media

What Shakespeare does to your brain

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Shakespeare has more impact than you would think:

In the last few years I have become interested not only in the contents of the thoughts I read—their meaning for me, their mental and emotional effect—but also in the very shapes these thoughts take; a shape inseparable, I feel, from that content.

Moreover, I had a specific intuition—about Shakespeare: that the very shapes of Shakespeare’s lines and sentences somehow had a dramatic effect at deep levels in my mind. For example, Macbeth at the end of his tether:

And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have, but in their stead
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath
Which the poor heart would fain deny and dare not.

I’ll say no more than this: it simply would not be the same, would it, if Shakespeare had written it out more straightforwardly: I must not look to have the honour, love, obedience, troops of friends which should accompany old age. Nor would it be the same if he had not suddenly coined that disgusted phrase “mouth-honour” (now a cliché as “lip-service”).

I took this hypothesis—about grammatical or linear shapes and their mapping onto shapes inside the brain—to a scientist, Professor Neil Roberts who heads MARIARC (the Magnetic Resonance and Image Analysis Research Centre) at the University of Liverpool. In particular I mentioned to him the linguistic phenomenon in Shakespeare which is known as “functional shift” or “word class conversion”. It refers to the way that Shakespeare will often use one part of speech—a noun or an adjective, say—to serve as another, often a verb, shifting its grammatical nature with minimal alteration to its shape. Thus in “Lear” for example, Edgar comparing himself to the king: “He childed as I fathered” (nouns shifted to verbs); in “Troilus and Cressida”, “Kingdomed Achilles in commotion rages” (noun converted to adjective); “Othello”, “To lip a wanton in a secure couch/And to suppose her chaste!”‘ (noun “lip” to verb; adjective “wanton” to noun).

The effect is often electric I think, like a lightning-flash in the mind: for this is an economically compressed form of speech, as from an age when the language was at its most dynamically fluid and formatively mobile; an age in which a word could move quickly from one sense to another, in keeping with Shakespeare’s lightning-fast capacity for forging metaphor. It was a small example of sudden change of shape, of concomitant effect upon the brain. Could we make an experiment out of it?

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Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 8:59 am

Posted in Science, Writing

Top free downloads for Microsoft Office

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Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 8:49 am

Posted in Software

Millipede cable ties

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These look to be much better than the familiar zip ties. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 8:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Remarkable lather, remarkable shave

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The lather was ginned up from Truefitt & Hill’s fine shaving soap with the highly esteemed Simpsons Emperor 3 Super, my new favorite brush. Thick, luxuriant lather that perfectly prepared the stubble to accept the edge of the thrice-used Astra Superior Platinum blade carried in the Edwin Jagger ivory-handled Georgian: double down, sideways, and up, and as smooth a visage as you’re likely ever to see. To celebrate, Pashana aftershave, and now I’m getting ready for the cleaning ladies.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2007 at 8:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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