David Kirkpatrick

November 24, 2008

NASA and small business contracts

A release from today:

NASA Selects 382 Small Business Research and Technology Projects

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA has awarded contracts to 382 small business proposals that address critical research and technology needs for agency programs and projects. The awards are part of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program, known as SBIR, and the Small Business Technology Transfer program, known as STTR.

(Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

The SBIR program selected 350 proposals for negotiation of phase 1 contracts, and the STTR program chose 32 proposals for negotiation of phase 1 contract awards. The selected SBIR projects have a combined value of approximately $35 million. The selected STTR projects have a combined value of approximately $3.2 million.

The SBIR contracts will be awarded to 242 small, high technology firms in 38 states. The STTR contracts will be awarded to 29 small high technology firms in 14 states. As part of the STTR program, the firms will partner with 24 universities and research institutions in 16 states.

The SBIR and STTR programs are managed by the Innovative Partnerships Program Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington, which works with U.S. industry to infuse pioneering technologies into NASA missions and transition them into commercially available products and services.

Results from the program have benefited several NASA efforts, including air traffic control systems, Earth observing spacecraft, the International Space Station and the development of spacecraft for exploring the solar system.

A few of the exciting research areas among this group of selected proposals include:


* Innovative technologies to improve noise prediction, measurement methods and control for subsonic and supersonic vehicles.


* Development of higher performance Thermal Protection System (TPS) materials and integrated entry systems architectures for future exploration missions.


* Development of reusable flight software with common core components and library modules that can be used repeatedly for multiple small satellite missions.

Space Operations

* Technologies and analysis to support the navigation capabilities for planetary spacewalks, manned rovers and lunar surface space suits.

The SBIR program is a highly competitive, three-phase award system. It provides qualified small businesses – including women-owned and disadvantaged firms – with opportunities to propose unique ideas that meet specific research and development needs of the federal government.

The criteria used to choose these winning proposals included technical merit and feasibility; experience, qualifications and facilities; effectiveness of the work plan; and commercial potential and feasibility.

NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., manages the program for the Innovative Partnership Program office. NASA’s 10 field centers manage individual projects.

For a list of selected companies and more information about the program, visit:


Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
AP Archive:  http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/


Geithner tapped for Treasury

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:30 pm

Obama continues to build his team. Looks like this choice is amenable to Wall Street.

From the link:

President-elect Barack Obama will name Timothy F. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, to be his Treasury secretary, moving to fill a key post at a moment when the quavering financial markets are looking for reassurance about the direction of economic policy, people briefed about the decision said Friday.

In picking Mr. Geithner, who has been at the center of efforts to contain the financial crisis, Mr. Obama passed over Lawrence H. Summers, who was Treasury secretary in the final year and a half of the Clinton administration. The president-elect might name Mr. Summers, a highly regarded economist and a former president of Harvard University, as a senior White House adviser, people involved in the transition said.


Word of Mr. Geithner’s selection helped drive stocks sharply higher on Friday afternoon as investors concluded that Mr. Obama was taking steps to fill a leadership vacuum at a time when the economy and financial markets are showing new signs of strain. The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 494 points, a 6.5 percent gain after days of dizzying declines.


GM contemplates bankruptcy

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:27 pm

After the beg-a-thon failed — in no small part because of the idiotic use of private corporate jets to get to DC — it looks like General Motors may be about to face the music.

From the link:

The board of directors of embattled U.S. automaker General Motors Corp is considering “all options” including bankruptcy, according to a report on the Wall Street Journal‘s website late on Friday.

The paper, citing people familiar with the board’s thinking, said the stance puts it in conflict with chief executive Rick Wagoner, who told lawmakers this week bankruptcy is not a viable alternative for the company.

GM, in a statement to the newspaper, said the board has discussed bankruptcy, but said the board did not view it as a “viable solution to the company’s liquidity problems.”

A GM spokesman told the paper that management is doing everything it can to avoid a bankruptcy filing.

NASA announces new Jupiter mission

Sounds cool.

The release:

NASA Prepares for New Juno Mission to Jupiter

WASHINGTON, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA is officially moving forward on a mission to conduct an unprecedented, in-depth study of Jupiter.

(Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO )

Called Juno, the mission will be the first in which a spacecraft is placed in a highly elliptical polar orbit around the giant planet to understand its formation, evolution and structure. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our early solar system.

“Jupiter is the archetype of giant planets in our solar system and formed very early, capturing most of the material left after the sun formed,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Unlike Earth, Jupiter’s giant mass allowed it to hold onto its original composition, providing us with a way of tracing our solar system’s history.”

The spacecraft is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in August 2011, reaching Jupiter in 2016. The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter 32 times, skimming about 3,000 miles over the planet’s cloud tops for approximately one year. The mission will be the first solar powered spacecraft designed to operate despite the great distance from the sun.

“Jupiter is more than 400 million miles from the sun or five times further than Earth,” Bolton said. “Juno is engineered to be extremely energy efficient.”

The spacecraft will use a camera and nine science instruments to study the hidden world beneath Jupiter’s colorful clouds. The suite of science instruments will investigate the existence of an ice-rock core, Jupiter’s intense magnetic field, water and ammonia clouds in the deep atmosphere, and explore the planet’s aurora borealis.

“In Greek and Roman mythology, Jupiter’s wife Juno peered through Jupiter’s veil of clouds to watch over her husband’s mischief,” said Professor Toby Owen, co-investigator at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. “Our Juno looks through Jupiter’s clouds to see what the planet is up to, not seeking signs of misbehavior, but searching for whispers of water, the ultimate essence of life.”

Understanding the formation of Jupiter is essential to understanding the processes that led to the development of the rest of our solar system and what the conditions were that led to Earth and humankind. Similar to the sun, Jupiter is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium. A small percentage of the planet is composed of heavier elements. However, Jupiter has a larger percentage of these heavier elements than the sun.

“Juno’s extraordinarily accurate determination of the gravity and magnetic fields of Jupiter will enable us to understand what is going on deep down in the planet,” said Professor Dave Stevenson, co-investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “These and other measurements will inform us about how Jupiter’s constituents are distributed, how Jupiter formed and how it evolved, which is a central part of our growing understanding of the nature of our solar system.”

Deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere, under great pressure, hydrogen gas is squeezed into a fluid known as metallic hydrogen. At these great depths, the hydrogen acts like an electrically conducting metal which is believed to be the source of the planet’s intense magnetic field. Jupiter also may have a rocky solid core at the center.

“Juno gives us a fantastic opportunity to get a picture of the structure of Jupiter in a way never before possible,” said James Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It will allow us to take a giant step forward in our understanding on how giant planets form and the role that plays in putting the rest of the solar system together.”

The Juno mission is the second spacecraft designed under NASA’s New Frontiers Program. The first was the Pluto New Horizons mission, launched in January 2006 and scheduled to reach Pluto’s moon Charon in 2015. The program provides opportunities to carry out several medium-class missions identified as top priority objectives in the Decadal Solar System Exploration Survey, conducted by the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council in Washington.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission. Lockheed Martin of Denver is building the spacecraft. The Italian Space Agency is contributing an infrared spectrometer instrument and a portion of the radio science experiment.

For more information about the Juno mission, visit:


Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
AP Archive:  http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

Here’s a post for all my golfing readers

I don’t hit the links as often as I’d like, and I even live across the street from a driving range (Update — I left off that range is between two, yes two, very fine full courses). I could literally walk there every day, but don’t. Maybe there’s a new year’s resolution somewhere in there …

The release:

The physics of golf balls

New research aims to help golfers by producing better balls that fly farther

November 23, 2008 — At the 61st Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics this week, a team of researchers from Arizona State University and the University of Maryland is reporting research that may soon give avid golfers another way to improve their game.

Employing the same sort of scientific approach commonly used to improve the design of automobiles, aircraft, ships, trains, and other moving objects, the team has used a supercomputer to model how air flows around a ball in flight and to study how this flow is influenced by the ball’s dimples. Their goal is to make a better golf ball by optimizing the size and pattern of these dimples and lowering the drag golf balls encounter as they fly through the air.

“For a golf ball, drag reduction means that the ball flies farther,” says ASU’s Clinton Smith, a Ph.D. student who is presenting a talk on the research on Sunday, November 23, 2008 in San Antonio. Smith and his advisor Kyle Squires conducted in collaboration with Nikolaos Beratlis and Elias Balaras at the University of Maryland and Masaya Tsunoda of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd.

It’s no secret that dimples improve the flight of a golf ball. Once in flight, a golf ball experiences aerodynamic forces generated from the surrounding air flow as well as gravity. The latter constantly pulls it towards the ground, while the aerodynamic force in the direction of motion, or drag force, dictates the distance it travels. The main purpose of dimples is to reduce the drag and help the ball fly farther. Actually, dimpled golf balls experience about half the drag as those with no dimples.

Although the United States Golf Association (USGA) regulates the design of golfballs, laying out uniform size and weight specifications that all approved golf balls must meet, the dimple pattern is not regulated. It is one of the very few parts of the ball over which companies have freedom to change the design. But what pattern is best for lowering the drag?

Up to now, dimple design has been more of an art than a science. For many years, sporting goods companies would design their dimple patterns by simple trial and error, testing prototype after prototype against one another. The new study takes a different approach, asking how to design dimple size and pattern based on mathematical equations that model the physics of a golf ball in flight. Working out the solution to these equations — even on the fastest personal computers today — is not feasible since it would take more than 15 years of computing time just to get a glimpse of the flow around the golf ball for a fraction of a second.

Nikolaos Beratlis, a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland, and his advisor Elias Balaras have been developing highly efficient algorithms and software to solve these equations on parallel supercomputers, which can reduce the simulation time to the order of hours. The number crunching for a typical computation, for example, takes approximately 300 hours using 500 fast processors running in parallel (normal desktop computers may have one or two slower processors).

The group’s work presented by Smith in San Antonio will summarize their research. So far, they have characterized air flow around a golf ball at the finest level of detail ever attempted, teasing out the drag at each exact location and showing how air flows in an out of each tiny dimple on a golf ball’s surface as it spins through the air during flight.

In the end, they produced a model that reveals the physics of a flying golf ball with the greatest level of detail ever seen — the first step in achieving the project’s long-term goal of optimizing dimple design to realize the lowest drag possible. The next step, says Smith, is to extend the work by comparing different dimple designs.

New designs are still years away at best, however, so don’t give up the driving range just yet.




The talk, “Direct Numerical Simulations of the Flow around a Golf Ball: Effect of Rotation” by will take place at 4:49 p.m. on Sunday, November 23, 2008 in Room 201 of the Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio, TX. Abstract: http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/DFD08/Event/90118




The Division of Fluid Dynamics of the American Physical Society (APS) exists for the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of the physics of fluids with special emphasis on the dynamical theories of the liquid, plastic and gaseous states of matter under all conditions of temperature and pressure. See: http://www.aps.org/units/dfd/.


The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is a not-for-profit organization chartered in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare. It is the mission of the Institute to serve physics, astronomy, and related fields of science and technology by serving its ten Member Societies and their associates, individual scientists, educators, R&D leaders, and the general public with programs, services and publications. See: http://www.aip.org/.

The 61st Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, which takes place from November 23-25 at the San Antonio Convention Center in Texas, is the largest scientific meeting of the year devoted to the dynamics of such fluids. It brings together researchers from across the globe to present work with applications in astronomy, engineering, alternative energy, and medicine. For more information, please visit the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics Virtual Press Room. See: http://www.aps.org/units/dfd/pressroom/.


November 23, 2008

Vaccinations do not cause autism

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:04 pm

I welcome any opportunity to debunk this rumor. It’s particularly pernicious because kids who aren’t vaccinated become little time-bomb vectors of disease. This fact points to potential health hazards for many communities.

A health risk created solely by selfish and uninformed parents who are making very serious decisions that can easily bring harm to their children and others based on faulty data. If you believe this blatant untruth and don’t get your kids vaccinated because of it, you really need to do some research from sound scientific sources.

I don’t want to die of some childhood disease becuase you are ignorant and frightened.

From the link:

Theodore Dalrymple reviews Paul Offit’s book on the anti-vaccination crusaders:

Paul Offit’s new book, as readable as a good detective novel, tells the story of how autism, a disorder of psychological development, came falsely to be blamed first on the MMR vaccine and then on thimerosal, a preservative found in several vaccines. It is a tale about bad science, worse journalism, unscrupulous political populism, and profiteering litigation lawyers.

Update 10/9/09 — Here’s the latest in vaccination/autism research.

Head below the fold for the release: (more…)

November 22, 2008

Sully on torture

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:49 pm

Yep, he’s still on it and rightly so. The atrocities committed under the Bush 43 regime should never be repeated. We, as citizens of the United States of America, should make certain the rules of law and standards laid down by our founding fathers and our first president, George Washington, are carried out with grace, humility and strength.

Torture, even for the most evil amongst us, is never an option. It is a tool of the weak and frightened. The United States is neither.

From the link:

Even the word “torture” can be too vague and abstract a term. So let us state in plain English how Bush, Cheney, Tenet, et al. actually got information. They did it by subjecting prisoners to repeated drowning, or freezing, or heating, or sadistically long sleeplessness, or shackling or crucifying them until the pain could be borne no longer, or beating them until they pleaded for mercy, or threatening to kill or torture their children or wife or parents. Or all of the above in combination, in isolation, and with no surety of ever seeing the light of day again, with no right to meaningful due process of any kind, sometimes sealed off from light and sound for months at a time, or bombarded with indescribable noise day and night in cells from which there was no escape ever. This is what “under coercive conditions” actually means. It drove many of the victims into become mumbling, shaking, insane shells of human beings; it killed dozens; it drove others still to hunger strikes to try to kill themselves; and it terrified and scarred and “broke” the souls of many, many others. For what? Intelligence that cannot be trusted, and the loss of the sacred integrity of two centuries of American history. Did it save lives? We do not know. We do know that the people who are claiming it did have been unable to bring any serious case to justice based on their original claims, and are the people who are criminally responsible for the torture they have committed. Why would they not say it saved lives? And yet we have no other way to know. And we have the terrifying possibility that false information procured by torture provided a pretext to torture others in a self-perpetuating loop in which any ability to find out the actual truth is lost for ever. That, after all, is how some of the flawed intelligence that took us into Iraq was procured.

November 21, 2008

Los Alamos announces superconductivity news

The release:

Los Alamos Scientists See New Mechanism for Superconductivity

When materials are tuned to a critical point at absolute zero temperature, quantum effects dictate universal behavior in material properties. The presence of a singular point is revealed through its unusual electronic properties outside a new form of matter that hides the singularity.

Quantum Blackhole (in condensed matter): When materials are tuned to a critical point at absolute zero temperature, quantum effects dictate universal behavior in material properties. The presence of a singular point is revealed through its unusual electronic properties outside a new form of matter that hides the singularity.   enlarge image


Quantum “Alchemy”: Formation of superconductivity in the vicinity of a singular critical point defies the conventional belief that turbulent electronic fluctuations are not beneficial to form the macroscopic quantum state. The unheralded source of superconductivity holds promise for the design of a room temperature superconductor.   enlarge image

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., November 24, 2008 — Laboratory researchers have posited an explanation for superconductivity that may open the door to the discovery of new, unconventional forms of superconductivity.

In a November 20 Nature letter, research led by Tuson Park and Joe D. Thompson describes a new explanation for superconductivity in non-traditional materials—one that describes a potentially new state of matter in which the superconducting material behaves simultaneously as a nonmagnetic material and a magnetic material.

Superconducting materials carry a current without resistance, usually when cooled to temperatures nearing the liquid point of helium (nearly 452 degrees below zero Fahrenheit). Superconductors are extremely important materials because they hold promise for carrying electricity from one place to another without current loss or providing indefinite electric storage capacity. However, the cost of cooling materials to such extremely low temperatures currently limits the practicality of superconductors. If superconductors could be designed to operate at temperatures closer to room temperature, the results would be revolutionary.

Traditional theories of superconductivity hold that electrons within certain nonmagnetic materials can pair up when jostled together by atomic vibrations known as phonons. In other words, phonons provide the “glue” that makes superconductivity possible.

Park and his colleagues now describe a different type of “glue” giving rise to superconducting behavior.

Park and his colleagues cooled a compound of Cerium, Rhodium and Indium to just above absolute zero, nearly minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the material exhibits superconducting behavior. However, they also subjected the crystal to pressure changes and a magnetic field to perturb the alignment of electrons within the material.

“We introduced very high quantum fluctuations in the material,” Park said. “In other words, we made the electrons like a traffic jam, where it would be very difficult for them to move.”

This electronic traffic jam would discourage electron pairing by phonons; nevertheless, the material continued to exhibit superconducting behavior.

Based on the material’s behavior under different pressures and temperatures, researchers believe that the material reaches a quantum critical point near absolute zero. At this quantum critical point, the material retained properties of a metal with highly ordered electrons and highly disordered ones—a previously undescribed state of matter.

Park and his colleagues believe that this quantum critical point provides a mechanism to pair electrons into a quantum state that gives rise to superconducting behavior. In other words, the research helps explain a mechanism for superconductivity without phonons.

“This quantum critical point could be analogous to a black hole,” said Park. “We can see what is happening at or near the event horizon—superconductivity—but we cannot yet see inside to understand why.”

A new mechanism for the electron-pairing glue that gives rise to superconductivity could allow researchers to design new materials that exhibit superconducting materials at higher temperatures, perhaps even opening the door to the “Holy Grail” of superconducting materials—one that works at room temperature.

Park’s colleagues include: Vladimir Sidorov, Filip Ronning, Jian-Xin Zhu, Yoshifumi Tokiwa, Hanoh Lee, Eric Bauer, Roman Movshovich, John Sarrao and Joe D. Thompson.

The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Office of Basic Energy Science and funded in part by Los Alamos National Laboratory.


Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and Washington Group International for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

News from the galaxy

This is some crazy research.

The release:

Crash Test-Iconic Rings and Flares of Galaxies Created by Violent, Intergalactic Collisions, Research by Pitt and Partners Finds

Findings published in “The Astrophysical Journal” challenge existing theory about the formation of such galaxies as the Milky Way

PITTSBURGH-The bright pinwheels and broad star sweeps iconic of disk galaxies such as the Milky Way might all be the shrapnel from massive, violent collisions with other galaxies and galaxy-size chunks of dark matter, according to a multi-institutional project involving the University of Pittsburgh. Published in the Nov. 20 edition of “The Astrophysical Journal,” the findings challenge the longstanding theory that the bright extensions and rings surrounding galaxies are the remnants of smaller star clusters that struck a larger, primary galaxy then fragmented.

The study’s team consisted of Andrew Zentner, a professor of physics and astronomy in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences; James Bullock, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of California at Irvine; Stelios Kazantzidis, a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University; Andrey Kravtsov, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago; and Leonidas Moustakas, a researcher at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

The team’s computer simulations of galaxy formation suggests that disk galaxies most likely began as flat, centralized star clusters. Smaller galaxies collided with and tore through these disks billions of years ago, casting disk stars outward into the wild extensions present now; the bright center is the original formation. In addition, vast bodies of dark matter-a low-density, high-gravity invisible mass thought to occupy nearly one-quarter of the Universe-swept through these disks and further pulled stars from the main disk.

The researchers’ scenario largely applies to the formation of the rings and long flares of stars that surround such galaxies as the Milky Way, Zentner said. But the model also presents a possible solution to how star spirals-the arcs of stars that radiate from the center of some disk galaxies-maintain their shape. Spirals form as a result of any disturbance to the star disk, Zentner said. However, the prolonged disturbance of a galaxy and dark matter expanse passing through a disk explains why the spirals seem to never recede.

“Our model suggests that a violent collision throws stars everywhere and continues moving through the disk, disturbing its structure,” Zentner said. “It also has been known for some time that for star spirals to develop and maintain their well-known form, there must be a prolonged disturbance. We show that large masses moving through a galaxy could provide that disturbance.”

The team’s findings were serendipitous, Zentner explained. They were modeling disk galaxies for an unrelated astrological survey when they inadvertently discovered that stars in the main disk scattered when satellite galaxies-smaller galaxies surrounding larger ones-passed through. They shared their results with colleagues a year ago, and the results have since been replicated, Zentner said.

“One of the major advantages of these results is that we didn’t set out to find them,” he said. “They happened as we simulated existing galaxies.”

The paper is available on Pitt’s Web site at http://www.pitt.edu/news2008/zentner_paper.pdf


Related links:

The Astrophysical Journal

Dog bites man …

Filed under: Business, et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:44 pm

IRS agent cheats on his taxes.

From the link:

An IRS revenue agent was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after he was indicted a few days earlier by a grand jury on charges of tax fraud and obstructing an investigation into his tax return.

Jim Liu, 42, of Diamond Bar, Calif., claimed on his tax return that he had suffered a loss on a real estate sale when he had actually realized a profit. Liu has been released on a $30,000 bond and is scheduled for arraignment on Nov. 24.

Dems want to bail out the Big Three

I guess the threat of a Chinese takeover of the US auto industry is going to drive more corporate socialism. Looks like elected Democrats want to fork over cash to the failing businesses.

Isn’t it time someone pointed out no one — no one — has any clue what is happening financially right now? Our treasure is being spilled and spent in the Middle East and now on Wall Street and the Rust(ed out) Belt. Main Street will eventually turn to garbage can fires and gunplay if this keeps up.

From the second link:

Democratic congressional leaders, seeking to salvage a bailout of the Big Three automakers, demanded executives provide a business survival plan in exchange for their support of up to $25 billion in loans.

The ultimatum came on Thursday after the Democratic leaders failed to persuade the White House and congressional Republicans to use part of a $700 billion financial rescue fund to prop up the auto industry.

Hanging in the balance is the future of General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler LLC, whose losses have mounted during a severe economic downturn that has prompted Americans to largely stop buying cars.

Shares of GM and Ford rebounded from multi-decade lows as the developments in Washington kept bailout hopes alive.

While many lawmakers are anxious to see the companies survive, Republicans have been more wary of whether the money would really help, and Democrats have been more inclined to be generous to the huge employers of unionized labor.

Democratic leaders acknowledged on Thursday a growing public resentment over government bailouts of U.S. business in slowing the automakers’ demands, saying they will take a look after the auto industry provides a roadmap to its survival.

If you’re getting unemployment …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:30 pm

… good news, the checks have been extended.

From the link:

Jarred by new jobless alarms, Congress raced to approve legislation Thursday to keep unemployment checks flowing through the December holidays and into the new year for a million or more laid-off Americans whose benefits are running out.

The economic picture was only getting worse, if Wall Street was any indication. The Dow Jones industrials dropped more than 400 points for a second straight day, reaching the lowest level in more than five years, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell below lows established six years ago.

The Senate’s vote followed Thursday’s government report that laid-off workers’ new claims for jobless aid had reached a 16-year high and the number of Americans searching for work had surged past 10 million.

The White House, which had opposed broader legislation containing the benefits extension, urged passage of the new version and said President George W. Bush would quickly sign it.

November 20, 2008

Hats in hand with dirty knees …

our corporate backbone pleads with the gov’mint for a thin dime.


From the link:

At the very core of the current financial crisis lies the problem of moral hazard.

Moral hazard is the alignment of incentives that encourages the pursuit of short-term gains with scant regard to (or even responsibility for) potential long-term costs.

The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank and the federal government helped create the moral hazard problem, but they are not focused on correcting it. In fact, some recent actions are making the problem more acute.

Former Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin Jr., once said that the role of the Fed was to “take away the punch bowl just as the party got going.” But under the leadership of Alan Greenspan, the Fed not only left the punch bowl on the table, it also spiked the punch.

When equity markets wobbled, the Fed came to the rescue. Yet when he commented on the “irrational exuberance” of the equity markets several years ago, Greenspan admitted no role in creating that exuberance.

More recently Greenspan failed to acknowledge the moral hazard problem in a different context. In his Oct. 23 testimony before Congress, he expressed “shocked disbelief” that self-regulation failed — that financial institutions did not do a better job preventing themselves from getting into trouble.

Greenspan’s shock is itself surprising. He was right to believe that markets could be self-regulating, and he was right to believe that markets should work. What he failed to see, though, was that self-regulation couldn’t work because of the moral hazard that had crept into the way Wall Street operated.

Many of the problems with Wall Street lie with the corporate structure itself. In the idealized world, management should be acting for the benefit of the shareholders, and the shareholders should act through the board of directors to set compensation and power of management.

USS Liberty document dump

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:36 pm

Looks like a lot of government material surrounding the USS Liberty incident — for those who don’t know, that was a 1967 attack on a US Navy intelligence ship by the Israeli airforce. To this day it’s not certain whether it was a horrible accident, or a brazen military strike by Israel against an ally.

Ambinder has a link to the doc dump and some insight:

From the link:

On Monday, thanks to the National Security Archive, the National Security Agency released thousands of pages from its enormous, official, classified history of the nation’s signal intelligence and communications security operations during the code war. Its author is Dr. Thomas Johnson, the agency’s official historian.

Also from the link:

The entire history, which will take us afficiandos a while to pluck through, was once classified as Top Secret Umbra, with Umbra denoting intelligence of a specific level of sensitivity. At the bottom of the document, the reader is instructed to Handle Via Talent-Keyhole Comint Channels Jointly.  For those who aren’t intel fetishists, Talent-Keyhole is a category designation of sensitive compartmented information that deals with signals intelligence. Talent information deals with aircraft-gathered intelligence; Keyhole denotes imagery (imint) from satellites. Comint refers to sensitive signals intelligence methods and sources. Basically, the history was written at a level of classification that basically forbid even many intelligence professionals from reading it.

Of course, that’s all been declassified. Or most of it — the documents are studded with fascinating redactions…

The Fed is dreaming …

… of happy bunnies and warm milk.

Or, in other words, who believes this horseshit anymore? Really.

From the link:

Taking care not to declare victory, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the secretary of the treasury told Congress on Tuesday that the unprecedented rescue efforts over the past eight weeks appear to have prevented the collapse of financial markets and returned them to a semblance of normalcy.

Reviewing the progress of the Wall Street rescue package that Congress passed Oct. 3, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that stability had returned after the surprise decision to inject $250 billion into U.S. banks and thrifts, coupled with the Fed’s decision to bypass banks and lend directly to U.S. corporations in need of capital.

“These actions, together with similar measures in many other countries, appeared to stabilize the situation and to improve investor confidence in financial firms,” Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee.

Defending his implementation of the rescue effort, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said success must be judged by what hadn’t happened instead of what had.

In the old west Paulson and Bernanke would have been rode out of town along with their spilling bag of snake oil by now.

Wind turbine generator improvement

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:03 pm

To quote my friend Wes:

This is the basic research that should have been funded back the 1980s and available now .

Amen. I’d even toss that ball back to the 70s. At any rate this sounds pretty promising.

From the (second) link:

While the costs of solar power have continually dropped over the past couple decades, wind power has only decreased slightly in cost, owing to a relative lack of sources of improvement.  Much of the wind power research has focused on either building larger turbines which are naturally more cost effective or trying to fit turbines into new areas.  Few looked to reinvent the base structure of the turbine.

Startup ExRo is not your average wind power company, though.  This think-outside-the-box firm has reinvented one of the most basic components of wind turbines — the generator.  Its new design promises up to 50 percent more efficiency and lower production costs as well.

Ordinary wind power generators have an optimal rate which is fine tuned to local average wind conditions.  When the wind is blowing at this speed, the turbine produces electricity at an outstanding efficiency of around 90 percent.  However, when the wind blows faster or slower the efficiency significantly decreases. This is a major cause of why wind power is more expensive than coal, which burns in plants with turbines that turn at steady rates, maintaining the higher efficiency.

In the past, some have tried blades that change pitch to catch more or less wind and maintain a steady pace.  Others have used mechanical transmissions.  However, these components tend to be expensive, raise maintenance costs, and only help so much.

The new generator scraps the mechanical transmission, replacing it with an electrical one.  The new transmission still requires a bit of blade pitching when winds are extremely high.  However, it is able to extend the peak efficiency range significantly, balancing gusts and lulls, and producing, over the course of the year, up to 50 percent more power.


A rendering of the stack illustrates how two rings of rotating magnets connect to the shaft (blue) generate power by passing coils (green and red). These coils can be selectively turned on and off by the electric transmission. Multiple stacks can be collected to a single shaft for better performance. (Source: ExRo)


Twisting electronics

One step closer to wearables.

The release:

Researchers make new electronics — with a twist

They’ve made electronics that can bend. They’ve made electronics that can stretch.

And now, they’ve reached the ultimate goal — electronics that can be subjected to any complex deformation, including twisting.

Yonggang Huang, Joseph Cummings Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and John Rogers, the Flory-Founder Chair Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have improved their so-called “pop-up” technology to create circuits that can be twisted. Such electronics could be used in places where flat, unbending electronics would fail, like on the human body.

Their research is published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Electronic components historically have been flat and unbendable because silicon, the principal component of all electronics, is brittle and inflexible. Any significant bending or stretching renders an electronic device useless.

Huang and Rogers developed a method to fabricate stretchable electronics that increases the stretching range (as much as 140 percent) and allows the user to subject circuits to extreme twisting. This emerging technology promises new flexible sensors, transmitters, new photovoltaic and microfluidic devices, and other applications for medical and athletic use.

The partnership — where Huang focuses on theory, and Rogers focuses on experiments — has been fruitful for the past several years. Back in 2005, the pair developed a one-dimensional, stretchable form of single-crystal silicon that could be stretched in one direction without altering its electrical properties; the results were published by the journal Science in 2006. Earlier this year they made stretchable integrated circuits, work also published in Science.

Next, the researchers developed a new kind of technology that allowed circuits to be placed on a curved surface. That technology used an array of circuit elements approximately 100 micrometers square that were connected by metal “pop-up bridges.”

The circuit elements were so small that when placed on a curved surface, they didn’t bend — similar to how buildings don’t bend on the curved Earth. The system worked because these elements were connected by metal wires that popped up when bent or stretched. The research was the cover article in Nature in early August.

In the research reported in PNAS, Huang and Rogers took their pop-up bridges and made them into an “S” shape, which, in addition to bending and stretching, have enough give that they can be twisted as well.

“For a lot of applications related to the human body — like placing a sensor on the body — an electronic device needs not only to bend and stretch but also to twist,” said Huang. “So we improved our pop-up technology to accommodate this. Now it can accommodate any deformation.”

Huang and Rogers now are focusing their research on another important application of this technology: solar panels. The pair published a cover article in Nature Materials this month describing a new process of creating very thin silicon solar cells that can be combined in flexible and transparent arrays.





Big Three about to be Big Red?

Maybe so. Well at least two of the three.

From the link:

Chinese carmakers SAIC and Dongfeng have plans to acquire GM and Chrysler, China’s 21st Century Business Herald reports today. [A National Enquirer the paper is not. It is one of China’s leading business newspapers, with a daily readership over three million.] The paper cites a senior official of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology– the state regulator of China’s auto industry– who dropped the hint that “the auto manufacturing giants in China, such as Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC) and Dongfeng Motor Corporation, have the capability and intention to buy some assets of the two crisis-plagued American automakers.” These hints are very often followed with quick action in the Middle Kingdom. The hints were dropped just a few days after the same Chinese government gave its auto makers the go-ahead to invest abroad. And why would they do that?


A take-over of a large  overseas auto maker would fit perfectly into China’s plans. As reported before, China has realized that its export chances are slim without unfettered access to foreign technology. The brand cachet of Chinese cars abroad is, shall we say, challenged. The Chinese could easily export Made-in-China VWs, Toyotas, Buicks. If their joint venture partner would let them. The solution: Buy the joint venture partner. Especially, when he’s in deep trouble.

At current market valuations (GM is worth less than Mattel) the Chinese government can afford to buy GM with petty cash. Even a hundred billion $ would barely dent China’s more than $2t in currency reserves. For nobody in the world would buying GM and (while they are at it) Chrysler make more sense than for the Chinese. Overlap? What overlap? They would gain instant access to the world’s markets with accepted brands, and proven technology.

The American Conservative on Bush

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:34 am

The American Conservative is the newest member of my blogroll. I’ve read this excellent site off and on, but I think it’s becoming a must read after the GOP beatdown a couple of weeks ago.

Couple that with the reaction from the incredibly loony right — Palin? Really? — this site is an even more important resource for conservative thought and ideas. Culture11, too.

Here’s an essential brief and set of links on what I consider a true conservative assessment of the Bush 43 regime and not a brown-nosing, sycophantic apologistia take on the last eight years. Bush fans, be warned. The American Conservative gang doesn’t pull any punches. Thankfully.

From the link:

Then came that epic morning, which Bush answered by giving the hijackers far more than they could accomplish with four planes. His grand democratization plan reduced Iraq to rubble, drove Iran to arm, and provided terrorists with the ultimate recruiting tool. America, once renowned for her decency, became the aggressor her foes alleged.

At home, our failed attempt at global liberation has left us less free than ever before. Ancient liberties, cultural imperatives, even basic solvency were subsumed by the war effort. And the conservative movement that gave Bush his margin sanitized his radicalism at the cost of its soul.
All he touched turned to dross. Yet he departs unbowed, still a Churchill in his own mind.

It would be easy to leave him to that delusion and turn a more hopeful page. But Bush wasn’t alone in his failure: a country marched behind him and a movement cheered him on. If the failings of the Bush era are to be corrected—or at least not repeated—we need a clear view of where we’ve been. History will render the final judgment, but herewith a preliminary damage assessment:

November 19, 2008

Solar looks strong for 2009

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:51 pm

A release from twenty minutes ago:

Solar Shines Bright In Dark Economy

Industry Experts Predict 40% Growth For Solar Installations In 2009

LIVERMORE, CA, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire/ — Industry experts are predicting a 40 percent increase in demand for residential and commercial solar installations in 2009. The boom is due mainly to increased government tax incentives and subsidies for renewable resources.

As of January 1, 2009 all Americans will be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit on solar technology. That’s in addition to individual state tax credits, which are as high as 25 percent in regions that are pushing for a greener economy.

“I am proposing we set the most aggressive target in the nation for 33 percent renewable energy by the year 2020,” California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced this week. “That’s a third of our energy from sources like solar, wind and geothermal.”

With a global economic crisis lingering, venture capitalists are now pouring billions of dollars into the renewable resource sector, stimulating a shift in North America’s labor markets. Roofers, electricians, and contractors in slowing industries are now turning to the alternative resource sector for professional labor jobs like solar installation.

Solar Universe, a solar installation company that started franchising in August has already awarded four franchises in California and plans to award five more before going nationwide in 2009. The majority of Solar Universe’s franchise partners are construction professionals looking to capitalize on the installation of solar technology.

“Solar is the bright spot in this economy,” said Joe Bono, co-founder of Solar Universe. “We’re grateful we can help contractors in slowing industries join a rapidly expanding one.”

For more information visit: www.solaruniverse.com

About Solar Universe: Solar Universe is the first to offer the safe, simple, and cost-effective SunGen solar packages. SunGen consists of solar panels and inverters that capture natural sunlight and convert it into electricity. The SunGen saves you money by directing excess solar energy into your utility meter, thus spinning it backwards and crediting your bill. Contact us today to find out why the S.U.N. works for everyone!

Source: Solar Universe

Stay classy, al Qaeda

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:47 pm

Actually there’s nothing classy about those stone-age morons, but this is so stupid it’s painful. Who knew that along with being hate-filled, sharia-lovin’ buffoons, al Qaeda is also quite racist.

In case you’ve missed the news on the latest missive from the cave:

Indeed, the only thing I have a really strong blogometric opinion about today is the letterAyman Al-Zawahiri has issued, in which the terrorist calls the President-elect a “house slave.” If this isn’t disinformation–and it would be nice if our intelligence community were clever enough to have forged the statement–it is fabulous news for reasons most succinctly described by Richard Clarke:

“Obama’s election has taken the wind out of al Qaeda’s sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America’s renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights, and international law. It also proves to many that democracy can work and overcome ethnic, sectarian, or racial barriers.”

This is GREAT news for John McCain …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:30 pm

he wins Missouri!

No corporate socialism for automakers

Or so it seems. The Big Three flew their private jets to DC with very natty, custom-made hats in hand for a little government scratch to tide ’em over for a while.

Looks like maybe they should have flown coach on a commercial carrier and crawled in with moth-eaten ski caps. Image is everything there guys.

From the link:

A year-end drive to win new aid for the ailing auto industry was near collapse in Congress on Wednesday, pulled down by old resentments toward Detroit’s Big Three and continued fighting between Democrats and the outgoing Bush administration.

Midwestern senators mounted a last push to try to craft a compromise $25 billion loan package to be administered by the Commerce Department and financed in a manner acceptable to the White House. But even on a day of punishing economic news, the leadership vacuum in Washington is such that many prefer to leave any bailout in the hands of the two men who have handled so many already: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Also from the link:

“They don’t have a lot of chits here. They have people who are upset at them,” Reid told Politico. “I want to help them. It’s not the companies. I want to help the workers. That’s where I am. The people who work there deserve our attention. But the path has been laid by these bosses who came here yesterday on their corporate jets. … They all flew down here in their corporate jets. It’s just not the right picture.”

Obama may find new energy initiatives difficult …

Filed under: Business, Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:33 pm

… according to this year’s Energy Pulse study.

The release:

Obama White House to Face Long-Held Consumer Denial and Awareness Hurdles in Realizing New Energy Solutions

Consumers Blame Government, Assume Little Self-Responsibility

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ — As President-Elect Barack Obama prepares to address energy as one of the top issues on the U.S. agenda, his administration will face long-held U.S. consumer denial about personal responsibility in driving energy demand and resulting prices – as well as consumers’ “tailpipe-driven” understanding of energy use and environmental impact.

(Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081119/CLW024LOGO )

Despite government reports documenting that consumers now use more electricity than five years ago, Shelton Group’s fourth annual Energy Pulse study reports in a recent survey that 61 percent of consumers deny using more.

Meanwhile, Energy Pulse also reflects widespread economic concern tied to energy use, with 62 percent of Americans indicating they have experienced home utility cost increases of 10-30 percent or more.

“For the first time in four years, we increasingly see economic concerns driving consumer interest in conserving energy,” said Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group, an advertising agency that independently sponsors the study.

“However, one thing hasn’t changed since 2005: most Americans don’t view their own consumption behaviors or energy-use demand as having much to do with energy costs,” Shelton said.  In fact, Energy Pulse 2008 finds that less than one-fourth of consumers mention U.S. consumer demand as most to blame for rising energy prices.

“The Obama Administration will be especially challenged in effecting change if the electorate never understands how energy use – and not just tailpipes – impacts the environment and how consumers’ own behaviors are critical,” Shelton said.

While more consumers are becoming knowledgeable about renewable energy, one-third erroneously think cars and trucks are the No. 1 cause of global warming, while only four percent cite the actual primary culprit of greenhouse emissions: coal-fired electric plants, today’s most prominent source to heat, cool and power buildings – largely homes.

For three previous years (2005-2007), Energy Pulse has found that Americans primarily blame the U.S. government for high energy prices.  In response to this finding, Shelton Group expanded this area of the Energy Pulse 2008 study by dividing this query into two different questions: “Who is most to blame for home energy costs?” and “Who is most to blame for rising gasoline costs?”

These dual questions resulted in very different answers.  Americans still primarily blame the U.S. government for high home energy costs (27 percent), followed by U.S. consumer demand (22 percent).  Interestingly, utilities registered far down the list, at 5 percent.

Also of note: most consumers either blamed kids in the home for increased electricity usage or said they did not think they used more electricity because they now had no kids in the home.

Oil companies were thought to be the primary culprits for rising gasoline costs (27 percent). Even so, the U.S. government was the second most common answer, at 24 percent.

Energy Pulse further asked, “Should the government be doing more to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?”  The overwhelming answer – by 90 percent – was “yes.”

Those who responded affirmatively were then asked “What should the government be doing?”  The top answers were “should invest more in research to find alternatives” (29 percent), “should be more proactive and develop a plan” (16 percent), and “should allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and / or off the U.S. coast” (13 percent).

When asked the primary reason to participate in energy conservation activities or purchases, the top three answers were the same as in 2007 but shifted in order, with saving money No. 1 – again, reflecting more tough economic times:

1.) To save money (ranked No. 3 in 2007)

2.) To protect our environment and save natural resources (remained No. 2 from 2007)

3.) To preserve the quality of life for future generations (ranked No. 1 in 2007)

Energy Pulse 2008(R), by Shelton Group, was fielded to 504 respondents by telephone in September 2008 and has a +/- 4.37 percent margin of error, based on the total number of U.S. households.

Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Shelton Group is an advertising agency entirely focused on energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.  Founded more than 17 years ago by CEO Suzanne Shelton, Shelton Group uniquely understands the consumer mindset as it relates to energy, energy efficiency, conservation and green marketing – based on its portfolio that includes a multi-year range of original consumer research (Energy Pulse, Eco Pulse) and client work for such accounts as BP Solar, Andersen Windows, Vectren Energy, Knauf Insulation and the American Institute of Architects.  Energy Pulse 2008 methodology and other details available upon request.

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081119/CLW024LOGO
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: Shelton Group

Congress wants bailout answers …

… and Paulson is taking the heat. Rightfully so. This whole thing is a disgrace.

I was against it from the get-go, and now that it’s a done deal Paulson and the Treasury Department seem to be no better than a room full of drunk monkeys in handling the process. I wouldn’t let Paulson manage my sock drawer at this point.

From the link:

Members of the House Financial Services Committee grilled Paulson for not doing enough to help distressed homeowners and for failing to force banks that get some of the bailout money to specifically use it to bolster lending to customers, one of the prime reasons behind the rescue package.

“It is essential” that some of the bailout money be used to ease foreclosures, said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a key player in shaping the package that Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law Oct. 3.

Amid fits and starts in the administration’s rollout and direction of the program, “I have to say at this point that public confidence in what we have done so far is lower than anybody would want it to be, to the point where it could be an obstacle to further steps,” Frank lamented.

In a break with the administration, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair, made a fresh pitch for using $24 billion of the bailout pool to help Americans at risk of losing their homes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging Paulson to support the FDIC plan.

“As foreclosures escalate, we are clearly falling behind the curve,” Bair warned the panel. “Much more aggressive intervention is needed if we are to curb the damage to our neighborhoods and broader economic health.”

States are feeling the financial crisis

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:41 pm

States aren’t recession-proof, but tend to fare better than most other entities — commercial or governmental. Even so things are a little tougher around the fifty right now. Moody’s singles out six states for particular trouble at the moment after being placed on its “negative outlook” — Florida, Kentucky, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

From the link

April marked the first time since December 2001 that Moody’s revised its outlook for the U.S. state-government sector to negative, and last month the ratings agency put out a new report predicting states will face harder times as the effects of the credit crisis and economic downturn continue to set in.

Already states are facing larger-than-normal budget shortfalls, which could mean, among other things, a reduction in services for residents and a greater risk of a credit rating downgrade. New York is looking at a whopping $47 billion deficit over the next four years. California is $3 billion in the hole this year. The National Conference of State Legislatures has even begun appealing for states to get their share of bailout money. (Even cash-strapped cities like Philadelphia and Phoenix are hoping for a piece of the pie.)

Yet, as bad as it looks, Moody’s predicts most states will get through this period without a serious deterioration in their credit quality.

“States are stronger in and of themselves,” said Edith Behr, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s. “It has everything to do with being able to reduce expenditures and increase revenues.”

These tools, like raising taxes or cutting spending, are why states generally have higher ratings than corporations. No states’ General Obligation Bonds rank below A1, which is investment grade and only four notches below the triple-A “gilt edged” ranking.

The fact that states can’t declare bankruptcy also supports their relatively strong ratings. That’s one key reason why states have a higher median rating than cities, which can file for bankruptcy protection (as Vallejo, Calif., voted to do in May). What’s good for states when it comes to easing their financial woes can also end up meaning more hardship for their cities as states push expenditures down to the local level.

NASA finds mystery high-energy radiation

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:10 pm

The release from about an hour ago:

Mysterious Source of High-Energy Cosmic Radiation Discovered

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of a previously unidentified nearby source of high-energy cosmic rays. The finding was made with a NASA-funded balloon-borne instrument high over Antarctica.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO)

Researchers from the Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter (ATIC) collaboration, led by scientists at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, published the results in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Nature. The new results show an unexpected surplus of cosmic ray electrons at very high energy — 300-800 billion electron volts — that must come from a previously unidentified source or from the annihilation of very exotic theoretical particles used to explain dark matter.

“This electron excess cannot be explained by the standard model of cosmic ray origin,” said John P. Wefel, ATIC project principal investigator and a professor at Louisiana State. “There must be another source relatively near us that is producing these additional particles.”

According to the research, this source would need to be within about 3,000 light years of the sun. It could be an exotic object such as a pulsar, mini-quasar, supernova remnant or an intermediate mass black hole.

“Cosmic ray electrons lose energy during their journey through the galaxy,” said Jim Adams, ATIC research lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “These losses increase with the energy of the electrons. At the energies measured by our instrument, these energy losses suppress the flow of particles from distant sources, which helps nearby sources stand out.”

The scientists point out, however, that there are few such objects close to our solar system.

“These results may be the first indication of a very interesting object near our solar system waiting to be studied by other instruments,” Wefel said.

An alternative explanation is that the surplus of high energy electrons might result from the annihilation of very exotic particles put forward to explain dark matter. In recent decades, scientists have learned that the kind of material making up the universe around us only accounts for about five percent of its mass composition. Close to 70 percent of the universe is composed of dark energy (so called because its nature is unknown). The remaining 25 percent of the mass acts gravitationally just like regular matter, but does little else, so it is normally not visible.

The nature of dark matter is not understood, but several theories that describe how gravity works at very small, quantum distances predict exotic particles that could be good dark matter candidates.

“The annihilation of these exotic particles with each other would produce normal particles such as electrons, positrons, protons and antiprotons that can be observed by scientists,” said Eun-Suk Seo, ATIC lead at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The 4,300-pound ATIC experiment was designed to be carried to an altitude of about 124,000 feet above Antarctica using a helium-filled balloon about as large as the interior of the New Orleans Superdome. The goal was to study cosmic rays that otherwise would be absorbed into the atmosphere.

ATIC is an international collaboration of researchers from Louisiana State University, the University of Maryland, Marshall Space Flight Center, Purple Mountain Observatory in China, Moscow State University in Russia and the Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. ATIC is supported in the United States by NASA and flights are conducted under the auspices of the Balloon Program Office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia by the staff of the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility. Antarctic logistics are provided by the National Science Foundation.

  For information on NASA’s scientific balloon program, visit:

  For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
AP Archive:  http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

Daschle tapped for health and human services

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:09 pm

Obama filled the secretary of health and human services post with long-time supporter, and former senator, Tom Daschle. Things are moving and shaking with his transition team.

From the link:

President-elect Barack Obama has decided to nominate former Senator Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota as secretary of health and human services, and is leaning toward former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general, people close to the transition said Wednesday.

Clinton not a sure bet at State?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:40 am

Possibly if this Politico report is correct.

If nothing else Obama has totally covered his Hillary requirement in quite obviously seriously offering her the post. Placates her supporters and gives her little room for complaint with an Obama administration.

Sounds like health care is going to hit out of the box, and maybe Clinton wants to steer that project once again, but from inside the system this time. Get the bad taste of that experience in the first Bill term out of the way. At Foggy Bottom she’d have no real public role in any health care discussions.

From the link:

Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t certain she would accept the Secretary of State post even if Barack Obama offers it to her, several people close to the former first lady say.

Press reports that portray Clinton as willing to accept the job – once the Obama transition team vets Bill Clinton’s philanthropic and business ventures – are inaccurate, one Clinton insider told Politico.

“A lot of the speculation and reporting is out ahead of the facts here,” said the person, who requested anonymity. “She is still weighing this, independent of President Clinton’s work.”

Clinton, the person said, remains deeply “torn” between the possibility of serving in Obama’s cabinet and remaining in the Senate to “help pass health care and work on a broad range of domestic issues.”

That comment jibes with what others close to Clinton have been saying since the Secretary of State chatter began last week: that Clinton is conflicted and the deal far from done, despite screaming headlines in outlets including the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper claiming the offer was made and accepted.

November 18, 2008

Nanoparticle medical delivery system

This method is good for drugs or tracking dye. Some of the best nanotech apps getting notice right now are in the medical field.

The release:

Nontoxic nanoparticle can deliver and track drugs

A nontoxic nanoparticle developed by Penn State researchers is proving to be an all-around effective delivery system for both therapeutic drugs and the fluorescent dyes that can track their delivery.

In a recent online issue of Nano Letters, an interdisciplinary group of materials scientists, chemists, bioengineers, physicists, and pharmacologists show that calcium phosphate particles ranging in size from 20 to 50 nanometers will successfully enter cells and dissolve harmlessly, releasing their cargo of drugs or dye.

Peter Butler, associate professor of bioengineering, and his students used high-speed lasers to measure the size of fluorescent dye-containing particles from their diffusion in solution.

“We use a technique called time correlated single photon counting,” Butler says. “This uses pulses of laser light to read the time, on the order of nanoseconds, that molecules fluoresce.”

With this method, his group was able to measure the size of the particles and their dispersion in solution, in this case a phosphate-buffered saline that is used as a simple model for blood.

“What we did in this study was to change the original neutral pH of the solution, which is similar to blood, to a more acidic environment, such as around solid tumors and in the parts of the cell that collect the nanoparticles-containing fluid immediately outside the cell membrane and bring it into the cell. When we lower the pH, the acidic environment dissolves the calcium phosphate particle,” he adds.

“We can see that the size of the particles gets very small, essentially down to the size of the free dye that was inside the particles. That gives us evidence that this pH change can be used as a mechanism to release any drug that is encapsulated in the particle,” Butler explains.

Although the primary use envisioned for these particles is for targeted cancer therapy, Butler’s group is interested in their ability to deliver various drugs that have been shown to inhibit cell growth associated with vascular disease.

Several drugs have been shown in cultures to be promising for reducing hardening of the arteries and narrowing of blood vessels after balloon angioplasty. The problem has been in delivering any of these drugs to a target, Butler says.

Ceramide, a chemotherapeutic molecule that initiates cell death in cancer cells, has the ability to slow growth in healthy cells.

Mark Kester, professor of pharmacology, and Jong Yun, associate professor of pharmacology, both at Penn State College of Medicine, have optimized ceramide for both cancer and vascular disease.

Their groups found that by using human vascular smooth muscle cells in vitro, ceramide encapsulated in calcium phosphate nanoparticles reduced growth of muscle cells by up to 80 percent at a dose 25 times lower than ceramide administered freely, without damaging the cells.

The calcium phosphate nanoparticles were developed by James Adair, professor of materials science and engineering, and his students. The nanoparticles have several benefits other drug delivery systems do not, according to lead author Thomas Morgan, graduate student in chemistry.

Unlike quantum dots, which are composed of toxic metals, calcium phosphate is a safe, naturally occurring mineral that already is present in substantial amounts in the bloodstream.

“What distinguishes our method are smaller particles (for uptake into cells), no agglomeration (particles are dispersed evenly in solution), and that we put drugs or dyes inside the particle where they are protected, rather than on the surface,” says Morgan. “For reasons we don’t yet understand, fluorescent dyes encapsulated within our nanoparticles are four times brighter than free dyes.

“Drugs and dyes are expensive,” he continues, “but an advantage of encapsulation is that you need much less of them. We can make high concentrations in the lab, and dilute them way down and still be effective. We even believe we can combine drug and dye delivery for simultaneous tracking and treatment. That’s one of the things we are currently working on.”




Other researchers on the project are graduate students Erhan Altinoglu and Amra Tabakovic, materials science and engineering, and former group member, Sara Rouse, Ph.D. in materials; graduate students Hari Muddana and Tristan Tabouillot, bioengineering; Timothy Russin, physics; Sriram Shanmugavelandy, pharmacology; and Peter Eklund, distinguished professor of physics and materials science and engineering.

Most of the researchers are affiliated with Penn State’s Materials Research Institute, which supports more than 200 faculty groups involved in materials research at Penn State. More information is at www.mri.psu.edu

Support for this research was provided by National Science Foundation, NASA, Keystone Nano Inc. and NIH-NHLBI.

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