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Luciano Pavarotti: Let no one sleep September 5, 2007

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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Nessun Dorma was operatic great Luciano Pavarotti’s signature song. Sadly, he’ll sing it no more. He’ll live on in his work however.

Farewell Prince of Opera, your voice is forever stilled.

Bluefin in peril? August 30, 2007

Posted by thebeam in Our declining planet.
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GrrlScientist is one of the many great life scientists out there who make the effort to present the latest research from their fields to the lay public.

Her recent post, Sorry Charlie: Bluefin Tuna Ready to Become Dodos of the Sea highlights just one of the many threats facing our food supply. Using data gathered by a professional tuna grader, the decline in the quality of the tuna catch over the last decade is clearly shown. The obvious implication is that overfishing is the primary culprit, but the researchers also point to other factors, such as a possible decline in the quality of the herring that tuna feed upon.

In the long term, until we become more aware of just how perilous the situation is, and we start pressuring our lawmakers to protect the long-term interests of the human race as opposed to the immediate profits of industries, we’re likely going to be seeing more of this kind of story come out.

Life and Hearts is in session. Are you ready to Hunt the Bitch?

Costs of Consumption December 8, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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This is going to be a bit disjoint and rambling, but bear with me. I’m not going to attempt to address all of the issues presented in any depth at all.

If anything I’m just going to unlock the box and let you, the reader, consider them as interrelated, all part of a picture of consumption that could doom us all.

What started this was a bit of a read at Rough Type about the energy costs associated with running the Avatars for the game Second Life.

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Thrones of words November 23, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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After I wrote Thankya Sai, I say Hallelujah, I started to watch the progress of the work of music I referenced, as it percolates through our culture. Much has been said about how fragmented our society has become as a result of the stunning multiplication of channels of information available today, but little has been addressed in terms of how no matter how diverse the flow becomes, once in a while the streams converge and we flow along in the same path.

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Shuttle to Hubble Gets OK October 31, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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NASA announced today (10/31/06) that it will schedule a mission to give the Hubble Space Telescope a much needed overhaul.

From the NASA announcement (more…)

A cosmic nearsightedness October 28, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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The Hubble Space Telescope is arguably the pinnacle of mankind’s achievements. It represents a nearly pure effort to understand the universe around us, without much of the normal rancor that more earthbound debates generate. Almost any child who has gazed in wonder at a clear night sky can understand the gift of vision that the photos we’ve received from Hubble have given us.

Unfortunately, the Hubble Space Telescope is in dire need of repairs and maintenance. The Space Shuttle project, beset by the aftermath of the Challenger and Columbia diseasters, is really the only platform that might be available for the missions needed to make the necessary repairs. Efforts are being made in Congress, and in the scientific community, but there are always competing budgetary issues. Many of them are devoted to developing more cost-efficient ways to kill our fellow man, not all that many are given to ways to save our fellow man. And precious few are devoted to just understanding the rules that govern our universe without little hope for immediate gain. (more…)

Hidden economies September 28, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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The last couple of days has seen a news story breaking breaking under our noses. A useless (well, at least to us) little plant, the Dodder Plant, has a ‘nose’ for tomatos.

From the International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON The parasitic dodder plant does not have a nose, but it knows how to sniff out its prey.

The dodder attacks such plants as tomatoes, carrots, onions, citrus trees, cranberries, alfalfa and even flowers, and is a problem for farmers because chemicals that kill the pesky weed also damage the crops it feeds on.

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Why Math Counts August 29, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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Over at Good Math Bad Math, they are discussing one of the beneficial side-effects of strong math skills. A Harvard research group is publishing a paper that presents strong experimental evidence that supports the premise that Cold Dark Matter (CDM) exists in our universe. The existence of CDM is an important part of the cosmological description of the behavior of the universe, without it all of the theoretical constructs come up short when compared to the observable universe.

For those of you who might not know what Dark Matter is, this excerpt from Wikipedia sums it up fairly well “…dark matter refers to matter that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation (such as light, x-rays and so on) to be detected directly, but whose presence may be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter.”

Estimates are that CDM constitutes about 22% of the mass of the universe. A massive 4% is normal everyday matter, and the rest (72%) is really weird stuff, Dark Energy. Dark Matter and Dark Energy are both experimentally deduced from mathematical models that take into account estimates of the mass of the ‘known universe’ and the deviations between the predicted and observed models.

From A Stunning Demonstration of Why Good Science Needs Good Math

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Fighting back? August 23, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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Prompted by a story coming out of Alabama, where some extremely large nests of Yellow Jackets have recently been found. From The MontgomeryAdvertiser,

Entomologist Dr. Charles Ray at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Auburn said he’s aware of about 16 of what he described as “super-sized” nests in south Alabama.
Ray said he’s seen 10 of them and cautioned people about going near them because of the yellow jacket’s painful sting.
The largest nest Ray has inspected this year filled the interior of a weathered 1955 Chevrolet parked in a rural Elmore County barn. That nest was about the size of a tire in the rear floor seven weeks ago, but quickly spread to fill the entire vehicle, the property owner, Harry Coker, said. Four satellite nests around it have gotten into the eaves of the barn, about 300 yards from his home.

I wonder if this is but a foretaste of what is to come.
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Darker Shades of Blue August 17, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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On my mind tonight is an article written about the factors leading to the crash of a B-52 bomber, an article that I found several years ago. The reason it shoved its way back into my mind was because I was speaking with someone about human factors, a part of what lead to the crash of the bomber.

B-52 Crash Video (launches in external site)

The video is of a B-52 H Model that crashed on June 24, 1994 at Fairchild AFB, near Spokane Washington. Part of the reason this video sticks with me is that I flew aboard that particular aircraft, about 20 years before the accident.

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