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Archive for February 2010

8.8 Earthquake hits Chile. Tsunami warnings throughout Pacific!

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At the time of this posting, we are about 1 hour away from a tsunami hitting Hawaii.

A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake has rocked Chile, killing at least 147 people, bringing down homes and other buildings and causing tsumani warnings, watches and alerts in many parts of the Pacific Ocean.

Rescue workers rushed to the scene after the earthquake struck early Saturday several hundred kilometers southwest of the capital Santiago, about 100 kilometers from Concepcion, Chile’s second largest metropolitan area.

A rescue official said the number of dead was rising. Bodies were recovered in several regions. Power was cut off in many parts of the capital, and elsewhere as well.

Predictions on TV say an 8-foot wave is expected to hit Hawaii. The U.S. Navy has started pulling ships out of harbors and heading out to sea. Tsunami alarms have already been activated throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

*****

10-15 minutes to go. Understand the first wave ain’t always the worst; but, prospects are looking better. The Marquesas expected 12 feet – and got 6 feet.

UPDATE: Tsunami warning called off in the last hour.

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Written by Ed Campbell

February 27, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Earth, Science

Tagged with , , , ,

Baloney Detection Kit

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This is one of those worthwhile short lectures I need to keep in mind on the blog for whenever an avatar of “let’s pretend to be a skeptic” shows up like “jonolan” at this iceberg post.

There is no perception whatsoever of scientific methodology much less any useful processes for examining the bullshit he believes – other than that it fulfills his political preconceptions. No inclination to read, to check sources on either side of the questions he’s decided. Still, the suggestion to view this video should be made.

When Jägermeister suggested this video, he noted it might be needed most of all over at the “big blog” where I’m senior contributing editor. Though he doubted if there would be much attention paid.

I agree. I think it would be ignored – except by the more fanatical nutballs.

Though I may still offer it.

Thanks, Jägermeister

Written by Ed Campbell

February 27, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Plastic rubbish blights Atlantic Ocean

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Typical plastic debris collected in a surface plankton net

Scientists have discovered an area of the North Atlantic Ocean where plastic debris accumulates. The region is said to compare with the well-documented “great Pacific garbage patch”.

Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association told the BBC that the issue of plastics had been “largely ignored” in the Atlantic.

She announced the findings of a two-decade-long study at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon, US. The work is the conclusion of the longest and most extensive record of plastic marine debris in any ocean basin…

The researchers carried out 6,100 tows in areas of the Caribbean and the North Atlantic – off the coast of the US. More than half of these expeditions revealed floating pieces of plastic on the water surface…

“We found a region fairly far north in the Atlantic Ocean where this debris appears to be concentrated and remains over long periods of time,” she explained. “More than 80% of the plastic pieces we collected in the tows were found between 22 and 38 degrees north. So we have a latitude for [where this] rubbish seems to accumulate.”

The maximum “plastic density” was 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre. “That’s a maximum that is comparable with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr Lavender Law.

But she pointed out that there was not yet a clear estimate of the size of the patches in either the Pacific or the Atlantic.

“You can think of it in a similar way [to the Pacific Garbage Patch], but I think the word ‘patch’ can be misleading. This is widely dispersed and it’s small pieces of plastic,” she said.

The impacts on the marine environment of the plastics were still unknown, added the researcher. “But we know that many marine organisms are consuming these plastics and we know this has a bad effect on seabirds in particular,” she told BBC News.

Human beings would probably continue to crap in an open sewer in the middle of the street if someone didn’t pass a law against it.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

Dumb crook of the day

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A German robber held up the same bank in Hamburg twice within 24 hours just a week after being released from jail — for the same crime.

A police spokesman said on Friday the 50-year-old man went into a savings bank in the center of the northern port city and flashed a pistol, saying: “I was here yesterday, and I want money again today!”

The repeat offender made off with 450 euros but with the help of video surveillance cameras, police were able to detain him three hours later. They said he had been in jail for robbing banks in Hamburg in 2002 and 2004.

Next time, he walks into the bank, the tellers will probably greet him by name. But, hopefully, not for several years.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 27, 2010 at 6:00 am

Organiser of Darkmarket fraudsters jailed

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Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A man who created a website trading in stolen financial information linked to tens of millions of pounds in losses has been jailed for nearly five years.

Renukanth Subramaniam, 33, founded Darkmarket, a “Facebook for fraudsters” where criminals could buy and sell credit card details and bank log-ins.

The site was shut down in 2008 after an FBI agent infiltrated it, leading to more than 60 arrests worldwide.

Subramaniam admitted conspiracy to defraud at Blackfriars Crown Court. He also pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud…

Prosecutor Sandip Patel said the case was “extraordinary” because it was founded and promoted over the internet. “They were able to utilise modern technology in a way which gave them the capability to commit theft on an unprecedented scale… with no more than a dishonest will, a laptop, a mouse and internet access,” he said. “In short, it was a Facebook for fraudsters…”

It even operated a secure payment system, allowing users to “review” the criminal services on offer – creating a “one-stop-shop for criminals the world over”…

Also sentenced was Darkmarket user John McHugh, 66, of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, who had the sign in “Devilman” and created fake credit cards that were sold through the site.

He was jailed for two years for conspiracy to defraud.

Sounds like it couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple of guys.

The prosecutor made a useful point about this lot setting up a criminal enterprise based on incompetent security – and figuring because they used internet cafes and thumb drives, they were bound to be secure enough.

Har!

Written by Ed Campbell

February 27, 2010 at 2:00 am

Hey – we’re on the approach to Pluto!

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Another milestone passed!

Today, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is 15.96 astronomical units – about 2.39 billion kilometersfrom the Sun – putting it halfway between Earth’s location on launch day in January 2006, and Pluto’s place during New Horizons’ encounter with the planet in July 2015.

“From here on out, we’re on approach to an encounter with the Pluto system,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute. “The second half of the journey begins.”

This is rare territory; New Horizons is just the fifth probe, after Pioneers 10 – 11 and Voyagers 1 – 2, to traverse interplanetary space so far from the Sun. And it’s the first to travel so far to reach a new planet for exploration.

Halfway there, folks.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Near-frictionless material created with carbon nanotechnology

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Just showing you how much fun scientific research can be. Look at those smiles!

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and IBM Research-Zürich have fabricated an ultra sharp, diamond-like carbon tip possessing such high strength that it is 3,000 times more wear-resistant at the nanoscale than silicon.

The end result is a diamond-like carbon material mass-produced at the nanoscale that doesn’t wear. The new nano-sized tip, researchers say, wears away at the rate of one atom per micrometer of sliding on a substrate of silicon dioxide, much lower than that for a silicon oxide tip which represents the current state-of-the-art…

The importance of the discovery lies not just in its size and resistance to wear but also in the hard substrate against which it was shown to perform well when in sliding contact: silicon dioxide. Because silicon –- used in almost all integrated circuit devices –- oxidizes in atmosphere forming a thin layer of its oxide, this system is the most relevant for nanolithography, nanometrology and nanomanufacturing applications.

Probe-based technologies are expected to play a dominant role in many such technologies; however, poor wear performance of many materials when slid against silicon oxide, including silicon oxide itself, has severely limited usefulness to the laboratory.

Researchers built the material from the ground up, rather than coating a nanoscale tip with wear-resistant materials. The collaboration used a molding technique to fabricate monolithic tips on standard silicon microcantilevers. A bulk processing technique that has the potential to scale up for commercial manufacturing is available.

Fascinating stuff for me. It’s been beaucoup decades; but, some of the most entertaining work I had the good fortune to enjoy was in photo-micrography.

I’d love to see some of these studies up close and personal.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 26, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Derby ring road to be named Lara Croft Way

A new £36.2m Derby road is to be named after computer game and movie character Lara Croft following a public vote.

The star of the Tomb Raider franchise was originally devised by a computer game developer based in the city.

More than 27,000 people took part in the vote to name the Osmaston Road to Burton Road stretch of the new route, with 89% opting for Lara Croft Way.

A separate stretch of road will be called Mercian Way as a tribute to local soldiers…

Councillor Lucy Care, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said: “The vote really captured the imagination of people from across the world and, despite my lack of gaming knowledge, I accept that a majority of 89% for Lara Croft is too overwhelming to ignore.

She was created in Derby and deserves to stand alongside some of the more traditional icons of the city…”

The Tomb Raider games were created by Core Design, which was based in Derby, and featured the treasure-hunting British archaeologist Lara Croft.

Rock on, Derby County!

Written by Ed Campbell

February 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Giant iceberg could affect ocean circulation, weather

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An iceberg the size of Luxembourg has broken off from a glacier in Antarctica after being rammed by another giant iceberg, scientists said on Friday, in an event that could affect ocean circulation patterns.

The 2,500 sq km iceberg broke off earlier this month from the Mertz Glacier’s 160 km floating tongue of ice that sticks out into the Southern Ocean…

“The calving itself hasn’t been directly linked to climate change but it is related to the natural processes occurring on the ice sheet,” said Rob Massom, a senior scientist…at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center…

Massom said the shearing off of the ice tongue and the presence of the Mertz and B-9B icebergs could affect global ocean circulation.

The area is an important zone for the creation of dense, salty water that is a key driver of global ocean circulation. This is produced in part through the rapid production of sea ice that is continually blown to the west.

“Removal of this tongue of floating ice would reduce the size of that area of open water, which would slow down the rate of salinity input into the ocean and it could slow down this rate of Antarctic bottom water formation,” he said.

He said there was a risk both icebergs would become grounded on banks or shoals in the area, disrupting the creation of the dense, salty water and the amount that sinks to the bottom of the ocean, he said.

Oceans act like a giant flywheel for the planet’s climate by shifting heat around the globe via myriad currents above and below the surface.

There’s not much hope for either climate deniers or the average Western Whoopee Weather Whiner to make sense of this. I’ve given up even on explaining something as relevant – and simple – as El Niño to bloggers/commenters/dolts who think that a large snowstorm on the eastern coast of a nation accounting for 1.5% of the Earth’s surface somehow means there is no global warming.

The rest of you – fortunately – have enough interest in science and natural processes to find this interesting on its own. I thank all six of you.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Toxic town: People of Mossville are a chemistry experiment

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Gather current and former Mossville, Louisiana, residents in a room and you’re likely to hear a litany of health problems and a list of friends and relatives who died young.

“I got cancer. My dad had cancer. In fact, he died of cancer. It’s a lot of people in this area who died of cancer,” says Herman Singleton Jr., 51, who also lost two uncles and an aunt to cancer.

Singleton and many others in this predominantly African-American community in southwest Louisiana suspect the 14 chemical plants nearby have played a role in the cancer and other diseases they say have ravaged the area.

For decades, Mossville residents have complained about their health problems to industry, and to state and federal agencies. Now with a new Environmental Protection Agency administrator outspoken about her commitment to environmental justice, expectations are growing…

Lisa Jackson, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and the first African-American administrator of the EPA, this year listed environmental justice as one of her seven priorities…

Thousands of pounds of carcinogens such as benzene and vinyl chloride are released from the facilities near Mossville each year, according to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.

Robert Bullard, author of “Dumping in Dixie,” says it’s no surprise industry chose Mossvillle, an unincorporated community founded by African Americans in the 1790s.

Without the power, Bullard says, African-Americans have borne the brunt of living near industry, landfills and hazardous facilities…

Bullard says Jackson has breathed new life into environmental justice since she took office last year. During the previous eight years, he says, “environmental justice was non-existent or invisible.”

Some residents of Mossville have blood dioxin levels three times above acceptable levels. When the EPA reviewed such tests during the Bush years their decision was that people shouldn’t worry about that.

Dioxin has a wonderful history at home and abroad. The United States used it as central to Agent Orange and never did squat about the damage done to Vietnamese – or American servicemen. A supposedly pristine trout river in Connecticut had bans put in place and corporations picked up the tab for care for families that had been eating dioxin-flavored fish.

Color is always an acceptable reason for differentiating everything from health care to pollution – in America.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

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