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Archive for March 3rd, 2012

The Best Science Visualizations of the Year

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No – you’re not in Utah

It’s not a sandstone cliff in Utah or the backdrop for a “Looney Tunes” Roadrunner cartoon. This People’s Choice winner in the photography division—yes, it’s a photograph—shows a layered compound called Ti2ALc2, from a family called MXene.

Click here to see more of the winners.

Thanks, Ursarodina

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Written by Ed Campbell

March 3, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Irish may try to tempt millionaires with visa bonds

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Ireland plans to sell a bond with a different kind of coupon: a resident’s visa.

Under proposals to be laid out next month, the government will offer the visas to investors who spend at least 2 million euros on a new “low-interest” security, 1 million euros on property or invest in an Irish company. The sale is aimed at people from outside the European Union who need permits to live and work in the 27-member bloc.

“You might have businesspeople in China or in Brazil or in various non-EU countries who would like to be entitled to come and reside here,” Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter said in an interview in Dublin. “The scheme has great potential.”

The proposal is among the more unusual in a wave of initiatives to win investment as Ireland seeks to rebuild its economy and markets after one of the biggest banking collapses in history. The government is also offering finders’ fees for people bringing in jobs and tax breaks for executives moving to the country, one of three euro members that sought an international bailout during the European debt crisis…

Shatter has said using the inducement of residency has worked in other countries. The U.S. offers visas for investors with “substantial amounts of capital,” according to documentation of the US immigration service, while Latvia and Cyprus offer residency in exchange for real estate.

In Ireland, the program is set to encompass property ultimately controlled by the National Asset Management Agency, according to the Justice Ministry. The so-called bad bank, set up to purge Ireland’s lenders of risky loans, had more than 1,000 assets listed for sale. Visas are also available for an investment in an Irish company, a charity endowment, as well as the specially created bond.

The bond, which isn’t tradable, must be held by the visa holder for a minimum of five years.

The government hasn’t yet set the coupon, the rate of interest payable to bondholders. Buyers will be able to bring family members with them, the Justice Ministry said…

Elitist? You betcha.

Worthwhile? Probably. As long as the priorities at the core stay pinned to returning honest value to the economic heart of Eire.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Mobile euthanasia service now available in the Netherlands

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Euthanasia has been legal in the Netherlands for a decade. But an organisation based in The Hague is now offering a mobile euthanasia service, prompting accusations that the law has been pushed too far.

The anti-euthanasia lobby is in a fury, branding the mobile euthanasia units “death squads” and accusing the government of not doing enough to enforce the strict medical codes of practice that accompanies the procedure.

Teams will be travelling around the country assisting patients whose own doctors refuse to help them to die. The new units consist of a doctor, a nurse and all the medical equipment required to carry out euthanasia.

Patients can choose injections administered by the medical team, or they may drink a lethal concoction of life-ending drugs. The Dutch right-to-die organisation (NVVE), which is funding the new scheme, says both options will be available on the mobile units…

The patients get to make a choice about living or dying, and if the latter – how to proceed. The Christian Phalange meanwhile will continue to beat their breasts in a paroxysm of righteous indignation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

March 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Earthquake-proofing one of the world’s tallest structures

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Leap day 2012 saw the completion of the world’s second tallest structure, the Tokyo Sky Tree television transmitter and observation tower. At 2,080 feet the tower stands nearly twice as Japan’s previous tallest frame, the 1,091-ft Tokyo Tower transmitter. It’s an audacious technological feat when one considers this is at the heart of an earthquake zone…

The Sky Tree’s structural design relies on extremely strong steel tubes which, at the tower’s base, have a diameter of 7.5 ft and a thickness of 3.9 in. These are arranged in an array of triangular trusses which, unusually for a building, employ branch joints more common on marine structures such as oil rigs.

To control vibration, Nikken Sekkei took inspiration from what, at first glance at least, seems an unlikely source: the traditional five-story Japanese pagoda. Over the centuries, hundreds of these wooden structures have withstood earthquakes and typhoons, and Nikken Sekkei claims not a single pagoda has collapsed due to a seismic event.

This inherent strength is thought to stem from the fact that the central column (or shimbashira) does not physically support any of the pagoda’s stories but instead acts as a counterweight about which the rest of the building’s structure can vibrate. Nikken Sekkei brought the concept up to date with what it calls shimbashira seishin, or center column vibration control, with the core column and surrounding steel frame connected by a flexible oil damper.

Additional resilience is achieved through an “added mass control mechanism” (or tuned mass damper) – a damping system which, in the event of an earthquake, moves out of step with the building’s structure, to keep the center of gravity as central as possible to the tower’s base. Though steel ingots, concrete, or even the buildings mechanical plant is sometimes used to this end, in what Nikken Sekkei claims is a world’s first, the Sky Tree’s core column is the added mass.

Of course, such resilience is nothing without the proper foundation, and its the Sky Tree’s foundation that gives the buildings its name. Beneath each of the tower’s three legs is a cluster of 164-ft deep walled piles with steel-reinforced concrete nodes, which Nikken Sekkei compares to the root system of a gigantic tree, “monolithically integrated” with the ground…

The Sky Tower opens to the public in May with 360-degree views of Tokyo’s Sumida ward in the foreground to the 6,500 sq miles (17,000 sq km) of the Kanto Plain beyond.

If any of our Asian readers takes the trip to the top, send me a photo. Be careful.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 3, 2012 at 10:00 am

Dew-soaked bugs — macro photography in wet weather

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Click on photo to enlarge

A dew-soaked Ant.

Ondrej Pakan, from Myjava, Slovakia, captures stunning macro photos of bugs covered in tiny water droplets. The photographer, who specialises in capturing insects seconds after a downpour, said: “I get soaked waiting for the rain to finish, but it all seems worth it when you get really great shots of the insects with drops on them.”

The Telegraph truly offers great photographs on a daily basis.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 3, 2012 at 6:00 am

British coppers let foreign suspects walk free — no interpreters!

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Foreign crime suspects are being allowed to walk free from police custody before questioning because of a shortage of interpreters caused by cost-cutting. The problem is being blamed on a Ministry of Justice-backed interpreter service which police sources say is failing to provide interpreters fast enough.

The scheme was supposed to save West Midlands Police £750,000 every year. But it has forced officers to release some arrested foreign suspects on bail because they cannot get interpreters.

In one case, it took West Midlands Police two weeks to find an interpreter for someone who volunteered to make a statement in an Asian language. In some instances, the force has had to bring in more expensive interpreters from Leeds and Manchester…

One source said a number of former police interpreters will not assist the force again, claiming they were treated poorly. “The company are recruiting some more people but it has not been what was hoped,” the source said…

A police spokesman said in all cases where the suspect had been released on police bail they had returned to the station to answer questions at a later date.

So, even if the beancounters are doing their best to screw-up police work – at least the criminals are continuing to cooperate with the process as if someone in government actually knew what they were doing.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 3, 2012 at 12:00 am

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