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Posts Tagged ‘life

Man gets life for yogurt-bomb robbery

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A man who robbed a check-cashing agency by claiming a pack of yogurt was a bomb has received a life sentence under Washington’s three-strikes law.

James Robert Thorne, 66, of Everett was convicted of two robberies in the 1980s. The Everett Herald reported. In 1994, he was sentenced to life for robbing a hospital gift shop with a BB gun but won an appeal on the grounds that his lawyer did not consider an insanity defense.

In his most recent crime, Thorne got away with $2,000 after claiming that he had a bomb hidden in a bag that actually held a four-pack of Dannon strawberry yogurt.

Gabriel Rothstein, the defense lawyer, argued at Tuesday’s hearing that the judge should consider Thorne’s history of mental illness…

Superior Court Judge Gerard Knight said that Thorne might not do physical harm to anyone. “I just have a strong belief Mr. Thorne is going to re-offend and continue with his criminal behavior until he dies,” the judge said.

Somehow, I think someone who threatens to blow up a store with strawberry yogurt doesn’t need to be in a proper prison. The Happy Farm, maybe. But, then, that’s what his lawyer was suggesting wasn’t it?

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 10, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in Crime, Culture

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Rising acidity threatens oceans, marine life

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Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The oceans have long buffered the effects of climate change by absorbing a substantial portion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But this benefit has a catch: as the gas dissolves, it makes seawater more acidic. Now an international panel of marine scientists says this acidity is accelerating so fast it threatens the survival of coral reefs, shellfish and the marine food web generally…

The statement, called the Monaco Declaration, said increasing acidity is interfering with the growth and health of shellfish and eating away at coral reefs, processes that would eventually affect marine food webs generally. Already, the group said, there have been detectable decreases in shellfish, shell weights and interference with the growth of coral skeletons.

Carbon dioxide, principally from the burning of fossil fuels, is the major component of greenhouse gas emissions, which have risen steadily since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th century. Oceans absorb about a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions, the group said, but as the gas dissolves in the oceans it produces carbonic acid.

The group said acidity of ocean surface waters has increased by 30 percent since the 17th century

According to the declaration [.pdf], “ocean acidification may render most regions chemically inhospitable to coral reefs by 2050.” The group said that acidification can be controlled only by limiting future atmospheric levels of the gas.

I tend to stand outside the alarmist school of responders to climate change. Experience has taught me that [1] there always are more variables than we’ve yet examined and [2] Mother Earth is a bit better at dealing with our depredations than single-issue considerations understand.

That doesn’t lessen my contempt for self-deluding skeptics who generally avoid reading peer reviewed studies. Nor does it diminish my deep concern for the obvious damage our industrial economy has inflicted on the environment in general. It will take an immense and long-term commitment to begin to slow this death spiral.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 1, 2009 at 12:00 am

Posted in Earth, Science

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XP – one more time. Crikey!

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Microsoft has given yet another reprieve to its seasoned Windows XP operating system.

The cut off date for PC makers to obtain licenses for the software was 31 January 2009. But now Microsoft has put in place a scheme that will allow the hardware firms to get hold of XP licences until 30 May 2009.

Windows XP was originally due to disappear off shop shelves on 30 January 2008. It was to be removed so as to make way for Windows Vista which went on sale to consumers early in 2007.

Microsoft granted the reprieve largely because of customer’s preference for XP.

Many PC makers also got around the restrictions by exploiting a clause in Microsoft’s licensing terms that allowed them to offer a “downgrade” licence. Issued with a new PC running Vista it allowed customers to replace it with XP.

Early versions of Windows 7, the replacement for Vista, are due to appear in late 2009.

If you believe that last bit, I have have some oceanfront property to sell you in La Bajada, New Mexico.

Written by Ed Campbell

December 23, 2008 at 2:00 am

Posted in Business, Geek

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New hints on the origins of life – from old experiments

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The box of original samples

A classic experiment exploring the origin of life has, more than a half-century later, yielded new results.

In 1953, Stanley L. Miller, then a graduate student of Harold C. Urey at the University of Chicago, put ammonia, methane and hydrogen — the gases believed to be in early Earth’s atmosphere — along with water in a sealed flask and applied electrical sparks to simulate the effects of lightning. A week later, amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, were generated out of the simple molecules.

Enshrined in high school textbooks, the Miller-Urey experiment raised expectations that scientists could unravel the origins of life with simple chemistry experiments.

After Dr. Miller’s death in May last year, Dr. Jeffrey L. Bada of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, who had been one of Dr. Miller’s graduate students, discovered cardboard boxes containing hundreds of vials of dried residues collected from the experiments conducted in 1953 and 1954.

“It just opens our eyes,” Dr. Bada said. “It’s still revealing new things. What else is there that we haven’t found out from this experiment..?”

Although scientists no longer think that the early atmosphere resembled the gases Dr. Miller used, the gases released by volcanic eruptions do have similar properties. The scientists hypothesize that the sparks split apart water molecules in the steam, enabling a wider range of chemical reactions to take place.

“My take on this is you want to consider everything,” Dr. Bada said. “If you can have a homegrown synthesis, perhaps by this mechanism we’ve described here, complemented by stuff falling from space, well, you’ve got a really rich inventory of compounds to work with and set the stage for the origin of life.”

I remember news of Miller’s experiments as if it were yesterday. Exciting discussions. Fending off superstitious dolts who feared this work as the anti-Christ.

A couple of friends ended up as micro-biologists because of Miller’s inspiration.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm

The SSD Power Consumption Hoax

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Flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) are considered to be the future of performance hard drives, and everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon. We are no exception, as we have been publishing many articles on flash-based SSDs during the last few months, emphasizing the performance gains and the potential power savings brought by flash memory. And there is nothing wrong with this, since SLC flash SSDs easily outperform conventional hard drives today (SLC = single level cell). However, we have discovered that the power savings aren’t there: in fact, battery runtimes actually decrease if you use a flash SSD.

Could Tom’s Hardware be Wrong?

No, our results are definitely correct. We’ve looked at almost a dozen different flash SSDs from seven vendors over the last few months, and measured acceptable or sometimes even disappointing power requirements with most flash SSDs. In an effort to determine the actual impact on notebook systems, we took four SSDs that we had available in our test lab, and ran a series of Mobilemark benchmark runs on a Dell Latitude D630 notebook. We found runtime differences of up to one hour (!) when using a flash SSD compared to a high-performance 7,200 RPM 2.5” notebook hard drive.

Will this slow down the hype? Not a chance.

Written by Ed Campbell

July 3, 2008 at 8:00 am

Posted in Geek, Technology

Tagged with , , , , ,

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