Weir in space creates 200-million-mile-long lab bench

Physicists working in space plasmas have made clever use of the Ulysses spacecraft and the solar minimum to create a massive virtual lab bench to provide a unique test for the science underlying turbulent flows…

However University of Warwick plasma astrophysicists Professor Sandra Chapman and Dr Ruth Nicol have found a particularly elegant solution to fill the…experimental gap employing Ulysses spacecraft and two solar minimum to map the turbulence in the energies of the turbulence in the solar wind – a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) flow.

Normally the ‘noise’ from violent eruptions on the sun would disturb the turbulent flow. Ulysses’ controllers had cleverly contrived for the spacecraft to pass over each of the Sun’s poles during two different solar minima making it possible not only to gather data but also to be able to compare two different energy levels in a turbulent flow. The level of turbulence is down by a factor of 2 in the most recent solar minimum compared with the previous one.

The spacecraft was able to record the state of the turbulent flows flowing past it at 750kms a second at a distance of up to 2.83 Astronomical units from the Sun. This in effect allowed the spacecraft to record the developing turbulence as it flowed up to the satellite’s position which then became like a weir in space creating a virtual confined laboratory box to test the development of flows over a time – but a confined box which was over 200 million miles in size…

They found that in all the polar passes of the spacecraft the evolution of turbulence in the Solar wind was governed by the same generalised scaling function no matter how much energy was in the system. This suggest that there is a universal basic property governing the evolution of magnetohydrodynamic turbulence over finite distances – in this case a finite distance of over 200 million miles.

Professor Sandra Chapman notes…the results come to the attention of colleagues interested in how turbulence evolves in confined plasmas on earth – which will aid their efforts to generate fusion energy.


Debate with Dean shows Obama plays by Washington’s rules

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Howard Dean ran for president in 2004 as the outsider ready to battle an entrenched establishment in Washington. And so, four years later, did Barack Obama.

Now, one year into Mr. Obama’s presidency, a sharp dispute between the president and Mr. Dean over the health care bill the Senate approved Thursday — Mr. Dean denounced it as a sellout, while Mr. Obama heralded it as a historic breakthrough — is illustrating the roots of the ideological breach within the Democratic party.

It is not just that the left wing of the party thinks that its centrists hold too much sway and are too quick to cave when faced with pressure from the right. It is also that this White House, stocked as it is with insiders, people whose view of politics is shaped by the compromises inherent in legislating, is confronting a liberal base made up largely of outsiders to the lawmaking process who are asking why they should accept politics as usual.

As much as Mr. Obama presented himself as an outsider during his campaign, a lesson of this battle is that this is a president who would rather work within the system than seek to upend it. He is not the ideologue ready to stage a symbolic fight that could end in defeat; he is a former senator comfortable in dealing with the arcane rules of the Senate and prepared to accept compromise in search of a larger goal. For the most part, Democrats on Capitol Hill have stuck with him.

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Couch potato deputies patrolling the Mexican border

When John Spears gets home from his sales job in New York, he sits down at his computer with a bottle of beer and starts patrolling the US border. And to do it, he does not need to stir from his sofa.

He is one of tens of thousands of people around the world who are volunteering to patrol the 1250-mile long stretch between Texas and Mexico via the web.

The controversial $4 million Texas Virtual Border Watch Programme invites civilians to log on to

There they can monitor live feeds 24/7 from 21 hidden surveillance cameras placed at intervals along the border.

Supporters see the initiative as a step forward in US efforts to curb illegal immigration, drug smuggling and border violence.

Critics say it is encouraging vigilantism and stoking anti-immigrant feeling.

Since the site went live in November 2008, it has received more than 50 million hits, and more than 130,000 people have registered to become ” virtual deputies”. They are located as far afield as Australia, Mexico, Colombia, Israel, New Zealand and the UK.

Has to be more fun than watching cricket or baseball.

Half of urban teen girls get STIs within 2 years of first sex

Half of urban teenage girls may acquire at least one of three common sexually transmitted infections (STI) within two years of becoming sexually active, according to a new study…

The researchers followed 381 girls enrolled at ages 14 to 17 years and found that repeated infection with the organisms that cause chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis also was very common.

“Depending on the organism, within four to six months after treatment of the previous infection, a quarter of the women were re-infected with the same organism,” said Wanzhu Tu, Ph.D…

Within two years, about three-quarters of participants with an initial sexually transmitted STI were diagnosed with a second STI, although not necessarily of the same type. Within four years of an initial STI, virtually all (92 percent) of the participants had a subsequent STI.

“To our knowledge, this study provides the first data on the timing of the initial STI and subsequent STI following the onset of sexual activity in urban adolescent women,” said Dr. Tu.

The study also found that screening for STI may not be initiated until several years after sexual activity begins, especially for girls with earlier onset of sexual activity…

The study focuses on lower income urban adolescents; a group characterized by early onset of sexual activity, multiple sexual partners, and high STI rates.

As a result of their findings, the researchers call for STI screening in sexually active teenage girls within a year after first intercourse and for retesting of infected girls every 3 to 4 months. Continuing surveillance may be necessary…

Eeoough! Maybe I shouldn’t miss being a young dude, after all.

Expensive drugs and healthcare? Rationing in two nations

The well-worn notion that patients in the United States have unfettered access to the most expensive cancer drugs while the United Kingdom’s nationalized health care system regularly denies access to some high-cost treatments needs rethinking…

Critics of the U.K. system say care there is rationed — that patients are denied some expensive therapies so that better health care can be provided to the nation as a whole. Critics of the U.S. system say care is rationed here, too — that only those with the very best insurance and those who can afford sky-high out-of-pocket expenses have meaningful access to any and all high-priced therapies, especially at the end of life.

The authors found that with regard to very expensive cancer drugs, both characterizations are largely correct. “The issue is not whether rationing is a good thing or a bad thing,” Doctor Ruth Faden says. “The issue is what we should do about extraordinarily expensive treatments, some of which do very little to improve how well or how long people live.” At the same time, she adds, “there is no ethically defensible reason why some Americans have access to expensive cancer drugs and some do not.”

“Policy makers and our society now need to do the hard work of developing a reasoned, evidence-based system of using health care resources wisely, and the first step is to engage in an honest and transparent conversation about the values that should guide these decisions, a conversation that is informed by facts, not politics,” she says.

RTFA. Doctor Faden goes into the details.

The fact remains, unless you have the bucks – here in the States – you are screwed.

UPS worker took $40,000 in presents for himself

Catch me if you can!

Authorities in California said they arrested a UPS employee accused of stealing $40,000 worth of packages from a distribution center.

Fairfield Police Department Major Crimes Unit detectives said Ronald Lozano, 38, who has worked for UPS for 16 years, had been taking packages including computers, cellphones, iPods and video game systems from the Fairfield distribution center where he was stationed since April, KVOR-TV, Sacramento, reported Friday.

Police said they found $8,000 worth of stolen items from the packages in the suspect’s home.

Lozano, who was placed on leave pending termination after his Wednesday arrest, was charged with embezzlement, possession of stolen property, and grand theft. He was released from the Solano County Jail on $10,000 bail.

People don’t often dramatically change their behavior – absent heavy duty forces. Has this guy been stealing for 16 years and was never caught because only now has he landed in a facility with better security? Or did he just decide to take up theft – after his transfer?

BTW – what’s missing from my neck of the prairie this holiday season is the usual shark or two who follows UPS trucks around while they deliver – stealing parcels left when no one was home to receive them.

Moscow pastry chef serves up enormous edible cathedral

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, with its colorful onion domes, is an architectural icon. And now you can eat it.

Pastry Chef Troman Felizmenio has created a piece of culinary art by making a gingerbread copy of the landmark for the holiday season. He works at the Ritz Carlton hotel near the Kremlin and Red Square.

Creation of the edible cathedral, which is 2 meters (6.5 feet) high, began in early September and lasted nearly three months, according to a description from the hotel.

The chef and his crew have made smaller versions for sale – only $1600 each.