Solar sail hybrid launches from Japan

Japan hopes to turn the wildest fantasies of science fiction into reality today with a “space yacht” that will draw on the power of the sun to take it to Venus and, perhaps, far beyond.

A Mitsubishi H-2A rocket carrying Ikaros (an acronym for Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun) is set to blast off from Tanegashima island in south-west Japan at 6.44am local time. [Launch has been weather-delayed approximately to this Friday, 21st May] If it is successful, Ikaros will be carried through deep space at high speed with the help of a 20-metre sail, propelled by the pressure from solar particles.

The flexible membrane sail, which at 32.5 micrometers is about half the thickness of a human hair, is covered with thin-film solar panels that will create a hybrid of electricity and pressure, according to Jaxa, the Japanese space exploration agency…

“This will be the world’s first solar-powered sail craft employing both photon propulsion and thin-film solar power generation during its interplanetary cruise,” Jaxa said on its website…

After passing Venus, Ikaros is expected to continue its voyage for three years towards the far side of the sun, although contact is likely to be lost after a year.

Rock on – Ikaros! Safe journey.

Toddlers who lie do better in life

Toddlers who tell lies early on are more likely to do well later, researchers claim.

The complex brain processes involved in formulating a lie are an indicator of a child’s early intelligence, they add.

A Canadian study of 1,200 children aged two to 17 suggests those who are able to lie have reached an important developmental stage.

Only a fifth of two-year-olds tested in the study were able to lie.

But at age four, 90% were capable of lying, the study found. The rate increases with age to a peak at age 12…

It is a sign that they have reached a new developmental milestone.”

Boy, I wish someone had told my father about this.

Majority in Italy would permit married priests

A majority of Italians believe priests should be allowed to marry and under half have confidence in Pope Benedict XVI, according to an opinion poll today.

Today’s survey showed that in Italy as a whole confidence in the Pope had dropped from 53.7 per cent in 2007 to 46.6 per cent today, compared to 77.2 per cent for Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict’s predecessor, in 2003.

Confidence in the Catholic Church had also dropped, from 59.2 per cent ten years ago to 47.2 per cent today.

Asked if they favoured allowing priests to marry, only 22 per cent of those questioned said No. 42.5 per cent said they were “very much” in favour of abolishing the celibacy rule while 23.4 per cent said they were “fairly” in favour, a total of 65.9 per cent.

A total of 62 per cent said they believed the Church had sought either to minimise or to cover up clerical sex abuse scandals…

Last week the Bishop of Eisenstadt, Paul Iby, said in a newspaper interview: ‘It should be left up to every priest whether he wants to live a life of voluntary celibacy or in a family.”

“Rome is too timid in such questions,” Bishop Iby told the daily Die Presse, adding that priests should be allowed to choose whether they would like to marry to counteract the falling number of vocations. “But nothing is moving ahead in Rome,” he said.

I’m not about to offer a brief for something as anachronistic as organized religion; but, the stultified lecture series that passes for dialogue in the RC church is a joke.

Catholic hierarchy has as little understanding of democratic participation as they have of science or sex. Relying on a rulebook from the Dark Ages hardly serves any community, religious or otherwise, in this expanding era of accessible knowledge.

The Great Firewall of China should be WTO issue

China’s Internet “firewall” is a trade barrier and needs to be tackled within the framework of the World Trade Organization, Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European Commission, told reporters in Shanghai…

“It is one of those issues that needs to be tackled within the WTO,” said Kroes, who served as European Commissioner for competition until 2009…

Chinese law requires Internet companies to block or remove objectionable content, including pornography and any information deemed sensitive by the ruling Communist Party.

Social media platforms popular overseas, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr, are all blocked in China for fear they will provide a platform to organize or share illicit information.

“I am pushing wherever I can just to get European enterprises a level playing field in China and the other way around. It should be reciprocal,” she said, adding that the amount of disruption from the firewall varied for each business.

The U.S. has also explored taking China’s Internet restrictions to the WTO. In the past, the WTO has upheld China’s right to censor printed and audiovisual content.

The American inclination to separate democratic freedoms from economic systems – and consider them a sole priority – reflects more of the history of U.S. agitprop than historical reality. And in practice is rejected as often by red-white-and-blue war lovers as Chinese Communists.

Still, the approach is more likely to get the attention of the Chinese business community than any other – and may yet bear fruit.

Yesterday was a lucky day to get married, and you blew it!

Too late now…

Tens of thousands of Indian couples tied the knot Sunday, one of the luckiest days in the Hindu calendar.

“There are 50,000 weddings happening today” in Mumbai alone, said wedding planner Jarret D’Abreo of Marry Me….

There are only a few lucky dates per year in the Hindu calendar. Sunday’s is called Akshaya Tritiya.

“All the stars are aligned during this day. Whatever offerings and work you do on this day will go right. It’s one day of the year which will bring immense good luck,” Indian astrologer R.K. Sharma said.

The exact date of the festival is based on the alignment of the moon, the stars and the planets….

“Whatever is celebrated during this day — be it purchasing a car or a house or gold or even getting married — brings good luck and that effect is multiplied. It’s the most auspicious day of the year,” Sharma told CNN by phone.

I’ve sat at the same table with Christians lamenting the poor, lost, superstitious Hindus. A few months from now, they’ll be sitting in church to hear how astrologers from the east (whom they call wise) followed a star to locate somebody to save the world. But that’s different!

Who was Company C?

Hewlett-Packard landed Palm by raising its bid following interest from other suitors after intellectual property and a potential licensing arrangement for the WebOS…Simply put, HP almost fell short of acquiring Palm. Palm’s outlines the process to sell itself and the role of “Company C,” an unnamed outfit that was in the running until the HP deal was actually announced…

Palm said it received interest from 16 companies including HP. Six including HP entered nondisclosure agreements:

The two companies in addition to HP that presented acquisition proposals are referred to as Company A and Company B. A fourth company, referred to as Company C, had initially been in discussions with Palm regarding an intellectual property transaction and later made a proposal to acquire Palm.

A fifth company, referred to as Company D, contacted Palm on March 18 to discuss an intellectual property transaction but did not make a proposal to acquire Palm. Company D did not enter into a nondisclosure agreement and did not review non-public information about Palm. Discussions with Company D continued intermittently until April 15.

The one common thread with all of these suitors? They wanted intellectual property transactions and many of the potential buyers were as interested in a licensing arrangement for things like the WebOS. However, an IP deal wouldn’t help Palm all that much…

On April 24 Palm’s CEO and advisors communicated to HP and its advisors that, to remain in the process, HP must improve its offer significantly and immediately. Later that day, HP’s financial advisors verbally delivered a proposal to acquire Palm for $5.70 per common share in cash. HP’s financial advisors also requested a five-day exclusivity period. On April 25 HP delivered a letter confirming this proposal with a target announcement date of close of business on April 27 and sent a draft exclusivity agreement covering such period on April 26.

While much has been made about five bidders for Palm, it appears to be a two-horse race between HP and Company C, which could logically be Lenovo and Dell or a few others. When HP matched, Company C declined to go higher, but Palm notes the bidder proposed “an alternative transaction under which it would acquire certain patents and take a nonexclusive license to Palm WebOS in exchange for a one-time cash payment of $800 million.”

The big question revolves around the identity of Company C. Obviously, Company C felt it needed a mobile operating system badly. HP also decided it needed the WebOS too…

Palm couldn’t come with the marketing smarts to rebuild lost opportunities.

HP thinks the WebOS is worthy – and they can make it profitable, a significant addition to their portfolio. But, who was Company C?

Why do Pennsylvania coppers get flustered over swearing?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the police in Pennsylvania for issuing tickets, which carry a jail sentence, to people for swearing.

ACLU, which filed the lawsuits earlier, argues that the right to use profanity is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

“Unfortunately, many police departments in the commonwealth do not seem to be getting the message that swearing is not a crime,” said Marieke Tuthill of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. “The courts have repeatedly found that profanity, unlike obscenity, is protected speech.”

Obscenity, under the Supreme Court’s definition, refers to speech that mainly appeals to the “prurient interest” in sex, according to the ACLU.

One lawsuit involves an unidentified woman in Luzerne County in northeast Pennsylvania who was given a citation which carries a maximum penalty of $300 and 90 days in jail after she yelled an offensive word at a motorcyclist who swerved close to her in October 2008.

In a separate case a man was arrested, cited for disorderly conduct and briefly jailed after shouting a double expletive at a policeman who was writing him a parking ticket.

The two are among at least 750 people in Pennsylvania a year who face illegal disorderly conduct charges because of the use of profanity in Pennsylvania, the ACLU said…

There are more citations given out in Pennsylvania than other states

Is there something in the water? Are their uniforms too tight?