Wisconsin protest draws 100,000 protesting anti-union governor

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Up to 100,000 people protested at the Wisconsin state Capitol on Saturday against a new law curbing the union rights of public workers that is seen as one of the biggest challenges in decades facing U.S. organized labor.

Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain estimated the crowd at 85,000 to 100,000 people, which would top the size of protests in Madison during the Vietnam War…

Republicans say the measures are needed to gain control of deficit-ridden budgets. Democrats and their union backers say Republicans are ramming through union-busting proposals.

Protesters on Saturday cheered the Democratic state senators who returned to Wisconsin after fleeing to Illinois for three weeks to try to stall the Legislature’s consideration of the measure.

“It’s so good to be home in Wisconsin,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller told demonstrators, who chanted, “Welcome Home” and “We’re With You.”

Our fight to protect union rights has become a fight to protect all our rights — a fight to protect democracy,” said Miller. “You have inspired the nation with your passionate and peaceful protests…”

Restrictions on public sector unions have been introduced in a number of other U.S. states with Republican governors, including Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan and Florida. Some Democrats see it as the opening salvo of the 2012 presidential election because unions are the biggest single contributors to the Democratic Party.

Who knows. This may herald a return to the days when unions provided a much-needed backbone to the Democratic Party.

Yes, you know how much of a cynic I am. Optimist; but, cynic. Lighting a fire under the barely-Left half of America’s political establishment may ignite a matching fire in the eye of politicians who like to say they are allied to the mass of American voters.

Chinese-backed Detroit auto component maker hires 100 engineers

A Metro Detroit automotive firm is hiring 100 new automotive engineers this year, thanks to a $10 million investment by a Chinese parts and accessory company.

Summitech Engineering Inc. plans to double its engineering work force by September as part of a partnership with China Auto Parts & Accessories Corp., or CAPAC, a Chinese government-owned enterprise, company officials said Friday at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon in Birmingham.

The Canton Township-based engineering firm is itself a subsidiary of a Chinese auto supplier, Tempo International Group. Summitech designs, engineers and develops chassis systems, modules and components.

The two Chinese companies are investing in facilities here in hopes of tapping the technical expertise of the U.S. auto industry and bringing it to China, where the car industry is expanding at a pace faster than its less-experienced suppliers can match.

“For the Chinese automotive industry growth, we definitely need the talent, experience and collaboration of the U.S.,” said Tianbao Zhou, chairman of Tempo International, speaking through a translator.

The Chinese auto market hit record sales last year of 18 million vehicles, and industry experts anticipate that sales will continue to climb this year, with new wealth and a growing population in China fueling demand for new vehicles…

Of course, we still get to deal with Cold Warriors in Congress who are afraid some foreign country will surpass us in producing 1979 Oldsmobiles or computers running DOS.

In a globalized economy, I’m proud of the fact that we still have expertise and talent to offer to the market.

Robot solves Rubik’s Cube in 15 seconds

A Rubik’s Cube has been sitting on Joe Ridgeway’s shelf since he was a child, but it wasn’t until he was studying at Rowan University that he fully embraced its challenge.

Before long, he was determined to memorize faster ways to crack the puzzle. Then, he decided he wanted to go faster.

In a project that started in a Rowan course, Ridgeway and Zachary Grady, both senior electrical and computer engineering (ECE) majors, have built a robot that solves the cube in 15 seconds.

The Rubik’s Cube-Solving Robot, a year in the making, has earned the duo more than 17,000 hits on YouTube and a congratulatory note from Erno Rubik himself. And though it’s not yet official, they are confident, based on their research, that the robot is the fastest of its kind…

The robot wastes little time – after 17 moves, it twirls the descrambled cube in a modest celebration.

Ridgeway, 21, and Grady, 22, made the machine from scratch, they said, working under the guidance of Mease and ECE chair Shreekanth Mandayam and with mechanical-engineering help from graduate student Karl Dyer.

Mandayam said he was initially thrown off by the project and was surprised by the public reaction.

“I just absolutely could not believe the amount of interest it has gotten, the amount of hits that we have gotten,” he said.

RTFA. Interesting in more ways than you might think.

Bravo to Ridgeway and Grady.

FAA removes oxygen masks from airplane restrooms – to protect you

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered the nation’s airlines to remove emergency oxygen masks from the restrooms on some 6,000 planes last month, but it only made the work public this week.

“In order to protect the traveling public, the FAA eliminated the problem before making the work public,” FAA said is a statement Thursday. “Had the FAA publicized the existence of this security vulnerability prior to airlines fixing it, thousands of planes across the U.S. and the safety of passengers could have been at risk.”

The FAA didn’t say what the risk was or what triggered the concerns.

According to the agency, it is working with aircraft manufacturers to design, certify and install a new oxygen system for restrooms in all types of aircraft in the U.S. fleet.

Until then, flight attendants have been told “to make it a priority to check whether the lavatory is occupied following any event where oxygen masks are deployed in the cabin.”

I’ll bet they even have a tidy booklet for the flight attendant that explains what to do with the body of anyone discovered in the restroom – dead from oxygen deprivation.

There is no such thing as a dormant volcano. Cripes!

Until now it was thought that once a volcano’s magma chamber had cooled down it remained dormant for centuries before it could be remobilized by fresh magma. A theoretical model developed by Alain Burgisser of the OrlĂ©ans Institute of Earth Sciences…together with a US researcher , was tested on two major eruptions and completely overturned this hypothesis: the reawakening of a chamber could take place in just a few months. This research should lead to a reassessment of the dangerousness of some dormant volcanoes.

A magma chamber is a large reservoir of molten rock (magma) located several kilometers beneath a volcano, which it feeds with magma. But what happens to the magma chamber when the volcano is not erupting? According to volcanologists, it cools down to an extremely viscous mush until fresh magma from deep inside Earth ‘reawakens’ it, in other words fluidizes it by heating it through thermal contact. The large size of magma chambers (ranging from a few tenths to a few hundred cubic kilometers) explains why, according to this theory, it takes several hundred or even thousand years for the heat to spread to the whole reservoir, awakening the volcano from its dormant state.

However, according to the mathematical model developed by Burgisser and his US colleague…depending on the size of the chamber and the viscosity of the magma it contains, a few months may be sufficient to rekindle its activity…

This research is likely to encourage the volcanology community to take a closer look at the physical parameters of magma chambers. By determining these parameters, it may one day be possible to use this new model to estimate the time lapse between the initial tremors of a volcano and its eruption.

Why “cripes”? Because every day whilst out and about in our back meadow, I’m looking across the Cieneguilla Valley at a supposedly extinct volcano. A quarter-mile from my home.

Yes, that’s an ad in the restroom mirror, It moves. WTF?

The idea is this:

When a traveler walks into an airport restroom, he or she will see, over the sinks, where the mirrors are expected to be, big, vertical display ads for products. Some of the ads are still images; some are moving videos.

When the traveler walks to the sink to wash his or her hands, the ads become mirrors — except that in front of the traveler’s eyes the advertisements grow smaller, and move up to a corner of the mirrors.

Thus, the traveler is looking at his or her own face in the mirror, and also at the advertisement.

We have chosen to be in bathrooms,” said Brian Reid, the founder and president of Mirrus, the Huntersville, North Carolina, company that manufactures and markets the mirrors. “Bathrooms are often the last places people stop before they board an airplane, and the first places they visit when they get off an airplane…”

While the traveler is looking both at himself or herself, and at the ad in the corner of the mirror, “We track in real time how long [the traveler] is standing there,” to determine how long the ad is being seen.

There is no camera inside the mirrors, he said, so no one at a remote location is looking at the person in the restroom. The sensors track only which advertisements are being seen, how many times, and for how long.

Extra creepy!