Sachiko Kodama, Yasushi Miyajima — “Morpho Towers”

Ferrofluids are a colloid, like mayonnaise, except instead of fat suspended in liquid there’s iron-containing particles that can respond to a magnetic field. The particles are so small that they can remain dispersed in the liquid instead of sedimenting, the way that sand sinks and river silt stays suspended. When a magnetic field and some kind of substructure is applied (here, the cones), you get something amazing.

The peaks and valleys that are created are due to the magnetic field preferring the liquid over the air (something called “normal-field instability”). You get liquid dancing in dimensions that you aren’t used to seeing, and you get the illusion of dancing, dynamic solids growing solely from a black lagoon.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Spy balloons are now an ordinary part of Afghanistan landscape

The traders crouched beneath the walls of an old fort, hunkered down with the sheep and goats as they talked, eyes nervously flitting up from time to time at the blimp that has become their constant overseer.

“It is there every day except the days when it is windy and rainy,” said Suleman, 45, who goes by only one name.

“It watches us day and night,” said another trader, Mir Akbar, 18, his eyes following the balloon as its nose swiveled with the wind from east to west…

The dirigible, a white 117-foot-long surveillance balloon called an aerostat by the military, and scores more like it at almost every military base in the country, have become constant features of the skies over Kabul and Kandahar, and anywhere else American troops are concentrated or interested in…

In recent years, they have become part of a widening network of devices — drones, camera towers at military bases and a newer network of street-level closed-circuit cameras monitoring Kabul’s roads — that have allowed American and Afghan commanders to keep more eyes on more places where Americans are fighting.

The dirigibles are now such a common feature in daily Afghan life that some people here shrug and say they hardly notice them…But other Afghans describe a growing sense of oppression, the feeling that even as the Americans are starting to pack up to leave, the foreigners’ eyes will always be on them…

For others, the cameras are an outrageous intrusion into private lives, putting women and children on display for foreigners whom they see as immoral…

Continue reading

Attack of the deadly turtles vs careless parents

Three outbreaks of Salmonella poisoning caused by exposure to tiny pet turtles have burgeoned into five outbreaks, with 124 people infected in 27 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Sixty-seven percent of those sick from the outbreak strains of Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona and Salmonella Poona are children under 10. At least 19 people have been hospitalized…

The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of turtles with shells smaller than 4 inches in 1975 because they’re disease vectors, especially for Salmonella. The turtles remain a popular street-vendor item, however. Like other reptiles treated as pets, as well as pet amphibians like frogs, the tiny turtles can carry Salmonella even if they appear to be healthy and clean.

People can become infected by handling the turtles or from exposure to anything in their tanks or aquariums.

Once again, we learn how thoroughly parents keep informed about products that can affect their children. Reading does help, folks. Not everything makes the news on local TV at 5PM.

Plus – we witness what a great job governments at all levels perform at managing the distribution and sale of dangerous goods. The street vendors got these little critters somewhere inside the United States. They didn’t magically appear in chain stores for resale.

Whooping cough epidemic hits Washington State

Whooping cough, or pertussis, a highly infectious respiratory disease once considered doomed by science, has struck Washington State this spring with a severity that health officials say could surpass the toll of any year since the 1940s, before a vaccine went into wide use.

Although no deaths have been reported so far this year, the state has declared an epidemic and public health officials say the numbers are staggering: 1,284 cases through early May, the most in at least three decades and 10 times last year’s total at this time, 128.

The response to the epidemic has been hampered by the recession, which has left state and local health departments on the front lines of defense weakened by years of sustained budget cuts…

Did you think Republicans and Blue Dog Dems were going to cut funds for Naval Bases in Washington State?

Skagit county’s top medical officer, Dr. Howard Leibrand, who is also a full-time emergency room physician, said that in the crushing triage of a combined health crisis and budget crisis, he had gone so far as to urge local physicians to stop testing patients to confirm a whooping cough diagnosis.

If the signs are there, he said…doctors should simply treat patients with antibiotics. The pertussis test can cost up to $400 and delay treatment by days. About 14.6 percent of Skagit County residents have no health insurance, according to a state study conducted last year, up from 11.6 percent in 2008…

State health officials estimate that because of incomplete testing and the assumption that many people with mild cases are not seeking medical treatment, perhaps as few as one in five pertussis cases is being recorded and tracked, suggesting that the outbreak is far more widespread than the numbers indicate.

Pertussis was once a dreaded disease of childhood — killing 5,000 to 10,000 Americans a year from the 1920s through the 1940s — but is now a risk mostly to infants, to whom it is fatal in about 1 percent of cases. Most of the victims in Washington, as in previous outbreaks in other states, are between 8 and 12…

The pertussis vaccine is commonly given in childhood, and many states require it for children of school age. But Washington State, according to a federal study last year of kindergarten-age children, had the highest percentage of parents in the nation who voluntarily exempted their children from one or more vaccines, out of fear of side effects or for philosophical reasons…

Or sheer stupidity, ignorance compounded by religious blather.

Ms. Selecky said immunizations were meant to protect not only individuals but also the broader population: the so-called herd immunity threshold. If a large enough segment of the population is unprotected from a disease — generally considered 5 percent to 15 percent, depending on the disease — even people with some degree of immunity through vaccination can have an elevated risk, she said.

I’ve told this tale before – to people too ignorant to know what life in this land was like before widespread availability of vaccines. Every year, at the end of winter, you could look around the urban neighborhood where I grew up and ask – “Who died this winter?”

There would be other school-age kids who died of scarlet fever, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, German measles – all the ailments these vaccines fight against. Then, we could look forward to summer vacation – and polio.

UK retailer screws up register receipts — they all say: “The Queen’s Knickers – £5.99”

An IT error has caused WH Smith customers to be issued with receipts saying “The Queen’s Knickers – £5.99” for whatever goods they purchased.

The fault affected the retailer’s outlets last Thursday and was resolved the same morning. The firm blamed a technical issue for causing one of its products to appear on every till printout.

The product involved was a newly released children’s book with the jokey title.

Nicholas Allan’s tale centres on the Queen’s visit to a school, timed to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee, and one of the pupil’s speculation about what type of knickers the monarch wears.

“Quite a few people have emailed me telling me about it, suggesting it might be a tactic by my publishing house,” the author joked…

WH Smith said it was not the victim of a security breach. “We experienced an issue with our tilling system last Thursday which was quickly resolved,” a statement said.

“Our tills had not been hacked. There was a temporary set-up error in the system due to a promotion change regarding a children’s book.”

Sounds like a pretty sophisticated children’s book. Or at least sophisticated children. 🙂