A rather cool-looking solar eclipse. Wish I could be there.
How deep does the asymmetry between matter and antimatter go? Each type of particle (electrons, protons, etc.) have antimatter partners: positrons, antiprotons, and so forth. These antiparticles have an opposite electric charge (unless they’re neutral), but otherwise behave much like their matter counterparts. But one interesting question remains unanswered: does antimatter possess antigravity, experiencing a repulsive force when matter experiences attraction? And, even if antimatter experiences plain old gravity, does it behave in exactly the same way as matter does?
I’ve been a fan of theoretical physics for years. It stared with Albert Einstein’s book Relativity: The Special and General Theory and continued — now decades ago — with God And the New Physics by Paul Davies. To even consider that humankind could harness the power of antimatter to overcome the force of gravity (the weakest of the four fundamental forces, but the one we know best) is barely comprehensible.
According to a new study by UCLA researchers, eating 75 grams of walnuts a day improves the vitality, motility and morphology of sperm in healthy men aged 21 to 35.
Just after 2:29 p.m. ET Tuesday, the American population reached 314,159,265, or pi (3.14159265) times 100 million, according to the Census Bureau’s population clock. “This is a once in many generations event … so go out and celebrate this American pi,” demographer Howard Hogan said in a statement from the Census Bureau.
Tuesday’s Transit of Venus across the sun was obscured in Washington, DC due to overcast skies, but watched around the globe. As the last one in our lifetimes — for 117 years — it’s sad to have missed it.
It would be absolutely fantastic if scientists could actually take a picture of the event horizon of a black hole. Since as we now know, even Hawking was wrong in hypothesizing that nothing escapes…
Taking a picture of a black hole, an object so gravitationally bound that not even photons of light can escape, sounds like an oxymoron, but astronomers this week will attempt to do just that. What they’re hoping to glimpse is something called the “event horizon” — the swirl of matter and energy that are visible around the rim of the black hole just before it falls into the abyss.
At 7:45am EST, this Saturday morning’s upcoming lunar eclipse may be a little late for me. So California friends, please watch and report!!
“For people in the western United States, the eclipse is deepest just before local dawn,” NASA scientists said in a statement. “Face west to see the red moon sinking into the horizonas the sun rises behind your back. It’s a rare way to begin your day.”
This is a tremendous video clip. I want to orbit the Earth, too!
Last evening’s total solar eclipse, the longest eclipse we will witness in all of the 21st century, was a little disappointing for some of the hundreds of thousands of Asian viewers in China and India due to intermittent cloud cover. But it was even more of a disappointment for Web users. Although there were many sites dedicated to streaming live video of the celestial event, Internet traffic overwhelmed most of the servers. People ”had the most difficult time accessing the live Web coverage in the United States due to high demand,” making what could have been a transformative moment for the Internet into a reality-check of IP technology.
The unfortunate lesson is that the Net is still not ready for prime time. Here in Northern Virginia, my Internet connection is rated at 5MGB downstream, but despite numerous attempts I was unable to load even one live stream of the eclipse. Perhaps it was a local network issue. More likely, the traffic load from millions of HTTP requests locked out all but a relative handful of potential viewers. Meaning that as a mass medium, today’s Internet is still a failure. We’ve got a ways to go before the Internet can replace traditional media. That’s a sad truth, since other recent news events — from Michael Jackson’s death to the U.S. Airways crash in the Hudson River for instance — foretold a sea-change in substitution of the Web for legacy news outlets.
Mashable promoted the eclipse with a post titled “HOW TO: See the Longest Solar Eclipse of the Century Online.” Not there yet!
Last week, a federal district court ruled that mandatory DNA collection for all people facing federal felony charges is constitutional, dealing a setback to civil liberties. U.S. District Judge Gregory G. Hollows upheld the DNA Fingerprint Act, a 2006 statute which allows federal law enforcement agencies to collect DNA from individuals “arrested, facing charges, or convicted” of federal offenses, as well as those “detained” but not charged. Previously, states throughout the country had a variety of different laws on the books regarding DNA collection — with most mandating testing only after a suspect had been convicted of a crime. The Not-So Private Parts [True/Slant].
So the title of this post is slightly (intentionally) misleading, because the DNA collection — stored in a database known as CODIS, short for Combined DNA Index System — is not limited to convicted people and never goes away. Historically, until 2001 DNA was collected only from inmates who had been convicted of a small number of specified offenses defined in rules promulgated by the Justice Department. Then the USA PATRIOT Act, in Section 503, added three additional categories of qualifying federal offenses for purposes of DNA-sample collection: (1) an offense listed in 18 U.S.C. 2332b(g)(5)(B), for “acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries”; (2) a crime of violence; and (3) an attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the above offenses.
So this little-noticed piece of legislation not only expands infinitely, to any criminal offense, those eligible for DNA collection. It also expands the DNA database to people who are arrested but never indicted or “charged” but never tried, as well as those who are acquitted! That’s bad enough, in my view, to characterize this law as yet another step toward an Orwellian future for the United States, driven by the knee-jerk reaction to 9/11, led by conservatives such as Sen. John Kyl, well-known for spearheading the so VERY important battle to criminalize Internet gambling by U.S. citizens. Will the government require location-based service providers, cell phone networks and smart-tag toll technologies to hand over and archive location data on subscribers, so the government can track us? Will Amazon, eBay and other online retailers be forced to allow the government to troll their databases for purchasing patterns?
Maybe folks made the same complaints when fingerprints began to be collected on arrest more than 70 years ago. But the difference is that DNA has taken on almost mythical status as being indisputable. As Ethan Ackerman observed when the Act was passed:
Criminal jurors, charged with deciding facts in a trial, tend to be irreversibly swayed by DNA evidence, rightly or wrongly. Call it the “CSI effect,” but DNA evidence creates an irrefutable connection in the minds of most jurors. While this can be a two-edged sword when juries expect forensic evidence prosecutors just don’t have, jury allegiance to DNA evidence tends to harm defendants it is introduced against much more than it exonerates them.
This is a double-whammy. First the government gets DNA from anyone with even the most cursory involvement with the criminal justice system. Then it can utilize those samples to add a patina of irrefutability to its criminal prosecutions. Whether or not the CODIS database is extended again (maybe to all infants born in the United States, justified as a way to protect against kidnapping and Amber Alert lost kids?), I believe its application beyond individuals convicted or indicted for terrorism and violent felonies is unnecessary and irresponsible.
As Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1759, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” That’s a good lesson to apply to the DNA Fingerprint Act.