A Quick Note to Anti-Faith Intellectuals.

Ah, the beauty of a self-implied intellectual mind and its consistent suppression of any and all things faith-based. It seems brilliant scientists all over the world start each sentence with the fine response, “We had no idea…We couldn’t believe…We didn’t expect to see…We’re hoping to find…Theoretically, it should…We’re not sure exactly why…” and then feel justified by all you amateur ‘Physics’ cheerleaders who wave your mental pom-poms in different newsgroups screaming “Schrodinger’s Cat! Schrodinger’s Cat!!” to anyone who will listen while espousing the demonic virtues of all things faith-based.

MY GOD, MAN!! OF course, the earth is flat…oh, wait!

You support all that is intellectual and yet allow ZERO intellect toward what ‘MIGHT’ be possible. Of course, there can be NO GOD because my intellect says it’s silly (Oh yeah, and my daddy beat me as a child!) Open your mind, Newton-and by the way, Schrodinger’s Cat is more of a faith experiment than a thought-experiment. The very moment you observe it, everything changes. Only ONE OUTCOME can be observed even though, at one point, there was TWO outcomes. When you open the box, you SEE one…but you must BELIEVE that there was another. FAITH = a more intellectual way to look at the unknown.~~~~

Now, GIVE ME A ‘G’–G, GIVE ME AN ‘O’–O, GIVE ME A ‘D’–D…and what does that spell? Your “Finale!”

Be blessed, my friend……if you’re intellectual enough to ask for it.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/24/lost-ends-on-a-spiritual-note/?hpt=Sbin

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Fox thriller anti hero Jack Bauer’s Parting Shots

ENTERTAINMENT – Fox thriller anti hero Jack Bauer’s Parting Shots.

Fox producer Howard Gordon had said a few weeks back that the viewer’s of thriller 24 should not have any expectation of a happy ending for its anti hero Jack Bauer. This is the same character that has seen colleagues and loved ones die around him, torturing the leads out of the suspects.For Jack, it was always at the cost of his own peace.
President Allison is disgraced for participating in a cover up and on the verge of resigning. While the program gained popularity, the political position lost its weight.
In the first two months of the show, it got its first President in the first President in season two. In times of crisis he was always ready, he was firm but not a pugilist and had natural leadership skills.When attempts were made to usurp his power, he was strong as ever. He had natural leadership skills and charisma.
Attempts were made to overthrow him and usurp his authority but he returned to power and forgave them all. Haydbert said in a recent interview that people on the road came up to him and said that they wanted the real president to be like him.
In the third season he was still in principled but he got involved in shady deals and that was a big hit for the President.  For a majority of season four John Keeler was in office but didn’t get much of a chance from the audience. This resulted in Charles Logan to graduate to the Oval Office.
Palmer was killed by an assassin, part of a grand conspiracy that could be traced back to President Logan himself.  The President was exposed and was forced to resign. He was replaced by Palmer’s younger brother Wayne.
24 returned after a long break due to writer’s strike and it returned with Taylor as the President.
She followed the most recent advise from one of her male friends.
The fall of the President was rooted in 24’s philosophy of raising the stakes every season. Bauer has been the rogue agent who has fought off his superiors when they lacked a fight for right cause. One of the terrorist plots unleashed each season. Despite al the heroics the writers had to give Bauer’s oppressors higher ranks and more authority. The show had sprung from the mind of the co creator Joel Surnow a vocal conservative who has been viewed as a dramatic delivery system.
Haybert has said on multiple occasions that he had taken part credit for getting America comfortable with the idea of a black president.  Given the current political climate the risk of the Tea Party, the sign off of the president could be seen as a repeat of the fact that presidents will let the people of the country down.
Also the high of electing an African American black president is a temptation in itself. Whether Jack Bauer lives, dies, or falls off the grid is ultimately of little consequence, but how people view their president has a colossal effect on how we feel about our country and our place in it

LOST – – THE END!

Thanks to Lostpedia for all the brilliant insight. And Here….we…..go!

THEY WERE NOT “DEAD THE WHOLE TIME”

I don’t know why people are having trouble understanding this, as it is CLEARLY explained in the final minutes of the finale episode by Christian Shephard (Jack’s dad). The original Oceanic 815 plane crash happened. Everything on the Island through seasons 1-6 happened. The “flash sideways” universe introduced in season 6 was a sort of stop-over point between life and afterlife (referred to here as the “purgatory universe”).

Each person in this “purgatory universe” created a reality for themselves based on their lingering issues in life – that which they could not “let go” of. For Jack it was Daddy issues; Kate, the guilt of murder; Sawyer, the quest to find “Sawyer” and be a better man; Sayid, the unrequited love of Nadia; Charlie, looking for something “real” in his hollow life of fame, etc…

Everyone was still attached to their Earthly concerns (we’re getting very Buddhist here, bear with me) – but when they made contact with those people they’d met on the Island, they remembered the journey and growth they had experienced because of the Island, and could finally understand the connections and “purpose” brought into their damaged lives by being there. With that greater understanding of themselves, they were each ready to “leave” or “move on” to the next phase of existence – i.e., the true afterlife.

WHAT WAS THAT FINAL IMAGE OF THE CRASHED PLANE?

Some people are convinced the final image during the end credits of the Lost finale was the “clue” to the characters being dead the whole time. OK, let’s think about this: The image appears during the closing credits, after the final appearance of the “LOST” logo. That means that the story had officially ended. Saying that the biggest reveal came while the end credits were rolling is like saying a movie’s climax happens during the end credits. Not bloody likely.

The image of the plane crash (if you look closely) has memorabilia from the Lostie’s time on the beach where they first made camp. Shacks, towels, etc… it was one part nostalgia (remember where it all began?) and also one part commentary on the circular nature of the Island.

Like the Black Rock ship that brought Richard to the Island (“Ab Aeterno“), or the downed plane with the heroin that had Mr. Ecko’s brother’s corpse inside of it (“The 23rd Psalm“), the remains of Oceanic 815 and the evidence of a small community built on the beach are just more monuments of the Island. The next time somebody crashes there, they’ll see that stuff and wonder what the “mystery” behind it is…

Then they’ll whine and complain about how unsatisfying the answer is. (“What? That’s how that mystical guy “Hurley” came to the Island? LAME.”)

WHAT WAS DESMOND’S POWER?

One of the biggest things people seem to be questioning is how Desmond was able to “wake up” from the purgatory universe and how he had the know-how to “wake up” the other Losties. For that answer, you really just have to look back over the history of Desmond.

Desmond (specifically through his connection to Penny Widmore) is a sort of “constant” in the show. No matter what happens, when, or where, Desmond seems somehow immune to the Island’s energy (which has electromagnetic properties) and has a sort of awareness that can transcend space and time (his consciousness shifts seen in episodes like “The Constant“). These “shifts” and Widmore’s explanation that Desmond is special because of his resistance to the Island’s energies, imply that Desmond would even be able to “shift” his consciousness back and forth between this universe and the purgatory one, catalyzed by Widmore’s team placing him in that huge electromagnetic machine in the season six episode, “Happily Ever After“.

So, it does stand to reason (at least Lost reasoning) that Desmond – after having his consciousness “shifted” to the purgatory reality – would “wake up” after encountering HIS constant, Penny. It’s another fast and loose metaphysical explanation, but one that (for me) still works within the framework of the show.

WHAT’S  THE DEAL WITH THE ISLAND’S “RULES?”

Over the course of the show people have wondered about the mythology of the Island – where it came from, what it is and what are the “rules” that govern it and its mystical protectors? Admittedly, this is an area where the showrunners played things fast and loose, hoping that the momentum of the characters’ story arcs and the whole “good vs. evil” showdown would be enough to appease most fans. Alas, not so.

Season six of Lost did a great deal to semi-explain what the island was – a sort of container for a very important energy that seemingly links this world with worlds beyond… or something. That energy is represented by light and water, and if that light goes out and the water stops flowing, the world is basically screwed. Everything magical or fantastic about the Island stems from this energy, and many of the technological oddities found on the Island (the Swan Station from season 2) are a result of the Dharma Initiative trying to harness and control that energy (i.e., man trying to bend magic and mysticism to the will of modern science).

However, there are some things that were definitely left unexplained: Why did the Man In Black become a smoke monster when he was exposed to the light (was it a manifestation of his corrupted soul)?; What is the nature of the “rules” that governed certain aspects of the Island – who could come and go, who could kill who, who was healed from injury (Locke, Rose), who lived forever (Richard). How were these rules established and maintained?

The Jacob/MIB origin episode, “Across The Sea”, attempted to fill in that aspect of the Island mythology, but what we came away with were a lot of vague pseudo-explanations. The protector of the Island basically makes up the rules and once those rules are established they are set until somebody (a new protector?) changes them. This is the reason why the MIB was obsessed with “finding a loophole” in order to kill Jacob; it’s also why Jack was ultimately able to kill the MIB. Smokey was connected to the energy source, and when Jack had Desmond “turn off” that energy, Smokey lost his powers and was merely flesh and blood.

THE WIDMORE/LINUS CONUNDRUM

Ok… so there’s implication of what the Island’s “rules” are, but that gets a bit problematic when you think back to season 4 of Lost – which is basically about Charles Widmore sending operatives to the island to do what he cannot (get revenge on Ben Linus). There was that whole sub-plot about how it was ‘against the rules’ for Widmore to return to the Island, and how Widmore “changed the rules” by killing Ben’s adopted daughter, Alex. But why would the “rules” of the Island’s protectors apply to these two guys?

In the end, I think the showrunners went for an “It is what it is,” approach with the mystical rules governing the Island; they are convenient plot devices that support the story at various points, but don’t really hold up when looked at in conjunction with the entire series. The Widmore/Linus conundrum is simply one of those holes – a weak point of the Lost mythology, for sure.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE?

Remember when Lost had African-Americans as part of its “groundbreaking international cast?” Yeah, I vaguely do too. One friend of mine (and I’m sure of yours) watched the finale chanting “They better bring back Walt!” over and over – but no such luck.

Walt and his father Michael did make latter season Lost appearances: Locke visited Walt off the Island in the season five episode “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” and Michael appeared to Hurley as a ghost in season six, explaining the whole “whispers on the Island” thing. Still, many fans wondered why Walt, Michael and the “tailie” priest, Mr. Eko, didn’t reunite with the other cast members at the purgatory all-faith church in the finale.

Well, Michael we know is stuck on the Island as a “whisper” because he can’t move on, due to his killing of Libby and Ana Lucia in season two. Walt was freed from the Island early on, so the journey that bonded the Oceanic passengers in the purgatory universe was one that Walt was never really part of.

As for Mr. Eko, his death in the season 3 episode “The Cost of Living” showed that Eko had come to peace with his life. When told by the ghost of his brother Yemi to “Confess his sins,” Eko refused, saying that he had no guilt to confess; in his life, he did what he had to do to survive. The smoke monster evaluated Eko, who stood resolute about himself, his sins and the faith and redemption he’d ultimately found. After smokey beat Eko to pulp, Eko’s last vision was his young self walking away with his brother, holding the soccer ball they used to play with.

In short: Eko, by finding his faith and coming to peace with himself, had no reason to be in the purgatory world with the others. Wherever his soul was going, it was prepared for that journey – unlike the other passengers, who still had to come to peace with themselves and their deaths.

That all sounds deep, sure, but I’m sure off-screen conflicts with the actors and the fact that Macolm David Kelley (the kid who played Walt) hit puberty were also major factors.

WHAT ABOUT THE POLAR BEARS?

If you’re asking this question, you weren’t really paying attention to the show. Go rent Lost season 3 on DVD and see if you can’t figure out the polar bear “mystery” when the rest of us did… back in 2006. I’ll give you a hint: Dharma Initiative experiments.

WHAT ABOUT THE NUMBERS?

In the season six episode “The Substitute” Un-Locke takes Sawyer down to “Jacob’s cave” on the cliff (where Jack ultimately killed MIB) and in that cave, Sawyer observes that Jacob’s list of “candidates” for his replacement – our Losties – have numbers by their names. The list of candidates (Sawyer, Jack, Locke, Hugo, Sayid and “Kwon”) equate to the numbers 4-8-15-16-23-42 – the numbers that both steered Hurley to the Island in the first place (he went to Australia to find out about them), and served as the code for releasing the Island’s tapped energy in The Swan station. The numbers also showed up again and again throughout the show (Danielle’s papers, on medicine Claire and Desmond take, on Mr. Eko’s stick, etc…).

So in the end the numbers had to do with fate, and were a nice little numerology motif for the showrunners to play with (and a mathematical mystery for fans to agonize over). THE END.

BEN CONTROLS SMOKEY?

In the season 4 episode “The Shape of Things To Come” Ben Linus witnessed the murder of his daughter Alex at the hands of Charles Widmore’s mercenaries. Ben then accessed the secret room in his Dharma house and disappeared into a secret passage covered in hieroglyphics. When Ben returned, he brought the smoke monster with him, which murdered the team of Widmore’s assassins. Now we know the smoke monster was the Man In Black, but some viewers are still confused why Ben was able to “control the monster” in this season 4 episode, but not later in season six.

However, it is never said that Ben “controls” the smoke monster – the best word would be “summons.” This makes sense to the story, as Alex’s death is the event that makes Ben turn to the MIB for a favor – a favor which he later repays in season 5 by killing Jacob for the MIB. It’s the ultimate corruption of Ben Linus – the moment where he goes from being a blind servant of Jacob to serving evil. So I don’t quite consider this a loose end – just another case of misinterpretation by some viewers.

JACOB vs. THE DHARMA INITIATIVE

Ok, so this is MY major question. In one of my favorite Lost episodes, “The Man Behind The Curtain“, we learn all about Ben Linus’ childhood with the Dharma Initiative. The episode ends with the chilling revelation that Ben – conspiring with Richard – betrays “his people” in the initiative and mass murders them using nerve gas – including his own father. Ben then reveals to Locke what ultimately became of the Dharma Initiative: The Others threw their bodies into a gruesome mass grave.

Looking back from the series finale and the “Across The Sea” episode about Jacob’s past, I can’t help but wonder: did Jacob murder the Dharma Initiative?

We know that Richard is an emissary of Jacob – that is, Richard does Jacob’s bidding. So if Richard instructed Ben to kill the Dharma members, doesn’t that imply that Jacob instructed Richard to do so, much the same way Jacob’s “mother” slaughtered the men on the Island when the Man In Black got to close to them?

I find it hard to explain the death of the Dharma Initiative any other way, and that’s a huge narrative problem when you consider that our Losties – many of whom lived with and befriended the Dharma Initiative in the 70s – ultimately serve Jacob as well. They’re serving the man who most likely gave the order to murder their friends and co-workers!

It also blurs the lines between good and evil. Mass murder is never a good thing, so the fact that Jacob at least allowed the mass murder of the Dharma Initiative (it’s his role as “protector,” right?) is pretty ghastly when you think about it. This is the embodiment of “good” we’re supposed to root for? Makes you think the Man In Black wasn’t ALL bad…

WHAT ABOUT THE BOMB?

For me this is also a major problem of the Lost mythology. For much of season 6, many fans assumed (based on the opening to the season six premiere, “LA  X“) that the bomb that Jack and Co. detonated in the 70s (the season 5 finale) resulted in the Island sinking and an alternate timeline being created, in which Oceanic 815 never crashed, and things were slightly different in the lives of the passengers.

Now we know that the “alternate timeline” was actually purgatory where the Losties  all met up when they were dead, and the whole “alternate timeline” bit was a red herring.  So what, exactly, did the bomb do?

The obvious answer is that the bomb propelled the Losties back through time to the present day, where the the Swan station (a.k.a. “The Hatch”) was now a slightly different version of its former imploded self (see the photos below).

Like most time travel narratives, the situation with the hatch raises a ton of logistical questions, such as: Would Desmond still be on the island if the hatch had been destroyed in the past? Wouldn’t that alteration to the time stream have a ripple effect that disrupted everything else regarding the Oceanic 815 crashing? And so on…

Instead what we got was a time travel scenario where that one location, the 70s Swan station, seemed to “overlap” on its present-day self, while leaving the rest of the time stream unaffected (or something like that). It’s confusing and very problematic – yet another reason why time travel is something you probably want to stay away from as a storyteller…

In the end though, the outcome is the same: Whatever conduit to the Island’s energy source that the Dharma Initiative tapped when they made the Swan station was ultimately exhausted. Whether it was exhausted by the bomb Juliet set off, or the the moment in season 3 when Locke lost his faith and refused to push the button (“Live Together, Die Alone“) the energy was released, and The Swan was destroyed. The Losties made it back to the present, and there was never two timelines, apparently.

Try not to think too hard about it, I guess… But it certainly is a major thread left dangling.

These are just some of the lingering question Lost has left us with. For those of you who feel cheated by the finale – did any of these explanations help?

FOUND: One ‘Lost’ reading list!

The show’s creators discuss literary influences, from Stephen King to Flannery O’Connor
May 14, 2010 | 7:00 am

Ever since Sawyer was shown reading “Watership Down” in Season One of “Lost,” an abundance of carefully placed works of literature have been featured on the show (in gym bags, on book shelves, in episode titles), spawning “Lost” book clubs and blogs filled with eager readers combing for clues to the fate of the stranded Oceanic Flight 815 survivors.

The unpredictable nature of the show left fans hungry for answers week after week and the referenced books have provided plenty of theorizing and heated discussions, even as the show moves towards its conclusion.

Executive producers and writers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse grew up reading a lot of the same authors (Stephen King, John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut) and have acknowledged literature’s influence in the way they have shaped the show.

“It’s a nod to that process,” Lindelof (who is also co-creator) explained last year. “We pick the books with a great deal of meticulous thought and specificity and talk about what the thematic implications of picking a certain book are, why we’re using it in the scene and what we want the audience to deduce from that choice.”

Because “Lost” was not a carbon-copy cop show, legal drama or medical show, there was not a lot of precedence for its unique structure. Lindelof and Cuse found inspiration in the making of the show in books as opposed to movies or other TV shows.

They noted Stephen King’s “The Stand” as a blueprint for early episodes. “It was this very long, character-oriented book that hung on a high-concept premise that the entire nation had been infected with this super-flu, and it was the equivalent of people crashing on this mysterious island. Both based on incredibly intricate and involved character dynamics,” Cuse said.

More than 70 books have been referenced during the six seasons, including heavy reads such as the 700-page “Ulysses” by James Joyce and “The Odyssey” by Homer. Whether it’s a plot line, character or theme, many elements seen in “Lost” can be traced back to a book: time travel (“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking), alternate realities (“Alice in Wonderland,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” A Wrinkle in Time”), differing points of view and flashbacks (“Catch 22″) or simply the title of an episode (“Through the Looking Glass,” “Tale of Two Cities,” “There’s No Place Like Home”). All reflect the producers’ and writers’ fondness for great literature.

There are a few titles that have been referenced regularly throughout the series and undoubtedly for good reasons. “Watership Down,” Richard Adams’ novel about a society of rabbits searching for a safe place in a threatening world, is one.

“’Watership Down’ was the book that got me started reading the books on the show,” said James Brush, a high school English teacher in Austin, Texas, who started his own blog devoted to the books on “Lost.” “It always makes me think of Jack. He’s like the main character, Hazel. He’s not the biggest or strongest but he’s smart and grows wise.”

Rather than one all-encompassing book that sums up the entire series, each season seemed to have a few titles relevant to the storyline. “Each season had a book that has for me really resonated,” Brush said. “In Season 3 it was ‘Catch 22’ by Joseph Heller. Charlie was going to die and Desmond knew it. He was stuck in this loop of trying to get out of the current situation yet making it worse.”

Another Brush favorite: “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “The characters are drawn with a lot of psychological depth. I found similarities to Jack, Locke and Sawyer,” he noted. “The theme of patricide connected and was reinforced with their serious father issues revealed in Season 2.”

The Sawyer factor. The most unlikely bookworm on the island is the one character we see reading the most, from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Fountainhead“ by Ayn Rand. In the Season 3 DVD, Lindelof mentions Sawyer’s similarities to the main character in “The Fountainhead,” Howard Roark. Both are rebels against the general culture of their society and prefer to be by themselves.

If one book was most influential on the show, it was probably “Alice in Wonderland.” “To say there is only one is unfair,” said Lindelof, “but we keep coming back to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ thematically. That was a book that both Carlton and I remember very specifically as children. It was a gateway drug to sci-fi and fantasy in many ways.”

Lindelof said he read a lot of Piers Anthony as a kid, and is an expert on “The Wizard of Oz.” One ode to the L. Frank Baum classic: when we first meet Ben, he uses the alias Henry Gale, the name of Dorothy’s uncle, and claims to have crashed on the island in a hot air balloon.

Cuse, known to be the “Narnia” scholar on the show, cited Flannery O’Connor as his greatest influence. “We have a lot of religious themes and sudden and striking violence and she was the master at that. I love her work.”

Jacob was seen reading O’ Connor’s collection of short stories, “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” in a flashback scene in Season 5. “In one story, ‘Judgment Day,’ a man imagines how he’ll fake his own death, take his coffin from New York City to the South and surprise his friends with the fact that he’s still alive,” Brush said. “That’s sort of what happened with Locke when he re-manifested himself. “

Brush noted that if “Lost” follows the trajectory of this or any of these stories, a happy ending isn’t likely.

Is there one single book’s plot that will predict the ending?

Some bloggers see clues in “Left Behind,” by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, in which several passengers aboard a plane suddenly and mysteriously disappear. They learn that Christ has come to take the faithful with him in preparation for the coming apocalyptic battle between good and evil and those left behind must decide to join the forces of Christ or the forces of darkness.

There’s no escaping the not-so-subtle references to “The Bible” with Jacob and the Man in Black, light vs. dark, mentions of sacrifice on the horizon and Richard shouting “We are in Hell!”

Brush believes that the heart of this season, lies within “Haroun and the Sea of Stories” by Salman Rushdie and “Deep River” by Shūsaku Endō, a tale about finding balance. The premise of “Haroun” is that all stories come from a single source polluted by an evil lord. The stream of stories must be stopped by pulling a cork on all the other stories that have escaped. “If this season follows this model, one of two realities will cease to exist once one is defeated,” said Brush, referring to the sideways flashes.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that Locke is going to be defeated or be balanced out. Whoever is left on the island will be the sacrifice that saves the world.”

loS aNGELES tIMEs

Our Universe at Home Within a Larger Universe? So Says Physicist’s Wormhole Research!

Such a scenario in which the universe is born from inside a wormhole (also called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge) is suggested in a paper from Indiana University theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski in Physics Letters B. The final version of the paper was available online March 29 and will be published in the journal edition April 12.

Poplawski takes advantage of the Euclidean-based coordinate system called isotropic coordinates to describe the gravitational field of a black hole and to model the radial geodesic motion of a massive particle into a black hole.

In studying the radial motion through the event horizon (a black hole’s boundary) of two different types of black holes — Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen, both of which are mathematically legitimate solutions of general relativity — Poplawski admits that only experiment or observation can reveal the motion of a particle falling into an actual black hole. But he also notes that since observers can only see the outside of the black hole, the interior cannot be observed unless an observer enters or resides within.

“This condition would be satisfied if our universe were the interior of a black hole existing in a bigger universe,” he said. “Because Einstein’s general theory of relativity does not choose a time orientation, if a black hole can form from the gravitational collapse of matter through an event horizon in the future then the reverse process is also possible. Such a process would describe an exploding white hole: matter emerging from an event horizon in the past, like the expanding universe.”

A white hole is connected to a black hole by an Einstein-Rosen bridge (wormhole) and is hypothetically the time reversal of a black hole. Poplawski’s paper suggests that all astrophysical black holes, not just Schwarzschild and Einstein-Rosen black holes, may have Einstein-Rosen bridges, each with a new universe inside that formed simultaneously with the black hole.

“From that it follows that our universe could have itself formed from inside a black hole existing inside another universe,” he said.

By continuing to study the gravitational collapse of a sphere of dust in isotropic coordinates, and by applying the current research to other types of black holes, views where the universe is born from the interior of an Einstein-Rosen black hole could avoid problems seen by scientists with the Big Bang theory and the black hole information loss problem which claims all information about matter is lost as it goes over the event horizon (in turn defying the laws of quantum physics).

This model in isotropic coordinates of the universe as a black hole could explain the origin of cosmic inflation, Poplawski theorizes.

Poplawski is a research associate in the IU Department of Physics. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in physics from Indiana University and a M.S. in astronomy from the University of Warsaw, Poland.

Road construction to improve Main Street – Monday, March 01, 2010

Road construction to improve Main Street

Monday, March 01, 2010

Commuters in downtown Humble have been grappling with traffic congestion as Main Street intersection renovations begin, and traffic is funneled down to one lane. Mayor Donnie McMannes provided an update on progress with the project designed to give historic downtown an Old-World charm.

“This project has been eight years in the making,” said McMannes. “I’m glad to see the progress taking place.”

The first of the downtown renovations is the intersection of Main Street and Avenue A. “We’ve been working on the intersection for two or three weeks,” said McMannes. “Most of the work at this point is rough work.”

McMannes said the old concrete has been removed. Concrete boxes that connect storm sewers and the new water lines have been installed and buried.

“All of the prep work had to be completed before we start work on the intersection’s design,” he said. “The old water lines are around 70 years old. They need to be replaced now, so we don’t develop a problem and have to tear everything up later.”

As a side note, the mayor said workers who were hollowing and leveling the intersection recently discovered more than 100 horseshoes and a rasp file that appear to have been in the ground under the street for a long time. He speculated that they may be from an old blacksmith shop in the area.

“We could get through the process of replacing the road a lot faster if we closed the intersection completely down, said McMannes, “but there are businesses there that need access to their property. We will work on one side of the street, then move to the other side. It may take a little longer, but it will be better for the businesses downtown.”

McMannes said the forecast for completion of the project is dependent on weather, but will involve at least another month’s work. When the project is finished, he said the city will have a fresh new look. New concrete will extend 30 to 40 feet from the intersection, which will be surfaced with red and gray pavers in a herringbone design. There will be a gray star in the middle of the intersection, surrounded by a red-brick design inside a gray-brick circle. The intersection will be modified to accommodate those with disabilities, which will include sloped sidewalks to accommodate wheelchairs and a pedestrian priority traffic button.

“The old suspended street lights will be replaced. A light pole with an arm will reach across with the new traffic lights on it, then the light post rises up to a turn of the century street light,” said McMannes.

The Mayor also said this project is the first of the downtown street renovations, but that it will not be the last. He said, however, that the Main Street and Avenue A intersection would be the most elaborate. Those that follow will be a little more modest, but still complement this first intersection.

Nikola Tesla, an Inventive Namesake

By HENRY FOUNTAIN

ODD, isn’t it, that the people at Tesla Motors named their company after a man who spent years trying to invent a death ray.

They didn’t, really. Or rather, they did, but honoring the man who wanted to build a directed-energy superweapon as a way to end wars probably wasn’t what Elon Musk and his fellow entrepreneurs had in mind. Nikola Tesla, the Serbian inventor who died at 86, nearly penniless, in a New York City hotel in 1943, also conceived of the alternating-current induction motor — the basic device, now much refined, that is at the heart of every Tesla electric car.

But it’s a testament to Tesla’s far-reaching intellect that he could be remembered as well for the weapon research (despite years of on-again, off-again work, the idea never came to fruition), or for the first patent for a speedometer, or for an early version of the points-and-breaker ignition system that was a feature of cars for decades, or for electric-arc lamps, radio, wireless transmission of electricity or any number of other inventions and ideas.

Tesla, who came to the United States in 1884, is regarded as one of the greatest electrical engineers of the early 20th century. He was Thomas Edison’s great rival, he worked with George Westinghouse to develop early lighting systems and he demonstrated a radio transmitter before Guglielmo Marconi. But he also had some strange ideas, and spent much of the latter part of his life exploring subjects like time travel and what he described as a theory of gravity.

What Tesla wasn’t very good at was managing his affairs. He got into lengthy disputes with Edison and Marconi, among others, and while he made a lot of money he also lost a lot of it, too. The people at Tesla Motors presumably didn’t choose to honor him for that.

The New York Times
February 4, 2010

At 6-6, Rockets’ Chuck Hayes Is the Mite in the Middle – NYTimes.com

At 6-6, Rockets’ Chuck Hayes Is the Mite in the Middle – NYTimes.com.

Top Scientist Blends Science & Faith; Chemistry & God!

Jim Tour wanted to be a trooper. But now he’s a leading scientist at Rice, building on groundbreaking work of nanotechnology pioneer Rick Smalley.

As a teen pumping gas on a highway north of New York City, Jim Tour dreamed of becoming a state trooper. It beat filling tanks. The notion of Tour as a highway cop is almost laughably discordant with present-day reality. Three decades later, the trim, intense, 50-year-old Tour has established himself as one of the leading, if not premier, scientists at Rice University.

And he’s learned to dream big.

Four years after Nobel laureate Rick Smalley’s untimely death, it is the prolific Tour who as much as anyone has carried on Smalley’s groundbreaking legacy in the science of nanotechnology. Confirmation came last month when, among the more than 720,000 scientists who authored chemistry papers in academic journals during the last decade, Tour found himself among the 10 most-cited authors in the world. This means the 135 papers he wrote during the last decade had one of the 10 highest rates at which other scientists “cited” them in the references of subsequent research papers. And small wonder. Tour’s work spans an incredible breadth, from building tiny cars and trucks out of molecules, to making computer memory from graphite, building tiny missiles that carry drugs to tumors and trying to cure radiation sickness.

“He is just incredibly creative as a chemist,” said Wade Adams, director of Rice’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. “He makes molecules dance.”

But it’s not all about the chemistry. Though Tour is clearly passionate about chemistry, he is passionate about God. In a world that increasingly associates scientists with atheism or agnosticism, Tour derives his inspiration from deep faith. He wakes up each morning at 3:30 a.m., he says, to spend his first two hours with his Bible. “I read the Bible from Genesis Chapter 1 to Revelation Chapter 22, and when I’m done I start again,” Tour said. “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. There is this amazing richness. I take a passage and I say, ‘Lord speak to me.’ And then it just comes alive.”

Attracted to law enforcement but ineligible to attend New York’s state police academy because of color blindness, Tour then considered forensic science. But his dad suggested he stick to basic chemistry to keep his options open. By the time he got to Syracuse University, Tour was hooked, especially on organic chemistry, the chemistry of carbon and life. “I just loved organic chemistry,” Tour said. “I would just spend hours and hours on Friday nights. I’d find an empty classroom and sit there and just write chemical structures and dream up syntheses of how I could build them. I understand that’s not the normal reaction to organic chemistry.”

In time Tour became a fine organic chemist, synthesizing molecules for vaccines and other applications, and joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina.

A breakthrough

By 1998 he had a breakthrough and an epiphany while tinkering in the field of molecular electronics, which seeks to build electronic components from the ground up with molecules — rather than from the top down with silicon. If fully realized, because of the small size of molecules, the field of molecular electronics has the potential to revolutionize computer technology.

Working with electrical engineer Mark Reed, Tour created the first reversible electronic switch out of molecules, a stunning achievement that landed him in the journal Science and caught the attention of Rick Smalley. The epiphany came when Tour realized he could transcend organic chemistry by turning his talents at synthesizing complex molecules toward materials science. After offers and counter-offers, Tour ended up at Rice in a brand-new building fully devoted to nanotechnology, one of the country’s first on an academic campus. Sitting in his immaculate office, it’s clear that one of Tour’s strengths is organization as he manages multiple research projects. His desk? Clear. His conference table? Clear.

Tour also seems to derive motivation from naysayers.

During the last few years he has garnered widespread acclaim for his nanocars, literally molecules that look and move like cars. “At first people laughed at us, saying it wasn’t really a car because it didn’t have a motor,” he said. “So we made a motorized car, and they laughed because it was so slow.”

The first nanocar motor turned over just 1.8 times a minute. A recent version makes 3 million revolutions per second.

“So now we’ve got one that rotates faster than you could ever build a macroscopic car,” he said, his eyes twinkling.

Tour credits his success, in part, to hard work. Six days a week, Tour says, he leaves for his office at 6 a.m., setting aside Sundays. Breakfast and lunch, most days, is dried dates and nuts. So meals take about a minute. After a midday break for 20 minutes at Rice’s on-campus chapel, it’s back to work until he leaves for home around 6 p.m.

Students contribute

He also cites his students’ contributions to his success. With a budget of $1.25 million annually from the Army, Navy and industrial grants, Tour has about two dozen graduate and postdoctoral students working under him.

“Besides his extraordinary abilities as an instructor, he is also a mentor of leaders,” said Jorge Seminario, an engineering professor at Texas A&M University who studied under Tour at South Carolina. “In every step of his leadership, he is teaching his associates and students how to be organized and look for the success of the project.”

And, finally, Tour credits his success to his faith. When he speaks about this, Tour’s angular features sharpen. He closes his eyes. His voice becomes more emotive. “I believe, fundamentally, that God creates us all,” he said. Colleagues say that Tour, a Messianic Jew who attends West University Baptist Church, does not wear his religion on his sleeve, but that he will bring it up if asked. And if asked, he does not hold back. As part of those views, Tour says he neither understands nor accepts the notion of macroevolution, that new species evolve on their own.

“I’ve asked people to explain it to me, and I still don’t understand it,” he said. “I hear their explanations and I don’t understand it. I understand better than most people how molecules come together, what they can and cannot do. … And I don’t understand how macroevolution occurs.”

Tour does not espouse “intelligent design,” which holds that certain features of living things are best explained by God, but he says not accepting macroevolution has caused problems for him in academia.

“When appointments are not made, when fellowships are not granted on this basis, that hurts,” he said. “I’m willing to stand up and say I don’t see any clothes on that emperor. I’m being very open. That bothers a lot of people. I don’t know why. I’m telling you it’s just been in the recent past. I’ve been a professor now for more than 20 years. I never saw it before.”

The Rice administration has remained steadfast behind Tour. And some of his students, such as Ashley Leonard, who just earned her Ph.D., say Tour’s faith helps make him a more complete mentor. “I always felt his doors were open to us,” she said. “I’m sure his faith created some of that hospitality there.”

It’s his faith that also has probably allowed Tour to take chances as a researcher, to not be afraid to fail.

That’s led to some successes and failures. After Smalley, Robert Curl and Harold Kroto did their Nobel Prize-winning work to synthesize buckyballs, spherical arrays of 60 carbon molecules, it was Tour’s lab that found a way to produce buckyballs in large quantities. On the other hand, his lab then failed in its efforts to produce diamonds, another form of carbon, by crushing buckyballs.

“We’ve done some pretty wild things,” Tour said. “But once in awhile you win. Once in awhile you hit something and the world says, ‘How did you think of that?’

“The answer is: We think of a lot of crazy things, and we try a lot of crazy things. I’ve been hurt by thinking too small, but I have never been hurt by thinking too big.”

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eric.berger@chron.com

‘Lifeless’ prions capable of evolutionary change and adaptation

ScienceDaily (Jan. 3, 2010) — Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have determined for the first time that prions, bits of infectious protein devoid of DNA or RNA that can cause fatal neurodegenerative disease, are capable of Darwinian evolution.

The study from Scripps Florida in Jupiter shows that prions can develop large numbers of mutations at the protein level and, through natural selection, these mutations can eventually bring about such evolutionary adaptations as drug resistance, a phenomenon previously known to occur only in bacteria and viruses. These breakthrough findings also suggest that the normal prion protein — which occurs naturally in human cells — may prove to be a more effective therapeutic target than its abnormal toxic relation.

The study was published in the December 31, 2009 issue of the journal Science Express, an advance, online edition of the journal Science.

“On the face of it, you have exactly the same process of mutation and adaptive change in prions as you see in viruses,” said Charles Weissmann, M.D., Ph.D., the head of Scripps Florida’s Department of Infectology, who led the study. “This means that this pattern of Darwinian evolution appears to be universally active. In viruses, mutation is linked to changes in nucleic acid sequence that leads to resistance. Now, this adaptability has moved one level down — to prions and protein folding — and it’s clear that you do not need nucleic acid for the process of evolution.”

The Scripps Research study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and by a generous donation to the Weissmann laboratory from the Alafi Family Foundation.

–For the entire article, click below.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091231164747.htm

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Adapted from materials provided by Scripps Research Institute, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.


Journal Reference:

  1. Li et al. Darwinian Evolution of Prions in Cell Culture. Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1126/science.1183218

WOW!! And I can barely do a WHEELIE!

The Collider is Back Online!

(CNN) — “The LHC is back,” the European Organization for Nuclear Research announced triumphantly Friday, as the world’s largest particle accelerator resumed operation more than a year after an electrical failure shut it down.

Restarting the Large Hadron Collider — the $10 billion research tool’s full name — has been “a herculean effort,” CERN’s director for accelerators, Steve Myers, said in a statement announcing the success.
Experiments at the LHC may help answer fundamental questions such as why Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity — which describes the world on a large scale — doesn’t jibe with quantum mechanics, which deals with matter far too small to see. Physicists established a circulating proton beam in the LHC’s 17-mile tunnel at 10 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) Friday, CERN said, a critical step towards getting results from the accelerator.

“It’s great to see beam circulating in the LHC again,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “We’ve still got some way to go before physics can begin, but with this milestone we’re well on the way.”
Located underground on the border of Switzerland and France, the LHC has been inching towards operation since the summer.

It reached its operating temperature — 271 degrees below zero Celsius — on October 8 and particles were injected on October 23. Now that a beam is circulating, the next step is low-energy collisions, which should begin in about a week, CERN said. High-energy collisions will follow next year. The collider has been dogged by problems. It made headlines early this month when a bird apparently dropped a “bit of baguette” into the accelerator, making the machine shut down.

The incident was similar in effect to a standard power cut, said spokeswoman Katie Yurkewicz. Had the machine been going, there would have been no damage, but beams would have been stopped until the machine could be cooled back down to operating temperatures, she said.
The collider achieved its first full-circle beam last year on September 10 amid much celebration. But just nine days later, the operation was set back when one of the 25,000 joints that connect magnets in the LHC came loose and the resulting current melted or burned some important components of the machine, Myers said.
The faulty joint has a cross-section of a mere two-thirds of an inch by two-thirds of an inch.

“There was certainly frustration and almost sorrow when we had the accident,” he said. Now, “people are feeling a lot better because we know we’ve done so much work in the last year.”
Mark Wise, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology, said he’s just as excited about the results that will come out of the LHC as he was last year and views the September 2008 accident as a delay rather than a devastating event.

Wise noted that Tevatron, the collider at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, has also had its share of failures but is generally considered to work just fine.
“It’s a horribly complicated piece of equipment, it’s not like there’s not going to be problems along the way,” he said. “They will surmount those problems.”

The LHC will probably be in operation more than 20 years, Myers said. But it won’t be that long before scientists could potentially discover new properties of nature. The as-yet theoretical Higgs boson, also called “the God particle” in popular parlance, could emerge within two or three years, Myers said.
Evidence of supersymmetry — the idea that every particle has a “super partner” with similar properties in a quantum dimension (according to some physics theories, there are hidden dimensions in the universe) — could crop up as early as 2010. For some theoretical physicists such as Wise, finding the Higgs boson and verifying every prediction of the Standard Model of physics would be the worst outcome. He wants the LHC to deliver surprises, even if that means no Higgs.

“When push comes to shove, the name of the game is ‘what is nature,’ and we’re not going to know until our experimental colleagues tell us,” Wise said. ATLAS and CMS are the general-purpose experiments designed to find the Higgs boson and other rare particles that have never been detected before. ALICE, another experiment, will explore the matter that existed some 10 microseconds after the Big Bang, said John Harris, professor of physics at Yale University and national coordinator of ALICE-USA. At that time, there was a “hot soup” of particles called quarks and gluons at a temperature of around 2 trillion degrees above absolute zero, he said.

Although they have never been directly seen, these particles are theoretically the building blocks of the bigger particles — protons, neutrons and electrons — that form the universe as we know it.

Close Call but all is well….

by Kathy Parks (Tribune)

8620.1 (1)Members of the community are reaching out in a show of support for Humble Mayor Donnie McMannes, who suffered a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 4, while on the golf course.
McMannes, in his early 70s, was taken to Memorial Hermann Northeast, in Humble, for surgery. He was given a stent and remained in the hospital for a several days, under close supervision.

“His condition after surgery was stable, and his prognosis for recovery is good,” said Assistant City Manager Mark Martin.

McMannes was with Humble Police Chief Gary Warman at the time of the incident. Martin said the mayor was feeling bad, but conscious, when the decision was made to go to the hospital.

“The mayor is in the office every day conducting city business and his absence, even for a couple days, is felt.”

McMannes, serving a third term as mayor of Humble, continues to see that Humble is a great place to live, work and play through the city’s Beautification Committee. Committee projects include the Adopt a City Street program, the erection of various welcome signs, restoration of the artesian well, restoration of the old cemetery, a new pocket park, the annual Christmas parade and coordination of the city’s annual spring cleanup effort.

McMannes grew up in the Humble area. He and his wife, Georgia, graduated from Humble High School. McMannes worked as an apprentice brick layer before establishing his career in law enforcement. He retired from the Harris County Precinct 1 in 1995. McMannes has one son, Michael, who is a teacher in Cy-Fair ISD. McMannes’ hobbies include cooking and playing golf.

© 2008 Ourtribune.com

“Hold that door! Can you punch floor 23,115, please?”

‘Space elevator’ wins $900,000 NASA prize – space – 06 November 2009 – New Scientist.

A laser-powered robotic climber has won $900,000 in a competition designed to spur technology for a future elevator to space.

 

 

Building a space elevator would require anchoring a cable on the ground near Earth’s equator and deploying the other end thousands of kilometres into space. The centrifugal force due to Earth’s spin would keep the cable taut so that a robot could climb it and release payloads into orbit.

Though building a space elevator might require an initial investment of billions of dollars, proponents say once constructed, it would make for cheaper trips into space than is possible using rockets. But huge technological hurdles must first be overcome, including how to supply power to the robotic climber.

To that end, NASA offered $2 million in prize money in a competition called the Power Beaming Challenge, in which robotic climbers, powered wirelessly from the ground, attempt to ascend a cable as fast as possible.

Now, a robotic climber has made a prize-winning ascent worth $900,000, making it the first to win money in the competition, which has occurred annually since 2005.

Ted Semon, a volunteer with the Spaceward Foundation, a non-profit that organised the competition, and author of the Space Elevator Blog, says the feat shows space elevators are one step closer to getting off the ground. “We’ve done a lot here to demonstrate that this technology is possible,” he told New Scientist. “This is just enormously exciting.”

The winning climber was built by a team called LaserMotive, based in Seattle, Washington. Like the other two vehicles in the competition, it used solar cells to absorb energy from a ground-based infrared laser.

Unclaimed pot

On Wednesday, LaserMotive fired up its laser, powering the climber to ascend 900 metres up a cable suspended from a helicopter at Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave, California.

The climber reached the top in just over 4 minutes, for an average speed of 3.7 metres per second. The team’s climber repeated the feat at a slightly higher speed of 3.9 metres per second on Thursday.

On Friday, two other teams failed in their final attempted climbs. That means LaserMotive will receive the entire $900,000 NASA set aside for climbers that could make the climb faster than 2 metres per second.

The remaining $1.1 million in NASA prize money was reserved for climbs faster than 5 metres per second, which none of the competitors was able to achieve.

Lunar rovers

A climber entered by a team from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, stalled just a few metres up the cable in its final attempt on Friday and was unable to continue its climb.

A climber from a third team, called the Kansas City Space Pirates, also achieved only partial climbs.

NASA was expected to officially recognise LaserMotive as the winner of the $900,000 prize in an award ceremony later on Friday.

Though a space elevator remains a distant prospect, NASA is interested in wireless power transmission for other applications, like beaming power to lunar rovers travelling in shadowed craters, where solar energy is unavailable.

My Life Explained? No Reward for the ADHD!

ScienceDaily (Sep. 10, 2009) — A brain-imaging study conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory provides the first definitive evidence that patients suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have lower-than-normal levels of certain proteins essential for experiencing reward and motivation.

“These deficits in the brain’s reward system may help explain clinical symptoms of ADHD, including inattention and reduced motivation, as well as the propensity for complications such as drug abuse and obesity among ADHD patients,” said lead author Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a long-time collaborator on neuroimaging research at Brookhaven Lab.

The study, published in the September 9, 2009, issue of theJournal of the American Medical Association, also has important implications for treatment. “Finding ways to address the underlying reward-system deficit could improve adhd_brainthe direct clinical outcome of ADHD, and potentially reduce the likelihood of other negative consequences of this condition,” said study co-author Gene-Jack Wang, chair of Brookhaven’s medical department.

Prior to this study, it was not clear whether people with ADHD had abnormalities in the brain’s dopamine-mediated motivation/reward system. Previous studies were relatively small and may have been complicated by the fact that some ADHD patients had undergone treatments, or had a history of drug abuse or other conditions that can affect the dopamine system.

To strengthen the statistics and control for these factors, the current study looked at 53 adult ADHD patients who had never received treatment and 44 healthy control subjects — all of whom had been carefully screened to eliminate potentially confounding variables.

The scientists used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure two markers of the dopamine system — dopamine receptors, to which the chemical messenger binds to propagate the “reward” signal, and dopamine transporters, which take up and recycle excess dopamine after the signal is sent. Lying in a PET scanner, each patient was injected with a minute amount of a “radiotracer” compound — a chemical labeled with a radioactive form of carbon and designed to bind specifically to one of the targets. Different tracers were used for each target, and patients were scanned for each at separate times. By detecting the signal from the radiotracers, the PET machine can measure the receptor and transporter locations and concentrations in various parts of the brain.

The results clearly showed that, relative to the healthy control subjects, the ADHD patients had lower levels of dopamine receptors and transporters in the accumbens and midbrain — two key regions of the brain directly involved in processing motivation and reward. In addition, the measurements of dopamine markers correlated with measures of behavior and clinical observations of ADHD symptoms, such as reduced levels of attention as measured by standard psychological tests.

“Our findings imply that these deficits in the dopamine reward pathway play a role in the symptoms of inattention in ADHD and could underlie these patients’ abnormal responses to reward,” Volkow said.

“This pathway plays a key role in reinforcement, motivation, and in learning how to associate various stimuli with rewards,” she continued. “Its involvement in ADHD supports the use of interventions to enhance the appeal and relevance of school and work tasks to improve performance.

adhd-drugs-pharmaceutical-774231

“Our results also support the continued use of stimulant medications — the most common pharmacological treatment for ADHD — which have been shown to increase attention to cognitive tasks by elevating brain dopamine,” she said.

The findings may also help explain why ADHD patients are more likely than control subjects to develop drug-abuse disorders and conditions such as obesity.

Said Wang: “Other studies from our group suggest that patients who abuse drugs or overeat may be unconsciously attempting to compensate for a deficient reward system by boosting their dopamine levels. Understanding how deficits in the dopamine system contribute to ADHD and finding ways to improve the functioning of the reward system could help mitigate these troubling consequences in the ADHD patient population.”

This research was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Intramural Research Program and by the National Institute on Mental Health. The Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE’s Office of Science provides infrastructure support for the radiotracer chemistry and imaging facilities at Brookhaven Lab. Brain-imaging techniques such as PET are a direct outgrowth of DOE’s long-standing investment in basic research in chemistry, physics, and nuclear medicine.

Creating Quantum Creatures in the Lab? Flu Monster? – Physics – New Scientist

Could we create quantum creatures in the lab? – physics-math – 15 September 2009 – New Scientist.

Quantum weirdness could soon invade the living world, if a scheme to give a flu virus a strange double life comes off.

Water bears, similar to the one pictured here, can survive in a vacuum and might be made to behave like quantum objects (Courtesy: Ralph O Schill)In quantum theory, a single object can be doing two different things at once. This so-called “superposition” is a delicate state, destroyed by any contact with the outside world. The largest objects that have been superposed so far are molecules. It is hard to put a much larger object such as a cat or human into a superposition because air molecules and photons are always bouncing off it. But it might be possible with a small life form, according to Oriol Romero-Isartof the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and his colleagues. They hope to prove the concept with the flu virus, which exhibits some properties of life, because it can survive in a vacuum – solving the problem of pesky air molecules.

Laser hold

Their scheme would use two laser beams, whose light exerts a gentle force on matter. Where the two beams cross they form an “optical cavity” holding the virus in place. By adjusting the frequency of the beams, the laser photons can be made to absorb the vibration energy of the trapped virus about its centre of mass until it is slowed to its lowest possible energy state. In this “ground state” the virus is ready to go into a superposition. Sending a laser photon towards the trap should do the trick. Since a photon is a quantum entity it has more than one option open to it. Thus it will be both reflected and transmitted at the trap, putting it into a superposition.

By impinging on the virus, it forces it into a superposition of both its ground state and next vibrational energy state. Now the virus should be doing two different things at once – the equivalent of you simultaneously mowing the lawn and doing the shopping. “They have come up with a really neat experiment – inventive and I think feasible,” says Peter Knight of Imperial College London.

Romero-Isart and his colleagues speculate that they could pull off the same feat with a tardigrade, or water bear, an animal less than a millimetre in size that can survive extreme temperatures and a vacuumMovie Camera for several days.

Big questions

Making a living thing do two things at once is more than a physicist’s tour de force. It could answer fundamental questions about the nature of quantum theory. Most physicists believe that the reason quantum behaviour manifests itself only in small things is that objects are difficult to isolate from their surroundings. But the prominent physicist Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford believes instead that there is a critical size, or mass, at which bodies cease to become quantum.

According to Knight, experiments of the kind proposed by Romero-Isart’s team could finally offer a way to distinguish between the mainstream view and Penrose’s.

 

Multiplying Universes: How Many Is The Multiverse? – New Scientist

Multiplying universes: How many is the multiverse? – space – 28 October 2009 – New Scientist.

HOW many universes are there? Cosmologists Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin at Stanford University in California calculate that the number dwarfs the 10500 universes postulated in string theory, and raise the provocative notion that the answer may depend on the human brain.

The idea that there is more than one universe, each with its own laws of physics, arises out of several different theories, including string theory and cosmic inflation. This concept of a “multiverse” could explain a puzzling mystery – why dark energy, the furtive force that is accelerating the expansion of space, appears improbably fine-tuned for life. With a large number of universes, there is bound to be one that has a dark energy value like ours.

Calculating the probability of observing this value – and other features of the cosmos – depends on how many universes of various kinds populate the multiverse. String theory describes 10500 universes, but that just counts different vacuum states, which are like the blank canvases upon which universes are painted. The features of each canvas determine what the overall painting will look like – such as the laws of physics in that universe – but not the details.

Thanks to the randomness of quantum mechanics, two identical vacuum states can end up as very different universes. Small quantum fluctuations in the very early universe are stretched to astronomical scales by inflation, the period of faster-than-light expansion just after the big bang. These fluctuations lay down a gravitational blueprint that eventually determines the placement of stars and galaxies across the sky. Small differences in the form of these fluctuations can produce a universe in which the Milky Way is slightly bigger, or closer to its neighbours.

So just how many of these different universes can inflation’s quantum fluctuations produce? According to Linde and Vanchurin, the total is about 101010,000,000 – that’s a 10 raised to a number ending with 10 million zeros (arxiv.org/abs/0910.1589). Suddenly string theory’s multiverse of 10500universes is looking rather claustrophobic.

It might be, however, that this number is irrelevant, and that in a world ruled by quantum physics what matters is how many universes a single observer can distinguish. “Before quantum mechanics,” says Linde, “we thought that ‘reality’ was a well-defined word.” In classical physics, observers are irrelevant – we simply want to know how many universes exist.

It may not matter how many universes exist – just how many a single observer can tell apart

According to quantum physics, observers affect the systems they measure(see “Restricted view”). If observers are an integral part of the cosmic formula, then it may not matter how many universes exist – just how many a single observer can tell apart. If the observer is a person, that depends on how many bits of information the brain can process. “Based on the number of synapses in a typical brain, a human observer can register 1016,” says Linde. That means humans can differentiate 101016 universes, which is much more manageable than the 101010,000,000 Linde and Vanchurin found to start with.

But does the human brain really play a role in making predictions in the multiverse? “This goes deep into philosophy,” Linde says. “It’s a slippery slope.”

Cosmologist Alex Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston is equally ambivalent. “It could be right that what is important is what an observer sees,” he says. “But there might be things an observer doesn’t see that are still there.”

Restricted view

Quantum theory splits the world into two parts: the system under study and the rest of the world, which contains the observer. The system hovers in a ghostly state of near-existence made up of a host of possibilities until the observer makes a measurement – and so reduces this to a single reality.

Cosmology suffers from the paradox that no observer can be outside the universe – so the universe is doomed to spend eternity as nothing more than a vague possibility. The lesson of quantum cosmology is that we can’t talk about the universe as a whole, but only what a given observer inside it might measure. Applying that lesson to the multiverse, Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin suggest that what matters is not the total number of possible universes, but the number of universes a single observer could distinguish.

If that observer is a human, the brain limits the amount of information they can register. But any observer – even an inanimate one such as a galaxy – is limited in the information it can store. These limitations in what observers can measure whittle down the number of universes that come into play in cosmological predictions. That means an observer might make a difference in explaining the value of things like dark energy.

Rethinking relativity: Is time out of joint? – space – 21 October 2009 – New Scientist

EVER since Arthur Eddington travelled to the island of Príncipe off Africa to measure starlight bending around the sun during a 1919 eclipse, evidence for Einstein’s theory of general relativity has only become stronger. Could it now be that starlight from distant galaxies is illuminating cracks in the theory’s foundation?

Everything from the concept of the black hole to GPS timing owes a debt to the theory of general relativity, which describes how gravity arises from the geometry of space and time. The sun’s gravitational field, for instance, bends starlight passing nearby because its mass is warping the surrounding space-time. This theory has held up to precision tests in the solar system and beyond, and has explained everything from the odd orbit of Mercury to the way pairs of neutron stars perform their pas de deux.

Yet it is still not clear how well general relativity holds up over cosmic scales, at distances much larger than the span of single galaxies. Now the first, tentative hint of a deviation from general relativity has been found. While the evidence is far from watertight, if confirmed by bigger surveys, it may indicate either that Einstein’s theory is incomplete, or else that dark energy, the stuff thought to be accelerating the expansion of the universe, is much weirder than we thought(see “Not dark energy, dark fluid”).

The analysis of starlight data by cosmologist Rachel Bean of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, has generated quite a stir. Shortly after the paper waspublished on the pre-print physics archive, prominent physicist Sean Carroll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena praised Bean’s research. “This is serious work by a respected cosmologist,” he wrote on his blog Cosmic Variance. “Either the result is wrong, and we should be working hard to find out why, or it’s right, and we’re on the cusp of a revolution.”

If it is wrong, we should be working hard to find out why, but if it’s right, we are on the cusp of a revolution

“It has caused quite a furore in astronomy circles,” says Richard Massey of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh in the UK. “This paper has generated a lot of interest.”

Bean found her evidence lurking in existing data collected by the Cosmic Evolution Survey, a multi-telescope imaging project that includes the longest survey yet by the Hubble Space Telescope. COSMOS, which detected more than 2 million galaxies over a small patch of sky, takes advantage of gravity’s ability to bend light. Massive objects like galaxy clusters bend the light of more distant objects so that it is directed towards or away from Earth. This effect, called gravitational lensing, is at its most dramatic when it creates kaleidoscopic effects like luminous rings or the appearance of multiple copies of a galaxy.

The sky is also dominated by the distorting effects of “weak lensing”, in which intervening matter bends light to subtly alter the shapes and orientations of more distant galaxies, creating an effect similar to that of looking through old window glass. Since galaxies come in all shapes and sizes, it is difficult to know whether the light from an individual galaxy has been distorted, because there is nothing to compare it with. But by looking for common factors in the distortion of many galaxies, it is possible to build up a map of both the visible and even unseen matterMovie Camera that bend their light.

The weak lensing technique can also be used to measure two different effects of gravity. General relativity calls for gravity’s curvature of space to be equivalent to its curvature of time. Light should be influenced in equal amounts by both.

When the COSMOS data was released in 2007, the team – led by Massey – assumed these two factors were equivalent. Their analysis revealed that gravitational tugs on light were stronger than anticipated, but they put this down to a slightly higher concentration of ordinary and dark matter in the survey’s patch of sky than had been predicted.

To look for potential deviations from general relativity, Bean reanalysed the data and dropped the requirement that these two components of gravity had to be equal. Instead the ratio of the two was allowed to change in value. She found that between 8 and 11 billion years ago gravity’s distortion of time appeared to be three times as strong as its ability to curve space. An observer around at the time wouldn’t have noticed the effect because it only applies over large distances. Nonetheless, “there is a preference for a significant deviation from general relativity”, says Bean (www.arxiv.org/abs/0909.3853).

Gravity’s distortion of time appeared to be three times as strong as its ability to curve space

At this stage, it’s hard to say what would happen if the deviation from general relativity was confirmed. Cosmologists have already considered some modifications to general relativity that could explain the universe’s acceleration(see “Not dark energy, dark fluid”).

Yet finding a deviation when the universe was less than half its current age is odd – if general relativity had broken down at some level, the signs should be most dramatic more recently, long after the repulsive effect of dark energy overwhelmed the attractive powers of gravity some 6 billion years ago.

Most astronomers, including Bean, are cautious about the results. “Nobody is yet betting money that the effect is real,” says cosmologist Dragan Huterer of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Various other explanations, like a bias in the technique used to estimate the distances to galaxies, now need to be ruled out.

Although COSMOS photographed a deep patch of sky, it was fairly small by the standards of modern surveys. This opens up the possibility that this region might be anomalous, notes Asantha Cooray, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Irvine. “You could have a massive galaxy cluster that could boost your weak lensing signal up. Or by random chance you could have more dark matter,” says Cooray, part of a team that analysed other survey data taken with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii and found no hint of a departure from general relativity. “The only way to take that into account is to look at data in a larger field.”

Future projects will scan the sky over much wider areas and collect images of many more lensed galaxies. For example, the Dark Energy Survey is poised to start surveying the sky from 2011 and will build up an even more precise picture of how light has been bent over the course of the universe’s history.

Whether these surveys find the effect or not, Bean hopes that her paper will generate more interest in the idea of using weak lensing to test general relativity. “I’m not putting my flag out there and saying this is a real thing,” Bean says. “We need to look at more data sets. This is really just the first stage for trying to test gravity in this way.”

Massey agrees: “At the moment we’re in the mode of just trying to hack into general relativity to find the chinks in its armour, to find any places where it might not be working.” n

Not dark energy, dark fluid

Dark energy could be weirder than we thought. Evidence that over large distances gravity exerts a greater pull on time than on space (see main story) might not necessarily suggest that the theory of general relativity is wrong. It could instead be a sign that the universe’s acceleration may require a more exotic explanation.

The simplest way of explaining the universe’s acceleration is to invoke a cosmological constant, originally proposed by Einstein to allow the universe to remain the same size in the presence of matter. This describes a universe filled with uniform, outward-pushing energy. But there are other possible explanations for acceleration.

One idea is that the entire universe exists on a membrane, or brane, floating inside an extra dimension. While matter will be confined to three dimensions, gravity could be leaking into this extra dimension. When the universe becomes large enough, this gravity could interact with matter in the brane, to produce acceleration on large scales.

A deviation could also be a sign that dark energy is a more complex “fluid” that exerts varying pressures in different directions. The snag is that telling the difference between a more exotic form of dark energy and a modification to our understanding of gravity could be tricky.

“If we were to detect a departure,” says cosmologist Alessandra Silvestriof the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we might not be able to tell whether there is a flaw in general relativity or just evidence that dark energy is “some sort of fancy fluid”.

Lynne McTaggart: Why Dan Brown’s Science Fiction Is Mostly Fact

Written by: Lynne McTaggart: Why Dan Brown’s Science Fiction Is Mostly Fact

LostSymbol“One of the main characters in Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol , is a scientist particularly interested in ‘mind over matter’: the power of thought–or intention–to affect and change the world. The ‘big idea’ in Dan Brown’s book is that science is only now providing evidence of what ancient traditions have traditionally espoused: that thought has a tangible power, enabling human beings to be creators of their own world.

I’m in a unique position to comment on this as I have extensively studied all the science Brown includes in his book, written two bestselling books on the subject and I facilitate these kinds of experiments all over the world. In fact, Brown prominently singled out me, my book, The Intention Experiment, my research and my website www.theintentionexperiment.com for special mention in the blockbuster, claiming that one of his main characters was ‘fascinated’ by my work and my web-based global laboratory, testing the power of thought.

Although Solomon is solidly fiction, the vast majority of her work is based on solid fact.
In a sizeable body of research exploring the nature of consciousness, carried on for more than 30 years in prestigious scientific institutions around the world — Princeton and Stanford Universities, the Universities of Arizona and California, and, in Europe, the Universities of Freiberg and Edinburgh –thoughts directed at targets in the laboratory have been shown capable of altering machines, cells and even complex organisms like human beings. This mind-over-matter power even seems to traverse time and space.

logoIn my own web-based experiments, we involve thousands of participants in 90 countries around the world, sending thoughts to targets created in rigorous laboratory settings at the University of Arizona, Pennsylvania State University, University of California at Davis, and other prestigious universities in Europe. Of our 19 experiments to date, 16 have shown significant positive results, six of which have been published in a scientific paper.

These studies go well beyond spoonbending tricks. This central idea, that consciousness affects matter, lies at the very heart of an irreconcilable difference between the world view offered by classical physics – the science of the big, visible world – and that of quantum physics – the science of the world’s most diminutive components. These discoveries offer convincing evidence that all matter in the universe exists in a web of connection and constant influence, which often overrides many of the laws of the universe that we used to believe held ultimate sovereignty.

At least 40 top scientists in academic centres of research around the world have demonstrated that an information transfer constantly carries on between living things, and that thought forms are simply another aspect of transmitted energy. Hundreds of others have offered plausible theories embracing even the most counter-intuitive effects, such as time-displaced influence, as now consistent with the laws of physics.

freemasonryIdeas about the power of thought are no longer the ruminations of a few eccentric individuals. They now underpin many well-accepted disciplines in every reach of life, from orthodox and alternative medicine to competitive sport. Medical scientists often speak of the ‘placebo effect’ as an annoying impediment to the proof of the efficacy of a chemical agent. It is time that we understood and made full use of the power of the placebo. Repeatedly, the mind has proved to be a far more powerful healer than the greatest of breakthrough drugs.

Frontier science is the art of inquiring about the impossible. All of our major achievements in history have resulted from asking an outrageous question. What if stones fall from the sky? What if giant metal objects could overcome gravity? What if there is no end of the earth to sail off of? All of the discoveries about the power of thought and remote influence have similarly proceeded from asking a seemingly absurd question: what if our thoughts could affect the things around us?

True science always begins with an unpopular question, even if there is no prospect of an immediate answer – even if the answer threatens to overturn every last one of our cherished beliefs. The scientists engaged in consciousness research must constantly put forward unpopular questions about the nature of the mind and the extent of its reach. In our group Intention Experiments, we have asked the most impossible question of all: what if a group thought could heal a remote target? It is a little like asking, what if a thought could heal the world?

It is an outlandish question, but the most important part of scientific investigation is just the simple willingness to ask the question. Mainstream science has grown ever more fundamentalist, dominated by a few highly vocal scientists who believe that our scientific story has largely been written. Nevertheless, a small body of resistance carries on in defiance of this restricted view. With every unorthodox question asked, with every unlikely answer, frontier sciences such as those featured in my books – and now Dan Brown’s — remake our world. May they and their ilk light our way.”
Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynne-mctaggart/why-dan-browns-science-fi_b_325906.html

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I….Can….C….U!

Radio Waves ‘See’ Through Walls
ScienceDaily (2009-10-12) — Engineers have shown that a wireless network of radio transmitters can track people moving behind solid walls. The system could help police, firefighters and others nab intruders, and rescue hostages, fire victims and elderly people who fall in their homes. It also might help retail marketing and border control. … > read full article

Classical Chaos Occurs In The Quantum World, Scientists Find

Classical Chaos Occurs In The Quantum World, Scientists Find

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aaaaEven tiny, easily overlooked events can completely change the behavior of a complex system, to the point where there is no apparent order to most natural systems we deal with in everyday life.

The weather is one familiar case, but other well-studied examples can be found in chemical reactions, population dynamics, neural networks and even the stock market. Scientists who study “chaos” — which they define as extreme sensitivity to infinitesimally small tweaks in the initial conditions — have observed this kind of behavior only in the deterministic world described by classical physics.

Until now, no one has produced experimental evidence that chaos occurs in the quantum world, the world of photons, atoms, molecules and their building blocks.

This is a world ruled by uncertainty: An atom is both a particle and a wave, and it’s impossible to determine its position and velocity simultaneously. And that presents a major problem. If the starting point for a quantum particle cannot be precisely known, then there is no way to construct a theory that is sensitive to initial conditions in the way of classical chaos. Yet quantum mechanics is the most complete theory of the physical world, and therefore should be able to account for all naturally occurring phenomena.

jessenThe problem is that people don’t see [classical] chaos in quantum systems,” said Professor Poul Jessen of the University of Arizona. “And we believe quantum mechanics is the fundamental theory, the theory that describes everything, and that we should be able to understand how classical physics follows as a limiting case of quantum physics.”

Experiments Reveal Classical Chaos In Quantum World

Now, however, Jessen and his group in UA’s College of Optical Sciences have performed a series of experiments that show just how classical chaos spills over into the quantum world. The scientists report their research in the Oct. 8 issue of the journal Nature in an article titled, “Quantum signatures of chaos in a kicked top.” Their experiments show clear fingerprints of classical-world chaos in a quantum system designed to mimic a textbook example of chaos known as the “kicked top.”

The quantum version of the top is the “spin” of individual laser-cooled cesium atoms that Jessen’s team manipulate with magnetic fields and laser light, using tools and techniques developed over a decade of painstaking laboratory work.

“Think of an atom as a microscopic top that spins on its axis at a constant rate of speed,” Jessen said. He and his students repeatedly changed the direction of the axis of spin, in a series of cycles that each consisted of a “kick” and a “twist”.

bbbbBecause spinning atoms are tiny magnets, the “kicks” were delivered by a pulsed magnetic field. The “twists” were more challenging, and were achieved by subjecting the atom to an optical-frequency electric field in a precisely tuned laser beam. They imaged the quantum mechanical state of the atomic spin at the end of each kick-and-twist cycle with a tomographic technique that is conceptually similar to the methods used in medical ultrasound and CAT scans. The end results were pictures and stop-motion movies of the evolving quantum state, showing that it behaves like the equivalent classical system in some significant ways.

One of the most dramatic quantum signatures the team saw in their experiments was directly visible in their images: They saw that the quantum spinning top observes the same boundaries between stability and chaos that characterize the motion of the classical spinning top. That is, both quantum and classical systems were dynamically stable in the same areas, and dynamically erratic outside those areas.

A New Signature Of Chaos Called ‘Entanglement’

Jessen’s experiment revealed a new signature of chaos for the first time. It is related to the uniquely quantum mechanical property known as “entanglement.”

Entanglement is best known from a famous thought experiment proposed by Albert Einstein, in which two light particles, or photons, are emitted with polarizations that are fundamentally undefined but nevertheless perfectly correlated. Later, when the photons have traveled far apart in space, their polarizations are both measured at the same instant in time and found to be completely random but always at right angles to each other.

“It’s as though one photon instantly knows the result for the other and adjusts its own polarization accordingly,” Jessen said.

By itself, Einstein’s thought experiment is not directly related to quantum chaos, but the idea of entanglement has proven useful, Jessen added.

“Entanglement is an important phenomenon of the quantum world that has no classical counterpart. It can occur in any quantum system that consists of at least two independent parts,” he said.

Theorists have speculated that the onset of chaos will greatly increase the degree to which different parts of a quantum system become entangled. Jessen took advantage of atomic physics to test this hypothesis in his laboratory experiments. The total spin of a cesium atom is the sum of the spin of its valence electron and the spin of its nucleus, and those spins can become quantum correlated exactly as the photon polarizations in Einstein’s example.

In Jessen’s experiment, the electron and nuclear spins remained unentangled as a result of stable quantum dynamics, but rapidly became entangled if the dynamics were chaotic. Entanglement is a buzzword in the science community because it is the foundation for quantum cryptography and quantum computing.

“Our work is not directly related to quantum computing and communications,” Jessen said. “It just shows that this concept of entanglement has tendrils in all sorts of areas of quantum physics because entanglement is actually common as soon as the system gets complicated enough.”

How Photon Echoes Can Be Used To Create A Quantum Memory Device

How Photon Echoes Can Be Used To Create A Quantum Memory Device

Technologies like quantum cryptography are being developed to send secure information coded onto light beams from one point to another. Yet at present these systems are unable to extend beyond a distance of 50 to 100 kilometres because, beyond that range, too much of the information is lost.

But a team based at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Quantum-Atom Optics at ANU has demonstrated how photon echoes can be used to create a quantum memory device – meaning that pulses of light can be captured, stored and then released on demand. Such a device would be an important part of a quantum repeater, which could extend the range of secure quantum communication.

“Light can be a fantastic medium for transferring lots of information very quickly, but it doesn’t like to stay in one place for long,” explains team member Dr Ben Buchler. “This is the problem of optical memory – how to keep the information coded on light in one place so you can access it again later. One method is to slow the light down so it’s as good as frozen in place for a while. The way we’ve explored is to absorb the light in a cloud of atoms, which you can then manipulate to release the light at will.”

In experiments performed by PhD candidate Mahdi Hosseini, the ANU research team developed a method where pulses of laser light are absorbed into a cloud of atoms surrounded by a coil of wire. The coil creates a magnetic field that shifts the frequency of the atoms. After absorbing the laser pulses, the atoms all begin to spin at different speeds, depending on their frequency. If the magnetic field is reversed, the atoms all change direction and spin the other way. When the spinning atoms return to the state they were in when they absorbed the light, the laser pulses are released as a photon echo.

“But we take it a few steps further,” explains Dr Buchler. “We can also stretch, compress and split the pulses when we let them out. Best of all, we can recall the pulses in any order, just like a random access memory in a computer can recall electronic information in any order. To do this we use a second control laser beam that can turn the photon echo on and off. In a regular photon echo system, once the atoms all re-align the stored light just comes out – you can’t stop it. In our system, the combination of control beam and magnetic field switching makes it possible to choose exactly when to recall any one of the stored pulses, how much of it to recall and how fast to recall it.”

The research, published in Nature, outlines how the team have managed to store laser pulses with efficiencies above 40 per cent using its technique. The team includes Dr Ben Buchler, Ben Sparkes, Gabriel Hetet, Mahdi Hosseini, Dr Jevon Longdell (now at the University of Otago) and Professor Ping Koy Lam from ANU.

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@ Church today…

In a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, Victor Frankl, Jewish psychologist said, “They stripped me naked. They took everything- wedding ring, my watch- I stood there naked and all of a sudden realized that moment that although they could take everything from me- my wife, my family, my possessions- they could not take away my freedom to choose HOW I was going to respond.”

viktor-frankl3

Viktor Emil Frankl M.D., Ph.D. (March 26, 1905September 2, 1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaustsurvivor. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of Existential Analysis, the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy“. His best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and describes his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. Frankl was one of the key figures in existential therapy.

Viktor Frankl often said that even within the narrow boundaries of the concentration camps he found only two races of men to exist: decent and unprincipled ones. These were to be found in all classes, ethnicities, and groups.[6] He once recommended that the Statue of Liberty on the East coast of the US be complemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West coast, and there are plans to construct such a statue by 2010.[7] Frankl is thought to have coined the term Sunday Neurosis referring to a form of depression resulting from an awareness in some people of the emptiness of their lives once the working week is over. [8]

Evil Incarnate

This is the story of a dog named Oreo. Technically, it IS a sad story. It also contains my opinions on both dog and master. I hate this story and yet…

First off, let me start by saying that as a human being, I know precisely what evil is. God, too, knows exactly what evil is. However, when my view of evil is contrasted with God’s view of the ‘exact’ same wickedness, there is a huge difference: God allows for NO scope, no range, no degree, no rank, no level, no spectrum, no grade, no status, no nothing. God sees evil as an absolute, whereas, my perspective is influenced by a myriad of outside forces: Is it family member? A friend? Surroundings? Culture? Upbringing? On any given day, I may let a killer off the hook depending on the circumstances. I mean, would anyone truly convict a man who stood before them who admitted to brutally and hideously killing Adolf Hitler? No. Arguably not a single soul would convict that man of murder. However, in God’s eyes, he committed murder. And that was evil. Just as a teenager might lie to his parents, steal some money to go buy alcohol, lie about their age to get into an adult club, and then take an illegal drug AND….AND drive past the speed limit on the way home before falling face first into a plush bed, drifting away to sleep under the quiet umbrella of night. No harm? No foul? Perhaps a small degree of evil? (After reflecting back on our own lives–perhaps we’d like to assign it even a SMALLER degree of evil? 😉

The fact is, as human beings who operate under the authority of a judicial system, we assign degrees to our definition of evil based on how it plays out in court. We are becoming more and more callous to what we do, see, feel, hear, taste, and touch. September 11, 2001 was a horrible day. If you remember, it was unlike anything you’d ever understood in your life before that point. However, if 9/11 were to happen again, it would be bad, yes, but it would not be 9/11/2001 because as humans, we have the ability to adapt to our surroundings and circumstances. It aids our recovery after the devastating loss of  a family member, as well suppressing our feelings of outrage and anger while allowing a once devastating evil act to become commonplace. If these things are allowed to ferment and grow below the surface of our moral skin, they will bubble up and destroy someone at some point, many times bringing great sorrow and pain as it burns a path through whatever stands in its way.

So, what’s the big deal about evil? Perhaps nothing—-perhaps everything. Are we willing to let our perception of evil deteriorate over time to the point where our very soul can tune out an act of evil so hideous that just the thought of it can make the skin on your arms and legs crawl from head to toe.

—story—

If a young man, a child of nineteen, were to walk up to the top story of a housing project, look over the side, contemplate his life and all of the numerous failings to which he’d been subjected, look down at the street, pick a vehicular-point of landing and then jump off of that building landing head-first onto the roof of that very car, most of us would look inward and say, “What a shame? Nineteen? He had his whole life ahead of him.” But within seconds, virtually seconds, that child would be nothing but a memory.

Now, suppose that same boy walked up to the top of that building and followed the exact same steps, except this time, after reaching the edge and choosing the destination, he walked back about 20 feet, picked up a bat and started hitting his family dog, a kind terrier mix who chased balls and panted heavily when she would play, who he brought with him to the roof of his building which stood six-stories high.

Suppose he took that bat and started plowing into her, his dog, hitting her firmly across the side of the head and solidly down across the back spine. Then, after seeing that she was broken and without fight, her fear being the only thing she had left, outside of the ‘not-knowing’ why her master was beating her so terribly, he takes this little dog into his arms and begins to cradle it like a small baby. This act, no doubt, alleviated some fear from the dog as she was now in the arms of her master. It was only seconds later though when the boy released the dog from his arms, hurling her smashed, crying body over the side of the building at a speed designated by gravity itself. Did the dog realize then that she was now plunging toward her death?

I don’t know if dogs are like us but perhaps this dog thought of where she was littered, perhaps her thoughts were of her brothers and sisters or if her mom was still alive…somewhere out there. How sad to think that such a pretty little dog might have wondered her last few seconds away in despair and anguish, “What did I do? Why? What did I do? Please, take me back, daddy. Whatever it was – I’ll never….do it…..aga—–”

However, I’d like to think that the dog did something else. I’d like to think that the little dog who was thrown over a roof after being beaten and beaten, I’d like to think that the young dog turned to her creator in her last seconds. With God, all things are possible? I don’t know how or even if, but something in my soul says ‘it’s possible’…actually, my SOUL tells ME it’s ‘probable!’

…and on July 31st, 2009 — as the young dog fell past each floor toward her final resting spot — God was watching.
The pup, named Oreo for her coloring, underwent surgery at the ASPCA hospital, where vets repaired all of her limbs “with plates and screws. She also suffered internal bruising and damage to her lungs,” according to the Post.

But, somehow, someway….she survived the evil that was inflicted upon her.

Evil is not only relegated to rapists, killers, and child molesters nor is it only exclusive to adult men. Our nature, arguably our entire species, protects women and children instinctively, and that’s not a bad thing, but in recent years, seemingly more often than not, we seem to be able to ignore obvious signs of a lurking evil within people, especially if it resides in a young child, a hopeful teenager, or a beautiful woman. I remember when I was nineteen, I was a child and acted as such.

I had two dogs who I loved as much as anything that I ever HAVE loved – period! I thought of them as I read this story. If that guy would’ve done that to either of my girls, Roxy or Baby, I would’ve wanted to kill him. I would’ve wanted to kill him! But, that would’ve been evil and I would not have acted on that particular evil…but the thought and the desire would’ve been there. Is there a difference between acting on something and thinking something? I don’t know…that’s a debate for another day. But still…this story: a guy throws his dog off of a building? It just makes you close your eyes and cringe. What this kid did was evil and so, too, might he be at his very core – kid or not!

http://gothamist.com/2009/08/01/dog_survives_being_thrown_six_stori.php

–R.I.P. Loves of My Life–

ROXY AND BABY

Leaked Title for New KISS Album: “Sonic Boom”

kiss_wallpaper

Rumored to be entitled “Sonic Boom”KISS‘ much-anticipated new album has a tentative release date of October 6. In addition, an update onMelodicRock.com‘s Twitter account states that the effort will be issued as a triple-disc set through Wal-Mart featuring the new album, a CD of re-recorded KISS hits (which was recently released in Japan), and a DVD.

However, it should be noted that none of this information has yet been corroborated by an official source and should be treated as a rumor only.

The editor of Guitar Player magazine, who had a chance to preview five songs off the LP last month, wrote about the new KISS material, “Paul[StanleyKISS guitarist/vocalist] sings his ass off. Eric [Singer] plays some amazingly powerful drums. Gene [Simmons] was finally made to play all of his bass parts (apparently, in the past, if someone had a cool bass idea, he let them play it), and he DOES have a pretty driving sound. Finally, Paul and Tommy‘s [Thayer] guitars sound HUGE — with some fab riffs and ’70s-style solos.”

Thayer wrote and sang his first song on the album, while Singer also got his first opportunity to sing a lead vocal on an original song. Simmons recently told The Canadian Press that there were no outside writers working on the Paul Stanley-produced disc. He also described the album’s sound as “no strings, no keyboards, no synths, no tambourines, no nothing — just meat and potatoes.”

kiss

Simmons confirmed during a recent radio appearance that a deal is in the works with Wal-Mart that will result in an “entire section” of the giant retailer’s stores across the country (apparently dubbed “Kiss Korner”) being dedicated to KISS. There has been no official announcement of a KISS deal with Wal-Martfor the band’s next CD, although artists such as THE EAGLES andAC/DC have both issued recent albums exclusively through the giant retailer. In addition, AEROSMITH guitarist Joe Perry may have inadvertently let it slip that the band’s next studio album will come out exclusively through Wal-Mart.

Latest stem-cell advance proves no need to kill embryos.

BY NANCY FRAZIER O’BRIEN – CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
TUESDAY, 28 JULY 2009
The work of two teams of Chinese scientists who created live mice from induced pluripotent stem cells is “another demonstration that researchers don’t need to destroy embryos” to achieve stem-cell advances, according to a pro-life official at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.embryonic-Stem-cells-mouseThe research done by separate teams in Shanghai and Beijing and published July 23 in the scientific journals Nature and Cell Stem Cell showed that the so-called iPS cells have “the full range of uses that embryonic stem cells are proposed for,” said Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

“The immediate finding is that induced pluripotent stem cells, created without harming any embryos, really are as versatile as embryonic stem cells,” he said. But Doerflinger also warned in a July 27 interview with Catholic News Service that this latest breakthrough in stem-cell research shows that iPS cells are “so powerful” that researchers “might be able to put them in a human embryo and change the genetic makeup of that child and all the future generations” related to the child. “It’s an ominous thing, that they could be remaking people’s genetic traits,” he added. “It’s a powerful technology and it could be misused.”

The two Chinese teams had varying degrees of success in creating genetic duplicates of mice by reprogramming skin cells from adult mice into iPS cells and then implanting the embryos created into a surrogate mother. The first team, led by Qi Zhou of the Institute of Zoology in Beijing and Fanyi Zeng of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, reported 27 live births, starting with a mouse named Xiao Xiao or “Tiny.” All 12 of the genetic duplicates that were mated produced offspring without abnormalities; the team reported hundreds of second-generation and more than 100 third-generation mice.

The second team, headed by Shaorong Gao of the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing, produced only two live births using the same technique, with one of those dying in infancy. The team is currently trying to mate the surviving mouse. In the U.S., the National Institutes of Health recently issued final guidelines for federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, requiring that such research use only embryos created for reproductive purposes at in vitro fertilization clinics and no longer needed for that purpose.

index_r2_c1 (1)The draft guidelines set standards for voluntary informed consent by those donating the embryos, and said no NIH funds would be given for research that did not meet the standards. The final guidelines, however, set up an “alternative pathway” for the approval of funding of research involving embryos donated before the new guidelines took effect or involving stem-cell lines developed in foreign countries. A working group made up of about 10 scientists and ethicists is to look at each such application on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it meets the core principles of voluntary informed consent.

Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, strongly criticized the final guidelines and said the debate over embryonic stem-cell research “now shifts to Congress, where some members have said even this policy does not go far enough in treating some human beings as objects to be created, manipulated and destroyed for others’ use.”

Some had predicted that President Barack Obama’s decision to reverse the limits on funding of embryonic stem-cell research established under President George W. Bush would lead to the rapid expansion of such research, particularly at the university level. But the results of a survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, published July 21, found that only 6 percent of major research universities — those with $100 million or more in federal grants — planned to increase research on human embryonic stem cells “by a large amount.”

The survey also found that most of the universities said they had increased their contribution to the indirect costs of scientific research on campus by 50 percent or more over the past five years. A federal policy established in 1991 limits the indirect costs that a university may collect on each federal research grant for expenses like photocopying, accounting and electricity.

Testing Relativity and Black Holes In The Laboratory

ScienceDaily (July 22, 2009) — Even Albert Einstein might have been impressed. His theory of general relativity, which describes how the gravity of a massive object, such as a star, can curve space and time, has been successfully used to predict such astronomical observations as the bending of starlight by the sun, small shifts in the orbit of the planet Mercury and the phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. Now, however, it may soon be possible to study the effects of general relativity in bench-top laboratory experiments.

Physicists have determined that the interactions of light and matter with spacetime, as predicted by general relativity, can be studied using the new breed of artificial optical materials that feature extraordinary abilities to bend light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation.

To read the entire story:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090720134239.htm

‘Star Trek’ Warp Speed?

‘Physicists Have New Idea That Could Make It So.’

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2009) — With the new movie ‘Star Trek’ opening in theaters across the nation, one thing movie goers will undoubtedly see is the Starship Enterprise racing across the galaxy at the speed of light. But can traveling at warp speed ever become a reality? Two Baylor University physicists believe they have an idea that can turn traveling at the speed of light from science fiction to science, and their idea does not break any laws of physics.

Dr. Gerald Cleaver, associate professor of physics at Baylor, and Dr. Richard Obousy, a Baylor post-doctoral student, theorize that by manipulating the space-time dimensions around the spaceship with a massive amount of energy, it would create a “bubble” that could push the ship faster than the speed of light. To create this bubble, the Baylor physicists believe manipulating the 11-dimension would create dark energy. Cleaver said positive dark energy is responsible for speeding up the universe as time moves on, just like it did after the Big Bang, when the universe expanded faster than the speed of light.

“Think of it like a surfer riding a wave,” said Cleaver, who co-authored the paper with Obousy about the new method. “The ship would be pushed by the bubble and the bubble would be traveling faster than the speed of light.”

The method is based on the Alcubierre drive, which proposes expanding the fabric of space behind a ship into a bubble and shrinking space-time in front of the ship. The ship would not actually move, rather the ship would sit in between the expanding and shrinking space-time dimensions. Since space would move around the ship, the theory does not violate Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which states that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate an object faster than the speed of light.

String theory suggests the universe is made up of multiple dimensions. Height, width and length are three dimensions, and time is the fourth dimension. Scientists believe that there are a total of 10 dimensions, with six other dimensions that we can not yet identify. A new theory, called M-theory, takes string theory one step farther and states that the “strings” actually vibrate in an 11-dimensional space. It is this 11th dimension that the Baylor researchers believe could help propel a ship faster than the speed of light.

The Baylor physicists estimate that the amount of energy needed to influence the extra dimensions is equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into energy.

“That is an enormous amount of energy,” Cleaver said. “We are still a very long ways off before we could create something to harness that type of energy.”

The paper appeared recently in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society.

Enzyme Important In Aging Identified

ScienceDaily (July 13, 2009) — The secret to longevity may lie in an enzyme with the ability to promote a robust immune system into old age by maintaining the function of the thymus throughout life, according to researchers studying an “anti-aging” mouse model that lives longer than a typical mouse. The study, led by Abbe de Vallejo, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics and immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and immunologist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, reports that the novel mouse model has a thymus that remains intact throughout its life. In all mammals, the thymus―the organ that produces cells to fight disease and infection―degenerates with age.

Results of the study are published in the July 7 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“These findings give us hope that we may one day have the ability to restore the function of the thymus in old age, or perhaps by intervening at an early age, we may be able to delay or even prevent the degeneration of the thymus in order to maintain our immune defenses throughout life,” said Dr. de Vallejo.

The mouse model that Dr. de Vallejo’s team studied was developed by his colleague Cheryl Conover, Ph.D., an endocrinology researcher at Mayo Clinic. In this “knockout” mouse model, researchers deleted an enzyme known as pregnancy-associated plasma protein A (PAPPA). PAPPA-knockout mice live at least 30 percent longer and have significantly lower occurrence of spontaneous tumors than typical mice.

PAPPA controls the availability in tissues of a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor (IGF) that is a promoter of cell division. Hence, IGF is required for normal embryonic and postnatal growth. But IGF also is associated with tumor growth, inflammation and cardiovascular disease in adults. By deleting PAPPA, the researchers were able to control the availability of IGF in tissues and dampen its many ill effects. In the thymus, deletion of PAPPA maintained just enough IGF to sustain production of T cells without consuming precursor cells, thereby preventing the degeneration of the thymus.

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009

The boy who never grew up: Michael Jackson, 1958-2009

by Roger Ebert

Michael Jackson was so gifted, so lonely, so confused, so sad. He lost happiness somewhere in his childhood, and spent his life trying to go back there and find it. When he played the Scarecrow in “The Wiz” (1978), I think that is how he felt, and Oz was where he wanted to live. It was his most truly autobiographical role. He could understand a character who felt stuffed with straw, but could wonderfully sing and dance, and could cheer up the little girl Dorothy.

We have all spent years in the morbid psychoanalysis of this strange man-child. Now that he has died we will hear it all repeated again: The great fame from an early age, the gold records, the world tours, the needy friendships, the painful childhood, Neverland, the eccentric behavior, plastic surgery, charges of child molestation, the fortunes won and lost, the generosity, the secrecy, the inexplicable marriage to Elvis’s daughter, the disguises, the puzzling sexuality, the jokes, and on and on.

I never met him. My wife Chaz did, a long time ago when she was part of a dance troupe that opened some shows for the Jackson Five. What she remembers is that he was — a kid. Talented, hard-working, but not like other kids. That’s what he was, and that’s what he remained. His father Joseph was known even then as a hard-driving taskmaster, and was later described by family members as physically and mentally abusive, beating the child, once holding him by a leg and banging his head on the floor. Michael confided to Oprah that sometimes he would vomit at the sight of the man.

Families are important to everyone, and to African-Americans they are the center of the universe. A census is maintained that radiates out to great-nieces and nephews, distant cousins, former spouses, honorary relatives, all the generations. Communication is maintained, birthdays remembered, occasions celebrated. Important above all are parents and grandparents. Family was a support system from a time when slave-owning America refused to recognize black families. Family was the rock.

Michael Jackson doesn’t seem to have had that rock. His father seems to have driven him to create an alternate universe for himself, in which somewhere, over the rainbow, he could have another childhood. He named his ranch Neverland, after the magical land where Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, enacted his fantasies with the Lost Boys. I wonder if we ever really understood how central that vision was to Jackson, or how literally he tried to create it. I have no idea whether Michael abused the children he “adopted.” It is possible those relationships were without sex; he seemed frozen at a time before puberty. Whether he touched them criminally or not, it is easy to see what he sought: To create, with and for these Lost Boys, a Neverland where they could imagine together the childhood he never had. Mixed with that was perhaps a lifelong feeling of inadequacy, burned in by the cruelty of his father. That might help explain the compulsive plastic surgery, the relentless rehearsal, the exhausting tours, the purchase of expensive toys, the giving of gifts.

The scene everyone remembers from “The Wiz” is Dorothy and the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion dancing and singing down the Yellow Brick Road. They were off to see the Wizard, and a wonderful Wizard he was, because of the wonderful things he does. In the story, the Wizard is a lonely little man hiding behind a curtain, using his power to create a wonderland. Now Michael Jackson will never be able to tell us what he was hiding behind his curtain. But because of his music, we danced and sang.

This Changes the Neighborhood

Plant Communication: Sagebrush Engage In Self-recognition And Warn Of Danger

ScienceDaily (June 20, 2009) — To thine own self be true” may take on a new meaning—not with people or animal behavior but with plant behavior. Plants engage in self-recognition and can communicate danger to their “clones” or genetically identical cuttings planted nearby, says professor Richard Karban of the Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, in groundbreaking research published in the current edition of Ecology Letters.

Karban and fellow scientist Kaori Shiojiri of the Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University, Japan, found that sagebrush responded to cues of self and non-self without physical contact. The sagebrush communicated and cooperated with other branches of themselves to avoid being eaten by grasshoppers, Karban said. Although the research is in its early stages, the scientists suspect that the plants warn their own kind of impending danger by emitting volatile cues. This may involve secreting chemicals that deter herbivores or make the plant less profitable for herbivores to eat, he said.

 

Read the Entire Article Here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090619171244.htm

Duncan Faces Political Battle Over Education Reform – ABC News

Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan nominated to be education secretary by Obama

Duncan Has Ear of Basketball Buddy President

Once a professional basketball player, the 6-foot-5-inch cabinet secretary also has the ear of President Barack Obama, a personal friend and long-time pick-up basketball buddy.

“We’ve played a few times since we’ve been here, haven’t played a ton,” Duncan said of the president. “We’ve both been a little bit busy.”

Since arriving in Washington, Duncan has been on the road one or two days a week, visiting schools and colleges and meeting with students, principals and teachers.

“The solutions are never going to come from Washington,” Duncan said. “So when I go out, I’m not just listening to the problems; I’m really challenging folks to come up and tell us the answers.”

This fall, Duncan, former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rev. Al Sharpton will embark on a five-city tour to raise awareness of the achievement gap between white and minority students.

“The gap is absolutely, morally unacceptable,” Duncan said. Planning is in the early stages and no dates or places have been decided, he said.

Watered Down State Proficiency Standards

Making an end run around the Bush administration’s controversial No Child Left Behind law, Duncan has argued many states and districts aren’t using data to reward good teachers and some states have watered down their proficiency standards so students and parents believe they are doing much better than they are.

Despite the problems, Duncan, a former Chicago schools chief, insists the states are ready for education reform.

Read the Entire Article: Duncan Faces Political Battle Over Education Reform – ABC News

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Zooped.com – 3134 Unbelievable Facts


Zooped.com – 3134 Unbelievable Facts

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THE OPHELIA SYNDROME

By Thomas G. Plummer

BYU TODAY September 1989

(Excerpt…)

“S.I. Hayakawa describes symptoms of the Ophelia Syndrome in his essay, “What Does It Mean to Be Creative?”:

Most people don’t know the answer to the question, “How are you? How do you feel?” The reason why they don’t know is that they are so busy feeling what they are supposed feel, thinking what they are supposed to think, that they never get down to examining their own deepest feelings. “How did you like the play?” “0h, it was a fine play. It was well reviewed in The New Yorker.” With authority figures like drama critics and book reviewers and teachers and professors telling us what to think and how to feel, many of us are busy playing roles, fulfilling other people’s expectations. As Republicans, we think what other Republicans think. As Catholics, we think what other Catholics think. And so on. Not many of us ask ourselves, “How do I feel? What do I think?” – and wait for an answer. (S.I. Hayakawa, “What Does It Mean to Be Creative?,” Through the Communication Barrier. ed. Arthur Chandler [New York: Harper & Row, 1979], 104-105)

Charles Schulz characterized the Ophelia Syndrome more succinctly in this “Peanuts” cartoon: (Charlie Brown’s little sister says: “We’ve been reading poems in school, but I never understand any of them.. How am I supposed to know which poems to like?” Charlie Brown answers: “Somebody tells you.”)

Psychologist Carl Jung describes this dependence on others for one’s thoughts in the context of his discussion of “individuation.” Individuation is the process of learning to differentiate oneself from others. It is a psychological “growing up.” It means to discover those aspects of the self that distinguish one person from another. Failure to achieve individuation leaves people dependent on other, stronger personalities for their identity. They fail to understand their uniqueness. (Carl G. Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious [New York: Pantheon Books, 1959])

I have a friend who is fond of saying, “If we both think the same way, one of us is unnecessary…”

For the entire article, go here:
http://www.usu.edu/account/faculty/nelson/ophelia.htm

McMannes has plans for third mayoral term!

Humble voters returned incumbent Mayor Donald McMannes to office in the city’s municipal election held May 9 to a count of 300-211 over challenger Rick Dickson. This will be McMannes’ third term as mayor of Humble. He summarized this year’s mayoral race as one of those small town political contests that can and do sometimes divide communities.

“This was a tough race,” he said. “There were a lot of people working in this that wanted me back in and I have to thank all of them.”

McMannes is proud of the city’s accomplishments during his first two terms as mayor including the construction of a new court facility, improved pay and parity for city police officers and firefighters, street and paving improvements and a top-notch public works department. He said he wants to build on those accomplishments in his next term. With the race now behind him, McMannes has several priorities in mind for the coming term. One major priority is addressing drainage issues in the city.

“The main thing now is drainage,” he said. “Drainage is going to be in the forefront. We’re looking at places for retention ponds. We’ve already started seeking out some grant money that we would have to match.”

McMannes noted that Humble cannot solve all drainage issues alone though. Harris County must also take steps to improve drainage. While the city has made a number of improvements to reduce flooding problems, it cannot solve all such problems on its own. The areas surrounding the city also influence flooding events within the city itself, he said.

“It’s the same thing for Harris County,” he said. “Not only do we have to do our part in Humble for our people, but as a whole, Harris County needs to get busy on drainage.”

Drainage work is costly and time-consuming for communities, but McMannes said his intent is that the city will accomplish this work while keeping the same tax rate and senior discount programs that have remained in place for many years, even as the city has completed street improvements and other capital projects over the previous four years. Humble offers senior citizen discounts on water and sewer fees along with a senior exemption on property taxes.

“Everything we’ve been able to do since I’ve been there, we’ve done it while keeping the tax rate at the same 20 cents (per $100 in taxable value),” McMannes said.

Two other priority issues for the returning mayor are the completion of improvements to Will Clayton Parkway and dealing with the Houston Airport System as decisions are made regarding new runways and other improvements at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. The Will Clayton Parkway project is set to go to bid in August, he said. This is a county project, but the city is participating as a partner in it and will oversee much of the work. Airport planners have begun a 30-month environmental impact study on the proposed improvement projects at the airport which is one of the first steps in the process.

“They haven’t made up their minds about the runways they are going to build and we will be dealing with that,” said McMannes.

The mayoral race was the election’s only contested race out of three positions. Position 1 incumbent Councilman Bill Conner received 405 votes and Position 2 incumbent Councilman Andy Curry received 424 votes in their unopposed bids for re-election.

Mayor McMannes: 2009 RE-ELECTION DAY

ndvd_004My father’s running for re-election this year and has an opponent (And that is a great compliment in itself for this guy!). Now, this is not an opponent that’s saying things which are fair or right, it’s an opponent that feels the need to take personal shots, make blatantly provocative remarks sprinkled with veiled insults. For another man to say that he’ll beat my father “…60-40 in any election” is just not a man in their right mind…and I’m not even talking about his personal psychiatric treatment from his past. I’m talking about a man who walks up to a Mexican man in Kroger and decides to make a joke about how he has a picture of his naked wife with him and did that guy want it? And this man is running for City Mayor? Wow!

The two were interviewed last week about their vision for the future of Humble. If you know my dad, can vote for my dad, or just have an opinion about this interview, I’d love to hear it and pass it along to him. I’m pretty sure the election will turn out in his favor because he told me he has some really great people working hard on his campaign. I guess it’s kind of weird though if you think about it from a national standpoint. I couldn’t imagine having someone say so many negative things about a family member on that scale. Wow!

Also, many of you know that my mouth can run a little wild at times…no, it’s true…no really, it’s true….. 🙂 but I’m really hoping that this man’s campaign, and I’ve known this guy and his family my entire life, well…I just hope he doesn’t make his way to our tent. I don’t want the ‘dark mood’ to show up – it can be a little much at times. 🙂 Anyway, here’s the short interview from each candidate:

Humble mayoral candidates set to square off

Monday, April 27, 2009

Robert Kleeman

– Early voting begins this week –

Humble Mayor Donnie McMannes will face a confident challenger in his bid for a third term, to say the least. Opponent Rick Dickson told a group of 15 supporters at the Humble City Cafe Thursday night he would win the election “60/40.”

“I can say emphatically, ‘it’s a 60/40 election,’” Dickson said. “I realize that I will be in city hall because of the citizens.”

Early voting for the May 9 election began Monday morning and continues all week. Voters can cast ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Humble’s City Hall, 114 West Higgins. Early voting on May 4-5 and on Election Day will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. McMannes spent 30 years as a narcotics officer and seeks his third term as mayor. Dickson has worked as a Houston government liaison, and a real estate and insurance agent. To help voters make a decision, The Tribune asked both candidates a series of questions about their platforms, philosophies and inspirations for public service. Here are their responses.

DONNIE McMANNES

1. What inspired your interest in public service?
I’m not so sure there was a single moment where I actually decided to pursue public service. I don’t like people being treated unfairly, I know that. So, for 37 years as a police officer and deputy constable, I was able to really entrench myself in understanding what public service is. Working with high-ranking, elected officials, as well as being elected to the board of directors for the Houston Police Officers Associations were all wonderful things in my life. But my city, my home has always been Humble, Texas and that’s where I wanted to get involved and make a difference. And so I did.

2. Why do you want to be the City of Humble’s mayor again?
If you look back over the last several years, the leaders of this city have come together to do some fantastic things. We all put Humble first. Again, as a public servant, I do this for the city not for myself. The city council, city workers, police, fire, EMS – we all work very well together. They love this city as much as I do, and that’s why we’re able to get so many things done that benefit the people who live here. Plus, there are several fantastic projects that we just started that I’m excited to see finished.

3. Is there a particular quality you feel has best suited you for the job?
I’m a problem solver. My job for most of my life has been to listen to people and help them find solutions. I’ve always been good at understanding people, but what I do best is solve problems. It’s a basic approach – identify the problem and then use the best resources and as much common sense as possible to fix that problem.

4. What is the greatest life lesson you have learned?
I could give you some philosophical answer, but the first answer that came to my mind was “trust the lord God with all your heart, soul and mind.” I think when you do that, along with treating other people the way that you would like to be treated, I believe that you’ll have made a difference in someone’s day. Just being kind to other people does a lot more than you think.

5. If you had to describe your platform/philosophy in one paragraph, how would you do it?
The city employees are the backbone of the city – period. Without these people, a city can crumble. I’m going to tell you that Humble, Texas, is blessed to have the finest quality of city personnel that you’re going to find anywhere. Our city workers know their job and how to do it right. They’re experts in what they do and they love this city. My number one concern, along with the city council, is to see that their pay and benefits are always kept at a level where they can maintain a good quality of life, not only now but in retirement, as well.

6. If re-elected, what would be your first three priorities?
(1) After re-election, I’ll be back working on some of our top projects. First up is obtaining several millions dollars to improve the drainage citywide so the water will move out of the city faster.
(2) Secondly, if crime increases, I’ll be dealing with issues regarding the number of arrests made by our officers, as well as ways to add to and improve our city jail.
(3) Another important item I’ll be addressing after I’m re-elected is to continue seeking an extension to our Metro agreement regarding the sales tax rebate. This is a huge and complex deal that will benefit our city in great ways. Also, I’ll be meeting with the FAA to discuss issues at hand and then working with them to do what is best for the entire City of Humble.

Doing it ‘immorally!’

April 28, 2009

How to Write an Immoral Character

The best novels and short stories are not made up of a cast of saints and heroes. And the best modern novels and stories don’t have black-and-white villains and knights in shining armor. In fact, the characters we love best and that stay with us are almost always a shade of grey, with some good impulses but many bad ones, with both light and dark in their psyches. Increasingly, good writers are expected to make even decidedly immoral characters sympathetic to readers. But how do you portray an immoral character without losing the reader?

First, it’s important to remember that even bad guys (or girls) don’t behave randomly. For the vast majority of people, evil isn’t something to be enjoyed; randomness and chaos for its own sake isn’t the goal. I’m getting really tired of movies nowadays that have random baddies that put a gun to someone’s head without any reason except that the moviemakers want the character to look badass. It doesn’t make sense and it makes the entire world of the story feel false.

After the jump: what to do instead to make your character real.

Instead, you’ve got to respect the complexity of a world that inspires immoral behavior. What situation arose that made the character think it was his only choice to steal, to kill, to lie or deceive? Was he actually doing it because he was thinking he was protecting someone else? Was she really just short-sighted, thinking this was the best course of action for a better future? Was he being selfish, not deliberately cruel? These are real human motivations, and what I find far more poignant than pure human villainy is that so often, simple, honest wants and goals can go awry and have bad outcomes. That’s where the humanity of an immoral character lies.

Second, as a writer it’s important for you to withhold judgment. It’s not up to you to point the condemning finger; instead, you present your character as realistically, as humanistically, as possible, and let your readers decide where his/her behavior is worthy of contempt. Let your character act, speak, and move on the page without being hampered by a haughty narratorial voice, explaining why such-and-such is wrong. Give the reader the benefit of the doubt and let her decide for herself.

Third, how about a little sympathy and compassion? No one is all bad. That doesn’t mean you have to be an apologist for truly heinous actions. Take Humbert Humbert from Nabokov’s Lolita, for example. The man is the worst kind of person you can find on the planet — an incestuous child rapist. Nabokov doesn’t sugar-coat this terrible, repeated crime, and he doesn’t apologize for Humbert by making him out to be a tortured soul who really wants to do the right thing. No, he lets Humbert stand on the page and speak for himself. He is a human being — a weak, cowardly, shamefully lustful human being who has a desperate need to validate his own desires. This does not lessen the evil of the act, but it makes the character far more complex and interesting than a cartoonish villain. Give your immoral character motivation and psychological complexity. It will make your villains ones that are hard to forget.

Scout.com: NFL Draft Rookie: Connor Barwin

 

NFL Draft Rookie Reaction: Connor Barwin


Ed Thompson
ScoutNFLNetwork.com
Apr 26, 2009
The Texans’ second-round draft pick, defensive end Connor Barwin, will be heading to Houston for a press conference at the team’s facilities on Sunday. But on Saturday night, he shared his rookie reaction in this exclusive interview with Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst Ed Thompson. 

Ed Thompson: Congratulations on being selected by the Houston Texans in the second round of this year’s draft. Tell me what happened at that moment when the phone rang.
Connor BarwinI was really surprised. I thought I was going to get picked earlier in the draft, so I was sitting there looking at who was up to pick. There was Houston, then a couple of teams and Chicago. We were thinking that Chicago was where the pick was going to be, because we had talked to (Bears GM) Jerry Angelo and really hadn’t heard much from Houston since the Combine. So I was just really surprised when they called.
Thompson: I saw on your Twitter feed that you were also a little surprised that Cincinnati had passed on you just a few picks earlier. I know you had a good workout with them.
Barwin: Yeah, their Director of Operations, Jim Lippincott, had told me that if I was there at 38, they were probably going to take me. But’s that’s all good, I’m so excited to be going down to Texas to rush the passer. I was just surprised that Cincinnati didn’t pull the card at 38.
Thompson: So when you got the call, who was on the call with you and what did they say?
Barwin: It was their GM, and he was talking, but I couldn’t really hear anything because my family was screaming and ESPN had a plug in my ear. It was the GM, then the head coach and the D-Line coach. They were all congratulating me and telling me that they were very excited, and that I would be down there tomorrow morning for a press conference.


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
 

Thompson: The Texans now have a lot of young talent in their front seven with guys likeMario WilliamsDeMeco Ryans, Amobi Okoye and now you and Brian Cushing being added to the mix through this draft. That’s going to be a tough group for teams to make some headway against.
Barwin: Yeah, I’m excited. It’ll be good to go in there and play with great players and people I can learn from. I think we’re going to be a unit who plays fast all the time and gets after people.
Thompson: Did Houston give you an idea of where they see you fitting into their defense?
Barwin:  They want me to play defensive end to start. I’ll play behind Mario Williams and I’ll rush the passer.
Thompson: Have you been to Texas very often?
Barwin: I have never been to Texas, so this will be a new experience for me. But they’re bringing down my three brothers and my parents, so it’ll be fun to have everybody down there tomorrow.
Thompson: Anything else you want to pass on to the fans who have been following you during this journey?
Barwin: Just thank you to everybody in Cincinnati for all the love that I’ve gotten these last four years and over the last few months. Everybody in Cincinnati has been great. I had a great career here, I’m going to miss it. But now I’m excited to be in Houston. I’m excited to play professional football, and I’m going to do everything I can to help Houston be a better football team. 
Thompson: One last question. Has it sunk in yet that one of the guys that you’ll be pass rushing twice a year is Peyton Manning?
Barwin: (laughs) No, that hasn’t sunk in yet. But I can’t wait until I sack Peyton Manning. That’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

STAR TREK Trailer w/ McMannes Reboot – 2009 Video

Star Trek and Saliva – The Trek Universe set to ‘Ladies and Gentlemen!’ The McMannes version of the new Star Trek trailer!

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Star Trek on Today Tonight 7/4/09

A story on Trek XI, aired on the night of the film’s world premiere in Sydney. Apologies for the multiple mispronounciations by the journo, I have no idea who ‘Zach Pinto’ or ‘Eric Baaana’ is eith…

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Star Trek Movie Posters Released!

Cold Fusion or sequel to ‘The Saint’?

 

coldfusionWASHINGTON (AFP) – Researchers at a US Navy laboratory have unveiled what they say is “significant” evidence of cold fusion, apotential energy source that has many skeptics in the scientific community.

The scientists on Monday described what they called the first clear visual evidence that low-energy nuclear reaction (LENR), or cold fusion devices can produce neutrons, subatomic particles that scientists say are indicative of nuclear reactions.

“Our finding is very significant,” said analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss of the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego, California.

“To our knowledge, this is the first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from a LENR device,” added the study’s co-author in a statement. The study’s results were presented at the annual meeting of theAmerican Chemical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah. The city is also the site of an infamous presentation on cold fusion 20 years ago by Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons that sent shockwaves across the world.

coldfusion_timeDespite their claim to cold fusion discovery, the Fleishmann-Pons study soon fell into discredit after other researchers were unable to reproduce the results. Scientists have been working for years to produce cold fusion reactions, a potentially cheap, limitless and environmentally-clean source of energy.

Paul Padley, a physicist at Rice University who reviewed Mosier-Boss’s published work, said the study did not provide a plausible explanation of how cold fusion could take place in the conditions described.

“It fails to provide a theoretical rationale to explain how fusion could occur at room temperatures. And in its analysis, the research paper fails to exclude other sources for the production of neutrons,” he told the Houston Chronicle.

“The whole point of fusion is, you?re bringing things of like charge together. As we all know, like things repel, and you have to overcome that repulsion somehow.”

But Steven Krivit, editor of the New Energy Times, said the study was “big” and could open a new scientific field. The neutrons produced in the experiments “may not be caused by fusion but perhaps some new, unknown nuclear process,” added Krivit, who has monitored cold fusion studies for the past 20 years.

“We’re talking about a new field of science that’s a hybrid between chemistry and physics.”

First Ever Photos – Liquid Water found on Mars!?

Liquid Saltwater is Likely Present on Mars, New Analysis Shows

awater-drops-mars-phoenix-landerSalty, liquid water has been detected on a leg of the Mars Phoenix Lander and therefore could be present at other locations on the planet, according to analysis by a group of mission scientists led by a University of Michigan professor. This is the first time liquid water has been detected and photographed outside the Earth.

“A large number of independent physical and thermodynamical evidence shows that saline water may actually be common on Mars,” said Nilton Renno, a professor in the U-M Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences and a co-investigator on the Phoenix mission. “Liquid water is an essential ingredient for life. This discovery has important implications to many areas of planetary exploration, including the habitability of Mars.”

Renno will present these findings on March 23, 2009 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston.

Droplets on a leg of the Mars Phoenix lander are seen to darken and coalesce. Nilton Renno, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences says this is evidence that they are made of liquid water. Previously, scientists believed that water existed on Mars only as ice or water vapor because of the planet’s low temperature and atmospheric pressure. They thought that ice in the Red Planet’s current climate could sublimate, or vaporize, but they didn’t think it could melt. This analysis shows how that assumption may be incorrect. Temperature fluctuation in the arctic region of Mars where Phoenix landed and salts in the soil could create pockets of water too salty to freeze in the climate of the landing site, Renno says.

Photos of one of the lander’s legs show droplets that grew during the polar summer. Based on the temperature of the leg and the presence of large amounts of “perchlorate” salts detected in the soil, scientists believe the droplets were most likely salty liquid water and mud that splashed on the spacecraft when it touched down. The lander was guided down by rockets whose exhaust melted the top layer of ice below a thin sheet of soil.

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These images were acquired by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s Surface Stereo Imager on the 21st and 25th days of the mission, or Sols 20 and 24 (June 15 and 18, 2008). These images show sublimation of ice in the trench informally called “Dodo-Goldilocks” over the course of four days. In the lower left corner, lumps disappear, similar to the process of evaporation. Some of the mud droplets that splashed on the lander’s leg appear to have grown by absorbing water from the atmosphere, Renno says. Images suggest that some of the droplets darkened, then moved and merged — physical evidence that they were liquid.

The wet chemistry lab on Phoenix found evidence of perchlorate salts, which likely include magnesium and calcium perchlorate hydrates. These compounds have freezing temperatures of about -90 and -105 Fahrenheit respectively. The temperature at the landing site ranged from approximately -5 to -140 Fahrenheit, with a median temperature around -75 Fahrenheit. Temperatures at the landing site were mostly warmer than this during the first months of the mission.

Thermodynamic calculations offer additional evidence that salty liquid water can exist where Phoenix landed and elsewhere on Mars. The calculations also predicts a droplet growth rate that is consistent with what was observed. And they show that it is impossible for ice to sublimate from the cold ground just under the strut of the lander’s leg and be deposited on a warmer strut, a hypothesis that has been suggested. Certain bacteria on Earth can exist in extremely salty and cold conditions.

acm“This discovery is the result of the talent and dedication of the entire Phoenix team and NASA, whose strategy for Mars exploration and the Phoenix mission is ‘follow the water,’” Renno said.

Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, and transmitted data back to Earth until Nov. 10. Scientists are still analyzing the information Phoenix gathered. The mission was led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Arizona. Among its preliminary findings, Phoenix verified that water ice exists in the just beneath the surface of Mars. It sent back more than 25,000 photos and deployed the first atomic force microscope ever used outside Earth. The lander was the first Martian spacecraft to document a mildly alkaline soil and perchlorate salts. It also observed snow falling from clouds on the Red Planet.

A paper on this research, written by Renno and dozens of his colleagues on the Phoenix mission, including principal investigator Peter Smith, is under review at the Journal of Geophysical Research. 

http://www.astrobio.net/news/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=3074&theme=Printer

The Origin of the McMannes!

mcmanus_crest_600The Irish surname McManus is an anglicized form of the Gaelic MacMaghnuis. The prefix ‘mac’ means ‘son of’ and indicates that the name is of patronymic origin – that is, it is derived from a father or ancestor. The first name Manus is derived from the Latin Magnus and came to Ireland from Northern Europe and simply means ‘great’. Thus the surname denotes the son of Manus. Collins Guide To First Names has this to say about the first name Magnus:

‘This is the Latin adjective meaning ‘great’. The spread of this name was due to the Emperor Charlemagne, Carolus Magnus. Some of his admirers took Magnus for a personal name, and among those who christened their sons after him was St. Olaf of Norway. The name spread from Scandinavia to Shetland and Ireland. From Shetland the name became well established in Scotland. In Ireland it became Manus, hence the common Irish surname McManus.’

So, who was this Charlemagne from whom we seem to have taken our name? The name derives from Charles the Great, King of the Franks (Germanic nation or coalition which conquered France in the 6th. century) from 768-814 and Holy Roman Emperor from 800-814. As ruler of Western Christendom, he introduced legal reforms, standardised coinage and weights and measures; organised and reformed the church; and after his death became the hero of a cycle of medieval romances.

It is a popularly held belief that there are two distinct McManus families – one emanating from the Maguires’ in Fermanagh and the other from the O’Connors of Roscommon. This fact and other facts relating to the antiquity of these families is clearly proved again and again in the text of ‘The Annals of the Four Masters’, held in Dublin Castle and which is full of entries relating to the McManus’. However, it must not be accepted without challenge that members of the McManus Clan only originated from these two areas of Ireland. That the name denotes son of the once popular Norse Christian name Magnus or Manus clearly indicates the name was more widespread than just these two Irish regions.

aaammmLooking back along the hard road of our local history in North Roscommon, one is struck by the changes in fortune suffered by the MacManuses, and so many other families who once enjoyed property, power and privilege. Of the Gaelic families still with authenticated lineage, only one, the senior MacDermot branch, is still represented in the area. The MacManuses, and other leading Gaelic families of the region, have not been able to preserve their pedigree beyond the eighteenth century. What follows is a very brief historical insight into the demise of these noble and ancient clans, with particular reference to the MacManuses. But demise is hardly an appropriate word to use in this story – for the word may only be appropriate to describe property, power and privilege. In no way does it portray those other irremovable concepts of family which lie deep and impenetrable in the human soul – honour, dignity and pride.

The McManuses of North Roscommon were descended from Manus Miogharan, the ninth son of Turlough More O’Connor, monarch of all Ireland.(The Book of Lecan: fol 72, b, col.4). Tir-Tuathail gets its name from Tir-Tuathail-Maoilgairbh, i.e. ‘the country of Tuathal Maelgarbh’ who was monarch of Ireland from the year 533 to 544. (O’Faherty’s Ogygia part 3 c93). This territory was later subordinate to MacDermot of Moylurg. The pedigree of the McManuses of Tir-Tuathail has not been preserved beyond the eighteenth century (Southeran, 1871:73) and after their decay the land fell into the possession of MacDermot Roe who held it under MacDermot of Moylurg.

  • The Irish are very fair people; they never speak well for one another.
  • God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world.
  • Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.
  • The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scotts as a joke, but the Scotts haven’t seen the joke yet.
  • The Irish ignore anything they can’t drink or punch.
  • When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.
  • He is bad that will not take advice, but he is a thousand times worse that takes every advice.
  • One of the worst things that can happen in life is to win a bet on a horse at an early age.
  • A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.
  • Every St. Patrick’s Day every Irishman goes out to find another Irishman to make a speech to.
  • An Irishman is never drunk as long as he can hold onto one blade of grass to keep from falling off the earth.
  • As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction!
  • If it was raining soup, the Irish would go out with forks.
  • Here’s to our wives and girlfriends: May they never meet
  • I can resist everything except temptation.
  • My mother’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.
  • The Irish don’t know what they want and are prepared to fight to the death to get it.
  • God is good to the Irish, but no one else is; not even the Irish.
  • If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized.
  • The Irish forgive their great men once they are safely buried.
  • Irish Alzheimer’s: you forget everything except the grudges.
  • Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.

How do ‘I’ Learn? I shock myself…often!

‘The Unexpected Outcome’ Is A Key To Human Learning
ScienceDaily (2009-03-15) — The human brain’s sensitivity to unexpected outcomes plays a fundamental role in the ability to adapt and learn new behaviors, according to a new study by psychologists and neuroscientists. Using a computer-based card game and microelectrodes to observe neuronal activity of the brain, the Penn study, published March 13 in the journal Science, suggests that neurons in the human substantia nigra, or SN, play a central role in reward-based learning, modulating learning based on the discrepancy between the expected and the realized outcome… > read full article

New Trailer for ‘Star Trek’ Breaks All Existing Records!

2008_star_trek_xi_logo_trailerLOS ANGELES, March 11 /PRNewswire/ — The new trailer for J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” had more than 1.8 million downloads during its first 24 hours on Apple.com and has gone on to become the most popular HD download ever on the site with more than five million downloads in its first five days. The trailer made its exclusive debut on Apple.com/trailers on March 6th giving fans a sneak peak of this summer’s highly anticipated “Star Trek” for viewing on their Mac or PC, iPhone or iPod with video.

From J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible III,” “Fringe,” “Lost” and “Alias”), producer Damon Lindelof and executive producers Bryan Burk and Jeffrey Chernov and screenwriters and executive producers Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (“TRANSFORMERS,” “MI: III”) comes a new vision of the greatest adventure of all time, “Star Trek,” featuring a young, new crew venturing boldly where no one has gone before. “Star Trek” opens nationally on May 8, 2009.

Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment Present a Bad Robot Production “Star Trek” starring John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana and Leonard Nimoy. The film is directed by J.J. Abrams (“Mission Impossible III,” “Lost,” “Alias”), written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (“MI: III,” “Transformers”).

Based upon “Star Trek” Created by Gene Roddenberry. The film is produced by J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof. The executive producers are Bryan Burk, Jeffrey Chernov, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. The director of photography is Dan Mindel, ASC. The production designer is Scott Chambliss. The film is edited by Maryann Brandon, A.C.E. and Mary Jo Markey, A.C.E. The costume designer is Michael Kaplan. The visual effects & animation are by Industrial Light and Magic. The music is by Michael Giacchino. This film has not yet been rated.

The Thriller Begins…Again!

michael_jackson_a_03051For days rumors have circulated that Michael Jackson was startin’ somethin’. And Thursday afternoon, before a couple of thousand screaming fans at London’s 02 arena, the King of Pop revealed what has been referred to as “the worst kept secret in the world”….a 10-concert residency beginning July 8 — his first full tour in 12 years.

“I love you so much,” said Jackson, 50, barely audible over the whooping of his loyal supporters who crowded outside of the arena. “This is it. I just want to say that these will be my final show performances in London.” (See pictures of Michael Jackson at 50.) Jackson arrived on stage nearly an hour and a half late (London’s rush hour traffic was reportedly the reason) and spoke for just over three minutes. “I’ll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is the final curtain call.”

British media are speculating that Jackson, who has been staying at the $11,000-a-night Royal Suite at the Lanesborough Hotel, is staging the comeback — tickets go on sale on March 13 — to help pay off the debts he has incurred since a court cleared him of sexual abuse charges in June 2005 (he hasn’t performed a full concert since then). In November 2008, the singer reached an undisclosed settlement with Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the prince of Bahrain who was suing Jackson for $7 million over claims he reneged on a contract for a new album, autobiography and a stage play. Jackson has maintained that these were gifts.

At Thursday’s announcement Jackson wore a black, military-style top with silver sequins and looked predictably wan. Despite his rather expressionless face, he seemed sincerely moved by the audience’s warm reception and, during an erratic exit, once again conveyed his affection to his fans. “I love you. I really do,” he said in breathy pants. “You have to know that. I love you so much. Really. From the bottom of my heart.” He then made two peace signs, turned, pumped his fist, turned again, struck a fierce pose and blew a kiss before disappearing. (Watch Jackson at the Grammys.)

Fans and journalists had lined up for hours, clutching memorabilia and wearing t-shirts, and numerous individuals posing as journalists were removed from the media line. “I’m sorry, but you’re not on the list,” the doorman told one blond woman with a slight accent, to which she replied, “But I’ve come all the way from Norway!”

Rebecca Kellner, 17, left school early to attend the event

michael_jackson-thumb“It’s like meeting one of your childhood heroes, even if I just got to see him,” she says between gasps. “He was more collected than I thought he was going to be, and that made me more confident that he can do the shows.”Jackson underwent rigorous health checks to prove his fitness ahead of the announcement, and AEG, the group that owns the O2 arena, has reportedly obtained insurance to protect against Jackson falling ill and canceling performances. Last year, photographers captured Jackson in a wheelchair wearing pajamas as his children pushed him. Nevertheless, AEG Live chief Randy Phillips said Jackson had a three-year plan with the company — worth $400 million — that could include concerts and the development of a 3-D movie based on the legendary Thriller.

The O2 is the venue Prince played for 21 nights in 2007, and where Britney Spears is doing eight nights this June. As for Jackson (who hasn’t released an album of original material since 2001), his last substantial series of shows came in 1996-97, when he played 82 concerts in 58 cities as part of the HIStory tour. And, of course, there have been some embarrassing moments that infamously earned him the nickname Wacko Jacko. Stories about personal, health and financial problems have constantly cropped up and he’s currently trying to stop an auction of thousands of his personal possessions. (See pictures of the auction items for sale.)

But Jackson’s music may well prove to be the driving force behind the brand. Gemma Lal, 18, traveled four hours from Northhampton and believes Jackson’s music, particularly Earth Song, is as relevant as ever. “It’s not just a song,” she says. “He talks about the earth and how we can help people.” For a singer who has faced some very public lows, the first person to benefit could be Jackson himself.

White House Plan Would End Subsidies to Student Lenders

By Alejandro Lazo and Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, February 27, 2009; A08

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The Obama administration has proposed a sweeping change in the $85 billion-a-year student loan industry, one that could fundamentally alter the business of lenders such as Sallie Mae.

The proposal, included in yesterday’s budget outline, would end a program that pays government subsidies to private student loan companies. The administration said the shift, which would mean that all federal loans would come directly through the government, would save $4 billion annually and $47.5 billion over the next decade.

The changes could be a blow to companies such as Sallie Mae of Reston that receive subsidies to originate federally backed student loans. Shares of Sallie Mae, formally known as SLM Corp., plunged 31 percent yesterday on the news. The profitability of the student loan industry has faltered in recent years, first as Congress cut subsidies and then because of turmoil in the credit markets. Last year, dozens of lenders stopped issuing federally guaranteed loans, prompting concerns about whether students would get the money they needed for college. The Bush administration took several steps to shore up student lenders. 

Yesterday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan signaled a shift from that approach, saying the program that subsidizes private lenders is “on life support.”

“Rather than continuing to subsidize banks, we want to help dramatically more students get more access to more aid,” Duncan said in a conference call with reporters. “Big picture . . . We’re going to save about $24 billion dollars over the next five years, and we want to actively invest that money in our students.”

aaaSince the early 1990s, federal student loans have been implemented through two programs. The program that the administration proposes ending, the Federal Family Education Loan Program, uses private-sector lenders such as Sallie Mae and Citigroup to originate and service the education loans, keeping the debt off the government’s books. Under this program, the government pays a subsidy to private lenders. Congress sets the interest rate on loans, and the federal government covers nearly all the losses if a student defaults.

The other program, Direct Loan, is administered by the government and includes student loan debt in the government’s deficit. Under the proposal, this program would handle all federal loans. The approach outlined yesterday echoes one long favored by Democrats. House Education Committee Chairman Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who has been a vocal critic of what he has called “corrupt practices” in the student loan industry, said the proposal was a “a solid plan to make federal student loans more reliable while saving taxpayers billions of dollars.”

The proposal to do away with the Federal Family Education Loan Program stunned investors and Wall Street analysts who follow Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender. Loans originated through that program made up about 80 percent of the company’s total student loan portfolio at the end of 2008, with the rest being private loans.

“It could precipitate a collapse of the . . . industry because a lot of the lenders were holding on and hoping to survive until the end of the credit crisis,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the Web site FinAid.org. “But they could pull out completely because if there is no future, then there is no reason to stay.” Under the administration’s proposal, the private sector wouldn’t be completely cut out of the equation. The Education Department would contract with companies to service loans and collect payments. Officials yesterday said they expected some companies that now participate in the loan program to take part in a competitive process to service the loans. Sallie Mae made clear yesterday that it intended to bid for such contracts.

“We also note that the budget proposal looks to obtain ‘high-quality services for students by using competitive, private providers to service loans,’ ” the company said in a statement. “Sallie Mae is the largest and lowest-cost provider of student loan services, and we deliver the highest quality for students, schools and families.

The New Captain – USS ENTERPRISE!

GoAnimate.com: Mike and Shayne fly the Enterprise!

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It’s free and fun!

Wilson Archer Remembered…

Former Humble Mayor Wilson Archer, 73, died Jan. 28 after suffering from leukemia for several years. Those close to him said the past four years had been particularly difficult. 

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“Wilson and I went to high school together,” said Humble Mayor Donnie McMannes. “He was a grade behind me, but we were friends. He was a life-long, pure ‘Humble man.’ He loved the city and he spent 25 years serving its residents.”

Archer was elected mayor on May 9, 1995 and retired on May 17, 2005. He had served as city councilman for 15 years prior to that.

“He was tough, but always honest in his political positions,” said McMannes. 

Prior to Humble City Council, Archer owned five convenience stores. He sold the last “Wilson Superette” in 1984. The stores provided jobs in the community and were able to support local Little League baseball teams, football teams and the Humble ISD Livestock Show and Rodeo. Archer made numerous charitable contributions to area organizations and individuals.Archer based his business on loyalty and trust. He often extended credit to his neighbors, something unheard of from a convenience store.

“I worked with Wilson for 25 years,” said James Baker, former Humble city manager. “Wilson was in office before Deerbrook Mall opened. He knew Humble would grow and was a big part of building the infrastructure to support the growth. He was born, served and died in Humble. ”

McMannes said it was Archer’s vision to build the Humble Civic Center and he was one of the first to see the need for the conference facility and community center. Today, the center is used by businesses for meetings, conferences and seminars and has become a showpiece for the Humble area. It has become the home of the annual Humble ISD Livestock Show and Rodeo and other community events.

McMannes also gave credit to Archer for his role in negotiating with the Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority to bring dollars back to Humble.

It is estimated that the 10-year agreement with METRO brought approximately $50,000,000 in rebate dollars into the city. The funds are based on a portion of sales tax revenue and are used for roadway improvement, infrastructure and other transportation expenses.

Many of Archer’s pet projects involved practical items, such as providing adequate utilities, drainage, roadways, emergency services, improvements to public parks, a library, and police and criminal justice facilities.

Other projects were strictly from the heart. Archer, who was an avid gardener, often said his favorite program was the seniors’ gardening program affectionately known as “Archer’s Acre.”

“He felt seniors needed a place to gather and stay active,” said Baker.

Seniors are allowed to plant and cultivate vegetables for their own use at the Senior Activity Center on South Houston Avenue. The surplus from the garden is donated to local food banks. After the addition of a greenhouse, seniors began to grow flowers to sell at Humble’s Good Oil Days and poinsettias to sell during the holidays. Archer’s seniors’ gardening program was spotlighted twice on Channel 11 News.

Archer also provided leadership and assistance to the Boy Scouts of America, the Northeast Medical Center Hospital, the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, the FamilyTime Foundation, the Door, the Humble Lions Club, the Humble Area Chamber of Commerce and Humble ISD. He held leadership positions in many state-wide municipal organizations.

“Wilson Archer was born in Humble. He graduated from Charles Bender High School in 1954,” said Nancy Coker, board president of the Humble Museum. “I considered him a good friend. Citizens of Humble were lucky to have him as mayor. I will miss him. We will all miss him.”

Community members gathered for visitation at Rosewood Funeral Home Friday, Jan. 30, and for his funeral Saturday, Jan. 31, at the First United Methodist Church in Humble.

Archer is survived by his sons Curtis and Craig; his daughter-in-law, Regina of Humble; and his granddaughter, Cassie; brother Haden Archer; and sister Jan Lou Bar. He was preceded in death by his parents, Edgar and Alma Archer, and eight brothers and sisters. A reception at Humble Civic Center followed the funeral. The family suggested contributions to the St. Luke’s Blood Bank in lieu of flowers.

© 2008 Ourtribune.com

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