December 27th, 2010
The first x-ray images of a lightning strike have been captured by a, well, lightning-fast camera, scientists say. The pictures suggest a lightning bolt carries all its x-ray radiation in its tip. (Get lightning facts.)
During recent thunderstorms in Camp Blanding, Florida, the camera's electronic shutter "froze" a lightning bolt—artificially triggered by rockets and wires—as it sped toward the ground at one-sixth the speed of light.
"Something moving this fast would go from the Earth to the moon in less than ten seconds," said Joseph Dwyer, a lightning researcher at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.
Scientists have known for several years that lightning emits radiation, said Dwyer, who revealed the photos at an annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco earlier this month.
But until now scientists didn't have the technology to take x-ray images quickly enough to see where the radiation comes from, he said.
Lightning Imaged by 1,500-Pound Camera
Making a camera capable of taking such quick images was an achievement in and of itself, Dwyer emphasized.
"You can't just go buy a camera and point it at lightning," he said. "We had to make it."
The resulting 1,500-pound (680-kilogram) camera—created by Dwyer's graduate student Meagan Schaal—consists of an x-ray detector housed in a box about the size and shape of a refrigerator. The box is lined with lead to shield the x-ray detector from stray radiation.
X-rays enter the box through a small hole that in turn focuses them, like an old-fashioned pinhole camera.
Speedy Trade-Off: Less Data Space
Because lightning moves blindingly fast, the camera was required to take ten million images per second. (Interactive: Make your own lightning strike.)
One challenge in taking such fast pictures is storing the data. To do so, the x-ray detector had to take pictures at a relatively low resolution of 30 pixels, which produced images on a crude, hexagonal grid—as shown in the chart below.
Diagram courtesy Joseph Dwyer
Even so, the resolution was sharp enough to reveal a bright ball of x-rays at the head of the bolt, with almost no lingering radiation along the bolt's trail.
"Almost all the x-rays are from the tip," Dwyer said. "We see the x-ray source descending with the lightning at up to one-sixth the speed of light."
Triggered Lightning Effective
The lightning bolts were triggered by launching small rockets into the thunderstorms. (See "Volcanic Lightning Sparked by 'Dirty Thunderstorms,' Study Finds.")
The rockets trailed wires behind them to direct the lightning through the camera's field of view.
Artificially triggering the lightning strike likely didn't alter the natural workings of the thunderstorm, Dwyer noted.
And, he said, "the advantage of triggered lightning is that we can repeat it."
December 27th, 2010
Inside a grave in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is DNA that could finally put to rest debate about whether Abraham Lincoln's killer escaped capture and lived for years before committing suicide.
What's that you say? Wasn't this all solved 145 years ago? That depends on who you ask.
The way it's written in history books, John Wilkes Booth was cornered 12 days after shooting President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre and killed in a tobacco barn before being laid to rest in a family plot. But there have been several historians over the years not entirely satisfied with this version.
"If the man who killed our greatest president got away and a giant hoax was perpetrated on the American people, then we should know about it," historian Nate Orlowek told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Descendants of Booth's have heard various stories about whether he was actually able to live another 38 years, traveling around the country and changing his name several times before killing himself, according to The Inquirer.
The theory has been debated before in published books, documentaries, TV shows and even Thursday night on the History Channel on Brad Meltzer’s "Decoded," which is examining compelling mysteries from the past.
Which brings us back to the present - and that grave in Cambridge. It contains the body of John Wilkes Booth's brother, Edwin Booth, who was a Shakespearean actor buried in 1893.
Descendants of the men have now agreed to exhume the body of Edwin Booth in an effort to put the family drama to rest.
“I just feel we have a right to know who’s buried there,’’ said Lois Trebisacci, 60, who told The Boston Globe she is Edwin Booth's great-great-great granddaughter.
In 1995, the family tried to exhume the body inside the family plot that contains the man shot in the barn, but a judge denied the request.
“The family was as much interested in disproving [the escape] theory as they were in proving it,’’ Mark Zaid, an attorney for Trebisacci, told the Globe.
So now, the family is going to try the route with Edwin Booth's body, family members told the media. Though an exhumation request has not been made yet, if and when it is, DNA from Edwin Booth's body could be tested against vertebrae of the man shot in the barn, which is currently in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., and the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.
But not everyone is keen on doing that.
A spokesman told The Inquirer that the National Museum of Health and Medicine was concerned about damage to the precious piece of history, just for the sake of trying to debunk a myth. But Jan Herman, chief historian for the Navy Medical Department and special assistant to the Navy surgeon general in Washington, said since only a small drill would be used, the sample wouldn't be damaged.
It's very much a case of weighing what's worth it.
"If it compares favorably, that's the end of the controversy," Herman told the Inquirer. "That was Booth in the barn, end of case.
"If it doesn't match, you change American history."
More From CNN
December 27th, 2010
The Abiding Faith Of Warm-ongers
Investors Business Daily
Freezing weather: Just another example of global warming? View Enlarged Image
Climate: Nothing makes fools of more people than trying to predict the weather. Whether in Los Angeles or London, recent predictions have gone crazily awry. Global warming? How about mini ice age?
The sight of confused and angry travelers stuck in airports across Europe because of an arctic freeze that has settled across the continent isn't funny. Sadly, they've been told for more than a decade now that such a thing was an impossibility — that global warming was inevitable, and couldn't be reversed.
This is a big problem for those who see human-caused global warming as an irreversible result of the Industrial Revolution's reliance on carbon-based fuels. Based on global warming theory — and according to official weather forecasts made earlier in the year — this winter should be warm and dry. It's anything but. Ice and snow cover vast parts of both Europe and North America, in one of the coldest Decembers in history.
A cautionary tale? You bet. Prognosticators who wrote the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, global warming report in 2007 predicted an inevitable, century-long rise in global temperatures of two degrees or more. Only higher temperatures were foreseen. Moderate or even lower temperatures, as we're experiencing now, weren't even listed as a possibility.
Since at least 1998, however, no significant warming trend has been noticeable. Unfortunately, none of the 24 models used by the IPCC views that as possible. They are at odds with reality.
Karl Popper, the late, great philosopher of science, noted that for something to be called scientific, it must be, as he put it, "falsifiable." That is, for something to be scientifically true, you must be able to test it to see if it's false. That's what scientific experimentation and observation do. That's the essence of the scientific method.
Unfortunately, the prophets of climate doom violate this idea. No matter what happens, it always confirms their basic premise that the world is getting hotter. The weather turns cold and wet? It's global warming, they say. Weather turns hot? Global warming. No change? Global warming. More hurricanes? Global warming. No hurricanes? You guessed it.
Nothing can disprove their thesis. Not even the extraordinarily frigid weather now creating havoc across most of the Northern Hemisphere. The Los Angeles Times, in a piece on the region's strangely wet and cold weather, paraphrases Jet Propulsion Laboratory climatologist Bill Patzert as saying, "In general, as the globe warms, weather conditions tend to be more extreme and volatile."
Got that? No matter what the weather, it's all due to warming. This isn't science; it's a kind of faith. Scientists go along and even stifle dissent because, frankly, hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants are at stake. But for the believers, global warming is the god that failed.
Why do we continue to listen to warmists when they're so wrong? Maybe it's because their real agenda has nothing to do with climate change at all. Earlier this month, attendees of a global warming summit in Cancun, Mexico, concluded, with virtually no economic or real scientific support, that by 2020 rich nations need to transfer $100 billion a year to poor nations to help them "mitigate" the adverse impacts of warming.
This is what global warming is really about — wealth redistribution by people whose beliefs are basically socialist. It has little or nothing to do with climate. If it did, we might pay more attention to Piers Corbyn, a little-known British meteorologist and astrophysicist who has a knack for correctly predicting weather changes. Indeed, as London's Mayor Boris Johnson recently noted, "He seems to get it right about 85% of the time."
How does he do it? Unlike the U.N. and government forecasters, Corbyn pays close attention to solar cycles that, as it turns out, correlate very closely to changes in climate. Not only are we not headed for global warming, Corbyn says, we may be entering a "mini ice age" similar to the one that took place from 1450 A.D. to 1850 A.D.
We don't know if Corbyn's right or not. But given his record, he deserves as much attention as the warm-mongers whose goal is not to arrive at the truth but to reorganize society in a radical way.
More from IBD
December 27th, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) — A powerful East Coast blizzard menaced would-be travelers by air, rail and highway Monday, leaving thousands without a way to get home after the holidays and shutting down major airports and rail lines for a second day.
Officials urged anyone who did not have to drive to stay off roads in the region, where high winds pushed snow into deep drifts across streets, railroads and runways. Nearly a foot and a half of snow was expected to fall by the time the storm wore out later in the day.
In Monmouth County, N.J., state troopers carried water and food to diabetics marooned on two passenger buses carrying about 50 people on the Garden State Parkway, where stranded cars cluttering ramps stymied snow plows and ambulances, state police spokesman Steve Jones told NBC's "Today" show. One bus was freed by 7 a.m. and the other was expected to be out soon, he said. Passengers reported no major medical problems.
In New York City, hundreds of travelers dozed Monday in Long Island Rail Road train cars frozen at the platform. Others lay like refugees at the entrance to the train link to Kennedy Airport and stood helpless at the ticket office, waiting in vain for good news to flash on the schedule screens. Hours went by without a single train leaving with passengers.
Buses were knocked out as well, cabs were little more than a myth and those who tried walking out of the station were assailed with a hard, frigid wind that made snowflakes sting like needles.
"They tried, but they can't do much with this snow. It's just not stopping," said Sharray Jones, 20, headed home to Long Island after visiting friends.
In Philadelphia, cab driver Farid Senoussaoui, 33, described navigating the slippery conditions as "like a video game." Senoussaoui had worked overnight during the storm and said passengers were universally grateful when he would stop to pick them up.
"The first word you hear is, 'Thank you very much," Senoussaoui said.
In New England, many commuters appeared to be heeding the call to stay off the roads. In greater Boston, highways into the city were nearly abandoned early Monday as many workers were given the day off and others were on vacation for the holiday week.
The blizzard-like conditions wreaked havoc on travelers from the Carolinas to Maine.
Airlines scrambled to rebook passengers on thousands of canceled flights — more than 1,400 out of the New York City area's three major airports alone — but said they didn't expect normal service to resume until Tuesday. Amtrak canceled train service from New York to Maine after doing the same earlier for several trains in Virginia.
The Long Island Rail Road, the nation's largest commuter rail system, also suspended service. Bus companies canceled routes up and down the East Coast, and drivers faced hazardous travel conditions — sometimes with close to zero visibility.
New York City's John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports remain closed Monday, as was northern New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport. A spokesman said Boston's Logan International Airport could take days to get back to normal.
Wind gusts of up to 80 mph knocked out power to thousands. Utilities reported about 30,000 customers were out in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, mostly on Cape Cod and south of Boston.
In Wells, Maine, police say a 59-year-old man died several hours after his pickup crashed into a tree during whiteout conditions Sunday night.
Peter Iarossi, a train conductor for MBCR, which operates commuter rail trains for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, saw his normal 15-minute commute stretch to an hour because of the blizzard conditions.
He woke up extra early and was sitting in his idling car at the railyard an hour before his 6:45 a.m. train was to leave to start its run to Boston.
"You're here to bring the people to Boston," Iarossi said. "You don't have an option. People count on you — especially in bad weather."
Emergency room nurse Tiffany Lema, at Newport Hospital in Rhode Island, said her normally 45-minute commute from Cranston, just south of Providence, was an awful two hours, made all the more harrowing when her husband's truck couldn't get up and over the Newport Bridge. They made a U-turn and parked near an E-ZPass electronic toll payment office, where her father-in-law picked her up and drove her the rest of the way.
"I wasn't going to jump out at any point, so we just turned it around. It was kind of scary," said Lema, who planned to spend the night at the hospital with other nurses. "You could see the car in front of you but not over the hill, not over the bridge."
A blizzard warning, which is issued when snow is accompanied by sustained winds or gusts over 35 mph for three hours, was in effect early Monday from Delaware to the far northern tip of Maine. The storm was expected to bring its heaviest snowfall in the pre-dawn hours Monday, sometimes dumping 2 to 4 inches an hour. A total of 12 to 16 inches was expected across nearly all of Rhode Island, Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts, though forecasters said winds of 50 mph could create much deeper snow drifts.
States of emergency were declared in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Maine and Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick urged people who did not have to be on the roads to stay home, to ensure their safety and that of work crews. Nonessential state workers were told to stay home Monday.
In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino declared a snow emergency that bans parking on all major streets, and the New England Aquarium bubble-wrapped its four 5-foot-tall penguin ice sculptures to protect them from the wind and snow.
More than 2,400 sanitation workers were working in 12-hour shifts to clear New York City's 6,000 miles of streets.
The monster storm is the result of a low pressure system off the North Carolina coast and strengthened as it moved northeast, the National Weather Service said. Because of it, parts of the South had their first white Christmas since records have been kept.
Johnson reported from Haverhill, Mass. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Leon Drouin-Keith in New York; Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia; and Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, N.J.
December 26th, 2010
President Barack Obama and his family took a break from their Hawaiian vacation to attend Sunday church services, a rare occurrence for a president who prefers to worship in private.
The first family arrived at a chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii midmorning for a multi-denominational service.
The Obamas were greeted by clapping parishioners and a band playing "Joy to the World" as they were led to their seats in the front row.
In his sermon, chaplain Steve Moses asked worshippers to recommit to God in the new year. He also joked that the reason God put him through a recent heart surgery was so he wouldn't suffer a heart attack while preaching before the president.
Mr Obama was the first worshipper to take communion, dipping the wafer in wine before placing it in his mouth.
Though Mr Obama speaks frequently about his Christian faith, his family rarely attends church services in Washington. The White House says the president hasn't joined a parish because his appearances would be disruptive to the rest of the congregation, though he does attend private services when he spends weekends at Camp David, the presidential retreat.
Mr Obama last attended church in September, shortly after a poll was released indicating that a majority of Americans had doubts about the president's religious beliefs.