January 12th, 2011
Wine makes superconductors better at their jobs. And apparently, it makes some scientists better at their jobs too.
Superconductors behave like most metals; they conduct electricity. They do so, however, with a twist. All metal has some resistance to the flow of electricity. But when the temperature drops, superconductors get less and less resistant (and therefore more conductive). When they reach very low temperatures, their resistance drops to zero.
Yoshihiko Takano and other researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan were in the process of creating a certain kind of superconductor by putting a compound in hot water and soaking it for hours. They also soaked the compound in a mixture of water and ethanol. It appears the process was going well, because the scientists decided to have a little party. The party included sake, whisky, various wines, shochu, and beer. At a certain point, the researchers decided to try soaking the compound in the many, many liquors they had on hand and seeing how they compared to the more conventional soaking liquids.
When they tested the resulting materials for superconductivity, they found that the ones soaked in commercial booze came out ahead. About 15 percent of the material became a superconductor for the water mixed with ethanol, and less for the pure water. By comparison, Shochu jacked up conductivity by 23 percent and red wine managed to supercharge over 62 percent of the material. The scientists were pleased, if bemused with their results.
So, a little sip of something turns out to make potential superconductors much better at their jobs. And, perhaps, scientists better at their jobs as well.
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January 12th, 2011
Astronomers have restored the original Babylonian zodiac by recalculating the dates that correspond with each sign to accommodate millennia of subtle shifts in the Earth's axis. Prepare to have your minds blown, all you people with easily blowable minds.
Here is the zodiac as the ancient Babylonians intended it—with the dates corresponding to the times of the year that the sun is actually in each constellation's "house"—according to the Minnesota Planetarium Society's Parke Kunkle:
Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16.
Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11.
Pisces: March 11-April 18.
Aries: April 18-May 13.
Taurus: May 13-June 21.
Gemini: June 21-July 20.
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10.
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16.
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30.
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23.
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29.
Ophiuchus:* Nov. 29-Dec. 17.
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20.
* Discarded by the Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs per year.
I was born a Virgo, and because that's the shittiest sign in the zodiac, I have long refused to believe in astrology and forbid my loved ones from believing in it, either. (My anal retentive need to destroy an entire worldview because I do not like my role in it is, I am told, part of my Virgo nature.) If I'm really a Leo, though, who knows. [Star Tribune, Fox News, WTHR via LadyE. Image via Shutterstock.com]
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ail to Maureen O'Connor, the author of this post, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 12th, 2011
By Jim Meyers
MSNBC host Chris Matthews has joined the voices on the left seeking to blame conservative talk radio and the right for Jared Loughner’s deadly rampage in Arizona, linking radio talkers Michael Savage and Mark Levin to the tragedy.
In a discussion with two liberal talk radio hosts on “Hardball” Tuesday night, Matthews essentially blamed Savage and Levin for creating a climate of hate that led to the Tucson shootings that killed six and injured 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Savage told Newsmax that Matthews’ remarks constituted “malicious libel.”
January 12th, 2011
President Reagan said, "We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions." Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.
I agree! While I don't think there's any harm in having a discussion about how the existence of toxic discourse creates an environment given to terrible crimes, such as this weekend's mass murder in Tucson, Arizona, I certainly agree that it's wrong to assign criminal culpability to anyone other than the perpetrators of criminal acts. If others want to use the occasion to ponder our moral responsibility, that's a sign of our strength and thoughtfulness, not a sign of our guilt. If we all become slightly better people for the experience, so much the better.
That said, I'm mildly surprised to see Palin endorsing these ideas. Not that I don't welcome it! Indeed, "acts of monstrous criminality" do "stand on their own," and there's no reason whatsoever to impugn the character of anyone outside of those acts, especially anyone who's a "law-abiding citizen" just "respectfully exercising" their "First Amendment rights" to freely exercise their religious faith or speak or peaceably assemble or publish or petition their government for redress of their grievances.
But if that's the case, why was Sarah Palin so opposed to the law-abiding citizens of New York City who maybe wanted to freely exercise their religious faith and maybe play some basketball and foster interfaith activities in Lower Manhattan? Chalk it up to a self-refudiation, I guess. Anyway, got to celebrate it! (I'm still going to let John Dickerson have his say about the whole "blood libel" thing, though.)
January 12th, 2011
By JULIE PACE and BEN FELLER
TUCSON, Ariz. – Summoning the soul of a nation, President Barack Obama on Wednesday implored Americans to honor those slain and injured in the Arizona shootings by becoming better people, telling a polarized citizenry that it is time to talk with each other "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds." Following a hospital bedside visit with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the assassination, he said: "She knows we're here, and she knows we love her."
In a memorably dramatic moment, the president said that Giffords, who on Saturday was shot point-blank in the head, had opened her eyes for the first time shortly after his hospital visit. First lady Michelle Obama held hands with Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, as the news brought soaring cheers throughout the arena.
Speaking at a memorial at the University of Arizona, Obama bluntly conceded that there is no way to know what triggered the shooting rampage that left six people dead, 13 others wounded and the nation shaken. He tried instead to leave indelible memories of the people who were gunned down and to rally the country to use the moment as a reflection on the nation's behavior and compassion.
"I believe we can be better," Obama said to a capacity crowd in the university's basketball arena — and to countless others watching around the country.
"Those who died here, those who saved lives here — they help me believe," the president said. "We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."
In crafting his comments, Obama clearly sought a turning point in the raw debate that has defined national politics. After offering personal accounts of every person who died, he challenged anyone listening to think of how to honor their memories, and he was not shy about offering direction. He admonished against any instinct to point blame or to drift into political pettiness or to latch onto simple explanations that may have no merit.
"At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds," the president said.
The shooting happened as Giffords, a three-term Democrat who represents southern Arizona, was holding a community outreach event in a Tucson shopping center parking lot Saturday. A gunman shot her in the head and worked his way down the line of people waiting to talk with her, law enforcement officials said. The attack ended when bystanders tackled the man, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, who is in custody.
Obama's speech, by turns somber and hopeful, at times took on the tone of an exuberant pep rally as he heralded the men who wrestled the gunman to the ground, the woman who grabbed the shooter's ammunition, the doctors and nurses who treated the injured, the intern who rushed to Giffords' aid. The crowd erupted in multiple standing ovations as each was singled out for praise.
Memories of the six people killed dominated much of Obama's speech. The president, for example, recalled how federal Judge John Roll was on his way from attending Mass when he stopped to say hello to Giffords and was gunned down; Dorothy Morris, shielded by her husband, but killed nonetheless; and Phyllis Schneck, a Republican who took a shine to Giffords, a Democrat, and wanted to know her better. He spoke at length of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, the only girl on her Little League team, who often said she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues. She had just been elected to the student council at her elementary school and had an emerging interest in public service.
"I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it," Obama said. The little girl was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and had been featured in a book about 50 babies born that day. The inscriptions near her photo spoke of wishes for a happy child's life, including splashing in puddles.
Said Obama: "If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today."
Obama hit an emotional high point when he told of Giffords opening her eyes for the first time not long after his visit to her bedside.
"Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her, and she knows that we are rooting for her through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult journey," Obama said. The announcement drew wild cheers from the crowd.
As finger-pointing emerged in Washington and beyond over whether harsh political rhetoric played a role in creating motivation for the attack, Obama sought to calm the rhetoric.
"Bad things happen," he said, "and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath."
He spoke of decency and goodness, declaring: "The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."
Obama spoke to a crowd of more than 13,000 in the arena and thousands more listened on from an overflow area in the football stadium. About a mile away, at University Medical Center, Giffords lay fighting for her life. Other victims also remained there hospitalized.
__ Gillian Flaccus in Tucson contributed to this report. Feller reported from Washington.