Friday, May 30, 2008

Gutenberg & His Printing Press

Livescience looks at the remarkable impact that German inventor Johannes Gutenberg has had on the world with the invention of his printing press. Using Asian typsetting methods, an oil based ink recipe,, his own metal letter molds and s press design based on European grape and olive presses, he revolutionized the written word for the world, allowing literacy to flourish across first Europe and then the globe.

"He didn't invent printing. He didn't even invent movable type. He often ran into legal trouble and, when he died in 1468, he did so with little money or glory. And yet today Johannes Gutenberg is one of the most celebrated inventors in history, chiefly because his chef d'oeuvre – the printing press – allowed his story, as well as the stories of thousands of others, to be set down on paper. Gutenberg's printing press spread literature to the masses for the first time in an efficient, durable way, shoving Europe headlong into the original information age – the Renaissance."

The Guttenberg Bible is widely credited with the assisting the spread of the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. Guttenberg's press design was so successful that it wasn't replaced until the 19th century, when steam powered presses began to be designed.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: I love Vermont. Would you allow me to cover your body with maple syrup?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: [to Sally] I haven't kept up with the boyfriend/girlfriend regulations.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

VP Candidates

Michael Medved (via RCP) has a good column on the prospects of the various VP candidates for Republican nominee John McCain. While I've been assidiously avoiding political subjects lately due to a renewed sense of frustration with the entire process, it seemed like a good time to review the subject. McCain had a meeting over the weekend with three possiblities, former nomination opponent Gov. Mitt Romney, and Governors Charlie Christ of Florida and Bobby Jindal of Lousiana.

Romney brings some obvious strengths to the table, including a solid business and economic acumen, strong social conservative credentials, and the possibility of turning some blue states (like Michigan, where his father was governor a generation ago) red. Weaknesses include his history of mutating his stance on specific issues and the disaster that is Massachussets' healthcare plan. His Mormon faith could also an issue with voters in some regions (both postive and negative) of the nation as well.

Gov. Christ is a popular youthful (52) executive in a swing state, could also assist truning the column in Pennsylvania (where he was raised) and has a strong history on criminal issues as Florida Attorney General. His negatives include a less than enthusiastic embrace of social conservative issues, and issues surrounding his personal life - he divorced in 1980 and has been linked to several glamorous female companions.

Gov. Jindal is the even younger (36), brilliant (Rhodes scholar), extremely popular in his home state, has Congressional and other governmental experience, and has a compelling life story, being the son of immigrants and converting to Catholicism in high school. He also holds a lifetime American Conservative Rating score of 98%, and would be the first Asian-American on a ticket from either party, counteracting some of the Obama effect. His major negative is his age and his short stint so far as governor, but given his experience in government (for more than Obama, for example), this could be counter-productive for opponents to emphasize.

Other possibilites examined in some detail include Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, former Penn. Gov. and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, and former Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma.

Then there are the women candidates, which is a disntinct possibility, as Medved explains:

"The claims by Hillary Clinton supporters that their favorite suffered from “sexism” provides a juicy opportunity for the GOP to place a female on the ticket and to benefit from this disgruntlement. If Obama fails to select Hillary (and he seems determined to avoid her if he possibly can) he probably can’t choose another woman (like Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas) because any such selection would less qualified, less logical, than Senator Clinton herself.

In any event, if the GOP could turn to a strongly qualified female, it might create a good deal of excitement and media enthusiasm for the ticket. The problem is that there’s no obvious female contender and the leading names display serious shortcomings."

Medved takes a quick look at Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, North Carolina Senator Libby Dole, and then Medved throws out a surprise possibility I hadn't even heard of, much less considered: Gov. Jodi Rell of Conneticut.

"It’s amazing that this phenomenally popular Governor of Connecticut hasn’t received more attention. In her re-election bid (2006), she received the most votes for governor of any candidate in state history, crushing her Democratic opponent 63% to 36%, in a heavily Democratic state in a nightmarishly tough year for Republicans. Her recent approval ratings approach a stratospheric 80%."

At 62, Rell has a great deal of experience in government, is strong on social con issues, is the wife of a Navy pilot and a breast cancer survivor. Her only negative could be a positive - despite attending three different colleges, she never graduated, and would be the first person on a ticket since Truman without a parchment.

Since he does it so well, I'll let Medved sum it up -

"Bobby Jindal offers the GOP the best chance in many years for reshaping the party's tarnished, tired image without in any way abandoning timeless conservative principles. McCain should select the Louisiana governor several weeks before the convention, to get maximum benefit from his candidacy....If McCain for some reason misses this obvious choice, Mary Jodi Rell of Connecticut offers another ground-breaking possibility which Democrats will find tough to smear.....One of the main needs for the entire party in facing down the energized Democrats in what looks like a tough year for the GOP is a jolt of electricity, of freshness, to send a message that this isn't just your grandfather's GOP -- it's a new, dynamic, determined party ready to lead the country in a bold new conservative direction. Republicans can't win merely by scaring people about Obama. The American people truly do crave change and with his selection of a running mate McCain should signal that they can get the right kind of change -- more freedom, less government and more world leadership, less America-bashing -- by electing Republicans. The choice of the right ticket-mate is particularly important this year not just because of Senator McCain's advanced age, but because of the Republican Party's desperate and obvious need to improve its image."

I have to admit I am intrigued by the different possibilities, and have to agree that a real change of direction is needed. You have to wonder if McCain will go with the usual establishment white guy with a regional impact or make the more dramatic move. Jindal would be an awfully inspiring choice, Rell almost as much so, but you have to wonder if either would really want the job. Whatever the decision, the opposing candidate and their team will be incredibly formidable, and I expect another tough campaign with a razor sharp finish.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: [to Brad] I have trouble talking that fast. I don't believe in being straight up, but I'm a big fan of your Aqua Velva commercials.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan [leaving bathroom stall] Shirley.
Shirley: Alan.
Alan: You're in the men's room again.
Shirley: I need a favor.
Alan: Certainly, My stall or yours?

Friday, May 23, 2008

NASA Announces Hubble Mission Schedule

via, NASA has announced the scheduled launch of the shuttle Atlantis on Oct. 8 for the fifth and last Hubble Space Telescope maitenance mission. The mission is expected to last 11 days and has five spacewalks planned.

"shuttle astronauts will install two new science instruments plus a set of gyroscopes to help stabilize the telescope, as well as batteries and thermal blankets to keep the observatory operating until at least 2013.

Astronauts will also install a soft capture mechanism that will allow a future unmanned spacecraft to dock with Hubble in about 2020 and de-orbit it for a controlled plunge and disposal in the ocean."

The mission is also expected to attempt the repair of two failed instruments that have not previously been attempted in orbit. The Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which failed a year ago this month, have both been instrumental in confirming a number of scientific discoveries.

"STIS separates incoming light into its constituent colors, giving astronomers a chemical map of distant objects. Since its deployment, STIS has been critical in the confirmation of black holes at the centers of galaxies, made the first discovery of an atmosphere around an exoplanet and helped confirm the age of the universe."

The mission is also adding two instruments to the observatory, the Wide Field Camera 3, a "panchromatic" camera, and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), which will examine the 'cosmic web' of dark matter strands connecting various galaxies throughout the universe.

Boston Legal Quotes

Alan: Why does Shirley get to skip the staff meeting?
Paul: She's got a trial in New York later this week so she has a busy day.
Brad: Some of us have trials today, so if you don't mind, and like to cut out.
Laurie: What's your case about, Brad?
Alan: What is it about?
Brad: It involves interference with contractual relations.
Alan: You mean lesbians?
Paul: Where are you?
Brad: Today they're calling Tracy to testify that her ex-lover-
Alan: Lesbian ex-lover.
Brad: to testify that her ex-lover was scamming her for money. Tracy was not an actual bonafide -
Alan: Lesbian?
Brad: You like saying it.
Alan: I do.
Brad: Say it again.
Alan: Lesbian. Lesbian, lesbian -
Brad: Keep going.
Alan: Lesbian, lesbian, lesbian. All together now!
Entire staff: Lesbian.
Alan: I also like to watch. How many people -
Paul: That's enough, this is a staff meeting, I'll ask you all to conduct yourselves appropriately and professionally.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Exoplanet Totals Nearing 300

The Universe Today examines one of the newest members of astronomic exoplanet discovery community, the COROT (Convection, Rotation and planetary Transits) spacetelescope, which has discovered two new 'hot Jupiter' type planets, and another very interesting anomolous object believed to be an extremely small brown dwarf, only 20 Jupiter masses. If it is a star, it would be the smallest ever detected. There are also some indications it may have a small planet, perhaps just 1.7 Earth masses.

"COROT launched in December 2006, with operations beginning in February of 2007. So far the mission has found four exoplanets. The mission started observations of its sixth star field at the beginning of May this year. During this observation phase, which will last 5 months, the spacecraft will simultaneously observe 12,000 stars."

The current confirmed number of exoplanets today is 287.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''Who would you rather have as your attorney? Me? Or Hacky McGuilty Verdict here?''

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''She is the sexiest woman on earth. Unless of course you go for preggos, in which case, it's Angelina.''

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''Well, you know, Brian, given our relationship, I feel entitled to be honest, the way friends are during difficult times. Can I be honest with you, Brian? You're a bastard, and a greedy one at that... This is about ambition, not morality, you greedy, sniveling, little wop.''

Monday, May 19, 2008

How Coffee Changed the World

The latest from Livescience on items/events that changed the world examines the role and history of the little bean that changed the world, coffee. I've always said the productivity of the American economy is probably more dependent on drinking coffee than any other piece of technology or substance. Coffee is the second most important commodity worldwide (oil is the first) and employes nearly 500 million people worldwide. Coffee was discoverd almost one thousand years ago in Ethiopia by a farmer whose goats kept him up all night after eating a quantity of the beans. A monastary then began to brew it into a hot drink, aiding the monks to stay awake during long prayer vigils, then the drink crossed the Red Sea into Yemen, where it spread like wildfire throughout the Islamic world, and then on to Europe.

"Romantic exaggeration or not, by A.D. 1000 the bean with a buzz was a favorite among those needing a boost in East Africa as well as across the Red Sea in Yemen, where the crop had migrated over with slaves.

If Ethiopia was the birthplace of coffee, Yemen was where it grew up. The brew first took hold among clerics there too, but spillover into the secular crowd didn't take long and skyrocketing demand soon led to the world's first cultivated coffee fields there in the 1300s. The entire Arabian peninsula became a hotbed of coffeehouse culture, with cafés – called kaveh kanes – on every corner.

By the 15th-century, Mecca resembled a medieval incarnation of Seattle, men sipping steaming mugs over games of chess and political conversations. Coffee houses were such an important place to gather and discuss that they were often called Schools of the Wise. Coffee had much the same effect in Europe when it was introduced there in the 1600s. Cafés were the center of social life, where people with similar interests could gather and talk. The British insurance company, Lloyd's of London, began as a café popular with sailors who often discussed insurance matters."

The Muslim world had careful export restrictions for hundreds of years preventing the the export of mature beans until an intrepid pilgrim to Mecca arrived from India and smuggled some out of the country back home, leading to an agricultural revolution on the subcontinent. The Dutch later managed to acquire a plant, from which they cultivated crops in their colonies in Southeastern Asia islands like Java and Sumatra. Beans followed European conquests worldwide, entering areas such as Brazil, Central America, Jamaica, and Hawaii. There are as many as 25 million small farmers world wide raising coffee today.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''Waive reading Judge. And ask that these ridiculous charges be dismissed on the grounds of ridiculousness.''

Friday, May 16, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''Canada. Japan. England. Any number of those pinko countries, I'd be in jail for shooting somebody''

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So Weird I Had to Post on It

Unbeknownst to most of us up to today there has not been a strict medical definition of that most embarassing and distressing of male dysfunctions (for both parties), we commonly call premature ejaculation. Apparently the good physicians involved have decided if you can't hold off for at least 60 seconds you should be diagnosed with the condition.

The snazzy edition of new definition:

"A male sexual dysfunction characterized by ejaculation which always or nearly always occurs prior to or within about one minute of vaginal penetration; and, inability to delay ejaculation on all or nearly all vaginal penetrations; and, negative personal consequences, such as distress, bother, frustration and/or the avoidance of sexual intimacy."

Thank goodness we finally have that settled. World peace is almost sure to break out now.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny:''My friend, I can't tell you how good it is to see you. I gotta be honest with you, I thought you were dead.''

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Chips Could End Age of Silicon

vis ScienceDaily, news of a potentially paradigm shifting invention for the semiconductor industy. Weixiao Huang, working towards his doctorate at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has created a new type of semiconductor made from the material gallium nitride. Gallium has long been noted for its superior conductive properties, but its use in computing has been limited to the world of high-end supercomputing, primarily in systems built by Cray Systems using extermely expensive gallium arsenide as the material for processing chips. This new material shows promise as a much cheaper alternative that could potentially replace the silicon used in current computing systems.

"The new GaN transistor could reduce the power consumption and improve the efficiency of power electronics systems in everything from motor drives and hybrid vehicles to house appliances and defense equipment.

"Silicon has been the workhorse in the semiconductor industry for last two decades," Huang said. "But as power electronics get more sophisticated and require higher performing transistors, engineers have been seeking an alternative like gallium nitride-based transistors that can perform better than silicon and in extreme conditions."

The new chips have already posted record setting performance characteristics and have also shown to be highly durable, able to withstand harsh high temperature environments and even high radiation levels. In addition, it appears the material allows the integration of several functions onto a single chip, as well as running with a higher energy conversion efficiency.

While probably as far away as ten years or better from the marketplace, this new invention appears quite likely to revolutionize (once again) the computing industry. Start buying your stock now.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''She said she wanted to fulfill every single one of my fantasies. I made a list. Had to type it myself. My assistant threatened to quit.''

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How the Medici Changed the World

Latest from Livescience on events that changed the world examines the role of the Florentine Medici family. The fabulously wealthy merchant and banking family played a leading role in the Medieval Renaissance, sponsoring numerous building projects and patronizing influential artists like de Vinci and Michaelangelo.

"Like a medieval ATM, one family bankrolled the cultural movement that dragged Europe out of the Dark Ages and into modernity. With their love for art, science and culture, the Medici of Florence catalyzed the Renaissance that began in the 14th century, making household names of da Vinci, Michelangelo and Galileo in the process. The revival of learning, rationality and the arts patronized by the Medici in Italy spread throughout Europe, sped along by the invention of the printing press, and forever transformed the Western world."

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''Here's what you need to know about the practice of law, son. It all comes down to money. I've got it. He doesn't. I'll win. Denny Crane.''

Monday, May 12, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''You would agree, Mr. Mayor, that by and large, vegetarians are communists?''

Friday, May 09, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''Thing is, I like you. Actually, I love you. That's a difficult thing for Denny Crane to say. Unless it's part of foreplay.''

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Probe Planned for Solar Study

NASA, John Hopkins University Advanced PHysics Lab are planning an ambitious new solar probe that will travel closer to the Sun than any other manmade device ever. The probe will be used to study the charged particles of the solar wind directly from the Sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, where the wind is generated. The probe, costing an estimated $750 million, will likley launch in 2015. The expedition to the sun has been planned for almost 30 years, the time it has taken to overcome the serious technical obstacles in approaching so close to our parent star.

"At closest approach Solar Probe would zip past the sun at 125 miles per second, protected by a carbon-composite heat shield that must withstand up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit and survive blasts of radiation and energized dust at levels not experienced by any previous spacecraft."

There are an impressive list of goals for the craft, including:

"Solar Probe will employ a combination of in-place and remote measurements to achieve the mission’s primary scientific goals: determine the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields at the sources of solar wind; trace the flow of energy that heats the corona and accelerates the solar wind; determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles; and explore dusty plasma near the sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation.

The probe will weigh in at around 1000 pounds, have a nine foot carbon heat shield, and have two external solar arrays to provide power. Seven flybys of the planet Venus will allow the probe to shrink its orbit to just over 4 million miles from the Sun, over eight times closer than any previous spacecraft has come.

Boston Legal Quotes

''Alan, I have trouble with this sort of subject matter...It's my father. Sometimes he wore dresses. He called it a kilt and sang all those Scottish songs, but we knew.''

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Remaining Shuttle Missions

with the shuttle on the launch pad for STS-124, the Universe Today showcases the planned remaining 11 shuttle missions, with the last scheduled for July 2010 before the shuttle's retirement that year.

STS-124, the current mission, is slated to delivery the Japanese Kibo laboratroy module to the ISS.

STS-125, slated for October this year, is the fifth and last Hubble Space Telescope repair mission, which should allow the telescope to operate safely until 2013.

STS-126 is scheduled just a month later and is a supply and crew exchange mission to the ISS.

STS-119 is an ISS construciton misison scheduled for February 2009 and will deliver a fourth truss segment and set of solar arrays for the ISS.

STS-127 is another ISS misison scheduled for March 2009 and will deliver the last component of the Japanese lab module, the 'storage closet' called the Exposed Facility.

STS-128 will deliver supplies and equipment to the ISS later in the spring of 2009 allowing the ISS crew to be expanded going forward from the current 3 members to 6.

STS-129 will deliver the first two of four planned ExPRESS Logistics carriers in July 2009 that will allow ISS experiments to be conducted 'outside' the station.

STS-130 scheduled for fall 2009 (could slip to Jan. 2010) may be Endeavor's last flight and is scheduled to be another resupply mission.

STS-131 scheduled for Feb. 2010, will definitely be the last flight of Atlantis, and will deliver a Docking Port module and the last two ExPRESS carriers to the ISS.

STS-132 is scheduled for April 2010, will be the last flight of Discovery and will deliver a the Node 3 components, including a robotic workstation and advanced life support equipment.

STS-133 is a contingency mission which would be flown by Endeavor only if needed to complete ISS construction and which could possibly deliver a fifth ExPRESS carrier should station managers decide it is needed.

With the completion of the ISS and the retirement of the shuttle fleet, an amazing and significant period in the history of human space exploration will come to a close.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''She's got Denny Crane written all over her.''

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''There's a difference in being an ass and being effective. When you win, they say you're effective. When you lose, which I never do, they call you an ass.''

Monday, May 05, 2008

How the Black Death Changed the World

Missed this last week from Livescience, from its "World Chainging Events" series. The plague killed as much as 1/3 of Europe, and an estimated 75 million died as a result of the disease. One theory holds the impact of the disease was magnified by the medieval "Little Ice Age", where global temperature levels dropped by as much as 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Both people and the rats carrying the disease huddled for warmth indoors, greatly aiding the spread of the plague.

"Following very precisely the medieval trade routes from China, through Central Asia and Turkey, the plague finally reached Italy in 1347 aboard a merchant ship whose crew had all already died or been infected by the time it reached port. Densely populated Europe, which had seen a recent growth in the population of its cities, was a tinderbox for the disease.

The Black Death ravaged the continent for three years before it continued on into Russia, killing one-third to one-half of the entire population in ghastly fashion.

The plague killed indiscriminately – young and old, rich and poor – but especially in the cities and among groups who had close contact with the sick. Entire monasteries filled with friars were wiped out and Europe lost most of its doctors. In the countryside, whole villages were abandoned. The disease reached even the isolated outposts of Greenland and Iceland, leaving only wild cattle roaming free without any farmers, according to chroniclers who visited years later."

The impact of the disease included better working conditions for peasants due to labor shortages, an increase in skepticism of the Catholic Church, and the scapegoating of European Jews, with a number of upleasant incidents, to say the least. Many Jews fled into Eastern Europe from other areas. World population levels took centuries to recover.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: "It's got everything. Sex. Politics. Everything but one key ingredient. Denny Crane. I'm in."

Friday, May 02, 2008

Earth's Gooey Internal Structure

Livescience editor Rob Roy Britt examines some of the new findings & new ideas on the Earth's internal composition, being releases in Science magazine. The old core, mantle and crust structure theory has been shown to be a tad simplistic.

The crust extends from the surface to a depth of about 25 miles surrounding the mantle, an area of hot silicate rock, now divided into the upper and lower mantles, extending to a depth of around 1800 miles. Deeper yet is the nickel-iron core, which can also be further discriminated into an outer and inner core region. Some of the new analysis shows the mantle is composed of slightly different material than initially believed, with two large 'blobs' of chemically distinct materials on each side of the planet, one under the Pacific and the other under the Atlantic and Africa. An ASU researcher describes it this way:

"Imagine a pot of water boiling," explains researcher Allen McNamara of Arizona State University. "That would be all one kind of composition. Now dump a jar of honey into that pot of water. The honey would be convecting on its own inside the water and that's a much more complicated system."

The new theories regarding the Earth's interior composition help explain the quite curious way seismic waves travel through the Earth when an event occurs, with the waves making unexplained speed changes as they travel throught the planet.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: "We're talking juries. It always comes down to simple. And, I mean, there's nobody simpler than me."

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another McCain Veep Possibility

John Gizzi throws out another name for the McCain Veepstakes, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and appears to have some very strong economic credentials, which are probably one of Mac's weaker issues.

"On the lower tax front, Ryan is a strong booster of McCain’s proposal to drop the gasoline tax for the summer and, on behalf of the Republican Study Committee, has introduced the Tax Fair Choice Act. As he told us, “it which has an alternative tax system you can choose to have if you want to. Right now, you have to fill out two codes. AMT and the 1040 code. Under our bill, you can pick and then go. You can use the current system, or the new system, which has a top rate of 25%."

Ryan is apparently very popular with his colleagues, young (38) and favors private accounts as a way of achieving Social Security reform. He also has been a strong proponent of the 2nd Amendment, pro-life legislation and tough on illegal immigration.

Sounds like he could be a serious contender if Mac is looking for some regional and generational balance for the ticket.

Boston Legal Quotes

Denny: ''As God-like as I seem to you and other people, there's a mortal inside this God-like shell.''