Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for October 30th, 2009

BP fined $87m for Texas explosion

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

BP logoBP has been fined a record $87m (£53m) for failing to correct safety hazards at its Texas City refinery in the US.

An explosion in 2005 at the Texas plant killed 15 people and injured 180 more.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited 270 violations at the oil refinery, a US Labor Department official said.

BP said it believed it was in “full compliance” with a 2005 settlement agreement with OSHA and would work with the agency to resolve the issue.

The $87m fine is the largest in OSHA’s history.

In 2005, BP paid a $21.3m fine to OSHA and entered into a four-year agreement to repair hazards at the Texas City refinery, which is the third largest in the US.

The latest fine follows a six-month inspection into whether BP had complied with that agreement. …

The safety violations found “could lead to another catastrophe”, US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said.

“An $87m fine won’t restore those lives [lost in the 2005 explosion], but we can’t let this happen again. Workplace safety is more than a slogan. It’s the law,” Ms Solis said.

BP said in a statement: “While we strongly disagree with [OSHA’s] conclusions, we will continue to work with the agency to resolve our differences.”

The firm will now have 15 days to either agree to pay the fine and take corrective action, or to contest the penalty through a hearing process.

BP was fined $50m by the Department of Justice in 2007 to settle criminal charges stemming from the Texas explosion.

Lawyers for the victims’ families said this was not enough.

The company has also paid more than $2bn to settle civil lawsuits and says it has invested more than $1 billion to repair safety problems at Texas City. …

via BBC NEWS | Business | BP fined $87m for Texas explosion.

Posted in Money, Politics | Leave a Comment »

3,000 images combine for Milky Way portrait

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

Image: Milky Way

To combine these images, a simple cutting and pasting job would not suffice. Each photograph is a two-dimensional projection of the celestial sphere. As such, each one contains distortions, in much the same way that flat maps of the round Earth are distorted. In order for the images to fit together seamlessly, those distortions had to be accounted for. To do that, Mellinger used a mathematical model — and hundreds of hours in front of a computer.

Another problem he had to deal with was the differing background light in each photograph.

“Due to artificial light pollution, natural air glow, as well as sunlight scattered by dust in our solar system, it is virtually impossible to take a wide-field astronomical photograph that has a perfectly uniform background,” Mellinger said.

To fix this, Mellinger used data from the Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes. The data allowed him to distinguish star light from unwanted background light. He could then edit out the varying background light in each photograph and fit them together so that they wouldn’t look patchy.

via 3,000 images combine for Milky Way portrait – Space.com- msnbc.com.

Awesome… It would make a great space ship.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Inventor makes water out of air

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

Coolest thing I’ve seen all day.

A French inventor has come up with a windmill that turns thin air into water and says his creation could offer hope to millions of people around the world who do not have enough water.

Air-to-water windmill inventor Marc Parent.

via Inventor makes water out of air | Video | Reuters.com.

Posted in Technology | 2 Comments »

Living wallpaper that devices can relate to

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

Enhanced living (Image: Leah Buechley)Who says wallflowers don’t grab people’s attention? A new type of electronically enhanced wallpaper promises not only eye-pleasing designs, but also the ability to activate lamps and heaters – and even control music systems.

Interactive walls are nothing new, but most rely on expensive sensors and power-hungry projectors to make the wall come alive. Now the Living Wall project, led by Leah Buechley at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, offers an alternative by using magnetic and conductive paints to create circuitry in attractive designs.

When combined with cheap temperature, brightness and touch sensors, LEDs and Bluetooth, the wall becomes a control surface able to “talk” to nearby devices. You can touch a flower to turn on a lamp, for example, or set heaters to fire up when the room gets cold.

“Our goal is to make technologies that users can build on and change without needing a lot of technical skill,” says Buechley.

To create the wallpaper, the team started with steel foil sandwiched between layers of paper that are coated with magnetic paint – acrylic paint infused with iron particles. Over this base they paint motifs such as flowers and vines using conductive paint, which uses copper particles rather than iron. The designs form circuits to which sensors, lights and other elements can be attached.

“It really is just a sheet of paper, and could be produced with existing printing and construction methods,” Buechley says.

via Living wallpaper that devices can relate to – tech – 28 October 2009 – New Scientist.

I had an idea years ago for a wall paper entertainment system. Turn all of your walls and ceiling, possibly even your floor into HD screens and you could do some amazing things. Beginnings of a Holodeck.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

‘Impossible’ Device Could Propel Flying Cars, Stealth Missiles

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

emdrive-spaceplaneThe Emdrive is an electromagnetic drive that would generate thrust from a closed system — “impossible” say some experts.

To critics, it’s flat-out junk science, not even worth thinking about. But its inventor, Roger Shawyer, has doggedly continued his work. As Danger Room reported last year, Chinese scientists claimed to validate his math and were building their own version.

Shawyer gave a presentation earlier this week on the Emdrive’s progress at the CEAS 2009 European Air & Space Conference. It answered few questions, but hinted at how the Emdrive might transform spaceflight — and warfare. If the technology works, that is.

The heart of the Emdrive is a resonant, tapered cavity filled with microwaves. According to Shawyer, a relativistic effect generates a net thrust, an effect confirmed by various Emdrives he has built as demonstrations. Critics say that any thrust from the drive must come from another source. Shawyer is adamant that the measured thrust is not caused by other factors.

While the argument over the drive’s impossibility continues, so does the engineering work. The problem is that nobody wants to talk about it. Even Shawyer gives little away.

Last year, professor Yang Juan of the College of Astronautics at Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xi’an was happy to confirm that they were building an Emdrive which would be tested by the end of the year. But following the publication of this news in Danger Room, the situation changed. I was informed that the publicity was very unwelcome, especially any suggestion that there might be a military application. (Yang had previous published a study on the use of plasma as a weapon against low-orbiting satellites. [.pdf]) No further information has been forthcoming, and no Chinese papers have been published on the Emdrive, though Yang has recently published work on (unrelated) microwave plasma thrusters (.pdf).

Shawyer asserts that work is also being carried out in France, Russia and in the United States by a major aerospace company. But he cannot provide details beyond vague promises of “significant progress [that] has been made in both theoretical and experimental work, within these groups.” He also asserts that the British National Space Centre is said to be reviewing the Emdrive. Again, no details.

via ‘Impossible’ Device Could Propel Flying Cars, Stealth Missiles | Danger Room | Wired.com.

Posted in Alt Energy, Technology | Leave a Comment »

‘Miracle’ fail? Communion wafer becomes “heart tissue”.

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

The Catholic Church in Poland is investigating claims of a miracle after a piece of communion wafer was reported to have been transformed into human heart tissue after falling into water during a mass. In an incident that has generated a storm of publicity in devout Poland, Professor Maria Sobaniec-Lotowaska, of the medical university in Bialystok, has dumbfounded sceptics by saying she considered the material found in the container as heart tissue. But her findings have already been dismissed by other scientists.

“The professor saw what she wanted to see. She is very religious,” said Prof Lech Chyczewski, a blood specialist. “In order to rule out any doubts, it would have been necessary to carry out molecular and genetic testing.”

Pawel Grzesiowskia, a leading biologist from the National Medical Institute, has attributed the miracle to nothing more than bacteria growing on the small piece of wafer, which fell into a water container during a mass in the eastern village of Sokolka. But this has failed to quell many believing that something miraculous took place. The Catholic Church said already ruled out the possibility of a hoax, and local police have said that there is no evidence of fraud.

via ‘Miracle’ as communion wafer becomes heart tissue – Telegraph.

Did a qualified scientist examine the sample under a microscope? Section it and look at the type of muscle cells? Who did the DNA tests?  Where are the pictures and test results?  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

Posted in Religion | Leave a Comment »

See ghosts? There may be a medical reason

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

http://z.hubpages.com/u/703011_f520.jpgSpooky footsteps, faint figures, the feeling of being watched – these unsettling signs of a ghost are as familiar to us as the goose bumps on the back of our arm (or neck).

But are there physiological explanations for those things that go bump in the night? …

“ghosts” are often the result of pranks, environmental phenomenon, or physiological conditions such as sleep paralysis and the hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations that accompany it.

Carbon monoxide poisoning – and the hallucinations that can occur with it – is another possible explanation, although Nickell says he’s never encountered this scenario.

… In 1921, the American Journal of Ophthalmology published a case study involving a couple who moved into a house and promptly began to suffer headaches, listlessness and strange auditory and visual hallucinations (footsteps, mysterious figures, strange sensations, etc.). Their symptoms were finally traced to a faulty furnace.

A more recent case in 2005 involved a woman who was found delirious and hyperventilating after seeing a “ghost” while taking a shower; respondents discovered a new gas water heater had been improperly installed, flooding her house with carbon monoxide. …

via See ghosts? There may be a medical reason – The Body Odd – msnbc.com.

Posted in Biology, Paranormal | Leave a Comment »

Darpa Looks To Send The Internet Into Orbit

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

There’ve been satellites orbiting Earth for half a century. But getting information to and from them is still a pain. Which is why Pentagon research arm Darpa is looking to finally hook the orbiting spacecraft up with reliable broadband connections.

It’s part of a larger movement to extend terrestrial networks into space, and eventually build an “Interplanetary Internet.” In the meantime, we might even get less-than-crappy satellite internet service – if the project works out, of course.

Darpa recently issued a request for information about supplying “persistent broadband ground connectivity for spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.” The idea would be to give these satellites a near-constant feed of “100 kbps or higher” two-way connectivity, with end-to-end transmission latency of less than a second.

Unlike most Darpa projects, which are meant to pay off years or decades in the future, this would be a near-term attempt. The agency wants the system “operational in the 2012 to 2013 time frame.”

Brian Weeden, a former officer with U.S. Air Force Space Command and a technical adviser with the Secure World Foundation, says Darpa’s help would be most welcome.

“The protocol that the internet uses – TCP/IP – wasn’t really designed with space in mind. For one, the delay times between nodes can be big. One way to GEO [geosynchronous orbit] is 300 milliseconds at the speed of light, there and back over half a second of built-in network lag before anything else adds to it. That’s one reason why getting internet from satellites sucks right now,” he tells Danger Room.

“If you go lower than GEO, then of course satellites are always moving and thus not always overhead. It would be a huge help to have a protocol that can automatically store and forward packets when the satellite is present or not,” Weeden adds.

For years, Darpa – which backed much of the early research into the internet – has been working with other networking godfathers to put together an “interplanetary internet.”

“We’re pretty used to it but the internet is actually a pretty revolutionary construct. That you can drop a packet of data on it with only a starting and destination address and it finds its way there without any directions is pretty astonishing,” Weeden explains.

“The payloads on most satellites don’t work that way – payload operators need to configure specific transponders for specific users and applications. So part of this is trying to bring those internet concepts of automatic routing and network config to satellite constellations, and perhaps to make them extensions of the land-based internet infrastructure.”

Darpa’s deadline for ideas of how to pull it off is Nov. 5.

via Darpa Looks To Send The Internet Into Orbit.

Posted in Space, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Secrets hope as Hitler aide dies

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

Adolf Hitler in 1941The memoirs of one of Adolf Hitler’s closest aides could shed new light on the Nazi leader’s personal involvement in the Holocaust, media reports say.

Fritz Darges, who has died aged 96, was a member of Hitler’s inner circle for four years of the war.

As Hitler’s last SS adjutant, he was present for all major conferences, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported.

Historians believe his manuscript could provide key evidence that Hitler ordered the deaths of six million Jews.

If so, it would debunk claims by revisionist historians that the Nazi dictator knew nothing of the Holocaust, the newspaper reported.

In an interview with a German newspaper shortly before his death, Mr Darges told how he met Hitler at the Nuremburg party rally in 1934.

“He had a sympathetic look, he was warm-hearted. I rated him from the off,” he is quoted as saying.

“I must, and was, always there for him, at every conference, at every inter-service liaison meeting, at all war conferences. I must say I found him a genius. We all dreamed of a greater German empire. That is why I served him and would do it all again now,” he was quoted as saying.

‘Sacked over fly’

He also told the German newspaper how he was dismissed by Hitler over a bizarre incident involving a fly.

The fly had been buzzing around the room during a strategy conference in July 1944, irritating the Nazi leader.

Hitler ordered Mr Darges to get rid of it, but the SS adjutant suggested that as it was an “airborne pest” the job should go to Luftwaffe adjutant, Nicolaus von Below.

He said Hitler then flew into a rage and dismissed him, saying: “You’re for the eastern front.”

via BBC NEWS | Europe | Secrets hope as Hitler aide dies.

Posted in History, War | 1 Comment »

My dentist has ordered a Cone Bean CT scan, is it worth the radiation risk?

Posted by Anonymous on October 30, 2009

http://www.radiologyinfo.org/photocat/popup/philip25.jpgMy dentist referred me to a lab to get “tomos”. In talking to the lab, they would use Cat scans. My  dentist requires this  before he will attempt to straighten my teeth. He says this is the wave of the future. Unfortunately, I’ve also read recently, and my doctor has acknolweged, that they are learning now that there are non-trivial long term risks for lymphomas from diagnostic x-rays. For this reason, babies are no longer given x-rays unless it is absolutely necessary.

What would my dose for the iCAT scan be? The first thing you will hear if you ask is that the radiation dose is “minimal” or “negligable” or “trivial”. Don’t accept these answers. You want is actual numbers.

What the lab told me after doing some research is that the effective dose of the 20 second iCat scan is 68 uSV. The exposure is in pulses, 3.5 seconds for the 20 second scan. For comparison, an iCat 10 second scan gives you a 34 uSV dose, daily background radiation gives you an 8 uSV dose, a digital pano x-ray gives you a dose of 4.7 to 14.9 uSV.

Since I am concerned about minimizeing radiation, the lab said they can build the pano and latteral shots from the one 20 second iCat scan. What is the actual cancer risk from getting an extra weeks worth of radiation in 3.5 seconds of pulses?  Currently researching…

Posted in Health, Radiation | 1 Comment »


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