Monday, December 14, 2009

WISE set to search for universe's hidden 'dark' objects



NASA is scheduled to launch its WISE space observatory Monday. It will map the whole sky in infrared wavelengths, potentially revealing objects many telescopes can't see.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Does Death Exist? New Theory Says 'No'






Robert Lanza, M.D.Scientist; author, "Biocentrism"








[snip]

According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air - if you take everything away, what's left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. You can't see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.

Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, "Now Besso" (an old friend) "has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us...know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Immortality doesn't mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.

More here

Monday, December 7, 2009

My first


*Click on picture to see full sized*

This is a 100X of my first little plant. I grew her in the yard and pulled her a little early. She didn't have a strong odor and the smoke didn't have a strong taste but it was pretty good and long lasting buzz. She was less than 3' tall but I yielded over an ounce.

I didn't expect much but she was better than I thought she would be.

Took the picture with "Eyeclops BioniCam"

http://www.eyeclops.com/

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Large Hadron Collider: Final Synchronization Test A Success




ScienceDaily (Aug. 26, 2008) — CERN has announced the success of the second and final test of the Large Hadron Collider’s beam synchronization systems. The test will allow the LHC operations team to inject the first beam into the LHC.


Friday evening (August 22, 2008), a single bunch of a few particles travelled down the transfer line from the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) accelerator to the LHC. After a period of optimization, one bunch was kicked up from the transfer line into the LHC beam pipe and steered counter-clockwise about 3 kilometres around the LHC.


“Thanks to a fantastic team, both the clock-wise and counter-clockwise tests went without a hitch. We look forward to a resounding success when we make our first attempt to send a beam all the way around the LHC,” said Lyn Evans, LHC Project Leader.


Both the counter-clockwise and clockwise tests are part of the preparations to ready the LHC, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, for the eventual acceleration and collision of two beams at an energy of 5 TeV per beam. This unprecedented event is foreseen to take place by end 2008.


Upcoming events marking LHC start-up


10 September: The first attempt to circulate a beam in the LHC will be made on 10 September at the injection energy of 450 GeV (0.45 TeV). This historical event will be webcast through http://webcast.cern.ch/, and distributed through the Eurovision network. See http://www.cern.ch/lhc-first-beam for further details.


3 October: CERN will host the LHC Grid Fest, a celebration of the LHC Computing Grid, a global computing grid designed to handle 15 million gigabytes of LHC-related data every year. The day will feature presentations, demonstrations, tours of the CERN Computer Centre and more. See http://www.cern.ch/lcg/lhcgridfest for more details.


21 October: CERN will host the Official Inauguration of the LHC with representatives of CERN member and observer States.
Adapted from materials provided by CERN.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What benefits soldiers will benefit all of us


BY MITCH ALBOM • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • May 11, 2008



It was my uncle, your grandfather, his best friend. It was your dad or his neighbor or his brother-in-law. They were soldiers in World War II, and when they finished serving their country, they came home to a grateful embrace -- not just words, but action.


There was something called the GI Bill, passed in 1944, and it quite literally changed the face of America. It paid for returning soldiers to study at trade schools, colleges, universities -- even medical and law schools.

Paid in full.

Nearly 8 million soldiers had participated by the time the original bill expired in 1956. Men who otherwise might never have gotten a higher education did so -- and improved the lives of their families as a result. It was a seeding of American society, a leg up for those who stood up. It made sense. It was humane.

Today, a new bill is being proposed, one that would essentially do for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan what we did for those in World War II. A new, expanded GI Bill. It has bipartisan support from senators and congressmen.

But not from the White House.

The same White House that features a president and vice president who never saw combat, the same White House that throws around the phrase "support our troops" to serve its purposes, thinks this bill is too expensive.

It costs $2 billion to $4 billion a year.

Too expensive?

A voice for the veterans

"That's what we're spending in a few days in Iraq," said Patrick Campbell, who served in Baghdad, saw several of his fellow soldiers killed and is now legislative director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "This is a travesty. If we don't invest in this, instead of having the next Greatest Generation, we're going to have a generation of veterans who came home and just got lost in the system."

It seems so obvious that you are dumbfounded anyone could oppose it. First of all, investing in higher education only benefits America with more skilled labor, more wage-earners, more jobs and a higher tax base.

Secondly, the help is needed. Returning soldiers often have families and responsibilities that make it hard to siphon funds for college.

Thirdly, it's the least we can do.

We all want to stand up for our troops. What better way than to say, "If you do this for your country, your country will do this for you"?

Trying to keep enlistments high

The resistance to the bill -- which was supposed to be voted on last week but was delayed to this week -- is not only its cost. The White House and some military brass say it provides too much incentive to leave the service.

That is selfish and naive. You don't keep a soldier working by keeping him uneducated. It's "service to the county" -- not to the military complex. Besides, the incentive of knowing you could have your education paid for should provide a huge boost in sign-ups, which we all know have been a problem.

The current GI Bill is terribly antiquated. The amounts don't match what it really costs to attend college. "The sad thing is most people who are serving the military don't know it," Campbell said. "When they get out ... they say, 'I thought that was gonna be enough ...'

"That's why veterans are twice as likely to go to community college than their peers, because that's all they afford."

Shameful. Even this new bill isn't enough. It only would cover the cost of the highest tuition at a state school. To me, if someone risks his or her neck for this country, the best schools -- private or public, including graduate school -- should be free. After all, we give grants and scholarships to kids who sacrifice far less.

"I had people tell me today this generation is not like the WW II Greatest Generation," Campbell said. "They don't deserve the same benefits. I had to be very careful not to jump out of my seat and say, 'How dare you?'

"This generation might not have served in the same battlefield, but we're fighting for the same beliefs and causes. We're putting our lives on the line."

Amen. The Bush administration should be ashamed for opposing this. Forget bumper stickers or mantras on talk radio. You want to prove you support the troops? Tell your lawmakers to invest our tax dollars not just in steel and metal, but in human potential.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.
Catch "The Mitch Albom Show" 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).



Click here if you would like to comment on Mitch Albom's columns.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Italian researchers claim they are first to have found dark matter


Ian Sample The Guardian,



Scientists hunting an invisible form of matter that pervades the universe and holds galaxies together claim to have found it underneath a mountain in Italy.

The discovery, at a laboratory built deep into the Gran Sasso mountain in Abruzzo, could end a 70-year race to find the elusive "dark matter" that physicists believe accounts for 90% of the mass of the universe. Its existence was first postulated in 1933 by a Swiss astronomer who observed that distant galaxies must be held together by a huge gravitational pull caused by some apparently invisible form of matter. It gained the name "dark matter" because it does not shine or reflect light.

Researchers led by Dr Rita Bernabei at the University of Rome claim that a giant detector inside the mountain laboratory has picked up signs of dark matter. The signal suggests that it could be made of theoretical particles known as axions. The discovery was announced at a physics conference in Venice. The experiment was designed to detect dark matter in space as Earth flies through it.

Scientists are unlikely to take this single result as hard proof. Many say the discovery will have to be replicated by groups around the world before they can be sure they have finally shed light on dark matter. Earlier this year British researchers became the latest to join the hunt, using a laboratory deep inside an old salt mine in Yorkshire. The labs are built underground to shield them from other particles that could smother dark matter signals.

"We are pretty sure now that this is not a statistical fluke," said astrophysicist Frank Halzen, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who heard Bernabei's talk at the conference. "We should pay attention to this. We should not just ignore it," he told New Scientist.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

At the Heart of All Matter



The hunt for the God particle


By Joel Achenbach
Photograph by Peter Ginter



If you were to dig a hole 300 feet straight down from the center of the charming French village of Crozet, you'd pop into a setting that calls to mind the subterranean lair of one of those James Bond villains. A garishly lit tunnel ten feet in diameter curves away into the distance, interrupted every few miles by lofty chambers crammed with heavy steel structures, cables, pipes, wires, magnets, tubes, shafts, catwalks, and enigmatic gizmos.

This technological netherworld is one very big scientific instrument, specifically, a particle accelerator-an atomic peashooter more powerful than any ever built. It's called the Large Hadron Collider, and its purpose is simple but ambitious: to crack the code of the physical world; to figure out what the universe is made of; in other words, to get to the very bottom of things.

Starting sometime in the coming months, two beams of particles will race in opposite directions around the tunnel, which forms an underground ring 17 miles in circumference. The particles will be guided by more than a thousand cylindrical, supercooled magnets, linked like sausages. At four locations the beams will converge, sending the particles crashing into each other at nearly the speed of light. If all goes right, matter will be transformed by the violent collisions into wads of energy, which will in turn condense back into various intriguing types of particles, some of them never seen before. That's the essence of experimental particle physics: You smash stuff together and see what other stuff comes out.

Continue

Sunday, April 6, 2008

How Aztecs Did the Math


By Constance Holden
ScienceNOW Daily News
3 April 2008

The Aztecs, who ruled central Mexico for several hundred years before the Spanish arrived in 1519, left the most extensive mathematical writings of any pre-Columbian people. Two manuscripts in particular have intrigued scholars because they portray land holdings in the Valley of Mexico along with their measurements, using the Aztec numbering system, for purposes of taxation. Now a geographer and a mathematician have zeroed in on just what methods Aztec surveyors used to measure the surface of a field in one of these documents, the Codex Vergara.

Scientists long ago deciphered the Aztec number system, a vigesimal system (using 20 as its base) as opposed to our decimal system. In Aztec arithmetic, a dot equals 1, a bar represents 5, and there are other symbols for 20 and various multiples thereof. The Codex Vergara, painted about 1540, contains schematic drawings and measurements of individual fields. Previous research on it has revealed an understanding of multiplication and division as well as certain principles of geometry.

Now, Barbara Williams of the University of Wisconsin-Rock County in Janesville, with Maria del Carmen Jorge y Jorge of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, has analyzed the Codex Vergara to discover just how Aztec surveyors estimated land area in parcels that were often irregularly shaped. The analysis reveals a "very practical kind of arithmetic and record keeping," says Michael Smith, an archaeologist at Arizona State University, Tempe.

In a paper published in tomorrow's issue of Science (4 April, p. 72) the authors show that Aztec surveyors probably used several types of algorithms to calculate area. Some parcels involved simply multiplying length by width. But in other, irregular four-sided lots, they had to come up with different approaches, such as multiplying the average of two opposite sides by an adjacent side.

Furthermore, when a measurement did not match a precise number of "land rods"--their standard unit of linear measurement, which corresponded to about 2.5 meters--the Aztecs added symbols, such as an arrow, a heart, a hand, or a bone, to indicate remaining length that was less than one rod. Working back from the recorded land areas, the authors determined that these corresponded to different fractions of a land rod.

Although the Aztecs are the only early Americans to have left these kinds of technical documents, it's reasonable to assume that other groups such as the numerically sophisticated Maya used similar systems, Smith says. "There's a view that ancient peoples were obsessed with religion and that science and knowledge were all directed at religious ends," he adds. But the paper shows that the Aztecs apparently liked to get their measurements right--and certainly when it came to taxation.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Merci McCain

Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008


Graham Collins reflects on meeting the famous author in New York City


By Graham P. Collins


He wore pajamas and a bathrobe, and a swollen bare foot was propped up on an ottoman. That was the figure cut by the revered science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke the one time that I, along with a few other Scientific American editors, met him. It was October 1999, and he was in New York City for a few days while on an extremely rare trip outside of his adopted home country, Sri Lanka, for medical reasons.

He had invited us to come over for a chat at his hotel, which happened to be the historic Hotel Chelsea, where he had stayed in the mid-1960s while working on his best known work, 2001: A Space Odyssey. (In the 1993 edition of the book, he wrote of "months of brainstorming with [director] Stanley [Kubrick]—followed by (fairly) lonely hours in Room 1008... where most of the novel was written.")

Clarke gently berated us for not taking cold fusion seriously enough. Most researchers had dismissed it a decade earlier, but he still believed that a revolutionary discovery could come from the experiments of the smattering of remaining devotees.

He may have even repeated the first of "Clarke’s Laws": "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." For physicists and mathematicians, "elderly" means over 30. (His two other famous laws were that discovering the limits of the possible requires venturing a bit into the impossible, and that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.)

When Clarke was not yet elderly, 27 in fact, he wrote an article in the magazine Wireless World describing how a satellite in an equatorial orbit with a radius of 42,000 kilometers (26,000 miles) would remain over the same location of the earth, and how three spaced around the orbit could relay radio signals to anywhere on the globe. The concept was not new with Clarke, but he popularized the idea. Nearly two decades later, the first such geostationary communications satellite was launched (it relayed television signals of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo to the U.S.) at the same time Clarke was at work on 2001 at the Hotel Chelsea.

Clarke suffered from post-polio syndrome and reportedly had trouble breathing before his death at 90 on Tuesday. During his lifetime, he wrote or co-wrote scores of books, both fiction and nonfiction, and won numerous awards. Spacecraft have been named in honor of his work, and entities including an asteroid, an orbit, a species of dinosaur and several awards have been named after him. Many scientists, astronauts and writers have credited him with inspiring them to take up their own careers.

His impact, you might say, was indistinguishable from magic.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kiss the Ring (via C&L)

Information May Leak from Black Holes at Dial-Up Speeds

Why a leaky black hole is more like a mirror ball from hell
By JR Minkel



BLACK HOLE MIRROR: Researchers have assumed that if information could emerge from a black hole, it would take eons to do so. However, a new study finds that the turnaround in an older black hole could be more like a few seconds, which would make it more like an information mirror.


NEW ORLEANS—A new study hints that black holes might not be as good at keeping secrets as researchers have long thought. A pair of physicists has reexamined the time it would take for information (think: your iPhone's memory) to potentially escape from inside a black hole.

They find that the 1s and 0s of your address book could be recovered as quickly as 1,000 bits per second—far faster than previously expected. "The black hole really behaves like an information mirror," says physicist John Preskill of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The finding, presented here at a meeting of the American Physical Society, marks the latest attempt to come to grips with the fate of information that has crossed the black hole event horizon, a boundary beyond which even light cannot escape. There is no doubt, of course, that the ultradense singularity at the heart of a black hole would vaporize an iPhone. The question is whether there is any imaginable way to piece together its original state.

Physicist Stephen Hawking first broached the subject in the 1970s. He postulated that black holes would gradually evaporate by radiating particles (now called Hawking radiation) that had bubbled up from the vacuum around the event horizon. The radiation would be so scrambled, he argued, that when the black hole disappeared after many trillions of years, all the information about its contents would be lost. Other researchers insisted that the data might be imprinted on Hawking's particles, and even Hawking has changed his mind.

As in previous work, Preskill and physicist Patrick Hayden of McGill University in Montreal imagined two citizens of a hyperadvanced civilization, Alice and Bob. Alice wants to destroy some bits (technically, quantum bits that are 0 and 1 simultaneously) by throwing them into a black hole. Bob aims to recover them by gathering all the Hawking radiation from the black hole. Prior research had shown that if Alice dropped her bits into a relatively young black hole, Bob would have to collect the Hawking radiation for half the life of the black hole before being able to decode a single one of Alice's bits.

In the new study, Alice holds onto her bits until after the black hole has reached the halfway mark. Before her data dump, Bob managed to prepare some bits of his own that he entangled with Alice's, meaning they were linked instantaneously across any distance. Preskill reports that Bob could reconstruct Alice's bits by mixing the next few bits of Hawking radiation following the data dump with what he'd already collected, along with his own bits. "It might be a very difficult quantum computation to do the decoding," he says, but Bob would need only about 10 percent more Hawking particles than the number of bits that Alice had thrown in. A black hole the size of the sun would emit up to 1,000 Hawking particles per second, Hayden says.

The catch is that Alice's dumped bits would have to rapidly mix with the rest of the black hole, spreading their entanglement to the outgoing Hawking radiation that Bob collects. Current theories cannot predict the speed at which entanglement would spread across a black hole. Still, researchers are impressed by the novel application of quantum information theory. "I didn't think there was much else you could say about black holes without a quantum theory of gravity," says researcher Fotini Markopoulou of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.

The effect comes perilously close to contradicting known rules of physics. After reconstructing Alice's bits, Bob could throw his copy into the black hole, where the two copies might run into one another. Such a meeting would violate the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics because it would allow measurements of both the position and momentum of the identical quantum state. But the few-second delay between when Alice and Bob can dump their respective bits is just long enough, Preskill says, for her bits to be destroyed by the singularity.

Such a narrow escape appeals to Stanford University physicist Leonard Susskind, who explains that if Bob had to wait for half the lifetime of a black hole to extract his first bit, quantum mechanics would be safe by a curiously wide margin, in his view. "I like the idea," he says, "that the most dangerous experiment you can think of is right on the edge."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Entangled-Light Pair Stored in Atomic Memory

Fledgling step toward quantum telecommunications relays
By JR Minkel



SPLIT PERSONALITY: In a new experiment, researchers stored entangled states of light in a cloud of ultracold cesium atoms.

A new experiment bridges the old quantum trick of entanglement—the strange faster-than-light communication between particles—with the much newer technique of halting light dead in its tracks. Researchers report in Nature that they have successfully sent a pair of entangled states of light into separate corners of an ultracold atomic cloud, stored them there briefly, and then sent them back on their separate ways without completely destroying the quantum link in the process.

Although the distance of just one millimeter between the two storage points was tiny, the group says the demonstration opens the door for entangling two distinct atomic clouds and using quantum teleportation to flash the quantum state of a particle from one of the clouds to the other. In principle, such clouds could be strung together for thousands of miles, making a quantum telecommunications grid capable of sending potentially unbreakable coded messages from coast to coast.

The stopped light trick was first demonstrated in 2001 by Harvard University physicist Lene Hau and her research group. To achieve it, researchers fired a pulse of light into a cloud of atoms chilled to near absolute zero (which is –459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, or –273.15 degrees Celsius) and illuminated it with a continuous beam of laser light called the control beam. The pulse slowed dramatically inside the cloud and, when the control beam was switched off, froze as a quantum state of the atoms. When the beam was switched back on, the light pulse reformed and continued on its merry way.

In the new experiment, physicists led by H. Jeff Kimble at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena used a semireflective surface called a beam splitter to cleave a single photon into a type of entangled pair. By toggling the control beam, they stored the two states one millimeter apart in a cesium cloud that was chilled to a temperature of 125 millionths of a kelvin above absolute zero (0 kelvin). When they converted the pair back into light, 20 percent of their original entanglement remained.

The method's efficiency is still low, but it improves on prior attempts to store entanglement that sometimes severed the quantum link, which would hamper attempts to design larger quantum communication networks outside of the lab, says study author Kyung Soo Choi, a physics PhD candidate at Caltech. "If we can generate entanglement every time we push a button, we can scale entanglement" to larger scales.

Whether that will ever happen is unclear, Harvard's Hau wrote in an accompanying editorial. But she added that a century after quantum mechanics was born, "the possibilities it offers continue to boggle our minds."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Oklahoma State Rep. Goes On Anti-Gay Tirade





Mother of god, this is horrible. We nominate to the patheon of homo hate Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern (sallykern@okhouse.gov). She didn't know that she was being recorded in a meeting, so we get the a nice insight about what she thinks of her gay and lesbian constituents. Perhaps she doesn't think she has any.

About 30 seconds into this homobigoted, fact-free, BS screed, Rep. Kern actually says how she doesn't hate gays (of course not!), then proceeds to continue on her tirade of filth.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The 'laptop of mass destruction'



By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - The George W Bush administration has long pushed the "laptop documents" - 1,000 pages of technical documents supposedly from a stolen Iranian laptop - as hard evidence of Iranian intentions to build a nuclear weapon. Now charges based on those documents pose the only remaining obstacles to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) declaring that Iran has resolved all unanswered questions about its nuclear program.

But those documents have also been regarded with great suspicion by US and foreign analysts. German officials identified the source of the laptop documents in November 2004 as the Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK), which along with its political arm, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organization.

There are some indications, moreover, that the MEK obtained the documents not from an Iranian source but from Israel's Mossad.

In its latest report on Iran, circulated on February 22, the IAEA, under strong pressure from the Bush administration, included descriptions of plans for a facility to produce "green salt", technical specifications for high explosives testing and the schematic layout of a missile re-entry vehicle that appears capable of holding a nuclear weapon. Iran has been asked to provide full explanations for these alleged activities.

Tehran has denounced the documents on which the charges are based as fabrications provided by the MEK, and has demanded copies of the documents to analyze, but the United States has refused to do so.

The Iranian assertion is supported by statements by German officials. A few days after then-secretary of state Colin Powell announced the laptop documents, Karsten Voight, the coordinator for German-American relations in the German Foreign Ministry, was reported by the Wall Street Journal on November 22, 2004, as saying that the information had been provided by "an Iranian dissident group".

A German official familiar with the issue confirmed to this writer that the NCRI had been the source of the laptop documents. "I can assure you that the documents came from the Iranian resistance organization," the source said.

The Germans have been deeply involved in intelligence collection and analysis regarding the Iranian nuclear program. According to a story by Washington Post reporter Dafna Linzer soon after the laptop documents were first mentioned publicly by Powell in late 2004, US officials said they had been stolen from an Iranian whom German intelligence had been trying to recruit, and had been given to intelligence officials of an unnamed country in Turkey.

The German account of the origins of the laptop documents contradicts the insistence by unnamed US intelligence officials who insisted to journalists William J Broad and David Sanger in November 2005 that the laptop documents did not come from any Iranian resistance groups.

Despite the fact that it was listed as a terrorist organization, the MEK was a favorite of neo-conservatives in the Pentagon, who were proposing in 2003-2004 to use it as part of a policy to destabilize Iran. The United States is known to have used intelligence from the MEK on Iranian military questions for years. It was considered a credible source of intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program after 2002, mainly because of its identification of the facility in Natanz as a nuclear site.

The German source said he did not know whether the documents were authentic or not. However, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)analysts, and European and IAEA officials who were given access to the laptop documents in 2005, were very skeptical about their authenticity.

The Guardian's Julian Borger last February quoted an IAEA official as saying there is "doubt over the provenance of the computer".

A senior European diplomat who had examined the documents was quoted by the New York Times in November 2005 as saying, "I can fabricate that data. It looks beautiful, but is open to doubt."

Scott Ritter, the former US military intelligence officer who was chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, noted in an interview that the CIA has the capability to check the authenticity of laptop documents through forensic tests that would reveal when different versions of different documents were created.

The fact that the agency could not rule out the possibility of fabrication, according to Ritter, indicates that it had either chosen not to do such tests or that the tests had revealed fraud.

Despite its having been credited with the Natanz intelligence coup in 2002, the overall record of the MEK on the Iranian nuclear program has been very poor. The CIA continued to submit intelligence from the Iranian group about alleged Iranian nuclear weapons-related work to the IAEA over the next five years, without identifying the source.

But that intelligence turned out to be unreliable. A senior IAEA official told the Los Angeles Times in February 2007 that, since 2002, "pretty much all the intelligence that has come to us has proved to be wrong".

Former State Department deputy intelligence director for the Near East and South Asia Wayne White doubts that the MEK has actually had the contacts within the Iranian bureaucracy and scientific community necessary to come up with intelligence such as Natanz and the laptop documents. "I find it very hard to believe that supporters of the MEK haven't been thoroughly rooted out of the Iranian bureaucracy," says White. "I think they are without key sources in the Iranian government."

In her February 2006 report on the laptop documents, the Post's Linzer said CIA analysts had originally speculated that a "third country, such as Israel, had fabricated the evidence". They eventually "discounted that theory", she wrote, without explaining why.

Since 2002, new information has emerged indicating that the MEK did not obtain the 2002 data on Natanz itself but received it from the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Yossi Melman and Meier Javadanfar, who co-authored a book on the Iranian nuclear program last year, write that they were told by "very senior Israeli Intelligence officials" in late 2006 that Israeli intelligence had known about Natanz for a full year before the Iranian group's press conference. They explained that they had chosen not to reveal it to the public "because of safety concerns for the sources that provided the information".

Shahriar Ahy, an adviser to monarchist leader Reza Pahlavi, told journalist Connie Bruck that the detailed information on Natanz had not come from the MEK but from "a friendly government, and it had come to more than one opposition group, not only the Mujahideen".

Bruck wrote in the New Yorker on March, 16, 2006, that when he was asked if the "friendly government" was Israel, Ahy smiled and said, "The friendly government did not want to be the source of it, publicly. If the friendly government gives it to the US publicly, then it would be received differently. Better to come from an opposition group."

Israel has maintained a relationship with the MEK since the late 1990s, according to Bruck, including assistance to the organization in beaming broadcasts by the NCRI from Paris into Iran. An Israeli diplomat confirmed that Israel had found the MEK "useful", Bruck reported, but the official declined to elaborate.

Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Coldest Place in the Universe



Physicists in Massachusetts come to grips with the lowest possible temperature: absolute zero

By Tom Shachtman
Smithsonian magazine, January 2008


Where's the coldest spot in the universe? Not on the moon, where the temperature plunges to a mere minus 378 Fahrenheit. Not even in deepest outer space, which has an estimated background temperature of about minus 455°F. As far as scientists can tell, the lowest temperatures ever attained were recently observed right here on earth.

The record-breaking lows were among the latest feats of ultracold physics, the laboratory study of matter at temperatures so mind-bogglingly frigid that atoms and even light itself behave in highly unusual ways. Electrical resistance in some elements disappears below about minus 440°F, a phenomenon called superconductivity. At even lower temperatures, some liquefied gases become "superfluids" capable of oozing through walls solid enough to hold any other sort of liquid; they even seem to defy gravity as they creep up, over and out of their containers.

Physicists acknowledge they can never reach the coldest conceivable temperature, known as absolute zero and long ago calculated to be minus 459.67°F. To physicists, temperature is a measure of how fast atoms are moving, a reflection of their energy—and absolute zero is the point at which there is absolutely no heat energy remaining to be extracted from a substance.

But a few physicists are intent on getting as close as possible to that theoretical limit, and it was to get a better view of that most rarefied of competitions that I visited Wolfgang Ketterle's lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. It currently holds the record—at least according to Guinness World Records 2008—for lowest temperature: 810 trillionths of a degree F above absolute zero. Ketterle and his colleagues accomplished that feat in 2003 while working with a cloud—about a thousandth of an inch across—of sodium molecules trapped in place by magnets.

I ask Ketterle to show me the spot where they'd set the record. We put on goggles to protect ourselves from being blinded by infrared light from the laser beams that are used to slow down and thereby cool fast-moving atomic particles. We cross the hall from his sunny office into a dark room with an interconnected jumble of wires, small mirrors, vacuum tubes, laser sources and high-powered computer equipment. "Right here," he says, his voice rising with excitement as he points to a black box that has an aluminum-foil-wrapped tube leading into it. "This is where we made the coldest temperature."

Ketterle's achievement came out of his pursuit of an entirely new form of matter called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). The condensates are not standard gases, liquids or even solids. They form when a cloud of atoms—sometimes millions or more—all enter the same quantum state and behave as one. Albert Einstein and the Indian physicist Satyendra Bose predicted in 1925 that scientists could generate such matter by subjecting atoms to temperatures approaching absolute zero. Seventy years later, Ketterle, working at M.I.T., and almost simultaneously, Carl Wieman, working at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Eric Cornell of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder created the first Bose-Einstein condensates. The three promptly won a Nobel Prize. Ketterle's team is using BECs to study basic properties of matter, such as compressibility, and better understand weird low-temperature phenomena such as superfluidity. Ultimately, Ketterle, like many physicists, hopes to discover new forms of matter that could act as superconductors at room temperature, which would revolutionize how humans use energy. For most Nobel Prize winners, the honor caps a long career. But for Ketterle, who was 44 years old when he was awarded his, the creation of BECs opened a new field that he and his colleagues will be exploring for decades.

Another contender for the coldest spot is across Cambridge, in Lene Vestergaard Hau's lab at Harvard. Her personal best is a few millionths of a degree F above absolute zero, close to Ketterle's, which she, too, reached while creating BECs. "We make BECs every day now," she says as we go down a stairwell to a lab packed with equipment. A billiards-table-size platform at the center of the room looks like a maze constructed of tiny oval mirrors and pencil-lead-thin laser beams. Harnessing BECs, Hau and her co-workers have done something that might seem impossible: they have slowed light to a virtual standstill.

The speed of light, as we've all heard, is a constant: 186,171 miles per second in a vacuum. But it is different in the real world, outside a vacuum; for instance, light not only bends but also slows ever so slightly when it passes through glass or water. Still, that's nothing compared with what happens when Hau shines a laser beam of light into a BEC: it's like hurling a baseball into a pillow. "First, we got the speed down to that of a bicycle," Hau says. "Now it's at a crawl, and we can actually stop it—keep light bottled up entirely inside the BEC, look at it, play with it and then release it when we're ready."

She is able to manipulate light this way because the density and the temperature of the BEC slows pulses of light down. (She recently took the experiments a step further, stopping a pulse in one BEC, converting it into electrical energy, transferring it to another BEC, then releasing it and sending it on its way again.) Hau uses BECs to discover more about the nature of light and how to use "slow light"—that is, light trapped in BECs—to improve the processing speed of computers and provide new ways to store information.

Not all ultracold research is performed using BECs. In Finland, for instance, physicist Juha Tuoriniemi magnetically manipulates the cores of rhodium atoms to reach temperatures of 180 trillionths of a degree F above absolute zero. (The Guinness record notwithstanding, many experts credit Tuoriniemi with achieving even lower temperatures than Ketterle, but that depends on whether you're measuring a group of atoms, such as a BEC, or only parts of atoms, such as the nuclei.)

It might seem that absolute zero is worth trying to attain, but Ketterle says he knows better. "We're not trying," he says. "Where we are is cold enough for our experiments." It's simply not worth the trouble—not to mention, according to physicists' understanding of heat and the laws of thermodynamics, impossible. "To suck out all the energy, every last bit of it, and achieve zero energy and absolute zero—that would take the age of the universe to accomplish."

Tom Shachtman is the author of Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold, the basis for a future PBS "Nova" documentary.

Automated Killer Robots ‘Threat to Humanity’: Expert




Increasingly autonomous, gun-totting robots developed for warfare could easily fall into the hands of terrorists and may one day unleash a robot arms race, a top expert on artificial intelligence told AFP.

“They pose a threat to humanity,” said University of Sheffield professor Noel Sharkey ahead of a keynote address Wednesday before Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.

Intelligent machines deployed on battlefields around the world — from mobile grenade launchers to rocket-firing drones — can already identify and lock onto targets without human help.

There are more than 4,000 US military robots on the ground in Iraq, as well as unmanned aircraft that have clocked hundreds of thousands of flight hours.

The first three armed combat robots fitted with large-caliber machine guns deployed to Iraq last summer, manufactured by US arms maker Foster-Miller, proved so successful that 80 more are on order, said Sharkey.

But up to now, a human hand has always been required to push the button or pull the trigger.

It we are not careful, he said, that could change.

Military leaders “are quite clear that they want autonomous robots as soon as possible, because they are more cost-effective and give a risk-free war,” he said.

Several countries, led by the United States, have already invested heavily in robot warriors developed for use on the battlefield.

South Korea and Israel both deploy armed robot border guards, while China, India, Russia and Britain have all increased the use of military robots.

Washington plans to spend four billion dollars by 2010 on unmanned technology systems, with total spending expected rise to 24 billion, according to the Department of Defense’s Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032, released in December.

James Canton, an expert on technology innovation and CEO of the Institute for Global Futures, predicts that deployment within a decade of detachments that will include 150 soldiers and 2,000 robots.

The use of such devices by terrorists should be a serious concern, said Sharkey.

Captured robots would not be difficult to reverse engineer, and could easily replace suicide bombers as the weapon-of-choice. “I don’t know why that has not happened already,” he said.

But even more worrisome, he continued, is the subtle progression from the semi-autonomous military robots deployed today to fully independent killing machines.

“I have worked in artificial intelligence for decades, and the idea of a robot making decisions about human termination terrifies me,” Sharkey said.

Ronald Arkin of Georgia Institute of Technology, who has worked closely with the US military on robotics, agrees that the shift towards autonomy will be gradual.

But he is not convinced that robots don’t have a place on the front line.

“Robotics systems may have the potential to out-perform humans from a perspective of the laws of war and the rules of engagement,” he told a conference on technology in warfare at Stanford University last month.

The sensors of intelligent machines, he argued, may ultimately be better equipped to understand an environment and to process information. “And there are no emotions that can cloud judgement, such as anger,” he added.

Nor is there any inherent right to self-defence.

For now, however, there remain several barriers to the creation and deployment of Terminator-like killing machines.

Some are technical. Teaching a computer-driven machine — even an intelligent one — how to distinguish between civilians and combatants, or how to gauge a proportional response as mandated by the Geneva Conventions, is simply beyond the reach of artificial intelligence today.

But even if technical barriers are overcome, the prospect of armies increasingly dependent on remotely-controlled or autonomous robots raises a host of ethical issues that have barely been addressed.

Arkin points out that the US Department of Defense’s 230 billion dollar Future Combat Systems programme — the largest military contract in US history — provides for three classes of aerial and three land-based robotics systems.

“But nowhere is there any consideration of the ethical implications of the weaponisation of these systems,” he said.

For Sharkey, the best solution may be an outright ban on autonomous weapons systems. “We have to say where we want to draw the line and what we want to do — and then get an international agreement,” he said.

© 2008 Agence France Presse

Friday, February 22, 2008

Racist Attacks on Obama Growing More Heated


Posted By Mark Potok On February 20, 2008

With the selection of Barack Obama as the first black Democratic nominee for president seeming more possible by the day, racists and white supremacists are posting increasingly ugly and even threatening remarks on the Internet.

[1] “OBAMA WILL DIE, KKK FOREVER,” concludes a [2] Feb. 15 post by “Rodney” to a blog run by a person identified only as Strider333. Above that signoff, Rodney wrote: “The KKK or someone WILL assassinate Obama! If we get a NIGGER President all you NIGGER’s [sic] will think you’ve won and that the WHITE people will have to bow to you[.] FUCK THAT.”

On traditional white supremacist and neo-Nazi sites (for instance, [3] here and [4] here), there are lengthy discussion threads about what would happen if Obama were elected president. Dozens of those posts are derogatory and employ all kinds of racist slurs. Others speculate that such an Obama victory would kick off a race war between whites and blacks. And some even raise the possibility that he could be assassinated. But talk like that is rare and extremely careful — probable evidence that the “white nationalists” who inhabit these sites are deeply concerned that their comments are being monitored by law enforcement for any criminal threat relating to the presidential race. In fact, Obama reportedly received federal Secret Service protection unusually early in the campaign season because of concerns about a racially motivated attack.

The most heated anti-Obama talk appears to be on Internet sites that allow people to post messages anonymously. One such site, JD Underground, is a list ostensibly devoted to lawyers, although further details were not available. It has carried a particularly venomous thread, entitled [5] “Nigger President,” that has stretched from January into this month.

“I’m hoping someone will do his public duty of putting a bullet through Obama’s head,” said a poster identified as “Kill Da Nigga.” Another poster suggests “bring[ing] back lynchings” and concludes with a warning: “LOOK OUT NIGGER. THE KLAN IS GETTING BIGGER!!!!!!” And a third, using the screen name “amerikkkan,” says only, “The deep south is making plans.”

*****

Law enforcement should be on the hatemongers like a ton of bricks - instead the Secret Service is relaxing security at Obama events because too many people are showing up?