Scientists believe they have found a potentially habitable planet

For those who don’t know, this article is the current headline for the drudgereport and if accurate would be major news. “US astronomers said Wednesday they have discovered an Earth-sized planet that they think might be habitable, orbiting a nearby star.”

The paper’s abstract is a tad more conservative but places the planets equilibrium surface temperature at 228 K. Given that we already knew that at least one surface temperature model for 581d (which has a larger orbit) was just barely hot enough for life and the inner planet ‘c’ was just barely too hot, it does appear that this planet could very well meet the requirements for liquid water.

Whether or not it does have liquid water on its surface or life the fact that in the scientists’ own words, “That a system harboring a potentially habitable planet has been found this nearby, and this soon in the relatively early history of precision RV surveys, indicates that eta_Earth, the fraction of stars with potentially habitable planets, is likely to be substantial.”

Gliese is roughly 20 light years from earth, which makes it the 87th closest star system to our Sol.


Potential EU changes et, al.

I generally like my news posts to be bringing up something that has gotten only cursory coverage in the mainstream media but I feel deserves more often a lot more, but today I guess I agree with the mainstream.

The EU is proposing some rather dramatic sanctions for countries that are behaving in ways that are potentially damaging the blocks economy. These sanctions are essentially punishment for economic mismanagement which now seems necessary in the wake of the Greek debt crisis. However, this will also place a lot of new fuel on the fire on where the line between EU sovereignty and member state sovereignty lies. While the bureaucrats and elites of Europe seem largely in favor of continued unification the dramatic failure of the last big treaty, and the refusal of many countries to even submit new policy to a popular vote, indicates that there is already widespread dissatisfaction with the amount of power being given to unelected EU policy makers. While, this sort of policy change seems necessary for any continuation of the unified currency, it also shows that on many points the anti-Euro protesters were right. The Euro will invariably lead to further loss of sovereignty by member states. I suspect it will also not bode well for any efforts in the UK to further integrate with the EU.

Brazil’s finance minister has announced that a major currency war between the worlds major nations is already being waged. While this “race to the bottom” has already been recognized in many economic circles its move into more mainstream political discourse and the recognition of its direct impact on jobs and wages is likely accelerate the world’s road to a major trade war.

I’ve been trying to stay away from the peace process in Israel as it tends to knock me off of my more level headed perspective of the world and into a more partisan ranty one, but this article on why the most recent round of peace talks has failed is very insightful and I think well worth a read.
“The Obama approach to the Israeli-Palestinian problem has been counterproductive. Either the Palestinians have to back down from their insistence that all settlements be frozen in place or Netanyahu has to back down from his pledge that any moratorium would be temporary. Either Abbas or Netanyahu has to lose credibility, and neither man can afford to.”

The Obama administration is trying to expand its ability to “tap” the internet.

The Obama administration is seeking the power to read encrypted communications over the internet. Perhaps, most significantly they are asking companies that provide communication services over the internet to provide services that would allow the government to read decrypted plain text in real time. While, I understand that this is intended to extend old law enforcement powers into a new age, and specifically to deal with terrorism. It seems to me that this is a real failure on the administrations part to understand how the internet actually works and how it is used.

Even if every privately controlled communications medium conceded to these demands, open source tools in the public domain that allow encrypted communication would be virtually impossible to subvert on an individual basis. In order to actually do this the government would have to rework network architecture on a very fundamental level. I think the only way to really do this would be to actually regulate all traffic that flowed over the internet, by opening up packets and checking to see if their content was readable by the government, any content that was not readable would have to be blocked before it was routed to prevent the use of “unauthorized” software. Still, a clever hacker could still piggyback encrypted communications over seemingly innocuous messages designed to look like another protocol. In fact, Skype pretty much already does this.

I can’t even think of a good title for this.

This article pretty much speaks for itself. Apparently no one was concerned by the presence of two people carrying assault rifles at the baggage claim in the San Jose airport yesterday.

Part of me thinks this may be some sort of recognition of the right to keep and bear arms. But… it makes me wonder why with such strict rules in airports, why haven’t airport workers received training in dealing with heavily armed personnel in airports?

For those who don’t read the whole article: It turns out that, while no one had been notified, these were security officers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.