Gamers solve science problem, Turkey rises

I thought it was a bit silly as part of the premise for Stargate: Universe, but now it has actually happened. Using a computer game, Foldit scientists were able to take advantage of gamers’ desires to get higher scores to solve a real science problem. This is a huge step forward in combining human and machine intelligence… intelligently. While a computer can easily evaluate an existing state of a molecule they have trouble with the spacial reasoning necessary to improve one. By integrating the problem into a game scientists were able to use human’s mastery of spacial reasoning to find the best solution to a problem that had eluded super computers! Oh, and this might help us cure HIV.

As Libya’s revolution appears to stall both militarily and politically, Turkey is emerging as the new dominant middle power in the Middle East. Turkey has long had the largest economy in the region, but what appears to really be driving its growth is its unique status as a successful moderate Muslim democracy. Both Iran and Turkey have claimed to represent the people of recent “Arab Spring”, but the Tunisians, Egyptians, and Libyans have all expressed a desire to model their countries on Turkey. At the same time Iran, though talking big, appears isolated and struggling while its puppet Syria burns.
Tunisia has just announced its time table for drafting a new constitution and new elections. We should have a good idea whether the region is trending towards fundamentalist theocracy or liberal democracy in a year.


ISS partially evacuated

The first three of six crew members are abandoning the International Space Station today. Under current rules the rest of the crew will have to abandon the station in mid-November. NASA estimates that the probability that we will lose the station if no one is aboard it for a year is roughly 50%.

Though it has been largely out of the news lately Iran is still engaged in an arms race to contain its people. Iran found a way to block traffic through the Tor network (a network designed to anonymize web traffic). The people who run the network rapidly found a fix and patched the network within a day, enabling Iranians to again penetrate the not-so-great firewall of Iran.

TSA, China, and Global warming

The TSA is coming under increased scrutiny from all sides. Even its creator is now advocating dismantling it saying, “The whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats”. While democrats complain about the TSA confiscating medication, and cheer that has finally been convinced to be “less intrusive” to children, democrat senator Ben Cardin is taking aim at the TSA to ensure that they don’t start, or perhaps continue, racial profiling. Republicans have been taking stabs at the agency too, perhaps we can find some bipartisan agreement and put an end to this ineffective and wasteful program.

“China is losing its edge as the world’s cheapest place to manufacture goods, a new report suggests.” As you probably already know, I am very skeptical of China’s seamless emergence as a world power. I think China is going to run into serious trouble once its economy shows even the slightest hint of entering a recession. While obviously that hasn’t happened yet I think this is going to be kind of like the Soviet Union falling kind of surprise.

Nobel prize winning physicist, Dr. Ivar Giaever resigned from the American Physical Society over its statement regarding global warming that “the evidence is incontrovertible”. He wrote “In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?”

Cosmological principle under fire, et al.

A very important principle in modern physics, the notion that the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe is under review after a series of highly sensitive experiments have found a “preferred” axis in space. This most recent paper is a completely independent way to arrive at the same conclusion, and it will likely result in some very interesting scientific debates in the near future.

It looks like a Greek default and exit from the Euro is imminent. I believe that this is the true cause of the US market’s recent plunge. A Greek default could cause the kind of cascading liquidity problems that Lehman Brother’s caused. but it is becoming increasingly difficult for the EU and especially Germany to sustain them both politically and economically.

Russia has identified the defect in the Soyuz rocket, et. al.

Russia has identified the defect in the Soyuz rocket. It will probably take some time before they’re ready to launch again, but this indicates that they may be able to launch again within the next few months. Hopefully they will be able to do so before the crew must evacuate, but if timing starts getting tight, I’d suggest extending the crew time, the “200-day” limit on escape pods seems a tad arbitrary and probably has a lot of safety margin.

In a great irony, it has been reveled that FEMA has over the past several decades transferred a significant amount of wealth from Connecticut, 47th in disaster declarations, to Texas, 1st in disaster declarations. This is how FEMA “helps”.
“I took a break and walked down a block, and there was the Statue of Liberty,” Tibbitts said. “It was like a dream. I didn’t know everything was so close together.”

At the end of the day, the Parma firefighters retreated to Shea, where members of the New York Mets greeted tired rescue workers and signed autographs.

Originally, the firefighters had planned to stay four or five days. But the next day, Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived.

With FEMA in control, the Parma firefighters would have had to wait a week for clearance to continue working. They decided to come home.

“We were disheartened we couldn’t do more but the federal government had to take control,” Tibbitts said. “
If the money that pays for this program was not taxed at the federal level and instead taxed by the individual states, states would be better able to handle their own problems. We would also immediately save the cost of the double bureaucracy. Unless you forgot that states have their own disaster response agencies. The only thing that we might need something like FEMA for is fixing interstate infrastructure.

While not absolutely confirmed, the latest generations of dark mater detectors do seem to have found evidence to support dark matter’s existence. If this turns out to be true, it will still be quite some time before we can say what these things actually are in terms of each particles individual mass and where they fit in the standard model. Nonetheless this is very exciting after years of stumbling around in the dark trying to find this unaccounted for mass to finally have spotted it on earth.

The US government has released/leaked quite a bit of data about the terror threat for 9/11. It appears that there might very well be a terror attack in New York or Washington DC. Though I have to say a car bomb is a big step down from flying planes into a building, even if they manage to pull this attack off I have trouble seeing it as a major threat.

More news

In New Mexico, the world’s first commercial spaceport is almost complete. While it is a bit to early to say for certain that this will be a success I have a high hopes for the economic and scientific benefits that may come from a renewed interest in space. Privately run space travel will likely lead to cheaper access to space. I also expect that private companies, once they start competing, will adapt more rapidly to new technologies and ideas.

Following up a little on my previous news post, it does appear that the globe has or at least did stop warming for the past decade. While the cause of this is hotly debated, and new computer models have been produced that can account for it I think that it is important that we’re at least aware of it.

The Obama administration is planning to withdraw more combat troops from Iraq, possibly bringing troop numbers down to about 3000. This brings the administration closer to its campaign promise of withdrawing from Iraq, though obviously it is too late to make their “within 18 months” timeline.

Ron Paul has written an article explaining his unusual position on FEMA. I think it is well worth a read, I’ll let you form your own conclusions.