Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Got Perimeter tickets for June.

Astronomers believe our Universe began in a Big Bang, and is expanding around us. Brian Schmidt will describe the life of the Universe that we live in, and how astronomers have used observations to trace our Universe's history back more than 13 Billion years. With this data a puzzling picture has been pieced together where 96% of the Cosmos is made up of two mysterious substances, Dark Matter and Dark Energy. These two mysterious forms of matter are in a battle for domination of the Universe, and Schmidt will describe experiments that are monitoring the struggle between Dark Energy and Dark Matter, trying better understand these elusive pieces of our Universe, and predict the ultimate fate of the Cosmos.

Brian Schmidt is a Federation Fellow at The Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory. Brian was raised in Montana and Alaska, USA, and received undergraduate degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Arizona in 1989. Under the supervision of Robert Kirshner, he completed his Astronomy Master's degree (1992) and PhD (1993) from Harvard University. In 1994 he formed the HighZ SN Search team, a group of 20 astronomers on 5 continents who used distant exploding stars to trace the expansion of the Universe back in time. This group's discovery of an accelerating Universe was named Science Magazine's Breakthrough of the Year for 1998. Brian Schmidt joined the staff of the Australian National University in 1995, and was awarded the Australian Government's inaugural Malcolm McIntosh award for achievement in the Physical Sciences in 2000, The Australian Academy of Sciences Pawsey Medal in 2001, the Astronomical Society of India's Vainu Bappu Medal in 2002, and an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship in 2005. In 2006 Schmidt was jointly awarded the Shaw Prize for Astronomy, and shared the 2007 Gruber Prize for Cosmology with his High-Z SN Search Team colleagues. In 2008 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the United States National Academy, and Foreign Member of the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences. Brian is continuing his work using exploding stars to study the Universe, and is leading Mt Stromlo’s effort to build the SkyMapper telescope, a new facility that will provide a comprehensive digital map of the southern sky from ultraviolet through near infrared wavelengths.

...ok, now off to the library.

The Discover Magazine blogs...

All excellent blogs, and below just a round-up from what I found interesting this morning.

HIV vaccine?

"“Mother Nature has allowed us a few breaks, in that we know that in a very few cases, people who have been infected for a very long time have been able to naturally develop antibodies that neutralize a lot of the circulating virus,” he said. “So, we thought perhaps we could take the genes that represent these antibodies ‘off the shelf,’ so to speak” [Forbes]. The researchers engineered a piece of DNA that triggers the creation of artificial antibodies called immunoadhesins ... In the study, published in Nature Medicine, researchers found that none of the immunized monkeys developed AIDS and only three showed any indication of SIV infection. Even a year later they had high concentrations of the protective antibodies in the blood [AP]."


When exactly did humans break off the evolutionary chain from monkeys, apes, lemurs... or did they break off our chain?

"The new research adds to an argument over which of two groups of ancient primates was the evolutionary jumping off point for apes and humans: Was it the tarsidae group, which gave rise to the big-eyed tarsiers found in southeast Asia, or the adapidae group, the precursors of the lemurs found in Madagascar?"


I remember being taught that once an egg is fertilized, no other eggs could be (umm, within a given female's single cycle). Apparently that is all wrong, although quite rare.

"Despite the fact that they were born at the same time to the same mother, Justin and Jordan look nothing like twins, besides having the same skin color. In fact, they look so different that James Harrison, the supposed father, decided to request a paternity test. Turns out, his instincts were right: One of the infants is his child, and the other is not."


Apparently there is a gender divide in people's acceptance of global warmin'. Is this more of the "be a man!" syndrome, political inclination, or something else?

Bike Lanes: New York vs. Toronto

I have to agree with Lloyd Alter here... Biking in NYC was a fantastic experience. It really felt like I was not only seen and recognized by the vehicles there, but also that my space was respected. Weird feeling...


Obama introducing national auto emission standard?

Good news indeed!.. Hopefully this one doesn't go by the wayside as so many others have...



Another Agenda over breakfast...

Another day of staying at home to study (great of Robert to get a little bit more help in the office for Tuesdays and Thursdays, as I am finding I could really use the study time to work out the kinks... ) but first, over some breakfast, an Agenda...

I don't want to keep on just reposting TVO Agenda's here, and I realize I've been on a little kick, but this is another great one worth watching. All guests contribute with some great ideas (most fascinating and resonating to me was the building of a community that people wanted to make sustainable for the community sake, not for / with their own motivations - Pier Giorogio focused on this quite a bit) and the different ideas of sustainability really sink in here.

Still talking about Chalk River isotopes??

It feels like they've been talking about this for years, without much progress... Why still nothing new? I haven't heard of any upcoming plans, never mind solutions. I mean, I'd get on it, but I'm a bit busy lately...


"The location of the heavy-water leak, estimated to be at a rate of five kilograms an hour, has been identified at the base of the reactor vessel in a place where there is corrosion on the outside wall of the vessel, AECL said."

- wtf?

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Gladwell in email conversation with Bill Simmons

In the, it's not really about sports, sports writing category...



I feel the same way about the attitude of professional football teams toward the no-huddle offense. Right now, great teams (such as the Colts and Patriots) use the no-huddle selectively, as a way to maximize their dominance. But why don't bad teams use it? If you were the Lions, why not run the no-huddle this season? Why not put together a lighter, better-conditioned offensive line and a radically simplified playbook and see what happens? It's not as if you are risking a Super Bowl if it backfires. Your offensive line is lousy anyway, so there's no harm in tearing it down, and your fans aren't going to turn on you if you get killed while you work out the kinks. Last I checked, your fans have already turned on you. On the plus side, maybe the no-huddle exhausts the other team's defense so much you slow down their pass rush in the second half. And maybe giving your quarterback a bit more autonomy helps develop his knowledge of the game, and his leadership skills.

The consistent failure of underdogs in professional sports to even try something new suggests, to me, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the incentive structure of the leagues. I think, for example, that the idea of ranking draft picks in reverse order of finish -- as much as it sounds "fair" -- does untold damage to the game. You simply cannot have a system that rewards anyone, ever, for losing. Economists worry about this all the time, when they talk about "moral hazard." Moral hazard is the idea that if you insure someone against risk, you will make risky behavior more likely. So if you always bail out the banks when they take absurd risks and do stupid things, they are going to keep on taking absurd risks and doing stupid things.



Let's wrap things up by tackling LeBron James. As the 2009 postseason rolls on, the King has become its most compelling story, not just because of his insane numbers, that Jordan-like hunger in his eyes, even the fact that he's still on cruise control to some degree. (Note: I would compare him to Nigel Tufnel's amp. He alternated between "9" and "10" in the regular season, and he's been at 10 in the playoffs, but I can't shake the feeling that he has an "11" in store for Kobe and the Finals. An extra decibel level, if you will. In my lifetime, Jordan could go to 11. So could Bird. Shaq and Kobe could get there together, but not apart. And really, that's it. Even Magic could get to 10 3/4 but never quite 11. It's a whole other ball game: You aren't just beating teams, you're destroying their will. You never know when you'll see another 11. I'm just glad we're here. End of tangent.)