By Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Sun Editor: A rare white Christmas at the South Pole brought with it a record-breaking heat wave -- at least for a day. The temperature officially hit 9.9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12.3 degrees Celsius) about 3:50 p.m. on Dec. 25, according to South Pole Station External U.S. government site senior meteorologist Phillip Marzette. That shattered the old record of 7.5F (minus 13.6C) set on Dec. 27, 1978.
Those sorts of temperatures may not qualify as mild to some people, but consider that the average annual temperature at the South Pole is about minus 56.9F (minus 49.4C). In the summer, from late October to early February, the average is closer to minus 26F (minus 32C), Marzette said.
"We like to call this our little Christmas miracle that we ended up getting snow and getting a record high for the books," Marzette said a few days after the record-breaking day, when temperatures had returned to mid-summer norms, about minus 15F (minus 26C). Sign that shows weather at South Pole.
The South Pole Station scroll shows the record temperature on Dec.25 (though the official record is 9.9F).
The snow was certainly an unexpected bonus. Precipitation in the continental interior is normally very light. Ice crystals are the most common form of precipitation at the South Pole. Ice crystals often fall out of a clear sky, glittering like tiny diamonds in the sunshine, and sometimes creating atmospheric phenomena like sundogs.
Larger snow grains often accompany storms, while actual snowflakes usually only occur at the height of summer, from mid-December to mid-January, when temperatures are at their warmest.
The cause of the sudden spike in temperature was a system from what's called grid south of the research station, bringing winds of up to 13 miles per hour. It's very uncommon to get wind from that direction, according to Marzette.
(The South Pole Station grid system uses Cartesian coordinates, which specify each point uniquely in a plane by a pair of numerical coordinates. Grid north at Pole is defined as the line representing the prime meridian or zero line of longitude and is called "north." The 180-degree line from South Pole is referred to as "south.")
When the system did blow through, the temperature started to rise rapidly, beginning at around 6 a.m. on Dec. 25, after starting just below 0F. By 3:50 p.m., the mercury had climbed to 9.9F, and hit the mark again around 10:50 p.m., before dropping as quickly on the following day.
Matthew Lazzara director of the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center (AMRC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison reported on the AMRC blog that two nearby automatic weather stations (AWS) dubbed Nico and Henry, had also reported record high temperatures.
The preliminary assessment of the data from those two sites, about 60 miles to the grid east (Nico) and grid north (Henry) of the South Pole, show that the Nico AWS hit 17.2F (minus 8.2C) and the Henry AWS reached 16F (minus 8.9C) on Dec. 25. The previous record at the former was 7F (minus 13.9C) on Jan. 4, 2010, while the Henry AWS had recorded a previous high of 5.9F (minus 14.5C) on Jan. 5, 2010.
The warmest temperature ever recorded in Antarctica occurred on Jan. 5, 1974, hitting a balmy 59F (15C), at Vanda Station, a small research base that once operated on the shores of Lank Vanda in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.
The Russian Vostok Station still holds the record for coldest temperature -- not just in Antarctica but the world. On July 21, 1983, the mercury bottomed out at minus 128.6F (minus 89.2 *C). The coldest day at the South Pole was minus 117F (minus 82.8C) on June 23, 1982.
Posted by Informant_News on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 @ 10:11:03 MST (410 reads) (Read More... | 5721 bytes more | Global News | Score: 4)
Misc: Safety of popular air shows, races under scrutiny
FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2011, file photo veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward's souped-up World War II-era fighter plane, P-51 Mustang, crashes into the edge of the grandstands, sending shrapnel into the crowd, at the Reno Air Show in Reno Nevada. Eleven people died and about 70 more were badly injured. That some victims would still support such events and return to them underscores the powerful fascination of air shows and races Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington will hold a hearing to address and answer questions about safety and acceptable risk.
(01-08) 11:46 PST WASHINGTON (AP) --
Despite suffering severe injuries in the worst air race accident in the U.S. in more than a half a century, some victims have told their lawyer they would like to attend future races.
"I just look at them, shake my head and say, `You are absolutely nuts,'" said Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents 16 injured victims and families of people killed at an air race in Reno, Nev., in September.
Eleven people died and about 70 more were badly injured after a souped-up World War II-era warbird crashed in front of VIP boxes, sending shrapnel into the crowd.
That some victims would still support such events and return to them underscores the powerful fascination of air shows and races, which are built around pilots and performers engaged in extreme risk-taking.
More than 10 million people attend U.S. air shows every year. But what level of risk is acceptable for both the public and the pilots? And can safety improvements be made to reduce that risk while still permitting daredevil performances?
The National Transportation Safety Board is holding a hearing Tuesday to help answer those questions. The hearing is separate from the board's investigation of the Reno accident. Officials for the Reno Air Racing Association, which sponsors the races, are scheduled to testify.
Since 1986, there have been 152 air show and air race accidents in the U.S., including 75 fatal ones, according to the board. But, except for the Reno race, none involved spectator deaths.
"When it comes to spectator fatalities, their record is very good in the United States," said the board's head, Deborah Hersman. "But any fatalities lead us to question how we can improve."
Industry officials draw a sharp distinction between the Reno air races and the other nearly 350 air shows held around the country each year.
The Reno races are the only ones of their type held anywhere in the world. A group of planes flies wingtip-to-wingtip as low as 50 feet off the sagebrush at speeds sometimes surpassing 500 mph. Pilots follow an oval path around pylons, with distances and speeds depending on the class of aircraft.
"We're just like NASCAR in the sky," said race spokeswoman Valerie Miller.
The Red Bull Air Race World Championships, the only other air race series, was canceled for this year and next year before the Reno accident. Those races are significantly different from the Reno races, with one plane at a time flying a course around pylons vying to achieve the best time.
Critics of the Reno air races contend they are more dangerous than the typical air show where aerobatic stunts are performed. Air show regulations require planes to follow a course parallel to the grandstands so that the direction and energy of the planes is never pointed directly at the crowd. In the air races, they say, there is a point, usually just before the home stretch, when planes briefly turn in the direction of spectators.
"When you think about the aircraft, in many cases highly modified aircraft, going over 500 mph 50 or 100 feet off the ground in the area of thousands of people, I think common sense would tell you, man, that sounds on its face just very dangerous," Buzbee said. While some of his clients support continuing the races, others say they feel strongly they should be ended, he said.
Before the Reno accident, the last U.S. spectator fatalities were at an air show in 1951 in Flagler, Colo., where 20 people were killed. That accident led to significant changes in the way air shows are staged, including a requirement that grandstands are kept a distance of 500 feet to 1,500 feet from planes depending upon the aircraft.
The requirements were strengthened after 67 people were killed and another 350 injured in 1988 at a U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein, Germany, after the midair collision of an Italian Air Force team performing stunts. Wreckage from the collision landed on spectators. Planes are no longer allowed to fly over crowds at U.S. shows.
"The good news is after that accidents safeguards that were put in place have protected the audience ever since," said John Cudahy, president of the International Council of Air Shows.
Michael Barr, an expert on aviation safety and former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who used to help plan air shows, said the Reno accident is an exception that will probably wind up being attributed to a problem with the aircraft rather than the nature of the air races.
"When you look back at the hundreds and hundreds of air shows there are and how few fatalities there are, this one is just the 100-year flood," he said.
Facebook may be in hot water over privacy again. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a public interest group, has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible privacy violations in the new Facebook Timeline feature.
“Facebook is changing the privacy settings of its users in a way that gives the company far greater ability to disclose their personal information than in the past,” the group wrote. “With Timeline, Facebook has once again taken control over the user’s data from the user, and now made information that was essentially archived and inaccessible widely available without the consent of the user.”
The first time EPIC asked the FTC to look into Facebook‘s privacy practices, it resulted in a two-year legal battle that ended late last year with a landmark settlement between the social networking behemoth and the FTC.
This second complaint, sent on Dec. 27, points to the new Timeline feature, saying it violates the November settlement prohibiting “Facebook from making any further deceptive privacy claims, and requires that the company get consumers’ approval before it changes the way it shares their data.”
Timeline began rolling out to users on Dec. 6. It completely changes the way a Facebook user’s information is displayed, highlighting significant events in the user’s life from the present back to when they first signed up (or even earlier if the user inputs that data). Facebook gives you seven days to edit and refine your Timeline, without anyone else seeing it, once you enable it. This way, you can delete photos or posts you don’t want others to see.
The first complaint EPIC made in 2009 called out Facebook for promising to keep users’ information private while actually making it available to third parties. In some instances, the site had allowed advertisers to obtain personal information from users who clicked on ads. The government accused Facebook of “unfair and deceptive” practices.
Some heavy-hitters signed the initial complaint EPIC made against Facebook, including the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, American Library Association, the Center for Digital Democracy and Patient Privacy Rights.
The November settlement forbids Facebook from changing their privacy settings without expressed consumer consent. Nor can Facebook share more of a consumer’s information than that individual’s privacy settings allow. In addition, every two years for the next 20 years, Facebook’s privacy settings will be audited by an unbiased third party. The first FTC audit is in May.
After the settlement was finalized, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted the company made “bunch of mistakes,” and blamed the error on “poor execution as we transitioned our privacy model two years ago.” He also assured consumers of the company’s dedication to transparency.
EPIC wasn’t satisfied with that settlement, calling it “insufficient to address the concerns originally identified by EPIC and the consumer coalition, as well as those findings established by the Commission.”
Facebook has more than 800 million users, many of whom have grown increasingly aware of the importance of online security. Are you concerned about your privacy within Facebook Timeline? Tell us in the comments.
Posted by Informant_News on Friday, January 06, 2012 @ 19:36:06 MST (518 reads) (Read More... | 4378 bytes more | U.S. News | Score: 4.5)
Misc: Stephen Hawking: Mankind must colonize space
Friday, January 6, 2012
Friday, January 6, 2012
Stephen Hawking: Mankind must colonize space
"I think it is almost certain that a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming, will befall the Earth."
CAMBRIDGE, England, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- British physicist Stephen Hawking says mankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation and should build colonies on Mars and beyond.
Hawking made the remarks on a radio program to mark his 70th birthday, responding to questions submitted by listeners, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
"It is possible that the human race could become extinct but it is not inevitable. I think it is almost certain that a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming, will befall the Earth within a thousand years," the Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist said.
"It is essential that we colonize space. I believe that we will eventually establish self-sustaining colonies on Mars, and other bodies in the solar system, although probably not within the next 100 years," Hawking said.
But if on its journey outward into space humanity should encounter alien races, the consequences could be disastrous, he warned.
"The discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe would be the greatest scientific discovery ever. But it would be very risky to attempt to communicate with an alien civilization.
"If aliens decided to visit us, then the outcome might be similar to when Europeans arrived in the Americas," Hawking said. "That did not turn out well for the Native Americans."
Scientists have uncovered a lot about the Earth's greatest extinction event that took place 250 million years ago when rapid climate change wiped out nearly all marine species and a majority of those on land. Now, they have discovered a new culprit likely involved in the annihilation: an influx of mercury into the eco-system.
"No one had ever looked to see if mercury was a potential culprit. This was a time of the greatest volcanic activity in Earth's history and we know today that the largest source of mercury comes from volcanic eruptions," says Dr. Steve Grasby, co-author of a paper published this month in the journal Geology. "We estimate that the mercury released then could have been up to 30 times greater than today's volcanic activity, making the event truly catastrophic." Grasby is a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and an adjunct professor at the University of Calgary.
Dr. Benoit Beauchamp, professor of geology at the University of Calgary, says this study is significant because it's the first time mercury has been linked to the cause of the massive extinction that took place during the end of the Permian.
"Geologists, including myself should be taking notes and taking another look at the other five big extinction events," says Beauchamp, also a co-author.
During the late Permian, the natural buffering system in the ocean became overloaded with mercury contributing to the loss of 95 per cent of life in the sea.
"Typically, algae acts like a scavenger and buries the mercury in the sediment, mitigating the effect in the oceans," says lead-author Dr. Hamed Sanei, research scientist at Natural Resources Canada and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary. "But in this case, the load was just so huge that it could not stop the damage."
About 250 million years ago, a time long before dinosaurs ruled and when all land formed one big continent, themajority of life in the ocean and on land was wiped out. The generally accepted idea is that volcanic eruptions burned though coal beds, releasing CO2 and other deadly toxins. Direct proof of this theory was outlined in a paper that was published by these same authors last January in Nature Geoscience.
The mercury deposition rates could have been significantly higher in the late Permian when compared with today's human-caused emissions. In some cases, levels of mercury in the late Permian ocean was similar to what is found near highly contaminated ponds near smelters, where the aquatic system is severely damaged, say researchers.
"We are adding to the levels through industrial emissions. This is a warning for us here on Earth today," adds Beauchamp. Canada has taken a lead role in reducing emissions internationally. In North America, at least, there has been a steady decline through regulations controlling mercury.
No matter what happens, this study shows life's tenacity. "The story is one of recovery as well. After the system was overloaded and most of life was destroyed, the oceans were still able to self clean and we were able to move on to the next phase of life," says Sanei.
Posted by Informant_News on Friday, January 06, 2012 @ 12:40:18 MST (417 reads) (Read More... | 4172 bytes more | Global News | Score: 4)
vessel from Somali pirates, Jan. 5, 2012. (U.S. Navy)
(CBS News) The U.S. Navy has rescued 13 Iranians held hostage by pirates in the Arabian Sea, the military confirmed Friday.
The rescue was performed Thursday by forces from the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, part of the 5th Fleet that was warned this week by Iran not to pass back through the Strait of Hormuz.
According to a Navy press release, the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd detected a suspected pirate vessel alongside the Iranian fishing dhow Al Molai, which had also sent out a distress call saying it was being held by pirates.
Al Molai's crew was detained for between 40 and 45 days, enduring harsh conditions and possibly being forced to assist the pirates in other operations against their will, the Navy said.
"When we boarded, we gave them food, water, and medical care," Josh Schminky, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd, said in the statement.
Fifteen suspected pirates are currently being detained aboard the USS John C. Stennis.
Algorithmic stock trading rapidly replacing humans, warns government paper
Regulatory framework needs to be updated to keep pace with effects of technology
By Leo King | Computerworld UK |
Algorithmic trading, including high frequency trading (HFT), is rapidly replacing human decision making, according to a government panel which warned that the right regulations need to be introduced to protect stock markets.
Around one third of share trading in the UK is conducted by computers fulfilling commands based on complex algorithms, said the Foresight panel in a working paper published yesterday.
Nevertheless, this proportion is significantly lower than in the US, where three-quarters of equity dealing is computer generated.
The Foresight panel, led by Dame Clara Furse, the former chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, argued that there are both benefits and severe risks to algorithmic trading.
There was "no direct evidence" that the computer trading in itself increased volatility, it said, but in specific circumstances it was possible for a series of events with "undesired interactions and outcomes" to occur and cause massive damage.
One such event is self-reinforcing feedback loops, whereby small changes, perhaps driven by data delays or news events, loop back on themselves and trigger a bigger change, which again loops back. Another event, normalisation of deviance, is more psychological: unexpected and risky events come to be seen as ever more normal until a stock market crash occurs.
Algorithmic traders’ regular dependency on limited capital while using ultra low networking latency systems presented risks to liquidity, and with the better predictability of order flows there were also risks of market manipulation.
On the positive side of electronic trading, the panel said, liquidity has improved, transaction costs are lower, and market efficiency is generally better.
The paper also stated that technological advances in extracting news will generate more demand for high frequency trading, but higher levels of participation will limit profitability.
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Additionally, it said, the systems are becoming increasingly "intelligent", negating the need for human development. "Future trading robots will be able to adapt and learn with little human involvement in their design," the report stated. "Far fewer human traders will be needed in the major financial markets of the future."
Professor Sir John Beddington, chief scientific adviser to the government, writes in the paper’s introduction: "Whilst the prevalence of computer based trading is not disputed, there are diverse views on the risks and benefits which it brings today, and how these could develop in the future.
"Gaining a better understanding of these issues is critical as they affect the health of the financial services sector and the wider economies this serves. The increasingly rapid changes in financial markets mean that foresight is vital if a resilient regulatory framework is to be put in place."
Posted by Informant_News on Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 18:25:35 MST (1313 reads) (Read More... | 3688 bytes more | Global News | Score: 4.75)
Misc: Microsoft Interfaces with your contact lenses to monitor Diabetes
By Joseph Held on 01/05/2012 17:18 PST
Not content with just invading your living room, smartphone and computer with its products, it looks like Microsoft wants to be there in every aspect of your life. It has been reported that Microsoft Research and the University of Washington are working together to develop smart contact lenses. These lenses will feature electronics that are capable of functions such as monitoring blood sugar levels wirelessly. One wonders what other thousands of posibilities Microsoft has in mind with a user interface this unique. If the lenses can be produced in a soft form the possibilities are indeed endless for the software megagiant. I can see kids lining up at the store when these things are
being marketed by game companies as the latest way to get the most optimal experience from your gaming system.
I don't know, it's just my own speculation at this point but I'm sure if my little ole brain can imagine it, Microsoft has already patented it, if it were worth it of course.
In reality the lenses are being tested first as a new method to monitor Diabetes without the need for the painful prick of the finger technique now employed by most Diabetics. I'm sure Microsoft will succeed with it's reshearch and marketing of this useful new diagnostic tool. I just wonder how long before they will be using this and other biological interfaces we will be seeing in years to come. This could be considered a "soft wet wire" but how long before the masses are jumping into more advanced, and intrusive methods of crossing the electronic, biological line? 10 years from now we may begin to see wet wire shops in the strip malls for the latest upgrade. It may seem like a long stretch between contact lenses and implanted biological electronic computerization, but we are already there. Watch for it.
Posted by Informant_News on Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 16:09:36 MST (1565 reads) (Read More... | 2547 bytes more | Misc | Score: 0)
U.S. News: Cop Issues Speeding Ticket, Asks Driver for a Date and She Sues Him
A Chicago police officer allegedly turned a $132 speeding ticket into a pick-up opportunity when he later tracked down the female driver and asked her out, saying the least he could do for the money he cost her was to treat her to dinner, according to a lawsuit the woman filed in federal court.
Evagelina Paredes filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago, accusing police officer Chris Collins of violating her privacy, according to the Associated Press. She alleges that after she was ticketed on Oct. 22, Collins searched for her address in the motor-vehicle database and left a handwritten note on the windshield of her car, which was parked outside her apartment in the Chicago suburb of Stickney, asking her out on a date.
In the note, a copy of which appeared was included in the court documents and was obtained by the Associated Press, the 27-year-old police officer tried to woo the female driver with humor and a seemingly heartfelt plea.
"It's Chris … that ugly bald Stickney cop who gave you that ticket. … I know this may seem crazy and you're probably right, but truth is I have not stopped thinking about you since. I don't expect a girl as attractive as you to … even go for a guy like me, but I'm taking a shot anyways."
"I did cost you $132 - least I can do is buy you dinner," the note reportedly read.
The scenario is not that far off from the "meet-cutes" of Hollywood romantic comedies. In the 2011 hit "Bridesmaids," Kirsten Wiig's character starts a relationship with the traffic cop who let her out of a ticket for a broken taillight.
Arguably, it's a lot less "cute" when it happens in real-life.
Paredes claims that the note caused her to "suffer great fear and anxiety." In the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified payments in damages, saccording to the Associated Press, she alleges that Collins used his position as a police officer to "manipulate" her into going out with him. Collins declined to comment to the Associated Press.
Posted by Informant_News on Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 15:09:14 MST (408 reads) (Read More... | 3735 bytes more | U.S. News | Score: 4.5)
U.S. News: Fifty-Seven Student Rocket Teams to Take NASA Launch Challenge
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- More than 500 students from middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities in 29 states will show their rocketeering prowess in the 2011-12 NASA Student Launch Projects flight challenge. The teams will build and test large-scale rockets of their own design in April 2012.
NASA created the twin Student Launch Projects to spark students' imaginations, challenge their problem-solving skills and give them real-world experience. The project aims to complement the science, mathematics and engineering lessons they study in the classroom.
"Just as NASA partners with innovative companies such as ATK to pursue the nation's space exploration mission, these young rocketeers pool their talent and ingenuity to solve complex engineering problems and fly sophisticated machines," said Tammy Rowan, manager of Marshall's Academic Affairs Office.
A record 57 teams of engineering, math and science students will take part in the annual challenge, organized by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Fifteen middle and high school teams will tackle the non-competitive Student Launch Initiative, while 42 college and university teams will compete in the University Student Launch Initiative. The latter features a $5,000 first-place award provided by ATK Aerospace Systems of Salt Lake City, Utah.
"This competition is extremely important to ATK to mentor and train our future workforce," said Charlie Precourt, ATK general manager and vice president of Space Launch Systems. Precourt is a former space shuttle astronaut who piloted STS-71 in 1995 and commanded STS-84 in 1997 and STS-91 in 1998. "ATK is proud to enter our fifth year as a partner with NASA on this initiative to engage the next generation. The competition grows in impact each year."
Each Student Launch Projects team will build a powerful rocket, complete with a working science or engineering payload, which the team must design, install and activate during the rocket launch. The flight goal is to come as close as possible to an altitude of 1 mile, requiring a precise balance of aerodynamics, mass and propulsive power.
As in classroom studies, participants must "show their work," writing detailed preliminary and post-launch reports and maintaining a public website for their rocket-building adventure. Each team also must develop educational engagement projects for schools and youth organizations in its community, inspiring the imaginations and career passions of future explorers.
In April, the teams will converge at Marshall, where NASA engineers will put the students' creations through the same kind of rigorous reviews and safety inspections applied to the nation's space launch vehicles. On April 21, 2012, students will firing their rockets toward the elusive 1-mile goal, operating onboard payloads and waiting for chutes to open, signaling a safe return to Earth.
The student teams will vie for a variety of awards for engineering skill and ingenuity, team spirit and vehicle design. These include two new prizes: a pair of TDS2000 Series oscilloscopes, which are sophisticated tools for studying the change in flow of electrical voltage or current. Donated by Tektronix Inc. of Beaverton, Ore., the oscilloscopes will be presented to the two school teams that earn the "Best Payload" and "Best Science Mission Directorate Challenge Payload" honors.
This year's participants hail from Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. For a complete competitor list and more information about the challenge, visit:http://education.msfc.nasa.gov/sli and http://education.msfc.nasa.gov/usli
The NASA Student Launch Projects are sponsored collaboratively by NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Science Mission Directorate and Office of Education Flight Projects. For more information about NASA education initiatives, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/education
Many media stories brought to the public's attention that fluorescent lights contain elemental mercury, which is a toxic metal. This raises a question about potential harm within your home and the homes of your customers if a CFL is accidentally broken. Does a broken CFL pose a significant risk of exposure to elemental mercury?
EPA states that the risk from exposure to elemental mercury is related primarily to the risk of inhaling mercury vapor. It is important to realize that we are always exposed to a basic background level of elemental mercury. In the United States, the level of elemental mercury in the outdoor air varies from 2 to 10 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) of air. A nanogram is equal to 1 billionth of a gram. EPA sets the Reference Concentration (RfC) for exposure to elemental mercury at 300 ng/m3. This is EPA's best estimate, based on current research and risk assessment calculations, of exposure to mercury in the air that does not impose a significant risk to human health over the subject's lifetime. This estimate includes sensitive subgroups, such as children, infants, and pregnant women. The RfC provides guidance to homeowners concerning the risk of long-term exposure to mercury. What about short-term, but relatively high, exposure levels? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the current permissible exposure level (PEL) for mercury vapor in the workplace at 100,000 ng/m3. This means that a worker should not be exposed to more than this level of mercury vapor even for a very short period of time.
What about short-term, but high, exposure outside the workplace? There are no published data on this topic. Therefore, there is no guidance for homeowners on what constitutes short-term, relatively high exposure risk. And the release of mercury vapor from a broken CFL would create a short-term exposure. This raises an important question. Just how high is the typical short-term exposure to mercury from a broken CFL? Findings of a study conducted by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) in 2007 helped to answer that question.
Maine DEP investigators monitored the levels of elemental mercury in the air when CFLs were broken in a room with a floor area of 11 feet 4 inches x 12 feet 1 inch, and a 10-foot ceiling — a room similar in size to the average bedroom. There were windows on three sides of the room, and one of these, measuring 30 inches x 38 inches, was opened for the tests described below. The broken pieces were removed in a sealed container from the room, but the floor was not vacuumed, according to the existing Maine DEP guidelines for cleanup of broken CFLs. (Vacuuming just spreads the mercury vapor.)
New CFLs from seven different manufacturers, and of various wattages, were broken to measure the amount of mercury vapor released. A total of 35 new CFLs were smashed with a hammer over three types of flooring: wood flooring, short-pile carpeted flooring, and long-pile (shag) carpeted flooring. (See "Does It All Go into the Air?" for information about the percentage of mercury released as vapor.) New CFLs were used to obtain the highest possible air concentration of mercury, because new CFLs contain more mercury than used CFLs. Immediately after each break, air concentrations of elemental mercury were measured. Mercury measurements were taken at 1 foot and 5 feet directly above the breakage spot. The 1-foot height represents the breathing zone of a crawling infant. The 5-foot height represents the breathing zone of the typical adult.
Researchers measured at 1 foot and 5 feet above the floor the initial spike in mercury concentrations immediately after each CFL was broken. They then measured mercury concentrations at both heights at intervals of five seconds for a period of one hour immediately following the break. The readings were averaged to obtain a mercury air concentration over a one-hour period. The results are shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Maine DEP Study of Broken CFLs
Worst-Case Breakage Scenarios
The average mercury concentrations listed in Table 1 are 2,523 ng/m3 and 19,318 ng/m3 for the initial spike at 5 feet and 1 foot above the floor, respectively. Both of these readings are well above the EPA RfC for chronic exposure to elemental mercury of 300 ng/m3. And after a one-hour period, mercury concentrations remained above the RfC of 300 ng/m3, at 733 ng/m3 and 940 ng/m3 respectively. But keep in mind that the EPA RfC is for lifetime exposure, not for a spike in exposure lasting just one hour.
What about short, but relatively high, exposures? For these, the OSHA PEL is 100,000 nag/m3. Average concentrations shown in Table 1 are nowhere near this threshold. In fact, for 34 out of 35 breakage scenarios, none of the spikes — even at the 1-foot level — approached the OSHA PEL.
In a worst-case breakage scenario designed by the Maine researchers, a 26W CFL was smashed over carpet. No ventilation was provided to the room, and only the larger pieces of the broken CFL were picked up. Those pieces were not removed from the room, but were placed in a trash can located within the room. Smaller pieces of the broken CFL were then cleaned up using a vacuum with a beater attachment.
In short, everything possible was done to elevate the air concentration of mercury in the room. Even with all this, the one-hour average air concentration of mercury was 21,262 ng/m3 at 1 foot above the floor and 16,814 ng/m3 at 5 feet above the floor, well below the OSHA PEL of 100,000 ng/m3. See Table 2.
As data from the Maine DEP study illustrate, long-term exposure to mercury from a broken CFL poses a minuscule risk — and no risk at all if simple cleanup guidelines are followed.
And choosing incandescent lighting — although it eliminates the risk of exposure to elemental mercury — entails the risk of an even more potent and widespread form of mercury poisoning. We refer to methylmercury poisoning, which comes from eating fish. It is well known that fish — taken from both fresh and salt water — contain significant amounts of methylmercury. The FDA warns "women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children" to eat no more than 6 oz of albacore tuna per week, because it typically contains high levels of methylmercury.
Methylmercury is much more toxic than elemental mercury. After elemental mercury in the air is deposited in oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water, aquatic microorganisms biotransform it to methylmercury. When methylmercury is in the human body, it mimics the essential amino acid methionine. This mimicry allows methylmercury to move throughout the human body and to pass through the blood-brain barrier and into the placenta. Fetal exposure to methylmercury results in irreversible damage to the nervous system and neurodevelopmental toxicity. Adults and children can also experience neurodevelopmental problems from methylmercury exposure, although it is not certain whether low-dose exposure to adults is toxic.
The likely dose of methylmercury from eating a 6 oz portion of albacore tuna is about 63,344 ng. A 2 oz portion would contain about 21,448 ng of methylmercury. Looking at Table 1 you can see that the average spike in elemental mercury concentrations immediately following, and just 1 foot above, a broken — and properly, promptly, and completely cleaned up — CFL is 19,318 ng/m3. Therefore, eating just a 2 oz portion of albacore tuna would result in a higher exposure to a more toxic form of mercury than being 1 foot above a CFL at the very moment it is broken, and inhaling every nanogram of elemental mercury following the break. We make this point to provide some perspective on mercury exposure risks, and to point out that eating fish is currently the primary way that most of us are exposed to mercury.
Choosing fluorescent lighting means purchasing and using lights that contain a small amount of elemental mercury. But doing so reduces the total amount of mercury in the environment. It's counterintuitive, but true. Since most electricity in the United States is produced from coal-fired electric plants, and since those plants are the primary source of mercury in the atmosphere, reducing electricity consumption will reduce our atmospheric load of mercury. Fluorescent lights use 75% less electricity than incandescent lights. Decreasing the amount of coal that is burned to power inefficient incandescent lighting will decrease mercury emissions into the environment. This will reduce the amount of methylmercury in our lakes, streams, and oceans. And this, in turn, will reduce the amount of methylmercury contained in the fish we eat.
In 2007, when the Maine DEP study was conducted, CFLs contained an average of 4 mg of mercury. But even then, some manufacturers were producing CFLs that contained as little as 1.5 mg of mercury. Maine DEP researchers noted that when they broke a CFL with lower mercury content, it produced lower air mercury concentrations. This is important information for consumers, because there are currently CFLs available that contain as little as 1 mg of mercury. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that beginning in 2012 CFL labels and the bulbs themselves must specify mercury content. Therefore consumers who wish to limit exposure to mercury if they accidentally break a CFL can purchase CFLs with low levels of mercury. (For a list of manufacturers, see "learn more.")
For consumers who just cannot bring themselves to use fluorescent lighting in their homes, screw-based LED lights for use in incandescent fixtures are now available. On average, LEDs are 1.5 to 2 times as efficient as CFLs and 6 to 10 times as efficient as incandescents. They also last up to 25,000 hours. Purchasing LED lights enables consumers to maintain a zero risk of exposure to mercury from a broken fluorescent. It also reduces the total load of mercury in the atmosphere. Currently LEDs are fairly expensive to purchase, but prices are expected to decrease as more manufacturers enter the market.
This video of Phobos-Grunt was taken from the Calern plateau Observatory (above Nice, French Riviera) on January 1st 2012, during a zenithal passage (culmination at 88.5° of altitude at 6:17:24 UTC, direction NNE). Distance to observer: 237 km. Speed: 7.75 km/s. Angular speed at culmination: 1.85°/s (without tracking system, at the scale of the video the satellite would cross your screen in about 1/30s). Phobos-Grunt is out of control and its atmospheric reentry is currently scheduled for mid-January. Credit: Thierry Legault
On the image, thanks to the specific orientation of the telescope mount (calculated with www.calsky.com), the movement of the satellite during the whole passage remains strictly horizontal, from left to right. Around culmination of the satellite, the Sun is on the right side and the trajectory of Phobos-Grunt is directed toward the Sun (azimuth of the orbit plane: 122° SSE; azimuth of the Sun: 114° SSE). The images show that the Phobos-Grunt is moving backwards, with the solar panels deployed but not lightened by the Sun. There is no sign of tumbling, and a video taken 24 hours before (Dec 31st) shows the satellite in a similar orientation. The image below is a stack of 30 raw frames, with 50% enlargement. (Go to link above for all videos and work by Thierry Legault
Instrument: Celestron EdgeHD 14” Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (focal length of 7000mm) on automatic tracking system, as described on this page. Camera: Lumenera Skynyx L2-2 (12-bit files in fits format). Raw files are available on request.
This video sequence shows Phobos-Grunt in the original acquisition size, it begins at 6:16:41 and ends at 6:18:01 UTC, for 963 images (acquisition rate: 12 fps, processed video rate: 25 fps).
Editors note: Use websites like Heavens Above to keep track of man made orbiting objects that become visible to the naked eye from our own Earth view. Set your home coordinates and the web site tells you when you can catch over flying objects. Maybe you already know this and better sites. Happy skywatching!
Posted by Informant_News on Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 08:10:28 MST (1304 reads) (Read More... | 2786 bytes more | Global News | Score: 4.66)
This is Korean Seaweed so your guess is as good as any as to where this originated from the ocean.
Posted by Informant_News on Thursday, January 05, 2012 @ 07:39:35 MST (743 reads) (Read More... | 757 bytes more | Global News | Score: 4.75)
Global News: Strange nuclear waste lint like substance might be biological in nature
By Rob Pavey
A "white, stringlike" material found among spent fuel
assemblies at Savannah River Site will be tested by
researchers from Savannah River National Laboratory.
'Lint' like substance can be barely seen - Angie French
Savannah River Site scientists are working to identify a strange growth found on racks of spent nuclear fuel collected from foreign governments.
Savannah River Site scientists plan to 'harvest' nuclear waste growths
The “white, stringlike” material was found among thousands of spent fuel assemblies submerged in deep pools within the site’s L Area, according to a report filed by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a federal oversight panel.
“The growth, which resembles a spider web, has yet to be characterized, but may be biological in nature,” the report said.
Savannah River National Laboratory collected a small sample in hopes of identifying the mystery lint – and determining whether it is alive.
L Area, with 3-foot-thick concrete walls, includes pools that range from 17 to 30 feet deep, where submerged racks are used to store an array of assemblies – some containing highly enriched uranium – from foreign and domestic research reactors. The material is kept there for national security reasons.
The safety board’s report said the initial sample collected was too small to allow further characterization.
“Further evaluation still needs to be completed,” the report said.
Will Callicott, a spokesman for Savannah River National Laboratory, said in an e-mail that officials hope to collect a larger sample for analysis.
“But whatever it is, (it) doesn’t appear to be causing any damage,” he said.
In a related story:
Savannah River Site scientists plan to 'harvest' nuclear waste growths
Scientists will fabricate a special piece of equipment to harvest samples of an unidentified white growth appearing in racks of nuclear waste stored at Savannah River Site.
A federal oversight panel, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, made note of the white, cobweblike material and speculated it “may be biological in nature.”
However, the board said, the tiny sample collected for testing was insufficient for analysis.
“We won’t have the info on the origins and identity of the material until we get a larger sample to analyze,” said Angie French, a spokeswoman for Savannah River National Laboratory, which is conducting the inquiry. “We expect to be able to get that sample in late January.”
The “white, stringlike” material was found among spent fuel assemblies submerged in pools in the site’s L Area, where nuclear materials from foreign and domestic research reactors are stored for national security reasons.
The sampling can commence as soon as equipment for the task is ready, French said.
“The material disperses readily when disturbed, so we are designing and fabricating sampling apparatus to collect the larger sample needed,” she said, adding that the mystery growth does not appear to be causing any problems or damage.
Posted by Informant_News on Wednesday, January 04, 2012 @ 18:45:35 MST (1137 reads) (Read More... | 4094 bytes more | Global News | Score: 4.66)
Global News: The Navy Unveils "Cicada": Now Even the Drones Have Drones
Jason Mick (Blog)
Tiny drones are marvelously versatile, much like their insect namesakes
The Tempest first floats up to high altitudes via balloon, then launches as a glider [Image Source: U.S. Navy Research Lab]
The U.S. Navy Research Lab's Tempest Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) may not be the mother of all drones, but it is the mother of two drones, at least. Hoisted up to 53,000 feet onto a high-flying trajectory via releasable balloon, the Tempest UAV "gives birth" in flight, launching a pair of mini "Cicada" drones.
The tiny Cicadas are an exercise in efficiency, with their logic boards doubling as wings. The Cicada UAVs are gliders, complete with smartphone-like two-axis gyroscopes and GPS circuits for navigation.
Several variants have been produced. The Cicada Mark I can be launched by firing it from a gun into the air. The Cicada Mark III is designed with special wings for improved range and stability, and is the model used by Tempest "mothership". Cicada stands for Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft.
The drone reportedly has a custom algorithm that accurately estimates wind speed and magnitude without any purpose driven sensors (presumably the algorithm is based on drift from the expected navigation path. A Cicada launched from an altitude of 18,000 feet was able to travel 11 miles, landing within 15 feet of its desired target, a remarkable feat. The drone has been hardened to endure winds up to 40 knots.
Lithium ion batteries -- the same kind you could find in your smart phone -- power the drone. The high-altitude versions have heaters to prevent the frigid temperatures of the upper atmosphere from harming the circuit board.
Comments Chris Bovais, NRL aeronautical engineer; "It gets quite cold at 30,000 feet—in the minus 57 degree Celsius range. So, we have to keep the batteries and electronics healthy and working."
The tiny drone will eventually be equipped with tiny imaging sensors and networking sensors as they near combat readiness.
The Cicada III is seen up close on the right, with the full Tempest being hoisted by the NRL team on the left. [Image Source: U.S. Navy Research Lab]
Posted by Informant_News on Wednesday, January 04, 2012 @ 13:30:58 MST (401 reads) (Read More... | 6059 bytes more | Global News | Score: 4)
U.S. News: Police kill armed student, 15, inside Texas school
EDINBURG, Texas | Wed Jan 4, 2012 1:02pm EST
(Reuters) - Police fatally shot an armed eighth-grade student at a middle school in Brownsville, Texas, on Wednesday morning after he pointed a gun at officers, police said.
Brownsville police received a call of a 15-year-old boy with a handgun at Cummings Middle School about 8 a.m. local time Wednesday, department spokesman J.J. Trevino said.
The boy aimed at officers after they confronted him in a hallway, prompting officers to fire, Trevino said.
"The subject pointed the weapon at officers, which in turn, the officers had to use deadly force," Trevino said.
A school district official said the boy was armed with a rifle.
The student was shot three times and rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, said Cameron County Justice of the Peace Kip Johnson Hodge.
Police have not released the student's identity, and a motive has yet to be established.
"That is still under investigation as to a reason why he was in possession of that particular weapon," Trevino said.
No other students, school staff or police were injured, Trevino said. Students were evacuated to a nearby high school and classes were dismissed for the day.
The school remained locked down for two hours after the incident, and SWAT officers searched the building "room by room," said Drue Brown, public information officer for the Brownsville Independent School District.
Brownsville is at the southern tip of Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border, near the mouth of the Rio Grande about 280 miles south of San Antonio.
(Reporting by Jared Taylor and Jim Forsyth; Editing by Daniel Trotta)
Posted by Informant_News on Wednesday, January 04, 2012 @ 10:20:12 MST (498 reads) (Read More... | 2196 bytes more | U.S. News | Score: 4.5)
Global News: Japanese man who Opposed Fukushima found Dead from Shot gun Blast
Editors Note: The man was found in his car with the shotgun resting outside of the car. They are saying it is a suicide or accident? Hmm?
Mr.Uemura Yasuhiro (64)
Town Councilor of Kowaura Minamiise Machi Mie
Found dead in his car
Bleeding from his chest
According to police, he had his chest shot
A shotgun was put outside of the car
He went out for his farm to keep the crows away with his gun
Police assumes it was suicide or a gun accident
He acted against the construction of Ashihama nuclear plan of Chubu Electric Power
After the Fukushima accident, he traveled around in Japan to give lectures against nuclear
Translation: Crow extermination: South Ise Cho discussion, at inside of car of car in death vicinity shot gun triple, Mainichi, Jan. 3, 2012:
3rd 2:45 PM around, the same town discussion of Mie prefecture south Ise Cho old harmony inlet, Uemura healthy width it is (64), inside the car of the parking zone of the ranch which by his manages, the wife to discover the fact that the blood is let flow from the chest, 119th it did. The death was verified at the hospital ahead conveying.
According to Ise station, Uemura receiving the bullet to the chest, we have collapsed with the driver’s seat, the shot gun (total length approximately 113 centimeters, top and bottom 2 connected type) had fallen external. In order for Uemura same day around 10:30 AM, to exterminate the crow of the ranch, you say that you went out with 1 people, with the gun. You investigate the same station from accidental explosion accident and both sides of suicide.
Uemura 90 years, was elected for the first time in old Nanto Cho discussion, included after the south Ise Cho combining and 6 period total had served. It opposed to the reed beach nuclear plant which the Chubu Electric Power Co., Ltd. plans, endeavored in enactment of inhabitant poll regulations of 93 years. Fukushima 1st nuclear accident was received, recently lecture and the like of the counter nuclear plant was done at every place.
Posted by Informant_News on Wednesday, January 04, 2012 @ 10:00:04 MST (1450 reads) (Read More... | 2643 bytes more | Global News | Score: 5)
U.S. News: Delaware wheelchair woman hit, killed by three cars that flee
PHILADELPHIA | Wed Jan 4, 2012 12:19pm EST
(Reuters) - A wheelchair-bound woman crossing a city street in Wilmington, Delaware, was struck and killed by a series of three vehicles that all fled the scene.
Police were hunting on Wednesday for three drivers wanted in the hit-and-run death of Edith McFarland, 58, of Wilmington.
She was trying to get across South Market Street, a busy road near the Fairview Inn, where she had been living for the past three months, when she was struck at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday, Delaware State Police said.
"After the impact, McFarland was ejected from her wheelchair into the southbound lanes of South Market Street, where she was then struck by two additional vehicles," investigators said in a statement.
Police said the disabled woman was hit first by a gold truck or SUV. All three drivers fled the scene without stopping.
McFarland was pronounced dead at the scene in the state's first fatal accident of the year, police said.
Hotel security officer William Cox said she will be missed.
"She was nice, very particular about paying her rent," Cox told Reuters on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Bohan)