Monthly Archives: July 2012

Galactic Views (56)


X-rays From A Young Supernova Remnant
NASA – More than fifty years ago, a supernova was discovered in M83, a spiral galaxy about 15 million light years from Earth. Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to make the first detection of X-rays emitted by the debris from this explosion.

Named SN 1957D because it was the fourth supernova to be discovered in the year 1957, it is one of only a few located outside of the Milky Way galaxy that is detectable, in both radio and optical wavelengths, decades after its explosion was observed. In 1981, astronomers saw the remnant of the exploded star in radio waves, and then in 1987 they detected the remnant at optical wavelengths, years after the light from the explosion itself became undetectable.

A relatively short observation — about 14 hours long — from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in 2000 and 2001 did not detect any X-rays from the remnant of SN 1957D. However, a much longer observation obtained in 2010 and 2011, totaling nearly 8 and 1/2 days of Chandra time, did reveal the presence of X-ray emission. The X-ray brightness in 2000 and 2001 was about the same as or lower than in this deep image.

This new Chandra image of M83 is one of the deepest X-ray observations ever made of a spiral galaxy beyond our own. This full-field view of the spiral galaxy shows the low, medium, and high-energy X-rays observed by Chandra in red, green, and blue respectively.

The new X-ray data from the remnant of SN 1957D provide important information about the nature of this explosion that astronomers think happened when a massive star ran out of fuel and collapsed. The distribution of X-rays with energy suggests that SN 1957D contains a neutron star, a rapidly spinning, dense star formed when the core of pre-supernova star collapsed. This neutron star, or pulsar, may be producing a cocoon of charged particles moving at close to the speed of light known as a pulsar wind nebula.

If this interpretation is confirmed, the pulsar in SN 1957D is observed at an age of 55 years, one of the youngest pulsars ever seen. The remnant of SN 1979C in the galaxy M100 contains another candidate for the youngest pulsar, but astronomers are still unsure whether there is a black hole or a pulsar at the center of SN 1979C. Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/STScI/K.Long et al., Optical: NASA/STScI

LIBOR scandal is merely one symptom of bank problems

Editorial – Just how serious is the scale of this fraud? Some say that the amount tied to LIBOR is $360 trillion; some say $500 trillion, while others put it as high as $800 trillion.

“Manipulating the LIBOR is a big deal, because it affects the cost of money for almost everyone,” writes Gretchen Morgenson. As Dylan Matthews put it, “A bank that mucks with the LIBOR rate isn’t just playing around with esoteric derivatives that will only affect other traders. They’re playing with the real economy that most of us participate in every day.”

So outrage is entirely appropriate. more>

Time to Admit What We Already Knew: Online Ads Stink

By Derek Thompson – Let’s start at the top of the list. Yahoo! is a content behemoth, with 300 journalists and 700 million monthly visitors in 30 languages, and a business model that is broadly considered hopeless. “Yahoo has what all media companies want, which is a large audience,” David Carr wrote for the New York Times. “The company just doesn’t know what to do with it.”

Speaking of having a large audience without knowing precisely what to do with it, let’s move down the list to Twitter, a bonafide attention hog with 140 million active users and $140 million in revenue in 2011. If revenue triples this year and Twitter doesn’t add a single active user (both unlikely scenarios), the company will make $3 per active user, which would bring it in line with another company — Facebook. more>

Vending Machine Slings Pizza


By Charles Murray – The Italian inventor Claudio Torghele spent six years perfecting the mechanized vendor, with the idea that it would do more than simply zap a frozen pizza with microwaves. His machine mechanically mixes the dough from bags of water and flour and then passes it through a series of shaping and pre-heating stations that create a flattened and partially baked pizza base. A conveying tray moves the preheated crust beneath metering devices that squirt on the tomato sauce. Other distribution components add cheese, sausage, ham, and fresh vegetables. The machine then moves its product to an infrared oven for about a minute before putting it in a cardboard container and sliding it through a slot in the front of the machine. more>

AT&T, Verizon Reject FCC Funds To Close Digital Divide

By Gerry Smith – To help close the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission is offering phone companies millions of dollars to expand high-speed Internet service to rural Americans.

But the nation’s two largest phone companies — AT&T and Verizon — have told the FCC to keep the money. more>


CONGRESS WATCH Audit the Fed Moves Forward! US Congress


CONGRESS WATCH Rep. Tom Price (GA-06): Tax Reform Badly Needed; The Hill, July 24. Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22): Entrepreneurial Spirit Is What Makes America Great; The Hill, July 24. Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-01): After Roanoke; The American Spectator, July 24. … Continue reading

Views from the Solar System (53)


Saturn’s Moons
NASA – The Cassini spacecraft watches a pair of Saturn’s moons, showing the hazy orb of giant Titan beyond smaller Tethys. This view looks toward the Saturn-facing sides of Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across) and Tethys (660 miles, or 1,062 kilometers across).

The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 18, 2010. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 1.6 million miles (2.5 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 55 degrees. The view was obtained at a distance of approximately 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Tethys and at a Sun-Tethys-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 55 degrees. Image scale is 15 kilometers (9 miles) per pixel on Titan and 6 miles (9 kilometers) per pixel on Tethys Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

Why a Euro-Zone Crisis Can’t Be Avoided Very Much Longer

By Michael Sivy – Stocks rallied powerfully late last week after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi declared that the ECB stands ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro.

There are three seemingly unavoidable problems:

  • The next round of losses in Greece cannot be charged mostly to private-sector lenders
  • Austerity and ECB lending have not been able to hold down interest rates
  • The growing magnitude of the problem will run up against political constraints

Both France and the Netherlands, which supported and helped pay for previous bailouts, now have financial problems of their own. And resistance is growing in Germany against taking on further liabilities. more>

Obama, Romney campaigns are walking fine line between negative and nasty ads

Vote for me!

Vote for me!
(Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

By Justin Sink – The 2012 race for the White House has been dominated by negative ads. With 99 days to go, the only question is how nasty it will become.

Both have vowed to avoid highly personalized attacks. Romney’s Mormon religion and Obama‘s history with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright have so far been off limits.

Yet in an election expected to come down to a handful of swing states, some think it will be harder and harder for the two sides to leave ammunition on the table as the race intensifies in the fall. more>