Daily Archives: December 12, 2013

Views from the Solar System (179)

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Cloud Towers

NASA – In a view from high altitude, height can be a difficult thing to gauge. The highest of clouds can appear to sit on a flat plane, as if they were at the same elevation as the ocean or land surface. In this image, however, texture, shape and shadows lend definition to mushrooming thunderheads over the Indonesian island of Flores. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image on the afternoon of Dec. 2, 2013.

The towering clouds are so well defined that it is easy to visualize the rapidly rising air that is fueling them. “This looks like a classic example of island convection that is enhanced by topography,” says NASA scientist Joseph Munchak.

During the day, sunlight heats the land more quickly than it heats the ocean. The warm air over land rises, creating an area of low pressure that pulls in cool air from the ocean. The result is a sea breeze. On this Indonesia island, the sea breeze from the Flores Sea on the north blows inland and clashes with the sea breeze blowing inland from the Savu Sea in the south. When the two breezes meet in the center of Flores, they push the air up. The rising air cools and condenses into a line of clouds.

Sea breeze convection is not the only force at work here. On Flores, cloud formation has help from the shape of the land. A line of tall volcanoes runs down the spine of the island, and their steep slopes also force air to rise. So, moist ocean air blows inland, hits the mountains and volcanoes and rises with the slope. Above the mountains, the rising air meets the rising sea breeze from the other side, and the upward motion is reinforced.

The combination of the two forces pushes air high into the atmosphere, resulting in large towering clouds of the sort that usually produce thunderstorms. In fact, a weather station on Flores reported rain and thunderstorms on December 2. This type of convection is strongest in the early afternoon, says Munchak, just about the time when Aqua MODIS acquired the image. The clouds were just beginning to form when Terra MODIS passed over earlier in the day.

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Image Credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC
Caption: Holli Riebeek

Why mass transit is doomed in America: Politicians don’t know people who use it

By Alex Pareene – If you want to know why mass transit is doomed in the United States, look at the place where it is undoubtedly more successful €” and more widely used €” than anywhere else in the country: New York.

This should be the most transit-friendly government in the country. A majority of New York citizens rely on public transit for their livelihoods. The city and state are run by Democrats, many of them among the most liberal in the nation. Our incoming mayor, Bill de Blasio, ran as a left-wing populist. But incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio is a driver. Andrew Cuomo has been a driver, or had drivers, his entire life. There are certain richer Manhattanites, accustomed to walking, for whom anti-car policies improve their quality of life, but for most of the political class, everyone they know and interact with owns a car. more> http://tinyurl.com/l2ca8cj

AT&T is more interested in cost savings than network operations

English: Avaya ERS 8600.

English: Avaya ERS 8600. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By George Mattathil – AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says, “The really big numbers come when you get really close to turning off the switch on the old legacy TDM infrastructure. There are significant network and IT costs involved in sustaining those products and you don’t turn the lion’s share of those off till you take that last product out of service.”

It seems primary preoccupation at AT&T is not how well they can operate the networks, but how much money they can save. Current thinking is a continuation of the past decision to keep the then profitable long distance business and spin-off valuable technology (Lucent, Avaya, Agere) and access networks (Baby Bells.) Service quality, reliability and performance are being sacrificed for the sake of financial profits. Such flawed thinking is a common problem.

It is possible that AT&T is not really driving this effort, but the government. That would explain the series of illogical past decisions by AT&T.

Proceeding with the all-IP plans will result in a network system that is less than optimum. Past neglect of a fully developed rail network [1, 2, 3] has resulted in the less than optimum current transportation system in the US.

If the FCC agrees with AT&T plans, get ready for a sub-standard network infrastructure with reduced service features and performance.™¦

Related>

The Brilliant Hack That Brought Foursquare Back From the Dead

By Ryan Tate – Dennis Crowley thought his 13-year dream might never come true.

The problem was the method the prototype was using to identify location €” a straightforward combination of GPS, Wi-Fi signals, and cell towers. It couldn’t always find the right signals, and even if it did, it tended to seriously drain the battery as it searched.

Why not take a shortcut? Foursquare already had a massive database of check-ins €” location information about the places its users most liked to go. And this data didn’t just include the place where someone had checked in. It showed how strong the GPS signal was at the time, how strong each surrounding Wi-Fi hotspot signal was, what local cell towers were nearby, and so on. Leveraging this data meant that Foursquare could still grab a good current location even if users were underground, near a source of radio interference, or facing some other signal obstacle. more> http://tinyurl.com/jvr4pnj

Fischer Seen Bringing Crisis-Fighting Skills to No. 2 Fed Post

By Joshua Zumbrun and Rich Miller – The former Bank of Israel governor, though a newcomer to the Fed, also brings continuity and strong academic credentials: as a professor of economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he taught Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, whose term ends in January, and European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi.

If confirmed by the Senate, Fischer would assume the vice chairmanship of a central bank struggling to convince investors that policy will remain easy even after it winds down its quantitative easing program. more> http://tinyurl.com/kczjw2d

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CONGRESS WATCH The U.S. is being Tested, Steve Chabot

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CONGRESS WATCH A Firm Step Forward, National Review Online/US Congress The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, Committee on the Budget/US Congress

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CONGRESS WATCH Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness, US Senate [VIDEO 3:40] Udall Introduces Browns Canyon Legislation and Meets with Local Businesses, flickr Udall Unveils Browns Canyon National Monument Legislation, YouTube [VIDEO 7:02]

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CONGRESS WATCH Boxer, Durbin, Warren, Reed Introduce Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights, US Senate