Monthly Archives: January 2014

Views from the Solar System (185)

Solar Dynamics Observatory Sees Lunar Transit

NASA – On Jan. 30, 2014, beginning at 8:31 a.m EST, the moon moved between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, and the sun, giving the observatory a view of a partial solar eclipse from space. Such a lunar transit happens two to three times each year.  This one lasted two and one half hours, which is the longest ever recorded.  When the next one will occur is as of yet unknown due to planned adjustments in SDO’s orbit.

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Image Credit: NASA/SDO

Trust in government

OECD – The financial and economic crisis that started in 2008 led to a significant loss of trust in government. By 2012, on average only four out of ten people in OECD member countries expressed confidence in their government.

Why does trust in government matter?
Trust in government has been identified as one of the most important foundations upon which the legitimacy and sustainability of political systems are built. Trust is essential for social cohesion and well being as it affects governments’ ability to govern and enables them to act without having to resort to coercion. Consequently, it is an efficient means of lowering transaction costs in any social, economic and political relationship.

  • Core levels of trust in government are necessary for the fair and effective functioning of government institutions
  • May help governments to implement structural reforms with long term benefits
  • Could improve compliance with rules and regulations and reduce the cost of enforcement
  • Could help increase confidence in the economy by facilitating economic decisions, such as on investment and consumption that foster economic growth
  • Critical in core functions of public governance, especially in crisis situations, such as natural disasters, economic crisis or political unrest

Declining trust in government might also make it more difficult to attract and retain talent to work for government institutions. more>

The Incredible Shrinking Credit-Default Swap Market

By Mary Childs – Five years after almost blowing up the global economy and eight years after making fortunes for Wall Street traders, the credit-default swap market is quietly fading.

Rules introduced in the wake of the financial crisis by U.S. and European regulators have led investment banks to withdraw from the market and made trading credit-default swaps and other derivatives more expensive.

Bankers at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) invented credit-default swaps in the 1990s as a way for investors to protect themselves against loans going bad: One party makes regular payments to another in return for a guarantee to be made whole if a borrower defaults on its debt. What started as a simple hedging tool evolved into a playground for hedge funds and bank proprietary trading desks to speculate on debt, from corporate bonds to subprime mortgages. more>

Researchers uncover what makes superalloys super

R&D – Materials in high-performance turbines have to withstand not only powerful mechanical forces, they also have to maintain their chemical and mechanical properties almost up to their melting points. For this reason, turbine manufacturers have employed special nickel-based high-performance alloys for decades.

A phase separation phenomenon that has been known for around 50 years, but could neither be precisely observed nor understood until now: The microstructure of nickel-based alloys changes under controlled ageing or heat treatment and in the classical two-phase microstructure new phases are initially formed. Nelia Wanderka and Florian Vogel were able to precisely observe the phase separation process on the atomic scale for the first time. more>

Access and Public Safety: Enduring Elements of the Public Interest

By Tom Wheeler – Technology and networks are rapidly changing. We support technological innovation, but our challenge is preserving the values that consumers and businesses have come to expect from their networks – universal access, public safety, competition, and consumer protection.

Our mission is to ensure that as network providers and their customers upgrade to new technologies, there is no downgrade in reliability, availability, public safety, and competition. more>



CONGRESS WATCH Rogers Praises House Passage of Omnibus Bill, US Congress The Electricity Security and Affordability Act, Energy & Commerce Committee/US Congress STATEMENT: Rogers Responds to Delay on Lake Cumberland, US Congress STATEMENT: Rogers Responds to State of the Union … Continue reading


CONGRESS WATCH GOP Senators Introduce Bill to Pay for Unemployment Insurance Extension, US Senate American Legion Endorses Heller-Collins Bill to Extend Unemployment Insurance Extension, Repeal Military Retiree Cuts, US Senate Heller Stands With Veterans in Effort to Repeal Cuts to … Continue reading

NASA Memory Lane (34)

Jan. 29, 2014.

Astronaut Candidates Visit White House for State of STEM (SoSTEM) Address

NASA – NASA Astronaut Joe Acaba, center, moderates a panel discussion with NASA’s 2013 astronaut candidates, from left, Christina M. Hammock, Andrew R. Morgan, Victor J. Glover, Jessica U. Meir, Tyler N. “Nick” Hague, Josh A. Cassada, Anne C. McClain, and Nicole Aunapu Mann, at the annual White House State of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (SoSTEM) address, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Obama’s big gamble

By Greg Sargent – The current political tug of war breaks down as follows.

Republicans want the Obama era to be seen as one of excess liberal governance thwarting our economic potential, leading to widespread misery. The primary vehicle for this argument is Obamacare — government interference is only leading to lost coverage, higher premiums, and crushed jobs. Only electing Republicans to Congress can act as a check on unbridled liberal governance and restore market-powered prosperity.

Democrats want to persuade Americans that only they have an actual policy program to deal with our primary problems — that the gains from the recovery are not broadly shared, that wages have stagnated, and that there aren’t enough jobs. The Dem case is that the Republican arguments against Obama’s signature domestic achievement are really a proxy for the same old GOP trickle down ideology. more>




Blink, Author: Malcolm Gladwell.

By Steve Fleming – It turns out the brain has a trick up its sleeve when dealing with noisy samples of information, a trick foreshadowed by the British mathematician Alan Turing [2, 3, 4, 5].

Remarkably, the brain appears to use a similar scheme of evidence accumulation to deal with difficult decisions. We now know that, instead of relying on a one-off signal from the visual cortex, other areas of the brain, such as the parietal cortex, integrate several samples of information over hundreds of milliseconds before reaching a decision.

Putting these findings together, we learn that there is a benefit from being slow. more>