Daily Archives: January 22, 2014

Views from the Solar System (182)

Infrared Image of Saturn’s Rings

NASA – Although it may look to our eyes like other images of the rings, this infrared image of Saturn’s rings was taken with a special filter that will only admit light polarized in one direction. Scientists can use these images to learn more about the nature of the particles that make up Saturn’s rings.

The bright spot in the rings is the “opposition surge” where the Sun-Ring-Spacecraft angle passes through zero degrees. Ring scientists can also use the size and magnitude of this bright spot to learn more about the surface properties of the ring particles.

This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 19 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Aug. 18, 2013 using a spectral filter sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light centered at 705 nanometers.

The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 712,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) from Saturn and at a Sun-rings-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 7 degrees. Image scale is 43 miles (68 kilometers) per pixel.

For more information about the Cassini mission, visit www.nasa.gov/cassini.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Why economics gets a bad rap

By Noah Smith – To put it mildly, economists have fallen out of favor with the public since 2008. First they failed to predict the crisis, or even to acknowledge that such crises were possible. Then they failed to agree on a solution to the recession, leaving us floundering.

The people you are mad at are only a small fraction of the economics profession. When people in the media say “economists,” what they usually mean is “macroeconomists.” Macroeconomists are the economists whose job is to study business cycles — booms and busts, unemployment, etc.

The problem is that it’s hard to get any usable results from macroeconomics. You can’t put the macroeconomy in a laboratory and test it. more> http://tinyurl.com/q8wapw7

Drowning in money: the untold story of the crazy public spending that makes flooding inevitable

‘Vast amounts of public money are spent every year on policies that make devastating floods inevitable.' Illustration by Daniel PudlesBy George Monbiot – One day a government consultant was walking over their fields during a rainstorm. He noticed something that fascinated him. The water flashing off the land suddenly disappeared when it reached the belts of trees the farmers had planted. This prompted a major research programme, which produced the following astonishing results: water sinks into the soil under trees at 67 times the rate at which it sinks into the soil under grass.

.. and here we start to approach the nub of the problem – there is an unbreakable rule laid down by the common agricultural policy. If you want to receive your single farm payment – by far the biggest component of farm subsidies – that land has to be free from what it calls “unwanted vegetation”. Land covered by trees is not eligible. The subsidy rules have enforced the mass clearance of vegetation from the hills. more> http://tinyurl.com/o6h7x6o

Scientists cook up new electronic material

R&D – Single atomic sheets of MoSe2 have been generating a lot of scientific interest lately because they belong to a small class of materials that absorb light and glow with great efficiency. But until now, no one had been able to make extremely thin layers of MoSe2 in significant quantities and directly observe the evolution of their electronic structure.

To make the sheets, researchers heated molybdenum and selenium in a vacuum chamber at the ALS (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source) until they evaporated. The two elements combined and were deposited as a thin, high-quality film. By tweaking the process, known as molecular beam epitaxy, the scientists were able to grow films that were one to eight atomic layers thick. more> http://tinyurl.com/ngtnwd4

Hey, Politicians: You Work for Us

By Stephen L. Carter – It’s easy to understand why politicians at all levels are so frustrated. A Florida county commissioner told me not long ago about his experience being berated in the supermarket aisle by a constituent who was angry about some vote. A friend who’s an elected official complains of being constantly targeted by well-bankrolled critics. It must get exhausting. Everybody seems to be angry. In opinion polls, respect for government institutions is at historic lows.

No doubt there are lots of complicated reasons for this collapse. I suspect, though, that the biggest is simple: By and large, we don’t trust the government and we don’t feel that we hold much influence over it. more> http://tinyurl.com/q576xxx

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CONGRESS WATCH Isakson Statement on Senate Passage of Omnibus Appropriations Bill, US Senate GOP Senators Introduce Bill to Pay for Unemployment Insurance Extension, US Senate Bipartisan, Bicameral Medicare Reforms Seek to Improve Care and Lower Costs, US Senate

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CONGRESS WATCH EDITORIAL: Toomey bill would help protect schoolchildren from predators, lehighvalleylive.com National Children’s Alliance Toomey Working To Exempt Volunteer First Responders From Obamacare, US Senate Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, commerce.gov Sens. Pat Toomey and John Rafferty visit Streamlight … Continue reading

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CONGRESS WATCH Chairman McCaul Questions Witnesses at Hearing on Administration’s Narrative of al Qaeda, YouTube [VIDEO 11:39] Rogers: Omnibus Targets Funding to Important Programs, Continues Downward Trend in Federal Spending, Committee on Appropriations/US Congress McCaul Statement on Passage of FY … Continue reading

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CONGRESS WATCH Participation rate in labor force matches 35-year low, marketwatch.com Graves Statement On The Nomination of Maria Contreras-Sweet as SBA Administrator, House Committee on Small Business/US Congress Committee Examines Rise of Peer-to-Peer Businesses and Their Ability to Create Jobs … Continue reading

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CONGRESS WATCH Wagner Statement on passage of the Retail Investor Protection Act, US Congress HR 801, the Holding Company Registration Threshold Equalization Act, YouTube [VIDEO 3:33]