Monthly Archives: December 2014

Galactic Views (147)


Hubble Sweeps a Messy Star Factory

NASA – This sprinkle of cosmic glitter is a blue compact dwarf galaxy known as Markarian 209. Galaxies of this type are blue-hued, compact in size, gas-rich, and low in heavy elements. They are often used by astronomers to study star formation, as their conditions are similar to those thought to exist in the early Universe.

Markarian 209 in particular has been studied extensively. It is filled with diffuse gas and peppered with star-forming regions towards its core. This image captures it undergoing a particularly dramatic burst of star formation, visible as the lighter blue cloudy region towards the top right of the galaxy. This clump is filled with very young and hot newborn stars.

This galaxy was initially thought to be a young galaxy undergoing its very first episode of star formation, but later research showed that Markarian 209 is actually very old, with an almost continuous history of forming new stars. It is thought to have never had a dormant period — a period during which no stars were formed — lasting longer than 100 million years.

The dominant population of stars in Markarian 209 is still quite young, in stellar terms, with ages of under 3 million years. For comparison, the sun is some 4.6 billion years old, and is roughly halfway through its expected lifespan.

The observations used to make this image were taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, and span the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared parts of the spectrum. A scattering of other bright galaxies can be seen across the frame, including the bright golden oval that could, due to a trick of perspective, be mistaken as part of Markarian 209 but is in fact a background galaxy.

European Space Agency

ESA/Hubble & NASA Acknowledgement: Nick Rose

Microsoft and Google in a Post-Snowden World

By Katie Benner – Bloomberg reported China intends to replace hardware and software made by Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Intel and Hewlett-Packard with homegrown operating systems and networking equipment by 2020.

The move reflects a harsh reality for U.S. tech companies: They earned leadership positions worldwide by making the best hardware and software, and now global politics could obliterate the advantages created by superior innovation and high-quality products. more>

Albert Einstein on the Fickle Nature of Fame, the Real Rewards of Work

By Maria Popova – “Don’t take any heed, if [anyone] is placing obstacles in your path.

“You always have pleasure in doing your thing well; it must give you independence from the whole buffoonery into which we have been born.

“I have largely attained this independence. Worshipped today, scorned or even crucified tomorrow, that is the fate of people whom — God knows why — the bored public has taken possession of.” more>

Advanced nuclear energy and the battle against climate change

By Josh Freed – They have now launched a company, Transatomic, to build the molten salt reactor they see as a viable answer to the problem.

And they’re not alone—at least eight other startups have emerged in recent years, each with its own advanced reactor design.

This new generation of pioneers is working with the same sense of mission and urgency that animated the discipline’s founders. The existential threat that drove the men of Oak Ridge and Argonne was posed by the Soviets; the threat of today is from climate change. more>


The secret to the Uber economy is wealth inequality

By Leo Mirani – There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone.

First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins. more>


NASA Memory Lane (42)

June 2, 1943.

75th Anniversary of NASA Ames

NASA – December 20, 2014 marks NASA Ames Research Center’s 75th Anniversary. The center was established in 1939 as the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and was named for the chair of the NACA, Joseph S. Ames. It was located at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, now at the heart of Silicon Valley. The Laboratory was renamed the NASA Ames Research Center with the formation of NASA in 1958.

This June 2, 1943 photograph shows the construction of the Ames full-scale 40- by 80-foot wind tunnel, with a side view of the entrance cone and a blimp in the background.

Why has progress stalled?

By Michael Hanlon – That true age of innovation – I’ll call it the Golden Quarter – ran from approximately 1945 to 1971. Most of what has happened since has been merely incremental improvements upon what came before.

Why has progress stopped? Why, for that matter, did it start when it did, in the dying embers of the Second World War?

Now, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite. A report by Credit Suisse this October found that the richest 1 per cent of humans own half the world’s assets. That has consequences.

As success comes to be defined by the amount of money one can generate in the very short term, progress is in turn defined not by making things better, but by rendering them obsolete as rapidly as possible so that the next iteration of phones, cars or operating systems can be sold to a willing market. more>


For Success In Social Media, Conversation Is Not Enough—You Need Narrative

By Dr. Bob Deutsch – A paradigm shift is needed: from conversation to narrative. Yes, what technology has wrought is truly amazing.

With one big huff and a puff, time and space have been blown away. And in a couple of gasps, marketing has gone from the need to consider person-as-viewer, to person-as-participant, to person-as-content-creator, to person as channel.

Nowadays every person wants to be its own brand—to perform, and to be liked, looked at, followed, and bought into. more>

Choreography of an electron pair

R&D – Electrons are hard to get a hold of.

Physicists cannot determine their precise location in an atom, but they can narrow down the region where the charge carriers are most probably located. When electrons move, this brings about a change to the regions where the electrons have the highest probability of being located. In some electronic states – physicists call them superposition states – this motion manifests itself as a pulsing with a regular beat.

The electron pair danced close to the atomic nucleus one moment and slightly moved away from it the next moment. The researchers were not satisfied with the role of mere observers, however, and also actively intervened in the electronic choreography. more>

Why Swaps Matter

By Mark Whitehouse – The banks have remained so dominant in large part thanks to a special advantage: They are able to finance their derivatives positions cheaply, because their creditors assume the government will rescue them in an emergency.

Their central role in derivatives trading, in turn, serves to reinforce their too-big-to-fail status. The largest bank holding companies have gone so far as to put almost all of their derivatives in their deposit-taking subsidiaries, which enjoy the added benefits of federal deposit insurance and access to emergency loans from the Federal Reserve.

Put another way, the banks can take federally insured deposits and use the cash to post collateral on derivatives bets. That’s according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. more>