Monday, May 22, 2006

It's Done

Posting this a little after the fact, but...

China completed construction on Saturday of the giant Three Gorges Dam wall, a milestone in the world's largest hydroelectricity project which is also designed to tame the flood-prone Yangtze river.

Chinese nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen proposed the project as early as 1918, and Mao Zedong once waxed poetic on his hopes for a "great wall of stone" from which "a smooth lake" would arise among the gorges.

Workers and officials marked the completion of the massive wall on Saturday, in a ceremony broadcast live on state television.

A brass band played and confetti rained over the site after workers poured the last batch of concrete.

In contrast to the launch of work on the dam in 1997, attended by both then- President Jiang Zemin and then-Premier Li Peng, no top officials attended Saturday's event.

State media praised the development company's decision to forego a plan to spend upwards of 1 million yuan ($125,000) on the ceremony and opt instead for a simpler one that cost only hundreds of yuan, saying the move emphasized that the wall's construction marked only a partial completion of the project.

Officials stressed that although construction of the dam's main span was now complete, much of the work remained.

Read the rest here

If it ever fails...*shudders*

Fusion Energy, Another Step Forward

Physicists working in the United States believe they have cracked an important problem facing man-made nuclear fusion, touted as the cheap, safe, clean and almost limitless energy source of the future.


many experts have been shaking their heads at the many challenges facing the ITER designers.

One of them is a phenomenon called edge localised modes, or ELMs.

These are sudden fluxes or eddies in the outer edge of the plasma that erode the tokamak's inner wall -- a highly expensive metal skin that absorbs neutrons emitted from the plasma.

Erosion means that the wall has to be replaced more often, which thus adds hugely to costs. Eroded particles also have a big impact on the plasma performance, diminishing the amount of energy it can deliver.

Writing on Sunday in the British journal Nature Physics, a team led by Todd Evans of General Atomics, California, believes that the problematic ELMs can be cleverly controlled.

They found that a small resonant magnetic field, derived from special coils located inside a reactor vessel, creates "chaotic" magnetic interference on the plasma edge, which stops the fluxes from forming.

Read the rest here.

It would be amusing if scientists working on smaller, much less expensive testbeds cracked the problem prior to ITER's finish.

When Chinese Politics and Science Collide

Just when U.S. universities are pushing to form alliances with their counterparts in China, accusations of scientific fraud are zinging across the Middle Kingdom. Beijing's determination to make China a scientific superpower seems to have created a Wild West climate where top researchers, under intense pressure to produce, are tempted to fake results or copy the works of others. Amidst charges and countercharges -- some of them spurious -- scientists worry that a witch hunt is starting up that could besmirch the credible research along with the suspect.

The outcry reached a crescendo on May 12, when Shanghai Jiaotong University announced the firing of star professor Chen Jin for allegedly faking research on computer chips. Chen is just one in a crowd of academics accused of everything from falsifying or plagiarizing results to embellishing resumes. While some have lost their jobs, ``there are many, many known cases where the academics are still in senior positions,'' says Yuen Ying Chan, a University of Hong Kong professor and dean of the journalism program at Shantou University in Guangdong province.

One of the leading Chinese whistle-blowers is biochemist Shi-min Fang. He runs a highly influential Chinese-language Web site ( that details charges of fraud and abuse among China's scientists. Since his site launched in 2000, he claims to have exposed 500 cases of illegal or unethical behavior. ``Misconduct is so widespread among Chinese academics that they have almost become used to it,'' Fang said in an e-mail exchange. ``They don't think it's a big deal at all.'' [emphasis added]

The turmoil comes at a particularly embarrassing time for President Hu Jintao. He and other leaders have been flogging their vision of China as an economy that relies on high-end innovation more than low-cost manufacturing. To realize this brains-based future, Communist Party leaders urge scientists to seize the leading edge of nanotechnology, stem cell research, and other emerging fields.

Such ambitious goals may be inspiring the unethical behavior.

Read the rest here.

When politics and science collide, it's often a very messy picture. Climatology and the Bush administration and now the PRC's leadership's goals and Chinese Academia in general.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Astounding Hypocrisy!

If Arnold Schwarzenegger had migrated to Mexico instead of the United States, he couldn't be a governor. If Argentina native Sergio Villanueva, firefighter hero of the Sept. 11 attacks, had moved to Tecate instead of New York, he wouldn't have been allowed on the force.

Even as Mexico presses the United States to grant unrestricted citizenship to millions of undocumented Mexican migrants, its officials at times calling U.S. policies "xenophobic," Mexico places daunting limitations on anyone born outside its territory.

In the United States, only two posts — the presidency and vice presidency — are reserved for the native born.

In Mexico, non-natives are banned from those and thousands of other jobs, even if they are legal, naturalized citizens.

Foreign-born Mexicans can't hold seats in either house of the congress. They're also banned from state legislatures, the Supreme Court and all governorships. Many states ban foreign-born Mexicans from spots on town councils. And Mexico's Constitution reserves almost all federal posts, and any position in the military and merchant marine, for "native-born Mexicans."

Recently the Mexican government has gone even further. Since at least 2003, it has encouraged cities to ban non-natives from such local jobs as firefighters, police and judges.

Mexico's Interior Department — which recommended the bans as part of "model" city statutes it distributed to local officials — could cite no basis for extending the bans to local posts.

Reading the steamy, hypocritical rest here.

I cannot put into words how enraged this makes me. Mexico pressing for extraodrinary clemency on the part of the United States towards its citizens and now this!

For an even further contrast to this let's look North, to something commendable that the Canadians have done in stark contrast.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Goofy thought.

The EU has been evolving into the United States of Europe and more than one EUer has stated they'd more than happy with cutting and pasting the original US Constitution for themselves. Sooo...

WI: the US sets itself up to conduct an EU style soft power expansion. Nations, who want to apply, not coerced, are admitted to be states. They go through a multistage transition period of aid and reform like the EU does with its new participants. The US has gone through and solved a large number of what the Euros are having problems with (Large state vs small state balance issues, how federal to be, etc).

We become the United States of the Americas...

Interesting. Interesting, but daft, I'm sure. It would make Canadians nervous again. ;)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Russia on the SCO Expansion

Iran, Belarus and other countries expected to become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, will not join it in the foreseeable future.

The reason is the organization's need to address economic integration of Central Asia and creation of a common sphere of humanitarian regional cooperation. This was evident from the meeting of SCO foreign ministers' council, held in Shanghai a month before its anniversary summit. The SCO will celebrate its 5th anniversary simultaneously with the 10th anniversary of its predecessor, annual summits on common border security.

It was the anniversary that prompted SCO member states to realize that without clearly defined borders of the region, the organization will fall into a crisis, when geopolitical games hinder its real efficiency.

From here.

We'll see what the Chinese say.

An Analysis of Putin's Speech

Russian President Vladimir Putin's address to parliament last week was perhaps less interesting in its "how-to-spend" content than in what was left out. The secrecy around the drafting of the speech had been tighter than around Stalin's war plans or Brezhnev's health bulletins, but observers with any amount of insight had expected two key themes: Russia's profile as an "energy superpower" and foreign policy in the context of the upcoming G-8 summit (Vedomosti, May 3; Moskovskie novosti, April 21). The reasoning behind those expectations had appeared solid indeed: energy is at the top of Putin's priorities, and his lieutenants have put much spin on the idea of "super-powerness." Furthermore, Kremlin analysts have touted the July St. Petersburg summit as the crowning moment of Putin's presidency (Expert, March 27). Yet in the actual address, the energy theme was reduced to technicalities, such as organizing markets for trading oil and gas in rubles and Russian territory, while the G-8 was not mentioned at all (Kommersant, May 11). There are several reasons that explain Putin's change of focus.

Read the rest here.

So, to summarize, Russia's military is still broken, but looks strong because they're building new nuclear we can't criticize them. hm. Have to think about that.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

So much for fixing that!

India said on Tuesday that poor nations had to give priority to ending poverty rather than fighting global warming at 189-nation U.N. climate talks criticized by environmentalists as a rambling talk shop.

Nations from Papua New Guinea to Iceland gave speeches during a novel two-day U.N. "dialogue" trying to bridge huge policy divides about how to slow a rise in temperatures that many scientists say could trigger catastrophic climate changes.

In one of the most forceful talks, India told rich nations to take the lead in cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases from fossil fuels, saying India needed more energy to end poverty for the 35 percent of its people living on less than a dollar a day.

"Removal of poverty is the greater immediate imperative" than global warming, Prodipto Ghosh, Secretary of India's Environment Ministry, told the 1,600 delegates.

Read more here.

Doug and Claudia made the plea to "do something. Anything. Please." I fear unless China and India sign-on, we're pretty much screwed. After all, as more than one third of the world's population moves up to First World consumption and wealth without curtailing the similar appetite that the US has for energy, we're pretty much screwed. The First World combined population is somewhere around 1/4 of India and China's...

Make sure that you are at least 35m above sea level for any long term housing plans.

CFE Treaty Politics...ick

Amid a deep secrecy that belies its democratic professions, the OSCE is preparing to hold a Conference to Review the Operation of the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) in Vienna at the end of this month. Some West European chancelleries are seeking ways to give in to Moscow's main goal at this conference: ratification of the 1999 treaty at the expense of a few small countries in Europe's East. Thus far, Moscow has only managed to persuade Belarus, Ukraine (during Leonid Kuchma's presidency), and Kazakhstan to ratify that treaty.

Originally signed in 1990, the CFE Treaty underwent adaptation at the 1999 OSCE Istanbul summit, in one package with the Final Act that includes what came to be known as Russia's "Istanbul Commitments"; namely, to withdraw its forces from Georgia and Moldova. While the original 1990 treaty remains in force, the 1999-adapted treaty never entered into force because Russia has not fulfilled those commitments. Moreover, Armenian forces deploy Russian-supplied heavy weaponry exceeding CFE treaty limits in areas seized from Azerbaijan, out of bounds to international inspection.

Meanwhile, Russia seeks to extend the CFE Treaty's area of applicability so as to include the three Baltic states, which were not parties to the 1990 treaty (they were still occupied by Moscow at that time). Since the Baltic states joined NATO, Russia seeks to bring them under the purview of the 1999-adapted CFE treaty and start negotiations with them about limiting allied forces that might hypothetically be deployed to the Baltic states' territories, for example in crisis contingencies. Legally, however, the Baltic states cannot join an unratified treaty.

Thus, Russia is now pressing for the treaty's speedy ratification by all state-parties, so as to make possible the Baltic states' accession to the ratified treaty, while still keeping Russian troops on Georgia's and Moldova's territories in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. Moscow calculates that Western consent to ratification of the 1999 treaty in such circumstances would legitimize, prolong, and even legalize the stationing of Russian troops in Georgia and Moldova as "peacekeepers."

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The War for the Eurasian Soul

Right now there is something pretty profound going on in Eurasia. The interesting thing is that is seems that people are not talking about it, even, as far as I can see, the analysts or at least they are not online. You see there is a 'war for the soul' going on and that war may end up either sundering the efforts of politicians of the last five years or sealing the fate of the eastern part of the continent for the next fifty years or even the rest of the century. So where is this 'war of the soul' taking place? Within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Right now there are two heavy weights within the SCO: Russia and China. Russia has been acting as though it was the leader, since it helped to found the whole shinding. China has been trying to steer the organization its way, whatever that is, since it feels it is the heavy weight in the org. In some ways, it looks like a case of what Germany did with the Soviet Union: the weaker power, but believing itself a greater power held down, allied with the up and coming power that the older, weaker, even fading power felt was its peer. Russia continues to think that even with its demographics, economics, and fallen technological state that its rightful place in the sun is the peer of the United States as the Soviet Union was. China, on the other hand, is very cognizant of its place as the up and coming power to rival the US. Russia had been trying to steer the SCO to its own ends. China has been trying to steer the SCO to its own ends. Neither of these should be a surprise. Every state tries to bend things to its own end. The question is what end is each seeking?

The 1990s were emphatetically not kind to the Russian vision of their place in the world. NATO crept eastern despite their cries of foul. Their former client states paid homage to Brussels and Washington. Then after Sept 2001 events, even the Near Abroad went on pilgrimages to the United States and then, to add insult to percieved injury, the US swept away the Taliban was shocking ease, taking and largely to the extent that the US wanted to, held down that country with very few causalties compared to what the Soviet Union did.

The Chinese were suddenly nervous about the US sitting on its relatively vulernable backdoor. The geopolitical balance had suddenly shifted with the US basing all over Central Asia. This added another intelligence front that the Chinese had to watch. Bringing Central Asia squarely into the American Hegemony rather than under the weak Russian one was not in China's interest. Under the Russians, little was to fear since Russia was so weak and looked to remain so. Under the Americans, who were anything but...

Hence, they came together to build the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a way to push the US out of Central Asia. The Russians thought that they could steer the whole thing their way. The Chinese felt they could their way. These visions are about to run into each other rather roughly. Right now China wants to invite more nations into the SCO.

Russia does not. Russia has stated what they have in mind for the SCO. They want to leverage it as a way to push the US out of the Near Abroad and to limit the damage done by the so-called Color Revolutions to Russian interests. Note the difference in trajectory between Kyrgyzstan and Georgia, frex.

China would like it to be the anti-USA camp, as far as I can tell, in world affairs. One aligned with its interests. It would like to invite a few nations into the fold. Most notably and especially Iran. This doesn't necessarily mean that China is headed to a position, in the near term, as the Enemy Of The United States (*cue appropriate music*), but rather to protect itself with a nice buffer around it with the anti US voices simply in harmony. What was interesting was that Russia and China exercised their military forces together a number of times already. Even Belarus went to Beijing to inquire about joining the SCO...without consulting Moscow.

What contradicts this PoV is that India is involved. China could be looking for the idea that they are simply trying to make this into an antiterrorist rather than a NATO of the East. It could also be that India is simply trying to negate the potential of the SCO being an anti-India alliance. At the same time, China has been rather angered by the Indian moves closer to the US. It may subtly withdraw the offer or make it one that India can't accept. If that happens, life gets...interesting.

If it does happen, Russia is stuck in the bed of its own making. The Chinese population is growing rather quickly. It's faced with lots of unhappy and demographically expanding minorities. It's ethnic 'Russian' demographics are as bad as they come. I have to question whether or not Russia's going to win this Eurasian war for the soul, but...we'll see. I have made comments that some have called 'cheap shots', but, honestly, I have to stand by them. I think Russia's in trouble and they signed up fro something that they're not going to be able to control.


If I were predictive, I'd say the indicator would be when China opens a military base in Belarus. Doesn't have to be a big one, just a small one, but it'd be pretty profound if it happened. We'll see. I'd be happy to be wrong, really. I would, but...I have serious doubts.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Surface is toast

Scratch one show I watched.

It wasn't that compelling, really, but its gone now and reduces the stuff to watch during early morning stomach crunches.

Appendum: It seems that all the SFnal series (which I didn't watch, rankly) got canned on the major networks: ABC dashed Invasion and Threshold got dumped a while ago.

It also seems that E-Ring is toast.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Baby Pictures - May before the trip

Some MilSpace Budget Developments

So far, little attention has been paid to a potentially important new start in the Fiscal Year 2007 US defence budget: the first funding line in years to be dedicated to a military, partially reusable space launch vehicle. If it survives this year's budget deliberations in Congress, the Affordable Responsive Spacelift (ARES) programme could start with flight tests of a small X-plane demonstrator as early as 2010.

Another little-publicised new development in 2005 was that the new-start SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) company announced an order for the Falcon 9 expendable launcher from an unspecified US government customer. The US Air Force (USAF) had previously ordered launches from SpaceX, covering the small Falcon 1, but this was the first US government order for a medium-class launcher from a non-traditional company.

From Janes's.

Approach with caution. This is Bill Sweetman after all.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Getting a little overwhelmed again. I have to get a bunch of stuff done prior to the trip to Ukraine on May 23rd.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More Implications?

Using an appropriately designed and replicated study of a latitudinal influence on rates of evolution, we test the prediction by K. Rohde [(1992) Oikos 65, 514-527] that the tempo of molecular evolution in the tropics is greater than at higher latitudes. Consistent with this prediction we found tropical plant species had more than twice the rate of molecular evolution as closely related temperate congeners.

Here's the abstract that I found because of Dienekes' Anthropology Blog and also a link to the related Live Science article.

The question then, if this is true, what are the implications? I can think of three.

For a SF writer? It suggests to me, if it holds up, that worlds with more energy input are going to have faster rates of evolution and speciation than earth does. Conversely, worlds that have lower energy input are going to have slower rates of evolution. Ecologies from worlds around F class stars might be dangerous for us to colonize. That's a thought to file away perhaps for a future novel.

For the dino nut POV? Dinosaurs, in all the books I have read so far about mass exctinctions, had a huge turnover in species. Since the world appears to have been a bit more tropical...might we have an explanation as to why?

For the cautionary POV? The energy input and retention can't be too high...or we get the Permian Mass Extinction. However, might we be on the point of increased speciation as part of the recovery from the mass extinction we are causing as a part of the global warming? Interesting thought that. Belongs under the Great Vision novel notes.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I have changed: ENTP -> ENTJ

The last time that I took this test, about a decade and change ago, I was an ENTP. It seems that I have changed a bit.

ENTJ - Commandant
You scored 54% I to E, 26% N to S, 80% F to T, and 42% J to P!

The single word to describe your type is fieldmarshal or commandant. You also belong to the larger group called rationals. You love to organize others in matters of logic. Even as a child, you likely naturally assumed the role of leader in groups. You share your personality type with 2% of the population. When you lead, you are more concerned with policy and goals than rules and regulations. You have a tendency to become a workaholic. You are impatient with repetition of error. You are friendly and outgoing, though. You don't mince words and willingly share your many strong opinions.

As a romantic partner, you are inspiring, but also somewhat challenging. You have a strong desire to be in charge and your clear need for an organized life and home can be overwelming to a partner. You like to confront conflict directly, discuss problems unflinchingly, solve them, then put them behind you. However, you can be too impatient or unwilling to take the time to listen to your partner and give them a chance to express themselves fully so that they also have a sense of closure. You are generally uncomfortable dealing with emotions, so you are apt to dismiss your partner's emotions as illogical. You feel most appreciated when your partner asks for your opinions, takes your advice, and relies on you to get a job done right.

Your group summary: rationals (NT)

Your type summary: ENTJ

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 66% on I to E
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 25% on N to S
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 88% on F to T
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 34% on J to P
Link: The LONG Scientific Personality Test written by unpretentious2 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

I's Not smart

70% Combativeness, 16% Sneakiness, 64% Intellect, 27% Spirituality
Aggressive, but with the brains to back it up: You are a Spellsword!

Score! You have a prestige class. A prestige class can only be taken after you’ve fulfilled certain requirements. This may mean that you're an exceptionally talented person, but it probably doesn't.

Spellswords combine arcane might with combat know-how. They're much tougher than mages, like to wear armor, and can cast spells through their weapons. They're very, very, good at doing lots of damage to a single target very quickly, and while not quite as tough as most fighters, are still pretty hard to kill.

You're both smart and aggressive, which means that you're probably pretty dangerous when pissed off. You also tend to be somewhat straightforward, which is nice, and don’t have much use for
spirituality or mysticism.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 72% on Combativeness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 8% on Sneakiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 31% on Intellect
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 25% on Spirituality
Link: The RPG Class Test written by MFlowers on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Perma El Nino?

Global warming caused by human activity has begun to dampen an important wind circulation pattern over the Pacific Ocean, and that could alter climate and the marine food chain in that area, a new study suggests.

It's not clear what climate changes might arise in the region or possibly beyond, but the long-term effect might resemble some aspects of an El Nino event, a study author said.

El Ninos boost rainfall in the southern United States and western South America and bring dry weather or even drought to Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere in the western Pacific.

As for the Pacific food chain near the equator, the slowdown might reduce populations of tiny plants and animals up through the fish that eat them, because of reduced nutrition welling up from the deep, said the author, Gabriel Vecchi.

Vecchi, a visiting scientist at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lab in Princeton, N.J., and colleagues present their results in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The slowdown was detected in shipboard and land-based data going back to the mid-1800s. It matches an effect predicted by computer climate simulations that trace global warming to a build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the researchers report. But simulations that consider only natural influences fail to produce the observed slowdown, Vecchi said.

So, it appears the slowdown is largely due to the man-made buildup of greenhouse gases, the researchers concluded. And the result lends more credibility to computer models that trace global warming to greenhouse gases, at least for their ability to forecast what will happen in the tropics, Vecchi said.

The study focused on what scientists call the Walker circulation, a huge wind pattern that covers almost half the circumference of Earth.

Read the bit more here

Planetary Bombardment for Fun and Science!

Jupiter's moon Europa is one of the most intriguing places in the solar system to Astrobiologists. An icy shell overlies a deep water ocean, and tidal flexing from Jupiter's gravity may provide energy for life. But while scientists have been talking about developing a Europa mission for some time, so far NASA has not yet sent an orbiter to investigate the moon in detail.

Karl Hibbitts, a research scientist at the John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, is working on developing a hyper-velocity impactor that could be carried on a future Europa orbiter. In this interview with Astrobiology Magazine editor Leslie Mullen, he explains why smashing down into the surface of Europa could provide details about the moon that an orbiter or even a lander could not.

Read the whole interview here