Thursday, April 26, 2012
“The resources of Earth pale in comparison to the wealth of the solar system,” said Eric Anderson, who founded the commercial space tourism company Space Adventures, and is co-founder of a new company along with Peter Diamandis, who started the X Prize foundation, which offers prize-based incentives for advanced technology development. Nearly 9,000 asteroids larger than 150 feet in diameter orbit near the Earth. Some could contain as much platinum as is mined in an entire year on Earth, making them potentially worth several billion dollars each. The right kinds of investment could reap huge rewards for those willing to take the risk. Outside of NASA, Anderson and Diamandis are among the most likely candidates to realize such a dream. Space Adventures has sent seven private tourists to the International Space Station while the Ansari X Prize led to a spurt of non-governmental manned spaceships.
“We have a long track record of making large-scale space ventures real,” said Diamandis. Despite the promise of astronomical profits, the long time-scales and uncertain return on asteroid mining has historically driven most investors away from such undertakings. But the new company is also backed by a number of other billionaire luminaries, including Google’s CEO Larry Page and executive chairman Eric Schmidt, former Microsoft chief architect Charles Simonyi, and Ross Perot Jr. The venture also counts on filmmaker James Cameron, former astronaut Tom Jones, former JPL engineer Chris Lewicki, and planetary scientist Sara Seager as advisers.
Still, this new undertaking will be much larger and more ambitious than anything Anderson and Diamandis have attempted before. The hurdles are many and high. While the endeavor is technically feasible, the technology has not yet been developed. And beyond their initial steps, the details of Planetary Resources’ plans remain scarce. The first hurdle will likely be ensuring that Planetary Resources has covered all its legal bases. While some have argued that governments need to set up specific property rights before investors will make use of space, the majority of space lawyers agree that this isn’t necessary to assure the opportunity for a return on investment, said space policy analyst Henry Hertzfeld at George Washington University in Washington D.C. Mining occurs in international seabeds — even without specific property rights — overseen by a special commission dedicated to the task, he said.
A similar arrangement would likely work in space. In terms of extraction, Planetary Resources hopes to go after the platinum-group metals — which include platinum, palladium, osmium, and iridium — highly valuable commodities used in medical devices, renewable energy products, catalytic converters, and potentially in automotive fuel cells. Platinum alone is worth around $23,000 a pound — nearly the same as gold. Mining the top few feet of a single modestly sized, half-mile-diameter asteroid could yield around 130 tons of platinum, worth roughly $6 billion.
Within the next 18 to 24 months, Planetary Resources hopes to launch between two and five space-based telescopes at an estimated cost of a few million dollars each that will identify potentially valuable asteroids. Other than their size and orbit, little detailed information is available about the current catalog of near-Earth asteroids. Planetary Resources’ Arkyd-101 Space Telescopes will figure out whether any are worth the trouble of resource extraction. Within five to seven years, the company hopes to send out a small swarm of similar spacecraft for a more detailed prospecting mission, mapping out a valuable asteroid in detail and identifying rich resource veins.
They estimate such a mission will cost between $25 and 30 million. The next step — using robots to remotely mine, possibly refine ore, and return material to Earth safely — is probably the toughest phase, and Planetary Resources is still tight-lipped about its plans here. Source
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Last year Rep. Darrell Issa retracted his statement that President Barack Obama was one of the most corrupt presidents in modern history, saying he should have parsed his words more carefully. \
Tuesday, the California Republican's more careful parsing apparently included declaring Obama's government the most corrupt in history.
"We are busy in Washington with a corrupt government, with a government that I said more than a year ago was perhaps -- because of the money, because of the amount of TARP and stimulus funds -- was going to be the most corrupt government in history, and it is proving to be that, just exactly that," Issa said in a Bloomberg television interview. "This money, at the American people's expense, going through the hands of political leaders, is in fact corrupting the process, whether it is Solyndra, or GSA, or a number of other scandals," said Issa, referring to the bankrupt solar firm that got a $535 million government loan guarantee and the $823,000 Las Vegas conference of the General Services Administration.
The comments echoed the earlier statement, which Issa took a fair amount of heat over. “Do I think the president is personally corrupt? No,” Issa said when he -- at least partially -- took back his remark made on Rush Limbaugh's radio show last year. “I should never have implied that or created that in a quick statement on a radio call-in.” U.S. presidential history includes things like the Watergate, Iran-Contra and Teapot Dome scandals. A number of previous scandals have included criminal convictions, but no such allegations have been made against the Obama administration,.
However, the GSA inspector general said he is investigating the possibility of bribery and kickbacks in the GSA case. Issa's office did not respond to a request for comment on whether the congressman, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, would amend his accusation. Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook. Comments5622Pending Comments43
Monday, April 23, 2012
When Virginia Fike stepped into the OldeStone Truck Stop & Restaurant in Clear Brook, Va., to run some errands earlier this month, she decided on a whim to buy two lottery tickets. Intending initially to buy one Powerball and one Mega Millions ticket,
Fike picked the same set of numbers for both: 5-13-17-20-30. "I picked numbers based on my parents’ anniversary and their ages at that time, divided by the year they were married," Fike told the Journal, adding that she loves "jackpot games" and plays when she "can afford it". When Fike had paid for the tickets, she realized that she had mistakenly bought two Powerball tickets instead. "I was like, 'If I win, I win twice'…so I just went ahead and took the tickets,"
Fike told the Northern Virginia Daily. Incredibly, the 44-year-old from Berryville, Va., was right on the money. Reaping two times the luck thanks to her fortuitous error, Fike matched every number except the Powerball and clinched the $1 million prize twice -- becoming the first person in Virginia to win two $1 million Powerball lottery prizes in the same lottery drawing, the Virginia Lottery reports.
Virginia's newest millionaire, who claimed $1.4 million after taxes last Friday, said she is still reeling from the news. "Really it still just hasn't sunk in," Fike told the Journal. "It feels good but it's still just like right, you know somebody's going to pinch me and I'm going to wake up and this'll all be a dream."
The outdoor enthusiast and devoted daughter told the Northern Virginia Daily that she is looking forward to taking care of her aging parents and paying some bills.
Friday, April 20, 2012
Giving up our vegetarian ways and choosing to include meat into our diet is what helped humankind successfully populate the planet, according to a new study.
When early humans started eating meat and hunting, the higher quality diet meant women would wean their children earlier and give birth to more children and quicker, say researchers at Lund University in Sweden.
What's more, hunting required people to step up their communication skills, plan and use tools. These new developments required bigger brains, which our robust new diets helped us develop, according to the study, which compared 70 mammalian species and found clear patterns.
"This has been known for a long time. However, no one has previously shown the strong connection between meat-eating and the duration of breastfeeding, which is a crucial piece of the puzzle in this context. Eating meat enabled the breastfeeding periods and thereby the time between births, to be shortened. This must have had a crucial impact on human evolution," says Elia Psouni of Lund University in a press release.
The researchers reject another dominant theory - that breastfeeding duration is a social thing, and that new moms cut it short because of time constraints and family size.
The team created a mathematical model using data on brain size and diet of 70 mammals and found all species stop breastfeeding when their brains have reached a particular stage of development, which carnivores reach more quickly.
"That humans seem to be so similar to other animals can of course be taken as provocative. We like to think that culture makes us different as a species. But when it comes to breastfeeding and weaning, no social or cultural explanations are needed; for our species as a whole it is a question of simple biology. Social and cultural factors surely influence the variation between humans," Psouni said.
The death of Levon Helm, drummer and singer for influential 70s rock group The Band, is a significant loss for the rock n’ roll community. But in the many decades that have passed since The Band’s heyday, Helm’s cultural significance is not as widely acknowledged as it once was. It is with that in mind that we present to you five essential — and maybe little-known — facts about the legendary Levon Helm.
1. He played backup for Dylan
In 1964 and 1965, when Dylan decided he wanted to go electric, he recruited The Hawks — an early incarnation of The Band that included Helm, along with Ronnie Hawkins and future Band members Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel — as his band. So disenchanted was Helm with the negative reception Dylan received on the tour that he took a two-year hiatus from music after it was over.
2. He didn’t much like The Last Waltz
Martin Scorsese’s portrait of The Band may be one of the most widely celebrated concert films of all time, but Helm was not a fan, suggesting in his 1993 biography This Wheel’s on Fire that Scorsese and Robertson conspired to make Robertson look like the leading man, with the rest of the Band merely his supporting players. He pointed out that Hudson and Manuel received little screen time, while also claiming that nobody in The Band — aside from Robertson — received any money from the film’s VHS and DVD sales.
3. He didn’t much like Robbie Robertson, either.
For the reasons listed above.
4. He paid for his cancer treatments by hosting the Midnight Ramble
If you already know about the Midnight Ramble — occasional concerts Helm put on at his home in Woodstock that featured performers as varied and lauded as Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Hot Tuna, Kris Kristofferson and Jimmy Vivino (of Conan fame) — you might not know that their original purpose was to help Helm pay for his cancer treatments. Helm was first diagnosed with throat cancer in the ’90s, and underwent a laryngectomy and radiation treatment. He was unable to sing until 2004; The Midnight Ramble toured for much of the 2000s.
"This is a civil rights issue," attorney George Barrett said Wednesday in Nashville after filing a class-action lawsuit in federal court.
"ABC has engaged in conduct deliberately excluding persons of color."
Nathaniel Claybrooks, 39, and Christopher Johnson, 26, both African-American former college football players, answered an open casting call for The Bachelor in Nashville last August. They claim they were rushed through the audition process dismissively while observing white applicants treated with greater attention.
"I never even had a chance," says Claybrooks.
"In every job opportunity, you are looking to at least have a chance to compete for that job," addss Johnson. "Whenever you feel you are treated unfair or unjust, you are going to speak out."
The lawsuit alleges that ABC "knowingly, intentionally and as a matter of corporate policy refused to cast people of color in the role of the Bachelor and Bachelorette."
Warner Horizon Television, which produces the shows, calls the lawsuit "baseless and without merit."
"In fact, we have had various participants of color throughout the series' history, and the producers have been consistently – and publicly – vocal about seeking diverse candidates for both programs," says the statement. "As always, we continue to seek out participants of color for both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Obama: Reported details of prostitution scandal fall short of Secret Service standards
Published April 15, 2012
President Obama, in his first public remarks on the prostitution scandal involving members of the Secret Service, said Sunday that he will be "angry" if the reported allegations against the agents turn out to be true. He said Secret Service personnel, like the rest of any U.S. delegation abroad, must "observe the highest standards."
"We're here on behalf of our people and that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity. And obviously what's been reported doesn't match up with those standards," Obama said, on the closing day of his visit to Colombia.
The president, though, said he would wait until the internal investigation is complete before rendering a judgment. He said he expects the probe to be "thorough" and "rigorous" -- and that if the allegations turn out to be true, "then of course I'll be angry."
The president addressed the controversy during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Allegations that a Secret Service unit interacted with prostitutes in Colombia ahead of Obama's visit have overshadowed a trip that was supposed to focus on trade and other pressing issues between the U.S. and its Latin American ally.
Eleven agents accused of misconduct were recalled from their assignment and have since been placed on administrative leave.
Obama cast the incident as isolated, and praised the Secret Service as a whole.
"These men and women perform extraordinary service on a day-to-day basis protecting me, my family, U.S. officials," he said. "They do very hard work under very stressful circumstances and almost invariably do an outstanding job."
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, took a similar position - praising the way the agency's probe has been conducted and voicing confidence in Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.
King called the incident an "aberration."
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