Saturday, April 30, 2011

Negative Quiddity: The "science" of Economics

There are very, very few absolute truths with respect to the social "sciences."  But here is one: always, and I mean always, trust an accountant over an economist.  Always pick the opinion of a CPA over one of a PhD economist.  You'll never be sorry.  Below is an opinion piece by Mark Steyn that shows why in a big way.  [Paul O'Neill has a bachelor's in economics and listens to too many PhDs.  Tim Geithner has a masters in economics and also listens to too many PhDs].
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Don't Let the Debt Limit Get In The Way of the Party
by Mark Steyn
Investors Business Daily, April 29, 2011

The other day Paul O'Neill said that ...

Oh, wait. I suppose I ought to explain who Paul O'Neill is. A decade ago, he was George W. Bush's first Treasury secretary. I have no very clear memory of him except that he toured Africa with Bono and they were photographed in matching tribal dress looking like Col. Gadhafi's Mini-Me twins at a Tripoli sleepover.

Other than the dress-up fun, I've no idea why they were in Africa, but you paid for it, so I'm sure there was a good reason.

Anyway, Secretary O'Neill popped up the other day on Bloomberg Television to compare debt-ceiling holdouts to jihadists. "The people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling," he said, "are our version of al-Qaida terrorists. Really."



"They're really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50% of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk."

But hang on, generally speaking, when you hit your "debt ceiling," your credit is at risk. If you've got a $10,000 credit card, and you run it up to the limit, but you need a couple more grand right now, pronto, because you outspend your earnings by 50% every month and you have no plans to change that anytime soon, well, the bank might increase the limit to $15,000, or $20,000. Or they might not. There is a question mark over your credit because there is a question mark over your creditworthiness: It is at risk.

Paul O'Neill seems to regard that attitude as unhelpful. So does Timothy Geithner, his successor at what is still laughingly known as the United States Treasury. Geithner says that even to be discussing the debt ceiling is "a ridiculous debate to have."



"I mean, the idea that the United States would take the risk that people would start to believe we won't pay our bills," continued Geithner, "is a ridiculous proposition, irresponsible, completely unacceptable."

The best way to persuade people to believe we'll pay our bills is to borrow up to our limit, and then increase the limit and borrow a whole bunch more. This would be the 75th increase in the debt ceiling in the last half-century. Let's just get it done, and resume the party.

But if Geithner thinks that even discussing the question is "ridiculous," then, as my colleague Jonah Goldberg put it, why have a debt limit at all? What's the point?

Well, because it gives us more credibility with our creditors, right? Even if we set the debt ceiling way up in cloud-cuckoo land to a bazillion trillion gazillion dollars and 83 cents, even a debt limit entirely unmoored from reality still gives the impression we haven't quite flown the coop.

Yes, but why does the U.S. government need to maintain credibility with its creditors when increasingly it's buying its debt from itself? Every month there's more and more U.S. Treasury debt and fewer and fewer people who want it. The Chinese are reducing their exposure. The investment behemoth Pimco, which manages the world's largest mutual fund, recently dumped U.S. Treasuries entirely.

To avoid the failure of U.S. bond auctions, or an increase in interest rates to make them more attractive to rational lenders, the U.S. government's debt is bought by the U.S. government's Federal Reserve.

I tried up above to come up with a real-world comparison for the debt ceiling — imagine you've got a credit card limit of 10K, etc. — but it's harder to do that with the Fed's policy: Imagine your left hand issues an IOU to your right hand in return for an email with a large number on it ... oh, never mind, it'll only make your head hurt.

"Quantitative easing" is extremely quantitative if not terribly easing, so raising the debt ceiling would enable us to issue more debt for us to buy from ourselves. You can see why Secretary Geithner thinks that's a no-brainer.

While Jonah Goldberg was asking why have a debt limit at all, Michael Kinsley took it to the next stage: "If the national debt doesn't matter, why have taxes at all?" Particularly when you no longer have to "print" money, you can just quantitatively ease yourself into it.

Once we raise the old debt ceiling, we'll be pretty much at the point where the U.S. government is spending four trillion but only taking in two trillion: For every dollar we raise in taxes, we spend two.

No surprise there: The "poorest" half of the population pay no federal income tax. They're not exactly poor as the term would be understood in almost any other country, but in federal revenue terms they're dependents, so in order to fund government services for the wealthiest "poor" people on the planet we borrow money from a nation of subsistence peasants where pigs are such prized possessions they sleep in the house.

But, if you can spend four trillion of which two trillion is borrowed, why not borrow three and make even more Americans dependent? Hell, why not borrow the whole lot? After all, the sums we're borrowing right now — $188 million every hour of every day — are unprecedented.

Wouldn't it be easier if we just made them even more unprecedented? That way we could have a federal budget of six trillion, of which, say, five trillion is raised by issuing Treasury bonds for the Federal Reserve to buy. That would stimulate the economy by creating 17 jobs for any remaining Americans who still feel the need to leave the house every morning.

Now that I think about it, I seem to remember Secretary O'Neill and Bono were swanking around Uganda and Ethiopia in tribal garb as part of the Irish rocker's campaign for African debt forgiveness. Now there's an idea. And, if it works for Africa, why not closer to home? After all, Bono supported the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, and America is way more "heavily indebted" than Uganda will ever be.

Under the 2011 budget, every hour of every day the government of the United States spends a fifth of a billion dollars it doesn't have.

Who does have it?

Er, the Federal Reserve?

A few years ago, I raised the ceiling on my own house. You can do that — up to a point. It depends on whether your foundation is solid and your framing is structurally sound. But, even if they are, you take it too high and the roof falls in. We're structurally about as screwed up as you can get, and the foundation is badly cracked. But hey, let's just jack the roof up a little higher one more time. What could go wrong?

At this stage, nothing does more damage to our "full faith and credit" than business as usual. If you're going to bandy glib, witless al-Qaida analogies, the conventional wisdom Paul O'Neill represents is the real suicide bomb here. Men like O'Neill and Geithner think they're quantitatively easing American decline. They're not. They're quantitatively accelerating American collapse.

Onward and upward.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tornado Power

Where Tornados Get Their Power
Analysis by John D. Cox, April 28, 2011
Discovery magazine

A tornado captures the force of a very large mass of rotating air in a supercell thunderstorm as much as 10 miles in diameter and concentrates its momentum onto a much smaller spot of ground.

The result is a vortex of incredible speed and power.

Meteorologists often use the image of a twirling figure skater to illustrate the effect -- how she rotates slowly when her arms are fully extended and then spins dramatically faster as she pulls her arms inward. The physical principle involved is known as the concentration of angular momentum.

Call it what you will, the director of the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Ok., observes that it hit with a vengeance Wednesday.


"What we just experienced will go down as an outbreak of historic proportions," Russell Schneider told Discovery News. "These were very large and strong tornadoes over very long paths. The details of the statistics will emerge, but the toll already is very large."

The tornadoes get their spin from their parent storms, as Schneider put it, "from the organizing effect of very strong winds that change with height, which we call wind shear. There is natural spin within the air, and it's greatest on days when winds are very strong and change rapidly with height. Yesterday was one of those days over Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Tennessee."

STORM SURGE: What's Behind the Weather?

Wednesday's was the second largest single-day outbreak in terms of fatalities -- following the April 3, 1974 outbreak that killed 315 people.

For all of the technology and scientific effort that has poured into the subject from the Storm center and other agencies of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, still there are mysteries about how tornadoes form and how they are able to reach wind speeds as high as 300 miles per hour.

"It is an area of very active research within NOAA and the academic community," said Schneider. "The details of the phemonenal wind speeds will be unlocked by that research."

IMAGE: A supercell thunderstorm and the features that produce a tornado. CREDIT: NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poetic Justice: The Dragon Lady Finally Dies

Former First Lady of South Vietnam Dies in Rome
By Victor L. Simpson And Margie Mason, Associated Press – Wed Apr 27, 2011
ROME – Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, the outspoken beauty who served as South Vietnam's unofficial first lady early on in the Vietnam War and earned the nickname "Dragon Lady" for her harsh criticism of protesting Buddhist monks and communist sympathizers, has died at age 86, a Rome funeral home said Wednesday.

She died on Easter Sunday in a Rome hospital. The Gualandri funeral home said she was registered as Tran Le Xuan, her original Vietnamese name, meaning "Beautiful Spring."

Madame Nhu lived in the former presidential palace in South Vietnam's capital, Saigon, with her husband, the powerful head of the secret police, and his bachelor brother, President Ngo Dinh Diem, who served from 1955 to 1963. She took on the role of first lady as U.S.-backed South Vietnam fought northern communist forces before Washington broadened its military effort.

In the early 1960s, the trendsetting Madame Nhu was often photographed with her bouffant hairdo and glamorous clothes, including a tight version of the traditional silk tunic known as the ao dai, which showcased her slender body. She was equally well known for her fiery rhetoric, and was particularly outspoken against Buddhist monks who were setting themselves on fire to protest Diem's crackdown — once saying she would "clap hands at seeing another monk barbecue show, for one cannot be responsible for the madness of others."

Madame Nhu, March 10, 1963

Her Buddhist father, Tran Van Chuong, who was serving as the South Vietnamese ambassador to the U.S., resigned in protest as did her mother, Nam-Tran Chuong, who was South Vietnam's permanent observer to the United Nations.

Madame Nhu later called her father "a coward."

She was in the United States on a speaking tour on Nov. 1, 1963, when her husband, Ngo Dinh Nhu, was killed along with Diem in a U.S.-backed coup, ending his eight-year rule.

Madame Nhu went into exile in Italy and remained in Europe until her death, living a reclusive life in which she left her home only to attend Mass, according to family friend Thu Phu Truong of Seattle.

"When you hear the news one of your friends or relatives passes away, you are probably very sad. In this case, I am kind of joyful," Truong told The Associated Press. "When her husband was killed, she was away, and she lived by herself ... for what? She is waiting for the day she can be reunited with her husband."

Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City, fell to the communists on April 30, 1975 when tanks rolled into the city, reunifying the country.

Madame Nhu had been raised Buddhist in Hanoi by well-off and highly influential aristocratic parents, but she converted to Catholicism in 1943 when she married Nhu, who was nearly twice her age. She remained deeply religious until her death, Truong said.

In 1986, her brother was charged with strangling their elderly father and mother in their Washington, D.C. house. He was found incompetent to stand trial and deported to France.

She issued a rare statement to The Associated Press at the time of the deaths, saying: "After what has been done against Vietnam, my country, my people and my family by the U.S.A., without it having ever contemplated reparation and without the West intervening on behalf of justice and truth as taught to it through the Messianic message, I do not recognize (their) right to question and judge any of mine."

Her villa in the countryside on the outskirts of Rome included a chapel with a statue of the Virgin Mary.

In Orange County, California, home to the largest population of Vietnamese outside the country, Auxiliary Bishop Dominic M. Luong said he met Madame Nhu in Paris a few years ago and was struck by her devotion to the church, which likely intensified after realizing her life in South Vietnam was over.

"She finally realized it was a lost cause, she probably chose the religious way of life to get at peace with her mind and her political desire," Luong said. "She was a very, very interesting woman, very intelligent."

Luong asked Orange County's flourishing community of Vietnamese Catholics to pray for Nhu during Mass on Tuesday morning and the diocese issued a statement about her death.

Orange County's "Little Saigon" is home to thousands of Vietnamese refugees who fled to the U.S. after U.S.-backed Saigon fell to northern Communist forces.

"It's another turning of a page of history," said Tony Lam, a former city councilman in the Orange County town of Westminster. "Madame Nhu herself has done a lot of work for the Republic of South Vietnam."

Madame Nhu had four children. Her oldest daughter was killed in a 1967 car crash.
Mason reported from Hanoi. Gillian Flaccus and Amy Taxin in Orange County, California, contributed to this report.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Patent Ace Silverbrook Shrouded in Secrecy

Silverbrook's secrets

A report by the University of Melbourne's Intellectual Property Research Institute of Australia (IPRIA), published in 2006, describes Silverbrook Research as a "secretive" company about which "little is known", although “primary inventor and owner, Kia Silverbrook, is among the top living patenters.”
Kia Silverbrook does not appear to have granted an interview to the media for more than 15 years, and Silverbrook Research R&D staff won't even tell friends what they're working on. The only outsiders who claim to know anything are Lyra Research, whose analysts have visited Silverbrook recently.
Kia Silverbrook

The mysterious Silverbrook Research has something of the aura of Transmeta, the CPU start up that built hype to a fever pitch by saying almost nothing. Transmeta did deliver a fascinating, innovative product, but the impact on the industry was relatively slight. Prolific inventor Kia Silverbrook himself conjures up images of US polymath Dean Kamen, whose brilliant Segway personal vehicle was a disappointment partly because secrecy drove speculation to ridiculous heights.

It's difficult to know what to make of the company. On one hand we have the incredible torrent of patents, on the other we have reports that Silverbrook Research was sued by several creditors over unpaid bills a few years ago. There are also oddities like this rather amateurish company logo.
And then there's the fact that, despite all those patents, the IPRIA doesn't even list Silverbrook on its chart of top Australian innovators because “it is not regarded as a company that brings any of its products to market and its licensing revenue is unknown".
"He's charismatic and very good at getting his ideas across and convincing other people that they are good ideas. But I wouldn't say he had practical business skills in following through to develop products out of these ideas," said a former business partner of Kia Silverbrook in a 2004 Sydney Morning Herald interview.

Patent it all

One reason for the huge number of Silverbrook patents is that the company patents both basic technology and its potential applications. So the company has patents with titles like "Hand-held video gaming device with integral printer". Similarly, Silverbrook holds patents for cameras, PDAs, mobile phones, and even in-car entertainment systems, all with built-in printers.
These are certainly not products that Silverbrook is likely to develop itself. But, if printer technology becomes much cheaper and much more compact, maybe the next PSP or Gameboy will have its own tiny printer - then Silverbrook's patent will earn royalties. It's worth repeating here that much of Silverbrook's basic research is in fact, all about making printers cheaper and more compact.
Silverbrook is such a patent-generating machine that its former legal counsel actually used the experience to set up his own company handling bulk patent filings.

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Will Memjet Be Revolutionary or Vaporware?

Silverbrook showed off Memjet at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, and had hoped to have a Memjet printer to market at the end of 2009. But those plans have been delayed. That, and Silverbrook's secrecy, have led some consumers to doubt whether Memjet printers will ever materialize.

Veteran printer reviewer M. David Stone, an editor at, did confirm in August 2009 that the technology is viable. "I suspect there won't be any such announcement [about a Memjet product]," Stone writes, "until a product is very close to being available, with the company possibly waiting until it's ready to ship the product on the day it's announced."

If Memjet's potential is realized, the technology may well revolutionize consumer printing. Having waited more than ten years to perfect their technology, it is perhaps understandable that Silverbrook is playing coy until Memjet can be dramatically debuted.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Inventor Kia Silverbrook

Kia Silverbrook

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kia Silverbrook (born 1958) is an Australian inventor, scientist and serial entrepreneur.  Silverbrook is the world's most prolific inventor with 3,779 granted U.S. utility patents as of 5 April 2011. Silverbrook has 8,926 patents or patent applications registered the international patent document database (INPADOC).

Silverbrook has made numerous inventions in the fields of digital music synthesis, digital video, digital printing, digital paper, internet commerce, computer graphics, liquid crystal displays, robotics, organic chemistry, microelectromechanical systems, mechanical engineering, cryptography, se4nsors, nanotechnology, oarallel processing and integrated circuit (chip) architecture.

For all of the 20th century, Thomas Edison was the most prolific inventor in history, with 1,084 U.S. utility patents. Edison was passed by Japanese inventor Shunpei Yamazaki on June 17, 2003.  Yamazaki was subsequently passed by Silverbrook on February 26, 2008.

In 1994 Silverbrook co-founded Silverbrook Research, an Australian research and development and invention licensing company. Silverbrook is currently chairman and CEO of Silverbrook Research, the largest non-government research company in Australia, with around 500 scientists and engineers. Silverbrook Research is the developer of the Memjeet  printer technology, the Hyperlabel alternative to RFID, and the Netpage digital pen technology, among others. Since 2001, Silverbrook Research has appeared in the annual listings of the top 200 global companies, as ranked by US patents, climbing as high as the 28th rank in 2008.

In 2002 Silverbrook co-founded Memjet, a printer technology company. Silverbrook is currently chairman and CTO of Memjet. When Silverbrook first announced the Memjet technology in March 2007, it was widely thought to be a hoax,as the technology seemed to be implausibly advanced. However, now that printers have been demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011), and announced by such major companies as Lenovo and Medion the technology has been shown to be real.


At the heart of Memjet-powered printers are Memjet printheads that release more than 700 million drops of ink per second through more than 70,000 inkjet nozzles. Memjet-powered printers differ from traditional inkjet printers in that the Memjet printhead is 8.77" (222.7mm) wide and spans a standard page. The Memjet printhead does not move back and forth. This enables the super high speeds at which Memjet-powered printers operate: 60 pages per minute (12 inches per second) with 1600 dpi color. Early Memjet technology was first unveiled in 2007 to share its potential with OEM printing partners. Since then, Memjet has been working closely with global OEMs for their market releases of printers that leverage Memjet technology. The company launched its labels and packaging market presence November 2010 at Pack Expo in Chicago, Illinois. Memjet said then it will make a series of announcements for a variety of industries in 2011. The company's website includes videos of its print engines and reference designs.

Memjet has partnerships with several leading OEMs including Lenovo in China, Kpowerscience Co., LTD in Taiwan, WeP in India and more recently partnered with Medion in Germany to introduce Memjet-powered printers to the European market, distributed by Tech Data to bring its high speed printing technology to consumers across the globe.

The word "Memjet" is derived from Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The color printing technology was developed by Silverbrook Research, located in Balmain, Australia.. Research began in 1994, and a working Memjet prototype printer was displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2009. Memjet color printing technology is protected by 3,000 global patents, with 2,000 more pending.

Monday, April 25, 2011

That Myth about Tricking Frogs

Frog Fable Brought to Boil
By Dr. Karl S. Kruszelnicki

If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will slowly cook to death. So claims the myth. Indeed, everyone—from corporate consultants to politicians to environmental activists—cites the frog fable as proof that people often don’t see change happening and cannot deal with it in the aftermath.

So how did this myth begin? Maybe it arose because frogs are cold-blooded. We humans are warm-blooded: our internal thermometers measure the local temperature, and then we shiver or sweat to maintain a body temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius. But a cold-blooded frog maintains the temperature of its immediate environment. Perhaps somebody once wrongly thought that this meant frogs had an inferior or inadequate thermometer.

Or perhaps the story began with E.W. Scripture, who wrote The New Psychology in 1897. He cited earlier German research: “. . . a live frog can actually be boiled without a movement if the water is heated slowly enough; in one experiment, the temperature was raised at the rate of 0.002 [degrees Celsius] per second, and the frog was found dead at the end of 2.5 hours without having moved.

Well, the numbers just don’t seem right. If the water comes to a boil, that means a final temperature of 100 degrees Celsius. In that case, the frog would have to have been put into the water at 82 degrees Celsius. Surely, the frog would have died immediately. Scripture also wrote that the frog was found “without having moved.” How do you convince a frog not to move for more than two hours?

Then there’s the issue of the real-life behavior of frogs. First, a frog cannot jump out of boiling water. Remember the last time you dropped some egg white into boiling water: the proteins coagulated into a mess of thin, white strands. Unfortunately, the proteins in the frog’s skinny legs would do the same thing. So the frog in boiling water could not jump anywhere. It would die a nasty death.

Dr. George R. Zug, curator of reptiles and amphibians at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and Professor Doug Melton of Harvard University both agree on this point.

Second, a frog would notice the water getting hot. Dr. Victor Hutchison, a herpetologist at the University of Oklahoma, has dealt with frogs throughout his professional life. Indeed, one of his current research interests is “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles.” Professor Hutchison states, “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ [the maximum temperature an animal can bear] of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water.”

So real-life experiments show that the frog-in-boiling-water story is wrong. If only this fact could make it into real life, too. ❧

DR. KARL KRUSZELNICKI is an Australian Science broadcaster and the author of 30 popular science books. For more info, visit: This article was adapted from his book “It Ain’t necessarily So… Bro

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Exploration of Pluto and Its Atmosphere

Pluto's Atmosphere Found Poisonous and Surprisingly High [in altitude] Staff
April 19, 2011

Poisonous carbon monoxide gas has been discovered in the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto, after a worldwide search that lasted nearly two decades, according to a new study that also detected the planet's atmosphere extending much higher above the surface than previously thought.

A British-based team of astronomers, lead by Jane Greaves of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, found a strong signal of carbon monoxide gas in Pluto's atmosphere using the 15-meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii.

The atmosphere of Pluto was known to extend more than 60 miles (about 100 kilometers) above the surface, the researchers said, but the new findings raise that height to more than 1,860 miles (3,000 km) – equivalent to a quarter of the distance out to Pluto's largest moon, Charon.

Greaves will present the new discovery on Wednesday (April 20) at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meetings in Wales. Pluto was discovered in 1930 and was considered to be the smallest and most distant planet orbiting around the Sun. In 2006, its status was demoted to dwarf planet, making it one of a handful of such bodies that orbit beyond Neptune in the outer reaches of the solar system.

Pluto is the only dwarf planet known to have an atmosphere.

Properties of the atmospheric gas

In the new study, scientists found the carbon monoxide gas on Pluto is extremely cold, at about minus 364 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 220 degrees Celsius). The team was also surprised that the signal is more than twice as strong as an upper limit predicted by a separate group of researchers who used the IRAM 30-meter telescope in Spain in 2000.

“It was thrilling to see the image gradually emerge as we added in many nights of data,” Greaves said. The change in brightness over the last decade is startling. We think the atmosphere may have grown in size, or the carbon monoxide abundance may have been boosted.”

Fluctuations in the atmosphere have been seen before, but only in the lower atmosphere, where methane – the only other gas to be positively identified – has also been seen to vary, the researchers said.

The atmospheric gases are likely the result of solar heating of Pluto's surface ice, which evaporates due to the slightly higher temperatures experienced during this period. In 1989 Pluto made its closest approach to the Sun, which is considered a relatively recent event, considering that it takes the planet 248 years to complete one orbit around the Sun.

Pluto's resulting atmosphere is probably the most fragile in our solar system, the researchers said, with the top layers blowing off into the cosmos.

“The height to which we see the carbon monoxide agrees well with the models of how the solar wind strips Pluto's atmosphere,” said Christiane Helling, a member of the research team at the University of St. Andrews.

Climate change on Pluto

In Pluto's atmosphere, carbon monoxide acts as a coolant, while methane absorbs sunlight, which produces heating. Maintaining a balance between the two gases, which are actually just trace elements in what is thought to be an atmosphere dominated by nitrogen, is critical during the long seasons on Pluto that last several decades.

The newly discovered carbon monoxide could play a key role in slowing the loss of Pluto's atmosphere. But, if the chilling effect is too great, it could result in nitrogen snowfalls and all the gases freezing on the ground, the researchers said.

The processes on Pluto could also help scientists understand the mechanisms that govern the behavior of our own planet's atmosphere.

“Seeing such an example of extraterrestrial climate change is fascinating,” Greaves said. “This cold simple atmosphere that is strongly driven by the heat from the sun could give us important clues to how some of the basic physics works, and act as a contrasting test-bed to help us better understand the Earth's atmosphere.”


[Footnote by the blog author: The New Horizons NASA spacecraft will approach Pluto and its moons on April 12, 2015, to conduct further exploration. There are details of this upcoming encounter at, which notes, “the spacecraft left Earth at the greatest launch speed ever recorded for a man-made object” when launched in 2006].

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Atmosphere's Worth of Dry Ice Found at Mar's South Pole

By John Tanner, Arstechnica

Currently, Mars has a thin atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide, with pressures at most of the planet's surface so low that liquid water will immediately boil. But a variety of features we've discovered argue that the planet has once supported copious amounts of water, indicating that the planet's atmosphere must have differed considerably in the past. Using radar data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have now found a potential resting place for some material that was once in the Martian atmosphere: a huge deposit at the south pole that holds nearly as much CO2 as the planet's current atmosphere.

Mars' south pole has extensive ice deposits, but most of that material is thought to be water, with only a thin coating of carbon dioxide on top. However, the MRO's radar instrument identified several reflection-free zones, where most of the radar signal went entirely through the icy material to the planet's surface itself. Based on the authors' calculations, this can't be water ice, but it does have very similar reflective properties to dry ice, or frozen carbon dioxide. The area also has features that indicate that some of the dry ice has sublimated to a gaseous form, resulting in areas where the surface has collapsed.

If the area is dry ice, then the total amount present is huge. The authors estimate the total volume of the non-reflective material at somewhere between 9,500 and 12,500 cubic kilometers. That's 30 times more than had previously been estimated to reside at the poles, and is about 80 percent of the current CO2 content of the entire atmosphere. If all the dry ice were heated up, Mars' atmospheric pressure would nearly double.

Like the Earth, Mars undergoes orbital variations that alter the distribution of sunlight across the planet. One of these involves changes in the orientation of its axis of rotation relative to the plane of its orbit, called the obliquity. Mars undergoes more dramatic changes in obliquity than Earth and, as a result, its poles see more significant changes in sunlight at the extreme. The authors argue that this can help explain why the reflection-free zones lack any material from the planet's famous dust storms, which should reflect the radar effectively.
Mars' atmosphere needs to be above a certain density to support the particles that make up its dust storms. As the poles undergo extended cold periods, the authors suggest "the atmosphere collapses onto the polar caps." So much of the planet's dry ice winds up frozen at the poles that the atmosphere becomes even thinner than it is at present, and incapable of supporting dust storms.

As of now, however, the amount of sunlight at the poles is increasing, leading to the loss of some of the material from these areas, which is bulking up the atmosphere. The authors run a simplified global circulation model of Mars' atmosphere to see what happens as the planet reaches the opposite extreme, and all of the polar dry ice is liberated into the atmosphere. Pressure on the surface would nearly double, and the increased CO2 would enhance the planet's existing greenhouse effect. However, it would also increase the formation of seasonal dry ice deposits that reflect sunlight and offset this warming, leaving Mars slightly cooler.

However, the simplified model leaves out some other factors. For one, the denser atmosphere could support more significant dust storms, changing the planet's ability to absorb sunlight. Some of the water ice at the poles would probably also melt, adding water vapor to the atmosphere and further enhancing the greenhouse effect. However, the increased atmospheric pressure would allow some of the liquid water to remain on the
surface without boiling, meaning we could see some pools of water on Mars.

Sorting out exactly what would happen will apparently require a more complete climate model for the red planet. "Given the complex interplay between the dust, water, and CO2 cycles, additional changes in the climate system are very likely," the authors conclude. Still, even with the possible melting of the polar ice caps and enhanced greenhouse effect, the total of the changes don't seem to be sufficient to get us to anything like Mars' watery past, which suggests that some of the planet's carbon dioxide and water may now be trapped in geological features.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Nanoparticle Cancer Treatments

A new cancer treatment involves silica nanoparticles of honeycomb structure. These tiny particles are filled with drugs toxic to cancer cells. This new treatment uses both liposomes and protocells instead of liposomes alone. The liposomes form a membrane to seal the honeycomb cavities, which are filled with toxic chemicals. This membrane is modified with peptides to make the nanoparticle bind to receptors overexpressed in cancer cells compared with normal cells.

The combination of liposomes and protocells works more efficiently and targets cancer cells more efficiently than using liposomes alone. Jeff Brinker of Sandia National Laboratories as well as the University of New Mexico and Carlee Ashley, a Harry S. Truman post-doctoral fellow at Sandia, have developed this approach. It differs from the remote controlled drug delivery system developed by Canadian researchers and from the synthetic nanopolymer coated with cancer drugs developed at Purdue.

Brinker states they are altering the synthesis of the nanoparticles to favor smaller particles. Smaller sizes are capable of working “under the radar” of organs like the liver.

The study has been published in Nature Materials and summarized by Tiffany Kaiser on Daily Tech at:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Developing Mosquitoes Which Can't Transmit Malaria

Disease-Proof Mosquito Could Spread Like Wildfire
by Martin Enserink, April 20, 2011, Science Magazine

Suppose you're one of the many scientists racing to design mosquitoes unable to transmit malaria or another major scourge—and you succeed. Now what? You can release the critters in the real world, but if they don't have some unique advantage, they will be vastly outnumbered by the billions of natural mosquitoes already out there.

Now, scientists have developed a new genetic trick that could help those disease-resistant mosquitoes spread like wildfire. The system, a so-called gene drive mechanism, is published online today in Nature.
The new study is part of an explosion in mosquito genetics research that aims to stop mosquitoes from transmitting malaria—which killed an estimated 800,000 people in 2009—and several other diseases.
Already, scientists have identified several mosquito genes that, when tinkered with, decrease the mosquitoes' ability to transmit a virus or a parasite; they have also given the insects new genes that do the same.

But a question clouding the field's future has been how to “replace” natural populations with these new and improved mosquitoes. For that, scientists need a system that will help the lab-bred mosquitoes take over wild populations, to ensure that genes conferring resistance become ubiquitous. Scientists are working on several strategies; many involve so-called selfish genes, strange stretches of naturally occurring DNA that have ways of spreading through populations in almost parasitic fashion. The idea is that these genes could be hitched to others that mess with the parasite's life cycle and make those spread as well. But although researchers have had some success in fruit flies, nobody has been able to get a gene drive system going in mosquitoes.

The new study, led by molecular biologists Andrea Crisanti and Austin Burt of Imperial College London, was done in Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito species that is by far the most important carrier of malaria. The scientists used a so-called homing-endonuclease gene (HEG), a selfish gene found in fungi, plants, and bacteria that has the ability to create a second copy of itself in individuals that have only one. This ensures that all offspring have the gene as well, and it's one of the fastest ways genes can spread in nature, says insect geneticist Jason Rasgon of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, who was not involved in the new study.

To show that they can harness that power, the researchers bred a population of Anopheles mosquitoes that glowed in the dark, thanks to a green fluorescent protein. Then they released into their cages small numbers of mosquitoes with a HEG designed specifically to break up the fluorescent protein gene in sperm cells and insert itself into that same place on the chromosome, thus ensuring its propagation into the next generation. This way, the team could simply monitor the spread of the HEG by counting how many mosquitoes in each generation was glowing green.

As the scientists' models predicted, the cages quickly grew darker over time. If, for example, just 1% of the mosquitoes had HEG at the start of the experiment, approximately 60% did 12 generations later. That means the gene has the ability to transform even large populations in a short amount of time, Crisanti says.

The next step, he says, is to make HEG break up not the fluorescent protein gene but one that is crucial for malaria transmission. It could be an odor-recognition gene that helps the mosquito finds its host, for instance, or one that the malaria parasite needs to enter the mosquito's salivary glands; the team already has 10 to 15 candidates.

Rasgon hails the study as the first to prove that a gene drive mechanism is possible in mosquitoes, which has long been a crucial challenge in the field. "They still have a long way to go," Rasgon says. "But as a proof of principle, this is pretty impressive."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Polymer heals itself in one minute!

There is a new polymer that self-heals in a minute. There is already a polymer, made by Biswajit Ghosh and Marek W. Urban, that heals itself in an hour. It involves a a covalent element that splits apart and then reconnects under ultraviolet light in an hour.

But the new polymer is made by Mark Burnworth and his colleagues of rubbery oligomers with attached ligands. The healing relies on significant localized heating (caused by the chemical reactions in response to UV light) and on metal-ligand interactions. Two separate 30-second exposures to UV light repair the polymer.

This works because chromophoric reactions occur, which is to say that a specific light frequency causes them to heat up. This increased energy state depolymerizes the area around itself. Cooling re-establishes the polymer. Different wavelengths could be used for different damaged materials.

The Burnworth approach creates significant heat. For appliations where this is a problem, the cooler Ghosh and Urban method might be more appropriate, if slower, for healing to occur.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

152,000 Species of Flies and Counting

The problem with tracking fly evolution is that every so often, a species of fly will branch into two different species, and then those two will split again, and again and so forth, said Gregory Courtney, professor of entomology. If a series of these branches occurs over a brief period of time, the result will be a rapid radiation of new flies and an evolutionary tree that may look more like a bush.
ISU photo by Bob Elbert

     Gregory Courtney, Entomology, 515-294-4017, 
     Dan Kuester, News Service, 515-294-0704,

Too many relatives ruining your picnic?

Be glad the flies don’t invite their cousins

AMES, Iowa - When your family members gather at a picnic in your backyard, there may be 10 to 20 people -- maybe more -- enjoying your barbecue.

When flies visit your party, be glad they don't bring their entire family.

Houseflies have more than 152,000 cousins. And those are just the ones we know about.

An Iowa State University researcher is one of a team of scientists who have recently researched the fly family
tree -- one of the most complicated in the animal world.

"It really isn't a tree, it's sort of a bush," said Gregory Courtney, professor of entomology, explaining the complex relationships between fly relatives.

"Because of this, and because the history of flies extends more than 260 million years, it's difficult figuring out the relationships between this branch and that branch," he added.

The problem with tracking fly evolution is that every so often, a species of fly will branch into two different species, and then those two will split again, and again and so forth, he said.

If a series of these branches or dichotomous splits occurs over a brief period of time, the result will be a rapid radiation of new flies and an evolutionary tree that may look more like a bush.

Based on the research of Courtney and his colleagues, at least three episodes of rapid radiation have occurred in the history of flies.

"[The fly family tree] probably involves dichotomous splits," said Courtney. "But we can't always resolve these when there are lots of dichotomous splits going on at the same time."

"One of the nice results of this research was confirmation that a number of episodic radiations may have occurred. That explains some of the difficulty we've had in resolving relationships of different types of flies," he added.

One of Courtney's favorite flies is a group called mountain midges (Deuterophlebia), which the current study suggests is the oldest group of flies, and is positioned near the base of the fly family tree.

He is also an expert on the anatomy, or morphology, of different groups of flies.

That background made him a good choice to help the team decipher the relationships among flies.
"Morphology is just one piece of information that we use to try to figure out relationships," he said. "We looked at a whole suite of morphological characteristics - about 400 characteristics for this analysis."

From its beginning, the fly family tree has been continuously evolving. Courtney says there are now more than 152,000 species of flies that have been described and named, and least that many more haven't yet been discovered and described.

Courtney was a co-investigator on the five-year study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study was headed by Brian Wiegmann of North Carolina State University, Raleigh, and involved researchers from around the United States, as well as Canada, Australia, Denmark, Singapore and the United Kingdom, and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Dinah Shore

Dinah Shore (born Frances Rose Shore; February 29, 1916 – February 24, 1994) was an American singer, actress, and television personality. She was most popular during the Big Band era of the 1940s and 1950s.

After failing singing auditions for the bands of Benny Goodman and both Jimmy Dorsey and his brother Tommy Dorsey. Shore struck out on her own to become the first singer of her era to achieve huge solo success. She had a string of 80 charted popular hits, lasting from 1940 into the late '50s, and after appearing in a handful of films went on to a four-decade career in American television, starring in her own music and variety shows in the '50s and '60s and hosting two talk shows in the '70s. TV Guide magazine ranked her at #16 on their list of the top fifty television stars of all time. Stylistically, Dinah Shore was compared to two singers who followed her in the mid-to-late '40s and early '50s, Doris Day and Patti Page.

Born to Solomon and Anna Stein Shore, Jewish immigrants from Russia, young Frances Rose was born and lived in Winchester, Tennessee. When she was two years old, she was stricken with polio (infantile paralysis), a disease that was not preventable at the time, and for which treatment was limited to bed rest. Her parents provided intensive care for her and she recovered. She continued, however, to have a deformed foot and limp, which did not physically impede her. As a small child she loved to sing, encouraged by her mother, a contralto with operatic aspirations. Her father would often take her to his store where she would perform impromptu songs for the customers. She had a childhood recollection of her normally restrained father's exasperated reaction one evening when the Ku Klux Klan paraded in Winchester; despite the hoods the marchers were wearing, Solomon Shore, a dry goods merchant, recognized some of his customers by their shoes and gaits. In 1924, the Shore family (which included Dinah's only sibling, older sister Bessie) moved to McMinnville, Tennessee, where her father had opened a department store. Although shy because of her limp, she became actively involved in sports and was a cheerleader at Hume-Fogg High School and involved in other activities. At 14, Shore debuted as a torch singer at a Nashville night club only to find her parents sitting ringside, having been tipped off to their daughter's performance ahead of time. They allowed her to finish, but put her professional career on hold. She was paid $10.

When Shore was 16, her mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and Shore decided to pursue her education. She went to Vanderbilt University, where she participated in many events and activities, including the Chi chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. She graduated from the university in 1938 with a degree in sociology. She also visited the Grand Ole Opry and made her radio debut on Nashville's WSM (AM) radio station in these years. She decided to return to pursuing her career in singing, so she went to New York city to audition for orchestras and radio stations, first on a summer break from Vanderbilt, and after graduation, for good. In many of her auditions, she sang the popular song "Dinah." When disc jockey Martin Block could not remember her name, he called her the "Dinah girl," and soon after the name stuck, becoming her stage name. She eventually was hired as a vocalist at radio station WNEW, where she sang with Frank Sinatra. She recorded and performed with the Xavier Cugat orchestra. She signed a recording contract with RCA Victor records in 1940.

The 1940s and 1950s

In March 1939, Shore debuted on national radio on the Sunday afternoon CBS radio program, Ben Bernie's Orchestra. In February 1940, she became a featured vocalist on the NBC radio program The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, a showcase for traditional Dixieland and Blues songs. With Shore, the program became so popular that it was moved from 4:30 Sunday afternoon to a 9:00 Monday night time slot in September. In her prime-time debut for "the music of the Three Bs, Barrelhouse, Boogie-woogie and the Blues", she was introduced as "Mademoiselle Dinah 'Diva' Shore, who starts a fire by rubbing two notes together!" She recorded with the two Basin Street bands for RCA Victor, one of her records was the eponymous "Dinah's Blues."

Shore's singing came to the attention of Eddie Cantor. He signed her as a regular on his radio show, Time to Smile, in 1940. Shore credits him for teaching her self-confidence, comedic timing, and the ways of connecting with an audience. Cantor bought the rights to an adapted Ukrainian folk song with new lyrics by Jack Lawrence for Shore to record for RCA Victor's Bluebird label. This song, “Yes, My Darling Daughter," became her first major hit, selling 500,000 copies in weeks, which was unusual for that time.
Shore soon became a successful singing star with her own radio show in 1943, Call to Music. Also in 1943, she appeared in her first movie, Thank Your Lucky Stars, starring Cantor. She soon went to another radio show, Paul Whiteman Presents. During this time, the United States was involved in World War II and Shore became a favorite with the troops. She had hits, including "Blues In the Night", "Jim", "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To", and "I'll Walk Alone", the first of her number-one hits. To support the troops overseas, she participated in USO tours to Europe. She met George Montgomery, a young actor ready to go into military service. They married on December 3, 1943, shortly before he went into service. When he returned, they settled in San Fernando, California. In 1948, their first child was born, a daughter named Melissa Ann, and they adopted a son in 1954 named John David before moving to Beverly Hills.
Shore continued appearing in radio shows throughout the 1940s, including Birds Eye-Open House and Ford Radio Show. In early 1946, she moved to another label, Columbia Records. At Columbia, Shore enjoyed the greatest commercial success of her recording career, starting with her first Columbia single release, "Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy", and peaking with the most popular song of 1948, "Buttons and Bows", which was number one for ten weeks. Other number one hits at Columbia included "The Gypsy" and "The Anniversary Song". One of her most popular recordings was the holiday perennial "Baby, It's Cold Outside” with Buddy Clark from 1949. The song was covered by many other artists, Ella Fitzgerald, for example [and the film version won the best song Academy Award for 1949 with its clever Johnny Mercer lyrics]. Other hits during her four years at Columbia included "Laughing on the Outside (Crying on the Inside)", "I Wish I Didn't Love You So", "I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons)", "Doin' What Comes Naturally", and "Dear Hearts And Gentle People". She was a regular with Jack Smith [later famous on television as host of You Asked for It] on his quarter-hour radio show on CBS. Shore acted in films such as Follow the Boys and Up in Arms (both in 1944), Belle of the Yukon (1945), and Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). She lent her musical voice to two Disney films: Make Mine Music (1946) and Fun and Fancy Free (1947). Her last starring film role was for Paramount Pictures in Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick (1952), co-starring Alan Young and Metropolitan Opera star Robert Merrill.

In 1950, Shore went back to RCA with a deal to record 100 sides for $1,000,000. The hits kept coming, but with less frequency, and were not charting as high as in the '40s. Dinah's biggest hits of this era were "My Heart Cries for You" and "Sweet Violets", both peaking at number three in 1951. Several duets with Tony Martin did well, with "A Penny A Kiss" being the most popular, reaching number eight. "Blue Canary" was a 1953 hit and her covers of "Changing Partners" and "If I Give My Heart To You" were popular top twenty hits. "Love and Marriage" and "Whatever Lola Wants" were top twenty hits from 1955. "Chantez, Chantez" was her last top twenty hit, staying on the charts for over twenty weeks in 1957. Shore stayed with RCA until 1959, and during that time released albums including Bouquet of Blues, Once in a While, and Vivacious, which were collections of singles with different orchestras and conductors such as Frank DeVol and Hugo Winterhalter. Moments Like These, a studio album from 1958, recorded in stereo, with orchestra under the musical direction of Harry Zimmerman, who performed the same duties on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, being the exception.

Early Television Career

Soon after she arrived in New York in 1937, Shore made her first television appearances on experimental broadcasts for NBC. Twelve years later, In 1949 she made her official television show debut on the Ed Wynn Show and also made a guest appearance on Bob Hope's first television show in 1950. After being on many other people's television shows, she got her own, The Dinah Shore Show in 1951. Vic Schoen was her musical director from 1951–54, and also arranged music for her on the Colgate Comedy Hour (1954). She did two 15-minute shows a week for NBC. She won her first of many Emmy awards for the show in 1955. The show was sponsored by Chevrolet. The sponsor's theme song ("See the U.S.A. In your Chevrolet") became the singer's signature piece.

In 1956 she hosted a monthly series of one-hour full-color spectaculars as part of NBC's "Chevy Show" series. These proved so popular that the show was renamed The Dinah Shore Chevy Show the following season, with Dinah becoming the full-time host, helming three out of four weeks in the month. Broadcast live and in NBC's famous "Living Color," this variety show was one of the most popular of the 1950s and early 1960s and featured the television debuts of stars of the era, such as Yves Montand and Maureen O'Hara, and featured Dinah in performances alongside Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Pearl Bailey. She also appeared as a guest on another Chevrolet-sponsored variety show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom on ABC.

The Dinah Shore Chevy Show ran through the 1960-1961 season, after which Chevrolet dropped sponsorship, and the show continued for two more seasons as a series of monthly broadcasts sponsored by The American Dairy Association and Green Stamps. Simply called "The Dinah Shore Show," Dinah's guests included Nat “King” Cole, Bing Crosby, Jack Lemmon, and a very young Barbra Streisand. Over twelve seasons, from 1951 to 1963, Dinah Shore made 125 hour-long programs and 444 fifteen-minute shows.
Shore ended her televised programs by throwing an enthusiastic kiss directly to the cameras (and viewers) and exclaiming "MWAH!" to the audience.

Later Television Career

From 1970 through 1980, Shore hosted two daytime programs, Dinah's Place (1970–1974) on NBC and Dinah! (later Dinah and Friends) in syndication from 1974 through 1980 and a third cable program from 1989–1992.

"Dinah's Place", primarily sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive (which later sponsored her women's golf tournament), was a 30-minute Monday through Friday program broadcast at 10:00am(et) over NBC, her network home since 1939. Shore described this show as a "Do-Show" as opposed to a chat show because she would have her guests demonstrate an unexpected skill, for example Frank Sinatra sharing his spaghetti sauce recipe, Spirio Agnew playing keyboard accompanying Dinah on "Sophisticated Lady", or Ginger Rogers showing Shore how to throw a clay pot on a potter's wheel. Though "Dinah's Place" featured famous guest stars, often Shore grilled lesser-known lifestyle experts on nutrition, exercise or homemaking. Despite being one of the more popular programs in NBC's morning lineup, this show left the air in 1974 after NBC sent a telegram to Dinah congratulating her on her Emmy win — at the same time informing her the show was canceled, because it broke up a "game show programming block". Thus ended the network's 35-year association with Shore.

She returned that fall with "Dinah!" a syndicated 90 minute daily talk show (also seen in a 60 minute version on some stations) that put the focus on top guest stars and entertainment. This show was competition for Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin, whose shows had been on the air for 10 years when "Dinah!" debuted. Frequent guests included show-biz Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and James Stewart, as well as regular contributors including lifestyle guru Dr. Wayne Dyer. There were unexpected rock music performances, among them David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Shore had the misfortune of interviewing the comedian Andy Kaufman in his Tony Clifton guise on this show. He took deliberate offense at her questions and eventually tipped a pan of eggs over her head. This program was taped live in front of a studio audience and the "Egg" segment was never aired; it is believed that the offending footage was destroyed. Shore's producers superimposed titles such as "This is a put on" over the footage that was eventually aired, including an uncomfortable duet between Shore and a belligerent Tony of "Anything You Can Do", and his solo of "On The Street Where You Live." Shooting was stopped and Kaufman was escorted out of the studio.

Dinah Shore at the Miami Book Fair International of 1990

Shore, with her Dixie drawl and demure manner, was identified with the South, and guests on her shows often commented on it. She spoofed this image by playing Melanie in Went with the Wind, the famous Gone with the Wind parody for The Carol Burnett Show. In the summer of 1976, Shore hosted “Dinah and her New Best Friends,” an eight-week summer replacement series for The Carol Burnett Show that featured a cast of young hopefuls such as Diana Canova and Gary Mule Deer along with guests such as CBS stars Jean Stapleton and Linda Lavin.

Shore guest starred on Pee-wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, calling Pee-wee on his picturephone and singing The 12 Days of Christmas. Throughout the special, Pee-wee walks past the picturephone, only to hear her going past the original 12 days ("...on the 500th day of Christmas...")

Shore finished her television career hosting "A Conversation with Dinah" from 1989–1992 on the cable network TNN (The Nashville Network). This half-hour show consisted of one-on-one interviews (with [for example,] Bob Hope), former boyfriends (Burt Reynolds in a special one-hour episode) and political figures (President Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty.) In a coup, Dinah got former First Lady Nancy Reagan's first post-White House interview for this show. At around this time, she gained a contract as television spokeswoman for Holly Farms chicken. Her last television special, "Dinah Comes Home," (TNN 1991) brought Dinah Shore's career full circle, taking her back to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, which she first visited some 60 years earlier.

Shore won nine Emmys, a Peabody Award and a Golden Globe.


Shore, who played golf herself, was a longtime supporter of women's proferssional golf. In 1972, she helped found the Colgate Dinah Shore golf tournament, which today, now known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, remains as one of the four major golf tournaments on the LPGA Tour. The tournament is held each spring near Shore's former home in Rancho Mirage, California.
Shore was the first female member of the famed Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles.
In acknowledgment of her contributions to golf, Shore was made an honorary member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1994. She also received the 1993 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, GCSAA's highest honor.


Dinah Shore died February 24, 1994, in Beverly Hills, California, of ovarian cancer five days before her 78th birthday.

Blog author's note: for charm, likeability and spunk, there was no one like Dinah Shore. She was folksy, she had common sense, yet she sang precisely on key.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Goddard, the father of rocketry

Robert Hutchings Goddard (October 5, 1882 – August 10, 1945) was an American professor, physicist and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world's first liquid-fueled rocket, which he successfully launched on March 16, 1926. Goddard and his team launched 34 rockets between 1926 and 1941, achieving altitudes as high as 2.6 km (1.62 miles) and speeds as high as 885 km/h (550 mph).
As both theorist and engineer, Goddard's work anticipated many of the developments that made spaceflight possible. Two of Goddard's 214 patents — one for a multi-stage rocket design (1915), and another for a liquid-fuel rocket design (1915) — are regarded as important milestones toward spaceflight. His 1919 monograph, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes, is considered one of the classic texts of 20th century rocket science. Goddard successfully applied three-axis control, gyroscopes and steerable thrust to rockets, all of which allow rockets to be controlled effectively in flight.

Goddard received little public support for his research during his lifetime. Though his work in the field was revolutionary, he was sometimes ridiculed in the press for his theories concerning spaceflight. As a result, he became protective of his privacy and his work. Years after his death, at the dawn of the Space Age, he came to be recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern rocketry. He was the first not only to recognize the scientific potential of missiles and space travel but also to bring about the design and construction of the rockets needed to implement those ideas.

Early life and inspiration

Goddard was born in 1882 in Worcester, Massachusetts, to Nahum Danford Goddard (1859–1928) and Fannie Louise Hoyt (1864–1920). Robert was their only child to survive; a younger son, Richard Henry, was born with a spinal deformity, and died before his first birthday.

Childhood experiments

With the introduction of electric power in American cities in the 1880s, the young Goddard became interested in science. When his father showed him how to generate static electricity on the family's carpet, the five-year-old's imagination was inspired. Robert experimented, believing he could jump higher if the zinc in batteries could somehow be charged with static electricity. Goddard halted the experiments after a warning from his mother that if he succeeded, he could "go sailing away and might not be able to come back."

Goddard's father further encouraged Robert's scientific interest by providing him with a telescope, a microscope, and a subscription to Scientific American. Robert developed a fascination with flight, first with kites and then with balloons. He became a thorough diarist and documenter of his work, a skill that would greatly benefit his later career. These interests merged at age 16, when Goddard attempted to construct a balloon out of aluminum, shaping the raw metal in his home workshop. After nearly five weeks of methodical, documented efforts, he finally abandoned the project, remarking, "Failior [sic] crowns enterprise." However, the lesson of this failure did not restrain Goddard's growing determination and confidence in his work.

The cherry tree dream

He became interested in space when he read H.G. Wells' science fiction classic The War of the Worlds when he was 16 years old. His dedication to pursuing rocketry became fixed on October 19, 1899. The 17-year-old Goddard climbed a cherry tree to cut off dead limbs. He was transfixed by the sky, and his imagination grew. He later wrote:
On this day I climbed a tall cherry tree at the back of the barn . . . and as I looked toward the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars, and how it would look on a small scale, if sent up from the meadow at my feet. I have several photographs of the tree, taken since, with the little ladder I made to climb it, leaning against it.
It seemed to me then that a weight whirling around a horizontal shaft, moving more rapidly above than below, could furnish lift by virtue of the greater centrifugal force at the top of the path.
I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended. Existence at last seemed very purposive.
For the rest of his life he observed October 19 as "Anniversary Day", a private commemoration of the day of his greatest inspiration.

Education and early studies

The young Goddard was a thin and frail boy, almost always in fragile health. He suffered from stomach problems, colds and bronchitis, and fell two years behind his classmates. He became a voracious reader, regularly visiting the local public library to borrow books on the physical sciences.

Aerodynamics and motion

Goddard's interest in aerodynamics led him to study some of Samuel Langley's scientific papers in the periodical Smithsonian. In these papers, Langley wrote that birds flap their wings with different force on each side to turn in the air. Inspired by these articles, the teenage Goddard watched swallows and chimney swifts from the porch of his home, noting how subtly the birds moved their wings to control their flight. He noted how remarkably the birds controlled their flight with their tail feathers — Goddard called these the birds' equivalent of 'ailerons.' He took exception to some of Langley's conclusions, and in 1901 wrote a letter to St. Nicholas magazine with his own ideas. The editor of St. Nicholas declined to publish Goddard's letter, remarking that birds fly with a certain amount of intelligence and that "machines will not act with such intelligence." Goddard disagreed, believing that a man could control a flying machine with his own intelligence.

Around this time, Goddard read Newton's Principia Mathematica, and found that Newton's Third Law of Motion applied to motion in space. He wrote later about his own tests of the Law:
I began to realize that there might be something after all to Newton's Laws. The Third Law was accordingly tested, both with devices suspended by rubber bands and by devices on floats, in the little brook back of the barn, and the said law was verified conclusively. It made me realize that if a way to navigate space were to be discovered, or invented, it would be the result of a knowledge of physics and mathematics."


As his health improved, Goddard continued his formal schooling as an 18-year-old sophomore at South High School in Worcester in 1901. He excelled in his coursework, and his peers twice elected him class president. At his graduation ceremony in 1904, he gave his class oration as valedictorian. In his speech, titled On Taking Things for Granted, Goddard included a section that would become emblematic of his life:
[J]ust as in the sciences we have learned that we are too ignorant safely to pronounce anything impossible, so for the individual, since we cannot know just what are his limitations, we can hardly say with certainty that anything is necessarily within or beyond his grasp. Each must remember that no one can predict to what heights of wealth, fame, or usefulness he may rise until he has honestly endeavored, and he should derive courage from the fact that all sciences have been, at some time, in the same condition as he, and that it has often proved true that the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.
Goddard enrolled at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1904. He quickly impressed the head of the physics department, A. Wilmer Duff, with his thirst for knowledge, and Professor Duff took him on as a laboratory assistant and tutor. At WPI, Goddard joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and began a long courtship with high school classmate Miriam Olmstead, an honor student who had graduated with Goddard as salutatorian. Eventually, she and Goddard were engaged, but they drifted apart and ended the engagement around 1909.

Goddard received his B.S. degree in physics from Worcester Polytechnic in 1908, and after serving there for a year as an instructor in physics, he began his graduate studies at Clark University in Worcester in the fall of 1909. Goddard received his M.A. degree in physics from Clark University in 1910, and then stayed at Clark to complete his Ph.D. degree in physics in 1911. He spent another year at Clark as an honorary fellow in physics, and in 1912, he accepted a research fellowship at Princeton University's Palmer Physical Laboratory.

First scientific writings

While still an undergraduate, Goddard wrote a paper proposing a method for "balancing aeroplanes." He submitted the idea to Scientific American, which published the paper in 1907. Goddard later wrote in his diaries that he believed his paper was the first proposal of a way to automatically stabilize aircraft in flight. His proposal came around the same time as other scientists were making breakthroughs in developing functional gyroscopes.

His first writing on the possibility of a liquid-fueled rocket came on February 2, 1909. Goddard had begun to study ways of increasing a rocket's efficiency using methods differing from conventional, powder rockets. He wrote in his journal about using liquid hydrogen as a fuel with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer. He believed a 50 percent efficiency could be achieved with liquid fuel.

First patents

In the decades around 1910, radio was a new technology, a fertile field for innovation. In 1911, while working at Clark University, Goddard investigated the effects of radio waves on insulators. In order to generate radio-frequency power, he invented a vacuum tube that operated like a cathode-ray tube. U.S. Patent 1,159,209 was issued on November 2, 1915. This was the first use of a vacuum tube to amplify a signal, preceding even Lee de Forest's claim.

By 1913 he had in his spare time, using calculus, developed the mathematics which allowed him to calculate the position and velocity of a rocket in vertical flight, given the weight of the rocket and weight of the propellant and the velocity of the exhaust gases. His first goal was to build a sounding rocket with which to study the atmosphere. He was afraid to admit that his ultimate goal was space flight, since scientists, in America especially, did not consider such a pursuit to be real science, and the public was not ready to
seriously accept it.

Unfortunately, in early 1913, Goddard became seriously ill with tuberculosis and was forced to leave his position at Princeton. He returned to Worcester, where he began a prolonged recovery.

It was during this period of recuperation that Goddard began to produce his most important work. As his symptoms subsided, he allowed himself to work an hour per day with his notes. He saw the importance of his ideas as intellectual property, and began working to secure those ideas. In May 1913, he wrote his first rocket applications. His father brought them to a patent firm in Worcester, who helped Robert refine his ideas for patent consideration. His first patent application was submitted in October 1913.

In 1914, his first two landmark patents were accepted and registered. The first, U.S. Patent 1,102,653, described a multi-stage rocket. The second, U.S. Patent 1,103,503, described a rocket fueled with gasoline and liquid nitrous oxide. The two patents would become important milestones in the history of rocketry.
Mid-to-late 1910s
In the fall of 1914, Goddard's health had improved, and he accepted a part-time position as an instructor and research fellow at Clark University.

His position at Clark allowed him to increase his research activities. He made orders of many different rocket supplies, and spent much of 1915 preparing for his first rocket tests.

Goddard's first test launch of a powder rocket came on an early evening in 1915 following his classes at Clark. The launch was bright and loud enough to arouse the alarm of the campus janitor, and Goddard had to reassure the man that his experiments were serious and harmless. After this incident, Goddard took his experiments inside the physics lab to limit any disturbance.

At the Clark physics lab, Goddard conducted static tests of powder rockets to measure their thrust efficiency. He found his estimates were verified; powder rockets were only converting about 2 percent of their fuel into thrust. At this point he applied de Laval nozzles, which were typically used with steam turbine engines. The de Laval nozzles greatly improved thrust efficiency. By mid summer of 1915, Goddard had obtained an average thrust efficiency of 40 percent with nozzle velocities up to 6,730 feet per second.

Later that year, Goddard designed an elaborate experiment at the Clark physics lab to prove that a rocket would perform in a vacuum such as space. He believed it would, but he had to show other scientists who did not. He demonstrated that a rocket's performance actually decreases under atmospheric pressure.

From 1916-1917, Goddard built and experimented with ion thrusters, which he imagined could be used for propulsion at near-vacuum conditions at very high altitudes. The small glass engines he built were tested at atmospheric pressure, where they generated a stream of ionized air.

Smithsonian Institution sponsorship

By 1916, the cost of Goddard's rocket research had become too much for his modest teaching salary to bear. He began to solicit potential sponsors for financial assistance, beginning with the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, and the Aero Club of America.

In his letter to the Smithsonian in September 1916, Goddard claimed he had achieved a 63 percent thrust efficiency and a nozzle velocity of almost 8,000 feet per second. With these performance standards, he believed a rocket could lift a weight of one pound (0.45 kg) to a height of 232 miles (373.37 km) with an initial launch weight of only 89.6 pounds (40.64 kg).

The Smithsonian was interested, and asked Goddard to elaborate on his inquiry. Goddard responded with a detailed manuscript he had already prepared, titled A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes.

In January 1917, the Smithsonian agreed to provide Goddard with a five-year grant totaling $5,000. Afterward, Clark was able to contribute $3,500 and the use of their physics lab to the project. Worcester Polytechnic Institute allowed him to use its abandoned Magnetics Laboratory on the edge of campus during this time as a safe place for testing.

It wasn't until two years later, at the insistence of Arthur G. Webster, head of Clark's physics department, that Goddard arranged for the Smithsonian to publish his work.

While at Clark University, Goddard did research into solar power using a dish to concentrate the sun's rays on a machined piece of quartz that was sprayed with mercury which then heated water and drove a generator at the dish. Goddard believed his invention had over come all the obstacles that had previously defeated other scientists and inventors and had his findings published in the November 1929 issue of Popular Science.

The 'Goddard rocket'

Not all of Goddard's early work was geared towards space travel. As the United States entered World War I in 1917, the country's universities began to lend their services to the war effort. Goddard believed his rocket research could be applied to many different military applications, including mobile artillery, field weapons and naval torpedoes. He made proposals to the Navy and Army. No record exists of any interest by the Navy to Goddard's inquiry. However, Army Ordnance was quite interested, and Goddard met several times with Army personnel.

During this time, Goddard was also contacted by a civilian industrialist in Worcester about the possibility of manufacturing rockets for the military. However, as the businessman's enthusiasm grew, so did Goddard's suspicion. Talks eventually broke down as Goddard began to fear his work might be appropriated by the business.

Goddard proposed to the Army an idea for a tube rocket launcher as a light infantry weapon. The launcher concept became the precursor to the bazooka. The Rocket-Powered Recoil-free Weapon was the brainchild of Dr. Goddard as a side project (under Army contract) of his work on rocket propulsion. Goddard, during his tenuyre at Clark University, and working at Mount Wilson Observatory for security reasons, designed a tube-fired rocket for military use during World War I. He and his co-worker, Dr. Clarence Hickman, successfully demonstrated his rocket to the U.S. Army Signal Crps at Aberdeen Proving Ground,m Maryland, on November 6, 1918 using a music rack for a launch platform, but the Compiegne Armistance was signed only five days later, further development was discontinued as World War I ended.
The delay in the development of the bazooka was as a result of Goddard's serious bout with tuberculosis. Goddard continued to be a part-time consultant to the U.S. Government at Indian Head, Maryland, until 1923, but soon turned his focus to other projects involving rocket propulsion.

Later, a former Clark University researcher, Dr. C. N. Hickman, continued Goddard's work on the bazooka, leading to the weapon used in World War II.

A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes

In 1919, the Smithsonian Institution published Goddard's groundbreaking work, A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. The report describes Goddard's mathematical theories of rocket flight, his experiments with solid-fuel rockets, and the possibilities he saw of exploring the earth's atmosphere and beyond. Along with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's earlier work, The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices (1903), Goddard's little book is regarded as one of the pioneering works of the science of rocketry. It was distributed worldwide.

Goddard described extensive experiments with solid-fuel rocket engines burning high grade nitrocellulose smokeless powder. A critical breakthrough was the use of the steam turbine nozzle invented by the Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval. The de Laval Nozzle allows the most efficient (“isentropic”) conversion of the energy of hot gases into forward motion. vBy means of this nozzle, Goddard increased the efficiency of his rocket engines from 2 percent to 64 percent and obtained supersonic exhaust speeds of over Mach 7.
Though most of this work dealt with the theoretical and experimental relations between propellant, rocket mass, thrust and velocity, a final section titled Calculation of minimum mass required to raise one pound to an "infinite" altitude discussed the possible uses of rockets, not only to reach the upper atmosphere, but to escape from Earth's gravitation altogether. Included as a thought experiment was the idea of launching a rocket to the moon and igniting a mass of flash powder on its surface, so as to be visible through a telescope. He discussed the matter seriously, down to an estimate of the amount of powder required; Goddard's conclusion was that a rocket with starting mass of 3.21 tons could produce a flash "just visible" from Earth. Forty years later, Goddard's concept was vindicated when the Soviet space probe Luna 2 crash-landed on the Moon on September 14, 1959, though radio tracking did away with the need for flash powder.

Goddard eschewed publicity, because he did not have time to reply to criticism of his work, and his imaginative ideas about space travel were shared only with private groups he trusted. He did, though, publish and talk about the rocket principle and sounding rockets, since these subjects were not too "far out." In a letter to the Smithsonian dated March 1920, he discussed: photographing the Moon and planets from rocket powered flyby probes, sending messages to distant civilizations on inscribed metal plates, the use of solar energy in space, and the idea of high-velocity ion propulsion. In that same letter, Goddard clearly describes the concept of the ablative heat shield, suggesting the landing apparatus be covered with "layers of a very infusible hard substance with layers of a poor heat conductor between" designed to erode in the same way as the surface of a meteor.

Publicity and criticism

The publication of Goddard's document gained him national attention from U.S. newspapers, most of it negative. Although Goddard's discussion of targeting the moon was only a small part of the work as a whole and was intended as an illustration of the possibilities rather than a declaration of Goddard's intent, the papers sensationalized his ideas to the point of misrepresentation and ridicule. Even the Smithsonian had to abstain from publicity because of the amount of ridiculous correspondence they received from the general public.
On January 12, 1920 a front-page story in The New York Times, "Believes Rocket Can Reach Moon", reported a Smithsonian press release about a "multiple charge high efficiency rocket." The chief application seen was "the possibility of sending recording apparatus to moderate and extreme altitudes within the earth's atmosphere", the advantage over balloon-carried instruments being ease of recovery since "the new rocket apparatus would go straight up and come straight down." But it also mentioned a proposal "to [send] to the dark part of the new moon a sufficiently large amount of the most brilliant flash powder which, in being ignited on impact, would be plainly visible in a powerful telescope. This would be the only way of proving that the rocket had really left the attraction of the earth as the apparatus would never come back."

First Liquid Fueled Flight
Goddard began experimenting with liquid oxygen nd liquid-fueled rockets in September 1921, and tested the first liquid-fueled engine in November 1923. It had a cylindrical combustion chamber, using impinging jets to mix and atomize liquid oxygen and gasoline.

In 1924–25, Goddard had problems developing a high-pressure piston pump to send fuel to the combustion chamber. He wanted to scale up the experiments, but his funding would not allow such growth. He decided to forgo the pumps and use a system applying backk pressure from an inert gas.

On December 6, 1925, he tested the simpler back-pressure system. Goddard conducted a static test on the firing stand at the Clark University physics laboratory. The engine successfully lifted its own weight in a 27 second test in the static rack. It was a major success for Goddard, proving that a liquid fuel rocket was possible. The test moved Goddard an important step closer to launching a rocket with liquid fuel.
Goddard conducted an additional test in December, and two more in January 1926. After that, Goddard began preparing for a possible launch of the rocket system.

First flight

Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled (gasoline and liquid oxygen) rocket on March 16, 1926, in Auburn, Massahusetts. Present at the launch were Goddard's crew chief Henry Sachs, Esther Goddard, and Percy Roope, who was Clark's assistant professor in the physics department. Goddard's diary entry of the event was notable for its understatement:
March 16. Went to Auburn with S[achs] in am. E[sther] and Mr. Roope came out at 1 p.m. Tried rocket at 2.30. It rose 41 feet & went 184 feet, in 2.5 secs., after the lower half of the nozzle burned off. Brought materials to lab. . . .
His diary entry the next day elaborated:
March 17, 1926. The first flight with a rocket using liquid propellants was made yesterday at Aunt Effie's farm in Auburn. . . .
Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until it cleared the frame, and then at express train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate.
The rocket, which was dubbed "Nell", rose just 41 feet during a 2.5-second flight that ended 184 feet away in a cabbage field, but it was an important demonstration that liquid propellants were possible. The launch site is now a National Historic Landmark, the Goddard Rocket Launching Site.

Viewers familiar with more modern rocket designs may find it difficult to distinguish the rocket from its launching apparatus in the well-known picture of "Nell". The complete rocket is significantly taller than Goddard, but does not include the pyramidal support structure which he is grasping. The rocket's combustion chamber is the small cylinder at the top; the nozzle is visible beneath it. The fuel tank, which is also part of the rocket, is the larger cylinder opposite Goddard's torso. The fuel tank is directly beneath the nozzle, and is protected from the motor's exhaust by an asbestos cone. Asbestos-wrapped aluminum tubes connect the motor to the tanks, providing both support and fuel transport. This layout is no longer used, since the experiment showed that this was no more stable than placing the rocket engine at the base. By May, after a series of modifications to simplify the plumbing, the engine was placed in the now classic position, at the lower end of the rocket.

Robert Goddard

Roswell, New Mexico
With new financial backing, Goddard eventually relocated to Roswell, New Mexico in 1930, where he worked with his team of technicians in near isolation and secrecy for a dozen years. Here they would not endanger anyone, would not be bothered by the curious, and experienced a more moderate climate (which was also better for Goddard's health).

By September 1931, his rockets had the now familiar appearance of a smooth casing and tail fins. He began experimenting with gyroscopic guidance and made an unsuccessful flight test of such a system in April 1932. A gyroscope mounted on gimbals electrically controlled steering vanes in the exhaust, similar to the system used by the German V-2 over 10 years later.

A temporary loss of funding from the Guggenheims forced Goddard to return to Clark University until 1934, when funding resumed. Upon his return to Roswell, he began work on his A series of rockets 4 to 4.5 meters long, powered by gasoline and liquid oxygen pressurized with nitrogen. The gyroscopic control system was housed in the middle of the rocket, between the propellant tanks. On March 28, 1935, the A-5 successfully flew to an altitude of 1.46 kilometres (0.91 mi; 4,800 ft) using his guidance system. This rocket also achieved supersonic velocity.

In 1936-1939, Goddard began work on the K and L series rockets, which were much more massive and designed to reach very high altitude. This work was plagued by trouble with engine burn-through. Goddard had built a regeneratively cooled engine, which circulated liquid oxygen around the outside of the combustion chamber, in 1923 but deemed the idea too complicated. He was therefore using fuel curtain cooling, spraying excess gasoline on the inside wall of the combustion chamber, but this was not working well, and the larger rockets failed. Returning to a smaller design again, the L-13 reached an altitude of 2.7 kilometres (1.7 mi; 8,900 ft), the highest of any of Goddard's rockets. Weight was reduced by using thin-walled fuel tanks wound with high tensile strength wire.

From 1940–1941, work was done on the P series of rockets, which used propellant turbopumps (also powered by gasoline and liquid oxygen). Higher fuel pressure permitted a more powerful engine, but two launches both ended in crashes after reaching an altitude of only a few hundred feet. The turbopumps worked well, however.

Goddard was able to flight test many of his rockets; but many resulted in what the uninitiated would call failures because of engine malfunction or loss of control. Goddard did not consider them failures because he felt that he always learned something from a test. Most of his work involved static tests, which are a standard procedure today, before a flight test. Between 1930 and 1945...31 rockets were launched.
  • "It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow." (From his high school graduation oration, "On Taking Things for Granted", June 1904)
  • "On the afternoon of October 19, 1899, I climbed a tall cherry tree and, armed with a saw which I still have, and a hatchet, started to trim the dead limbs from the cherry tree. It was one of the quiet, colorful afternoons of sheer beauty which we have in October in New England, and as I looked towards the fields at the east, I imagined how wonderful it would be to make some device which had even the possibility of ascending to Mars. I was a different boy when I descended the tree from when I ascended for existence at last seemed very purposive." (Written later, in an autobiographical sketch)
  • "Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace." (His response to a reporter's question following criticism in The New York Times, 1920)
  • "It is not a simple matter to differentiate unsuccessful from successful experiments. . . .[Most] work that is finally successful is the result of a series of unsuccessful tests in which difficulties are gradually eliminated." (Written to a correspondent, early 1940s)