More Junkmail from Bob!Saturday, September 20, 2003
I saw some flocks of birds flying, so it must mean cold weather is on the way. The record low temperature in Oklahoma was -27 (-33C) degrees at Vinita on February 1905 and at Watts in January 1930. The record low in the U.S. outside Alaska was -70 (-57C) at Rogers Pass, Montana in 1954, and the lowest temperature recorded in Alaska was -80 (-62C) at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.
The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was -128 (-89C) in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Base in Antarctica. Actually, that's the lowest weather temperature ever recorded. With refrigeration and other cooling techniques, you can achieve lower temperatures.
When something gets cold, its atoms lose energy and don't move as much. They slow down, or move shorter distances, or something like that. When they run completely out of energy, they stop moving. The temperature where this happens is the absolute minimum possible temperature of anything anywhere. It's called "absolute zero."
Actually, atoms used to stop moving at absolute zero, but quantum mechanics changed that. In 1927 a guy from Germany named Werner discovered the Uncertainty Principle and then the atoms started vibrating a little at absolute zero.
Absolute zero is about -273.15 Centigrade, -459.67 Fahrenheit, or exactly 0 Kelvin. Kelvin is a temperature scale like Centigrade except it starts at absolute zero instead of at the freezing point of water.
A group of people at MIT led by guy named Wolfgang and a guy named David recently cooled some sodium gas to half a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. They did this to study atomic physics, not just to see how cold they can get some sodium.
Matter is generally a gas, liquid, or solid. Plasma may also be a form of matter. Wolfgang Ketterle, along with Eric and Carl from the University of Colorado, won the Nobel Prize in 2001 for discovering a new form of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate. In a Bose-Einstein condensate, atomic particles move together instead of wandering around independently. It occurs at really cold temperatures. Here's some more information:
Their new paper appeared in the September 12 issue of Science.
Elsewhere in Science
In some other areas of science, people are feeling pressure from the U.S. hunt for terrorists. There is a new paperwork and handling requirements, complete with criminal penalties, for some pathogens used in biological research. A primary university labor source, foreign graduate assistants, is being adversely impacted by slowing visa processing.
Some researchers say these changes are stupid and/or unnecessary, and that the U.S. will lose a lot of its technological advantage to other countries if things don't change.
Since the smallpox terrorism scare has gone the way of Y2K, there must be a lot of smallpox vaccine laying around. Some people at George Mason University may have found a use for it. Ken and Raymond did some experiments and found that smallpox vaccine may help block HIV infection. This was an initial study and has not yet undergone peer review, so it might turn out to be nothing.
Isabel was Here!
Here's a really big one, suitable for printing.
Optional Political Stuff
Few were surprised when Washington DC was declared a disaster area this week, although some were surprised to learn it was because of a hurricane.
A couple of weeks ago, a Deputy Defense Secretary named Paul testified before Congress. He said never mind about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Those were never important. What really matters was that we got rid of an evil dictator. He didn't clarify why we picked the dictator in Iraq, and how many others we intend to start wars with.
Last Thursday, Bush said that there was no evidence linking Iraq and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. He apologized for blowing up Saddam Hussein's palaces, and offered Hussein the use of the Lincoln Bedroom.
Bush asked for another $87,000,000,000 for the occupation of Iraq, although a few billion of that will be spent on miscellaneous expenses. At $4,000,000,000 per month, it seems like we could buy the country instead of occupying it. I wonder what the resale market is for an unstable, oil-rich nation?
When asked how long the U.S. will be in Iraq, Bush got mad again and said, "As long as it takes. As long as it takes. As long as it takes."
An unnamed unofficial explained why it's taking longer than expected. "We could vote in a democratic government and be out of the country next week, but 60% of the Iraqi people are anti-American Shiites, and our candidates would lose the elections. We've been working on an ad campaign to raise our approval ratings in the polls, but these things take time."
I think it's interesting to listen to people and learn the jargon of different professions. When a sales rep tells you, "to be perfectly honest..." it means "I've been lying to you, but here comes a real whopper."
The common stock brokerage phrase "trust me on this" means "I think you are really stupid."
The Japanese business phrase, "frankly speaking" means "you're so barbaric that you can't understand civilized belly language, so I'm going to embarrass you with the bare facts."
And, when the Secretary of Defense laughs and says "oh my goodness" he really means "Dang it! You caught me in another lie!"
GPS Tracking, etc.
The Washington State Supreme Court decided that police have to have a warrant before they attach a GPS tracking device to your car.
RFIDs from Walmart can be tracked before long.
Traffic cameras can be used to look at girls.
Airport x-rays will be used to look through clothes, before long. They claim it makes you look fat, but I claim that's just an excuse. Backscatter x-ray systems look through clothes to your skin. Guns, cell phones, and other terrorist paraphernalia under your clothes show up in the scan. I saw some glasses like these in the back of some comic books once. Here's a picture of Susan, who says it makes her look fat:
Susan is the director of the security lab at the Transportation Security Administration. I think she could stand to lose a couple of pounds, myself.
Some people are worried about getting x-rayed every time they go through an airport gate. At 3 microRems per backscatter shot, you can get 3000 a year and not go over the federal radiation limit. A chest x-ray gives you about 10,000 microRems. Some other people don't like security guards looking through their clothes. I'd guess we'll get zapped at airports anyway.
Speaking of airlines, Jetblue gave 5 million passenger records to a defense contractor so they could be investigated. It's for national security. Some passengers got upset about this. I bet those people really go ballistic when they learn about the security folks looking through their clothes.
Jetblue said, "Oops. We didn't mean it. It won't happen again." The Torch, the defense contractor, bought the data from Acxiom, who is in the business of selling the data. Is it OK if a marketing company has your travel details but not the government?
AOL bought Time Warner, and promptly stuck the AOL name in front of Time/Warner. Now they're dumping the AOL part of the name because AOL's not doing so well. They're also planning to change their logo and stock symbol. The company's stock as gone down about 2/3 since the merger, and they're now $25 billion in debt.
The recording industry (RIAA) has been in the news suing people for swapping music files. Senator Sam from Kansas introduced a law that will require the RIAA to file a lawsuit in order to force internet service providers to turn over customers' identifying information to the RIAA. Currently, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the RIAA only has to suspect some wrongdoing and fill out a request for a subpoena, which can be issued by a court clerk. Maybe Sam figured out that there may be a few voters involved.
Elsewhere in the DMCA, a company that makes garage door openers is being sued by another garage door company. This is not what they planned for with this law, but they had a lot of warnings. I think there should be nothing illegal about making compatible garage door openers. TV remotes could be next!
One way to cut down on music file sharing is to spread bad files throughout the shared music system. If I was RIAA, I'd make a digital copy of every popular song, but with a few loud irritating noises (used car commercials, for example) stuck at random places throughout the song. Then I'd make it available for upload on a lot of fast internet connections.
This would be bad enough to keep the bootleg copy from being used, but it wouldn't be detectable without listening to the song. If a good percentage of the downloaded songs were fixed like this, then fewer people would rely on downloading to get their music.
Here's one way to cut way down on spam. Congress could make it illegal for advertisers to use spam. Then when I get some spam, I could just turn in the people asking to sell me drugs, mortgages, and enlarge my body parts. You can't always find the spammer, but you can almost always find the person using the spammer to do the advertising.
Don't Forget to Vote
In Blytheville, Arkansas, Carl Miner ran for school board. He was the only one on the ballot, so he figured he didn't need to vote. So did everyone else. Nobody voted for Carl, so he didn't win the election. Now the South Mississippi County School Board
appoints the new member. I don't know whether they'll appoint Carl.
It's Really Only $139.5 Million
Last Junkmail I mentioned that the head of the New York Stock Exchange got paid $140 million. Since then, the board of directors asked Dick Grasso to resign because he got paid too much. He gets to keep the $140,000,000, though, so he might not mind too much.
The NYSE board of directors, specifically those on the compensation committee, were the ones who decided that Grasso would get $140 million in the first place. They paid him the money and then they fired him over it. One of my favorite parts is the $5 million bonus he got just for doing extra work after September 11, 2001. That's a lot of overtime.
Pictures of Today!
This guy was out on my deck a couple of days ago.
Mike and I flew the Aircam down the Green River and the Colorado River a 2-3 weeks ago, from the sources in Wyoming and Colorado all the way to Mexico. We took a few pictures along the way.
These three C-130s were nice enough to wait on us to land at Cheyenne.
Here is our plane. It's the one on the right.
Windmills in Wyoming.
A Drilling Rig Near Pinedale, Wyoming.
Gannett Peak, the highest point in Wyoming, is near the source of the Green River.
A Night Landing in Rock Springs, WY.
Bent Rocks East of Vernal, Utah.
Colored Dirt near Vernal, Utah.
North of Green River, Utah.
The Green River is in a 1000' canyon south of the town of Green River, Utah. The second picture shows the runway we took off of.
Utah, Looking into Colorado.
I think this is a uranium plant and evaporating ponds.
This is the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers. You can barely see some people on the beach. "Things are larger than they appear."
This rock's size is deceiving. Look at the tree in the lower right for perspective.
(-) 2003, no rights conserved. Any unauthorized duplication, distribution, or performance of this fine work of art is authorized. That also applies to the not-so-fine art contained in here.
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