Saturday, January 19, 2013

9 Interesting Facts On The U.S. Pentagon

The Pentagon (Wikipedia

9 Things You May Not Know About the Pentagon -- History

On January 15, 1943, work was completed on the new headquarters for the U.S. War Department (the modern-day Department of Defense) in Arlington, Virginia. The massive complex, commonly known as the Pentagon, was built to house the nearly 30,000 defense workers tasked with helping America win World War II. With more than 17 miles of corridors, it remains one of the largest office buildings in the world, and has become a symbol—for better and for worse—of military might. Eighty years after its completion, here are nine things you may not know about the Pentagon. 

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Editor: Wikipedia's entry on the Pentagon is very comprehensive. That link is here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Where Did Europe`s Jews Come From?

Jews throw stones at the sea to symbolically cast off their sin on September 20, 2009 in Nice, France, as part of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Jews of European origin are a mix of ancestries, with many hailing from tribes in the Caucasus who converted to Judaism and created an empire that lasted half a millennium, according to a gene study published on Thursday. 

Gene Study Settles Debate Over Origin Of European Jews -- France24 

AFP - Jews of European origin are a mix of ancestries, with many hailing from tribes in the Caucasus who converted to Judaism and created an empire that lasted half a millennium, according to a gene study published on Thursday.

The investigation, its author says, should settle a debate that has been roiling for more than two centuries. Jews of European descent, often called Ashkenazis, account for some 90 percent of the more than 13 million Jews in the world today. According to the so-called Rhineland Hypothesis, Ashkenazis descended from Jews who progressively fled Palestine after the Moslem conquest of 638 AD.

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My Comment: In short .... they came from the Middle East and the Caucasus.

Why Wolves Cannot Be Tamed

Why Dogs Can Be Tamed But Wolves Cannot -- Science 2.0 

Wolves and dogs are genetically very similar, so why did dogs become "man's best friend" while wolves remain wild? Kathryn Lord at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests the different behaviors are related to the animals' earliest sensory experiences and the critical period of socialization.

Not much is known about sensory development in wolf pups and assumptions are usually extrapolated from what is known for dogs - but there are significant differences in early development between wolf and dog pups, chief among them timing of the ability to walk.

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My Comment: Bottom line .... wolves are tricky animals to have as a pet.

A Gallery Of Top Secret Australian Military Sites As Seen By Google Earth

Secret Australian Military Bases Revealed By Google Maps [PHOTOS] -- Business Insider

As an ode to Australian and British foreign and defense officials meeting in Australia today to discuss stronger military ties, Australian news site has compiled a gallery of top secret Australian military sites as seen by Google Earth.

Previously aviation historians have discovered that the U.S. flew highly classified Global Hawk spy drone missions from a base in South Australia, but we've never seen such a comprehensive look at the secret installations where Australia does classified work and collaborates with other governments.  
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My Comment: It appears that you cannot keep a secret nowadays.

No Buried Spitfires In Burma

A place in history: A poster unveiling the Spitfire from around 1939. Daily Mail 

Archaeologists Believe No Spitfires Buried In Burma -- BBC 

Archaeologists hunting for World War II Spitfires in Burma believe there are no planes buried at the sites where they have been digging, the BBC understands.

The archaeologists have concluded that evidence does not support the original claim that as many as 124 Spitfires were buried at the end of the war, the BBC's Fergal Keane reports., the firm financing the dig, has also said there are no planes. But project leader David Cundall says they are looking in the wrong place.

 Read more ....

More News On The Failure Of Finding Spitfires In Burma  

There are NO Spitfires buried in Burma: Hunt for missing WWII planes ends in disappointment -- Daily Mail
Spitfire search in Burma draws a blank -- The Guardian
Archaeologists: No planes buried in Myanmar -- UPI
Search for lost Spitfires ends in failure for treasure hunters -- The Telegraph
Burma Spitfire Hunt Appears Doomed After No Planes Found -- IBTimes
Myanmar Spitfire hunters say search has hit snag -- Huffington Post
Archaeologists find no buried World War II surplus Spitfires in Burma -- Slashgear
Are there perfectly preserved WWII-era Spitfire airplanes buried in the Burmese jungle? -- io9 Myanmar Spitfire hunter still optimistic -- AFP  

Editor: Bummer.

Flickr Celebrates Fifth Birthday With Its Most Viewed Images

Among the eye-catching images in the Flickr Commons collection is this iconic photo of Winston Churchill with President Roosevelt and Stalin at the Yalta Conference during WWII 

The Pictures We Love Best: Flickr Celebrates Fifth Birthday With Its Most Viewed Images -- Daily Mail 

* Flickr Commons celebrates fifth anniversary of 'public domain' collection
* Marks event by showing off its most viewed and commented on pictures
* Images range from famous historic photographs to personal pictures

It features everything from iconic images of some of the most famous figures in history to heartwarming private pictures of ordinary people and animals simply posing up for the camera.

Flickr Commons has celebrated its fifth anniversary by showing off a collection of its most viewed and commented on photographs, including a picture of Winston Churchill at a meeting of Allied leaders during WWII and a photograph of a black dog smoking a pipe in Wales.

The website's collection of 'public domain' photographs was first launched on January 16, 2008 with 1,500 pictures, and has expanded rapidly since, now featuring more than 250,000.

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My Comment: A lot of familiar pics here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Iran Has Enhanced It's Cyber Capabilities

Photo: General William Shelton, Current Commander, Air Force Space Command. Wikipedia

Iran Strengthened Cyber Capabilities After Stuxnet: U.S. General -- Reuters

(Reuters) - Iran responded to a 2010 cyber attack on its nuclear facilities by beefing up its own cyber capabilities, and will be a "force to be reckoned with" in the future, a senior U.S. Air Force official told reporters on Thursday.

General William Shelton, who heads Air Force Space Command and oversees the Air Force's cyber operations, declined to comment about Iran's ability to disrupt U.S. government computer networks, but said Tehran had clearly increased its efforts in that arena after the 2010 incident.

While no government has taken responsibility for the Stuxnet computer virus that destroyed centrifuges at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility, it was widely reported to have been a U.S.-Israeli project.  

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Update #1: Iran’s Cyber Threat Potential Great, U.S. General Says -- Bloomberg  
Update #2: Iran beefed up cyber capabilities after Stuxnet: US general -- NBC  

My Comment: I guess this explains why U.S. banks are now worried about their own cyber security.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Germany Unveils It's Own 'Star Wars' Laser

The system is currently mounted of a series of large metal containers. However, the firm is developing a smaller, portable version that could easily be transported to the battlefront. 

Germans Unveil 'Star Wars' Laser That Can Shoot A Drone Out Of The Sky From TWO MILES Away And Cut Through A Steel Girder At 700 Yards -- Daily Mail 

* High powered laser is powerful enough to cut through a steel girder from 1km away
* System is so accurate it could track and destroy an 82mm ball bearing designed to replicate a mortar round
* German firm hopes to create a portable version that could be used on the battlefield

One of the most powerful laser weapons ever fired has successfully shot drones out of the sky from two miles away.

The groundbreaking weapon uses a high powered 50kW laser, and is powerful enough to cut through a steel girder from 1km away, yet accurate enough to hit a target the size of a mortar round.

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My Comment: And this is only the first generation .... makes you wonder what is next.

The Role Of Soot In Climate Change

The burning of wood is a major source of black carbon the world over. 

Climate Change: Soot's Role Underestimated, Says Study -- BBC 

Black carbon, or soot, is making a much larger contribution to global warming than previously recognised, according to research.

Scientists say that particles from diesel engines and wood burning could be having twice as much warming effect as assessed in past estimates.

They say it ranks second only to carbon dioxide as the most important climate-warming agent. The research is in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres.

Black carbon aerosols have been known to warm the atmosphere for many years by absorbing sunlight. They also speed the melting of ice and snow.

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My Comment: Outlawing and/or limiting fireplaces is not going to make much headway .... especially for those who live in cold climates.

Cyber Attacks In The U.S. Jumped By 52 Percent In 2012

Cyber vulnerabilities around the U.S. (Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

DHS: Cyber Attacks Against U.S. Infrastructure Increased by 52 Percent in 2012 -- Daily Tech

There were 198 attacks total

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that the number of cyber attacks launched against U.S. infrastructure in 2012 increased by over 50 percent, and over 7,000 key industrial control systems are vulnerable to attack. According to the DHS report, the number of cyber attacks in the U.S. jumped by 52 percent in 2012. There were 198 attacks total, and some were successful.  

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My Comment: We are not told who was successful attacked.

Seven Amazing Robots Of 2012

 The 7 Most Amazing Robots Of 2012 -- 

Okay, we know we're a little late on this, but that's because there was so much amazing stuff to sift through! In 2012, robotic technology made some huge leaps forward. We put the world's most sophisticated planetary rover on Mars using a daring--and precise--robotic delivery system. We launched marine robots capable of taking on hurricanes and rebuilding damaged coral reefs. We saw four-legged robots set new land speed records, and winged, autonomous robots strut their potentially lethal stuff on the deck of an aircraft carrier.

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Editor: The photo gallery starts here.

Pacific Bluefin Tuna's Population Has Collapsed

Pacific Prey Wikimedia Commons 

Pacific Bluefin Tuna Population Has Dropped By 96 Percent -- 

The dark side of sushi's surge in popularity. For the Pacific bluefin tuna, sitting at the popular kids' table sure isn't paying off. The stock of the fish is at historically low levels and is being dangerously overfished, a new report shows. Fisheries scientists from the International Scientific

Committee to Study the Tuna and Tuna-Like Species of the North Pacific Ocean estimate that the Pacific bluefin population has declined from its unfished level by more than 96 percent. The report warns that stock levels likely won't improve by extending the current fishing levels. All the world's scrombrids -- a family that includes tunas and mackerels -- are on the endangered list.

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My Comment: The next step will be a ban on Pacific Bluefin Tuna fishing.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Asia’s Coming “Sci-Fi” Arms Race

Image credit: Wikicommons

Lasers: Asia’s Coming “Sci-Fi” Arms Race -- J. Michael Cole, The Diplomat

True to Newton’s Third Law on Motion, weapons development is a constant battle of adaptation with one side unveiling new technology only for the other to respond with countermeasures. Very few platforms in recent years have been as influential or attracted as much publicity as have unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which have greatly enhanced surveillance capability while giving their owners the ability to target enemies thousands of miles away at relatively little cost.  

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My Comment: I guess the Americans are not the only ones who are trying to develop laser based weapon systems.

NASA Making Way For Private Companies

Boeing's CST-100 Vehicle, As Rendered by an Artist. Boeing 

The Next Crews With The Right Stuff Will Work For Private Companies, Not NASA -- Popular Science  

Spaceship builders will assume the flight risk first with their own test pilot employees.

 Private companies are already sending cargo into space on their own, but no one is sending any people yet--for now, Americans can only get to space with help from the Russians. When commercial aerospace firms do start delivering Americans to space for the first time, they will not be wearing NASA meatball patches on their breast pockets.

Instead, commercial test pilots employed by spaceship builders will fly the first crewed missions, according to NASA officials. The space agency is letting the private firms bear that risk before exposing its own astronauts to a privately built ship.

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My Comment: Another sign that the US government is broke.

The Oldest Star In The Universe

An artist's impression of how the oldest known star in the universe might look 

The Oldest Star In The Universe: Astronomers Find HD 140283 Is At Least 13.2 billion Years Old -- Daily Mail 

* Star known as HD 140283 has been observed for more than a century
 * It formed within the first 600 million years of the Big Bang
 * Earth lies just 186 light years away from the oldest known star

More than a century after it was first observed by astronomers a star has been identified as the oldest yet seen in the universe.

The star is just 186 light years away from Earth and is at least 13.2 billion years old, and quite possibly many millions of years older than that.

The Big Bang is calculated by scientists to have taken place about 13.77 billion years ago and the star, known only as HD 140283, was among the earliest stars to form.

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My Comment: 13.2 billion years old .... just a blink of time to the universe.

The PaperTab Tablet Will Look And Feel Just Like A Sheet Of Paper

Photo: PaperTab (credit: Plastic Logic/Queen’s University)

 A Paper-Thin Flexible Tablet Computer -- Kurzweilai

A flexible paper computer developed at Queen’s University in collaboration with Plastic Logic and Intel Labs could one day revolutionize the way people work with tablets and computers. The PaperTab tablet looks and feels just like a sheet of paper.

However, it is fully interactive with a flexible, high-resolution 10.7” plastic display developed by Plastic Logic, a flexible touchscreen, and powered by the second generation Intel Core i5 Processor. Instead of using several apps or windows on a single display, users have ten or more interactive displays or “PaperTabs”: one per app in use.

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My Comment: I prefer something more solid in my hands .... but I am probably an exception to this rule.

New Rifle Technology Can Turn A Novice Into A Dangerous Sniper

Smart' hunting rifle makes up for jittery aim 
Using state of the art digital range finders and a very smart trigger, the TrackingPoint rifle can make a sharpshooter out of anyone, including's Wilson Rothman. 

Futuristic Rifle Turns Novice Into Sharpshooter -- NBC 

It all goes back to "Top Gun." In the heads-up display on Maverick's Tomcat, you can see a computer compensate for human aim with precision laser guidance and careful calculations. How long before that technology made its way to to a conventional hunting rifle? It's here now, with a price tag of $17,000 to $21,000.

We came to Las Vegas the first week of January, the way we always do, for the Consumer Electronics Show. The vast trade show features over 3,300 exhibitors, and covers 1.9 million square feet. But there are no shooting ranges at CES. To check out TrackingPoint, we had to drive out to the hills outside of town.  

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My Comment: Great for snipers and soldiers in a combat zone. Great for hunters who do not want to hunt. One more worry for the US Secret Service.

GravityLight: Lighting For A Billion People

The GRAVITY-Powered Lamp That Could Bring 1.5billion People Out Of The Darkness -- Daily Mail 

* The GravityLight uses a sand-filled sack to pull a rope through a tiny generator to power an LED light
 * It's makers claim a single pull can keep the light going for up to 30 minutes
 * They hope to distribute 1,000 free to impoverished communities in India and Africa

A British company hopes to bring electric light to 1.5billion people who live off the grid with an incredible electric light that is powered by gravity.

The GravityLight uses a sack of sand to gradually pull a piece of rope through a dynamo mechanism which generates electricity to power an LED light.

A three-second pull on the rope to raise the sack will keep the LED bulb running for up to 30 minutes, its makers claim.

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My Comment: This is just the first generation prototype .... I can only imagine what subsequent innovations will bring.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Top 50 ‘Pictures Of The Day’ For 2012

Editor: The photo gallery starts here.

Panama Canal Expansion Proceeding On Schedule

Expanded Panama Canal Sparks Race To Be Ready For Bigger 
Cargo Ships --Washington Post

PANAMA CITY — This is a story about big, and how one of the biggest construction projects in the world, the remaking of the Panama Canal, will let bigger boats sail into deeper harbors, where authorities are spending billions dredging channels, blasting tunnels and buying cranes from China the size of 14-story buildings to accommodate super-sized cargo.

All this might knock a couple of dollars off the price of a smartphone shipped from Shanghai — or alleviate poverty in Panama, where the government plans to make a fortune in tolls — or create a windfall for the ports ready to receive the big ships, such as those in Baltimore and Norfolk.  

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My Comment: Panama has certainly come a long way from the days of having narco thugs like Manuel Noriega running the country.

Beijing Pollution Hits An All Time High

Residents In Beijing Warned To Stay Indoors As Air Quality Hits 'Worst On Record' After City Is Engulfed By Thick Smog -- Daily Mail

* Pollution in the city rises to 30 to 45 times above recommended safety levels
* Experts warn the conditions could last another two days
* Residents warned to stay indoors as pollution is trapped by low pressure

Air quality in Beijing was the 'worst on record' over the weekend, according to environmentalists, as pollution in the city rose to 30 to 45 times above recommended safety levels.

The Chinese capital, home to around 20 million people, has been wrapped in thick smog since Friday, reducing visibility and disrupting traffic.

The city's pollution monitoring centre has warned residents to stay indoors as pollution levels rose to the worst on record, according to Greenpeace.  

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Update #1: Beijing cancels outdoor activities, warns of hazardous air due to off-the-charts pollution -- Washington Post/AP  
Update #2: Beijing Pollution Hits Highs -- Wall Street Journal  
Update #3: On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing’s Air Quality Tops ‘Crazy Bad’ at 755 -- New York Times  

My Comment: I first visited China in the mid 1980s .... and while I saw massive deforestation in many areas, the air quality was still OK. One of the best moments in my life was visiting a plantation in Fujian province that is responsible for growing Oolong tea. I was walking on the side of the hill and got caught in a warm monsoon rainfall. The warm rainwater, the air filled with the smell of tea, the freshness of the air .... it is an experience that describing it will not do it justice .... you have to experience it to appreciate it. But today .... if I go there ... and I get in a warm monsoon rainfall .... my primary worry will be acid rain and the need to quickly change my clothes.