Thursday, November 30, 2006

Did a starburst in the Milky Way 2.4 billion years ago have affect life on Earth?

2.4 billion years ago a storm of Cosmic Rays produced by an increase in the star formation rate of our home galaxy (the Milky Way) ionized the Earth's atmosphere to such an extent it changed the climate, triggering spurts of growth and die-backs in the primitive life on the Earth at that time.

That is the sure-to-be-highly-controversial suggestion in a new paper by Danish scientists (H. Svensmark, 2006, Astronomische Nachrichten, 27, 871) reported on by When I get back from the honeymoon I'll have to check out the full paper and write a more detailed follow up of this.

As a starburst guy I've love for this to be true, but right now it is best to be skeptical. That Cosmic Rays (CR) strongly affect the Earth climate appears to be by no means well established, and has often been used by climate-change deniers (e.g. see this older post of mine about CR-driven climate change claims made by [strangely enough!] the exact same Danish group).

Also there are issues about the significance, duration, and effect any upturn in Galactic star formation at that time may have been - even if there were a major burst in the MW its by no means clear how the CR flux at Earth would have been altered.

I'll look into these and other issues later...

[update 14/12/06 (1) I still haven't got around to reading the paper in full. (2) Typo in title has been corrected]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So apparently I look like some guy called Adam Brody

But who are these people?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Holy Moley - even more Ehrlich/Steele and general GOPer naughtyness!

Hidden in another WaPo article about the Ehrlich/Steele attempt to trick African Americans into voting for them is this gem:

A mailer, produced by a Bowie woman, urged support for Steele and declared: "Ben Cardin Promises to Attack Jesus Christ, Pastors, Churches and Christians and to Take Away Blacks' Freedom If He Is Elected. [emphasis mine]" The Washington-based National Jewish Democratic Council called the flier "despicable" and "thinly-veiled anti-Semitism" aimed at Cardin, who is Jewish.
Note that unlike the Ehrlich/Steele Democrats flier case there doesn't (yet) seem to be any evidence that this mysterious Bowie woman worked for the Ehrlich/Steele campaign directly.

Ehrlich and Steele had tried something similar in 2002

TPMmuckraker is still on the case! Following on from my last post about the dirty tricks Ehrlich and Steele tried last Tuesday to trick African American voters into voting for them by trucking-in unsuspecting and hungry homeless people to hand out deceptive voters guides/ example ballots, it now turns out that Ehrlich/Steele had tried similar trickery in 2002.

The image of Steele is from his great advert "Steele loves puppies and cheating". Cute Boston Terrier though, might have to call Animal Cops to rescue it.

He may like puppies, but he's into disenfranchising voters from both MD and PA.

The folks at TPMmuckraker must be feeling particularly Herculean after all the mud-slinging associated with the 2006 midterm, but additional commendations are due to them for this follow-up about Ehrlich (R-ex governor) and Steele's (R-loser) attempt to trick pro-Democratic African-American voters into thing Ehrlich and Steele were democrats (see the original story from Nov 07th here first for some context if you want).

Let us present the Sordid history of Maryland Republican's latest attempt to mislead and disenfranchise the African American voter:

  • Oct 31st 2006: Five African American County Council members from Prince Georges county and a former county executive (Wayne K. Curry) endorse Steele (R-lying liar). Of the images of African American democrats presented on the cover of the Ehrlich Steele Democrats flier only Curry endorses Steele (even Curry does NOT support Ehrlich). Mfume is shown, and as a former congressman and former leader of the NAACP and recently a candidate for Democratic MD Senate primary Stelle is running for) certainly doesn't endorse Steele in any if you need any proof that this is not a genuine "democrats for Reagan" cross-party endorsement.
  • Nov 07th 2006: Washington Post reports on the misleading sample ballots handed out at voting places in Maryland. Note an important part of the article:
Erik Markle, one of the [trucked-in PA homeless] people handing out literature for Ehrlich ... said he was recruited at a homeless shelter in Philadelphia. After a two-hour bus ride to Maryland, Markle said the workers were greeted early this morning by first lady Kendel Ehrlich, who thanked them as they were outfitted in T-shirts and hats with the logo for Ehrlich's reelection campaign
  • Nov 07th 2006: Jesse Signal's personal experience with one of the trucked-in leafleteers.
  • Nov 07th 2006: Maryland Community Papers Online (aka the Gazette) reports on how homeless people from Philadelphia were trucked down to Baltimore to hand out Ehrlich-Steele Democrats example ballots.
  • Nov 07th 2006: The brown shirts at FreeRepublic cross-post an image (the one shown above, originally from Dailykos. Shows where the freepers really go to find of what's really happening in the US!) of the offending sample ballot and twitter on about how its obvious that this was produced by Democrats who support Steele and whats the big fuss [I'm not going to even vaguely endorse freeperism with link to them].
  • Nov 9th 2006: David Harrington, one of the huge total of five PG county Councilmen who had actually endorsed Steele is pissed off at this blatant cheating. From an article in the Washington Post blog: 'The ugly, last-ditch efforts by Republicans Bob Ehrlich and Michael Steele to win over black voters in Prince George's County were "over the top," "foolish," "counterproductive," and "an unnecessary attempt to confuse voters,"' Nevertheless, Harrington expresses no regrets, so potentially Steele dishonesty has also killed another African American's political career.
  • Nov 09th 2006: The Philadelphia Enquirer posts a length story about the how the homeless Philadelphians were premised a $100 and breakfast lunch and dinner for distributing the fliers, how they were NOT returned to PA in time for them to vote themselves, and how used they feel now that they know they were part of a dirty tricks campaign.
    Yesterday's Washington Post reported that neither Ehrlich nor Steele was personally aware of the Philly hires [dks: so Ehrlich's wife is part of the group who does this, and Ehrlich was somehow was not aware of it? How stupid do you think we are Ehrlich?]- who knows which group loosely connected to the camps got the bus caravans rolling? Though Ehrlich told the Post, "If folks are here from out of town, that's fine with me. That's what the Democrats have always done. [So he doesn't even admit its wrong, who ever did it, and btw the Democrats are the real cheaters. Note the post article lets that unsupported allegation stand rather than following it up to check its veracity. What a wonderful liberal media we have!]"
    "I am so angry and upset, I don't know what to do," said El-Bedawi, who's particularly shattered that he and at least 200 other Philadelphians didn't get home from Maryland in time to vote here. "These people think we're too stupid to understand the magnitude of what we did." What they did, said El-Bedawi, was cheat an entire community of unsuspecting voters. And just because they didn't know they were doing it doesn't mean it doesn't feel awful. [Note to Ehrlich: El-Bedawi may not have many possesions or a home, but he has this thing called integrity that you don't have, so without a doubt he'd make a better Governor than you ever will. He's a better man than you are, Gunga Din]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How Telemarketing Dirty Tricks work (not science)

I've been meaning to post about winds from galaxies, specifically the standard idea of winds being most likely to escape from dwarf galaxies. But... its election day and I have a lot of other work to do so I'll just post something else very quickly and get back to real work.

Those of you with your ears to the ground will already know about the news (from the internet, the so-called media isn't mentioning it much. I wonder why? ;> See here for info and links to more about misleading robocalls) that the RNCC has been repeatedly ringing people up pretending to be democrats by messing with the Caller ID, so as to generate anger against the democrats. Quite apart from the politics (I wont rant about how this is so typical of the modern Republican criminal mentality) I was interested in the more technical sense about how this Caller ID faking is done and why it doesn't seem to be illegal.

Since the national No-Call-List was put into place and we signed up for it, we now often receive telemarketing calls with confusing, misleading or even absent Caller IDs. Its illegal for telemarketers (*) to call you if you are on the NCL. But filing a complaint is not exactly a piece of cake, as when you fill the in the complaint form on the web you need to give the offending telemarketers number and ID... and if they're sending out fake ones you have little hope of having the true offenders punished for selfish, inconsiderate and parasitic ways.

So how is it done? Well, G2geek (a telecommunications engineer) over at Daily Kos has a informative post all about how companies manipulate their Caller ID entries. So GO READ IT.

(*) Illegal except for politicians and businesses you are already a customer of.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Venus: no catastrophic volcanic resurfacing?

It used to be thought that the relative absence of
craters on our planetary (evil) twin Venus's surface (as radar-mapped by the NASA mission Magellan) implied recent (about 500 Myr-ago) catastrophic volcanic resurfacing (lava covering a large fraction of the planet to a depth of about 3 km is pretty catastrophic).

A new reanalysis of the original data is casting doubt on that old interpretation - the lava might be only (!) 1 km or so deep, and may date from billions of years ago.

Read the full article here on the New Scientist "Space" web page.

The false color radar image of a part of Venus's surface is credit NASA/JPL.