Awww geez …

Greg Schiller’s classroom seems to be a fruitful learning environment. One of his students recently stated, “He’s a really great teacher, and he really cares, he really wants to teach and he loves teaching.” It’s no surprise that he’s such a popular science teacher. It is astonishing, however, that he’s now apparently being punished for making science fun.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Schiller, who teaches at the Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts, in Los Angeles, California, is in hot water because two of his students turned in science projects designed to shoot little projectiles. One of the projects used compressed air, the other consisted of a tube surrounded by a coil and was powered by a standard AA battery.

Sounds pretty cool, and very ingenious. But an unnamed school employee caught sight of one of these devices and “raised concerns.” Officials with the Los Angeles Unified School District then reportedly accused Schiller of “supervising the building, research and development of imitation weapons.” And now he’s been suspended.

Graphene …

A Korean research team has developed a supercapacitor technology that can charge devices 1000 times faster. Thus, a new graphene supercapacitor is likely to be used in electric cars and other electronic devices as next-gen energy storage equipment.

A research team led by Professor Lee Hyo-young at Sungkyunkwan University and Dr. Yoon Yeo-heung announced on April 16 that they successfully developed a high-performance supercapacitor technology that can drastically increase a charging and discharging speed by vertically aligning graphene oxide flakes.

Supercapacitors are next-gen energy storage equipment, following secondary cells. Due to higher electric outputs than lithium-ion batteries, they are appropriate for electronic equipment that needs a large output of power, such as electric vehicles and wind generators. They generate electricity by absorbing and releasing electrolytes (charging and discharging) from a conductive electrode material. Therefore, the more electrolytes are absorbed into electrodes, the more electricity can flow.


American victims of Iranian-sponsored terror may soon realize some degree of financial compensation as the result of a legal settlement announced in New York Thursday. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the agreement covers judgments in 20 cases, and fully resolves 19 of them.

Good idea.

An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem cells. A paper by the team describing their work has been published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The achievement by the team is actually a replication of work done by another team just last year—in that effort the team did the same thing but used donor cells from infants. In this new experiment, two men aged 35 and 75 donated skin cells.

On this day in history.

But spring brought Nazi retaliation. On April 19, 1943, Passover, Himmler sent more than 2,000 Waffen SS soldiers to combat the Jewish resistance. German tanks, howitzers, machine guns, and flamethrowers were met with Jewish pistols, rifles, homemade grenades, and Molotov cocktails. The Jews were able to fend off the German assault for 28 days. Finally, SS General Jurgen Stroop set the entire ghetto block, now reduced to an area 1,000 yards by 300 yards, on fire and blew up the synagogue. By May, 56,065 Jews were dead. It is estimated that the Germans lost 300, with 1,000 wounded.

Still living through WWII.

The Pentagon has agreed to conduct a review of the accounting for the bodies of 22 unknown men who died on the USS Oklahoma battleship during the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor.

A group of 15 senators urged the Pentagon last month to exhume caskets containing the remains so that they could be identified and brought home for burial in their community or buried in a marked grave in Hawaii.

“I’m glad the Pentagon has agreed to begin this process — it’s a big step toward bringing some comfort and closure to the family members of these sailors,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, (D-Conn.), who led the effort with Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
The 22 men, along with 408 other sailors, were killed when their ship was torpedoed during the attack in 1941.

In 1943, Oklahoma was salvaged, but the remains of the sailors were classified as “unknown” and buried in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, according to a statement by Murphy’s office.

Alvarez hits the cover off the ball.

Day by Day

Looking back at the domestication of animals.

It is from Darwin that we inherit the ideas that domestication involved isolation of captive animals from wild species and total human control over breeding and animal care.

But animal management in this industrial setting has been applied too broadly in time and space, said Fiona Marshall, PhD, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. It is not representative of the practices of the Neolithic herders who first domesticated animals nor—for that matter—of contemporary herders in nonindustrial societies.

It’s good that somebody investigated this.

Alexander Yakovlev, a former United Nations procurement officer who was convicted of fraud during the oil-for-food scandal, has gotten a brusque thumbs-down after he demanded that the U.N. pay his way back to Russia after he served time for his decades-old crimes.

On Monday, a U.N. dispute tribunal rejected what it called a “vexacious” claim by Yakovlev, a key figure in the scandal. Yakovlev claimed that the U.N. owed him separation benefits — including air fares, moving allowances and a “repatriation grant”– given to regular U.N. employees when they end their service.

Yakovlev said that he had been unable to claim those benefits within a two-year allowable window after he left the U.N. due to “force majeure” — circumstances beyond his control.

In his case, the circumstances amounted to his arrest, detention, and subsequent sentencing in a New York court for his role in the biggest procurement scandal in U.N. history, after a Fox News story in 2005 uncovered his secret offshore bank account — illegal under U.N. rules.

Yakovlev abruptly resigned from the U.N. little more than a day after the story appeared — a move that kept him from having to testify to U.N. investigators.

Good idea.

Kidney stones represent a major medical problem in the western and developing world. If left untreated, apart from being particularly painful, they can lead to renal failure and other complications. In many patients treated successfully, stone recurrence is also a major problem. Clearly a more effective pathological approach to diagnosis and treatment needs to be identified to ensure successful eradication of stones. …

… By crystallographic techniques Dominique Bazin, Director of Research at Université Paris-Sud 11, France (now at LCMCP-College de France), and co-workers were able to understand how some of the methods employed to medically treat the stones have different effects on the stone, from reducing the size of both nanocrystals and crystallites to changing the shape and space occupied by the crystallites at the macroscale.

A planet similar to earth?

The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed by observations with both the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. The initial discovery, made by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, is one of a handful of smaller planets found by Kepler and verified using large ground-based telescopes. It also confirms that Earth-sized planets do exist in the habitable zone of other stars.

“What makes this finding particularly compelling is that this Earth-sized planet, one of five orbiting this star, which is cooler than the Sun, resides in a temperate region where water could exist in liquid form,” says Elisa Quintana of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center who led the paper published in the current issue of the journal Science. The region in which this planet orbits its star is called the habitable zone, as it is thought that life would most likely form on planets with liquid water.

First Heartbleed arrest.

Canadian police have arrested and charged a 19-year-old man who allegedly exploited the Heartbleed bug to steal personal data from the Canadian Revenue Agency’s website.

The arrest of Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes, who allegedly grabbed 900 social insurance numbers (SINs) over a period of six hours, marks the first time that authorities have apprehended someone in relation to the bug in OpenSSL. …

… The RCMP treated this breach of security as a high priority case and mobilized the necessary resources to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. Investigators from National Division, along with our counterparts in “O” Division have been working tirelessly over the last four days analyzing data, following leads, conducting interviews, obtaining and executing legal authorizations and liaising with our partners.

Making it look easy

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Probably not the best way to ‘make your case’.

Luis de la Garza was a longtime community and business leader in North Texas, a man who in 2008 voiced opposition to a proposed ordinance by the Farmers Branch City County that would restrict undocumented immigrants from renting in the city where he lived.

A television executive, he quickly established himself as one of the most dynamic Latino leaders in North Texas.

But de la Garza also had a darker side, one that involved robbing banks in North Texas.

On Thursday afternoon, the man the FBI dubbed the “Mesh Mask Bandit” was sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison for robbing 18 North Texas banks and attempting to hold up up two others with a BB gun. He was given that name for the masks he wore to carry out the bank robberies.

Defining inflation down.

That the official rate of inflation doesn’t reflect reality is obvious to anyone paying college tuition and healthcare out of pocket. The debate over the accuracy of the official consumer price index (CPI) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE–the so-called core rate of inflation) has raged for years, with no resolution in sight.

The CPI calculates inflation based on the prices of a basket of goods and services that are adjusted by hedonics, i.e. improvements that are not reflected in the price of the goods. Housing costs are largely calculated on equivalent rent, i.e. what homeowners reckon they would pay if they were renting their house.

The CPI attempts to measure the relative weight of each component:

Over regulated.

I’m not sure how stopping this auction can help.

Following protests by two Jewish groups, a Paris auction house canceled an auction of Nazi objects.

The Maison Vermont de Pas auction house nixed the April 26 sale on Monday following the protests by the National Bureau for Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, and the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities. The objects included passports and books that were collected from a residence of Adolf Hitler.

BNVCA President Sammy Ghozlan said his group was satisfied with the decision. His group has asked French government officials to urge those in possession of Nazi objects from the 1930 and 1940s to give them to police.

Good idea – graphene.

A team of researchers at China’s Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, studying graphene properties, has discovered that the act of dragging saltwater over a piece of graphene can generate electricity. In their paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team describes how in seeking to turn the idea of submerging carbon nanotubes in a flowing liquid to generate a voltage on its head, they came upon the idea of simply dragging water droplets across graphene instead.

How A Chinese Company 3-D Printed 10 Houses In A Day

The WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. (link in Chinese) designed the printer that made the walls. The buildings’ roofs weren’t printed because of technological limitations.

The printer used to build the houses is 500 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 20 feet high.

Couple of items on WWII history for today.

On this day in 1942, French General Henri Giraud, who was captured in 1940, escapes from a castle prison at Konigstein by lowering himself down the castle wall and jumping on board a moving train, which takes him to the French border.

On this day in 1945, U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Boris T. Pash commandeers over half a ton of uranium at Strassfut, Germany, in an effort to prevent the Russians from developing an A-bomb.

Geez …

Here’s a lesser-known function of your hard-earned money: providing backing for people in other countries to buy things from America.

Come again? Yes, that’s right. Let’s say Air China wants to purchase some Boeing jets. To encourage that purchase, America’s Export-Import Bank could loan Air China the money. If Air China were to default on the loan, U.S. taxpayers would be left on the hook.

Put simply, taxpayers should not be financing this kind of “bank”—which is “little more than a fund for corporate welfare,” as candidate Barack Obama described it in 2008.

What could go wrong?

The FBI is building a massive facial recognition database that could contain as many as 52 million images by 2015, according to information obtained by the EFF via a freedom of information request.

The agency’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is an update to its existing fingerprint database – which itself contains over 100 million records – and has been in development for years.

In addition to photos, it also includes biometric data such as iris scans and palm prints.

Why can’t they see this coming?

It is quite possible that the ACA is shaping up as the greatest act of fiscal irresponsibility ever committed by federal legislators. Nothing immediately comes to mind as comparable to it. Certainly no tax legislation is, because tax rates rise and fall frequently, such that one Congress’s tax cut can be (and often is) undone by a later tax increase. The same is true for legislation affecting appropriated spending programs. But the ACA is a commitment to permanently subsidize comprehensive health insurance for millions who could not otherwise afford it, which the federal government has no viable plan to finance. Moreover, experience shows that it is very difficult to scale back such spending once large numbers of Americans have been made dependent on it.

He’s made his point.

Now it is time to pay his taxes. He should try to negotiaate a deal.

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