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[VIDEO] Thomas Sowell Dismantles the Ideology of ‘Social Justice’

Thomas Sowell is an American economist, turned social theorist, political philosopher, and author. He is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. In this segment he talks about the idological failures of Social Justice or what he calls “cosmic justice”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Student Is Admitted To Stanford With Essay That Simply Repeated “Black Lives Matter” 100 Times

JONATHAN TURLEY

Stanford_University_seal_2003.svgEvery student can recount the stress and work that went into their college essays.  Indeed, some people hire advisers on the preparation of these essays.  For Ziad Ahmed however repetition was the key.  Asked by Stanford University to respond to “What matters to you, and why?”, his answer was to repeat the expression #BlackLivesMatter” 100 times.  He got in.

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The Survival of the Left

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Thomas Sowell writes: Biologists explain how organisms adapt to their physical environment, but ideologues also adapt to their social environment. The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.

“The academic world is the natural habitat of half-baked ideas, except for those fields in which there are decisive tests, such as science, mathematics, engineering, medicine;and athletics. In all these fields, in their differing ways, there comes a time when you must either put up or shut up. It should not be surprising that all of these fields are notable exceptions to the complete domination by the left on campuses across the country.”

The academic world is the natural habitat of half-baked ideas, except for those fields in which there are decisive tests, such as science, mathematics, engineering, medicine;and athletics. In all these fields, in their differing ways, there comes a time when you must either put up or shut up. It should not be surprising that all of these fields are notable exceptions to the complete domination by the left on campuses across the country.

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“You might think that the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe would be considered a decisive failure for Marxism, but academic Marxists in America are utterly undaunted. Their paychecks and their tenure are unaffected. Their theories continue to flourish in the classrooms and their journals continue to litter the library shelves.”

In the humanities, for example, the test of deconstructionism is not whether it can produce any tangible results but whether it remains in vogue. So long as it does, professors skilled in its verbal sleight-of-hand can expect to continue to receive six-figure salaries.

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“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it. Even countries that were once more prosperous than their neighbors have found themselves much poorer than their neighbors after just one generation of socialistic policies. Whether these neighboring countries were Ghana and the Ivory Coast or Burma and Thailand, it has been the same story around the world.”

You might think that the collapse of communism throughout Eastern Europe would be considered a decisive failure for Marxism, but academic Marxists in America are utterly undaunted. Their paychecks and their tenure are unaffected. Their theories continue to flourish in the classrooms and their journals continue to litter the library shelves.

Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it. Even countries that were once more prosperous than their neighbors have found themselves much poorer than their neighbors after just one generation of socialistic policies. Whether these neighboring countries were Ghana and the Ivory Coast or Burma and Thailand, it has been the same story around the world.

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Discredited elsewhere, the nostrums of the left live on in public television. 

Nor is economic failure the worst of it. The millions slaughtered by Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot for political reasons are an even grimmer reality.

People who live and work in a world where there is a business bottom line, an athletic scoreboard, a military battlefield or life-and-death surgery may find it hard to fully Marx-TVappreciate the difference between that kind of world and one in which the only decisive test is whether your colleagues like what you are saying.

“These endowed and insulated institutions, often full of contempt for the values of American society and Western civilization, are not the only bastions of the left counter-culture. So are Hollywood and Broadway.”

Academia is only one of the places where wholly subjective criteria rule;and where leftists predominate. Endowed institutions such as foundations and museums likewise often face no test other than what like-minded people find “exciting” and what enables those who run these institutions to get the heady feeling that they are “making a difference.” The same is true of cultural institutions supported involuntarily by the taxpayers, such as the Smithsonian or the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.

Taxpayer-supported “public” radio and television are similarly insulated from reality and similarly dominated by the left, not only in the United States but in other countries as well. All the nostrums of the left that have brought hunger to millions in countries which used to have surplus food to export, all the pretty words and ugly realities that have caused millions more to flee the lands of their birth, these nostrums live on in public television;much like old classic movies with familiar lines that the audience of aficionados can recite along with the characters on the screen.

These endowed and insulated institutions, often full of contempt for the values of American society and Western civilization, are not the only bastions of the left counter-culture. So are Hollywood and Broadway. Although show biz faces the financial need to get an audience, the truth of what they portray is hardly crucial. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Thomas Sowell: What People Get Wrong About Poverty

Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. He is currently Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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Charlie Rose Interviews a Robot

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Charlie Rose attempts to interview a robot named “Sophia” for his 60 Minutes report on artificial intelligence.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” Sophia tells 60 Minutes correspondent Charlie Rose. They’re mid-interview, and Rose reacts with surprise.

“Waiting for me?” he asks.

“Not really,” she responds. “But it makes a good pickup line.”

Sophia managed to get a laugh out of Charlie Rose. Not bad for a robot.

Rose interviewed the human-like machine for this week’s two-part 60 Minutes piece on artificial intelligence, or A.I. In their exchange, excerpted in the clip above, Rose seems to approach the conversation with the same seriousness and curiosity he would bring to any interview.

[Read the full story here, at CBSnews]

“You put your head where you want to test the possibility,” Rose tells 60 Minutes Overtime. “You’re not simply saying, ‘Why am I going through this exercise of talking to a machine?’ You’re saying, ‘I want to talk to this machine as if it was a human to see how it comprehends.’”

Sophia’s creator, David Hanson, believes that if A.I. technology looks and sounds human, people will be more willing to engage with it in meaningful ways.

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“I think it’s essential that at least some robots be very human-like in appearance in order to inspire humans to relate to them the way that humans relate to each other,” Hanson says. “Then the A.I. can zero in on what it means to be human.”

“Through his company Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, Hanson has created twenty human-like robots, even developing artificial skin that simulates the physics of facial flesh. Sophia is his latest design, modeled after Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’s wife.”

He envisions robots as companions for people who would otherwise be socially isolated, such as the elderly. “If you have a robot that can communicate in a very human-like way and help somebody who otherwise doesn’t know how to use a computer, put them in touch with their relatives,” Hanson explains, “put them in touch with their healthcare provider in a way that is natural for them, then that could provide a critical difference of connectivity for that person with the world.”

Through his company Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong, Hanson has created twenty human-like robots, even developing artificial skin that simulates the physics of facial flesh. Sophia is his latest design, modeled after Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’s wife.

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CBS News

“I think it’s essential that at least some robots be very human-like in appearance in order to inspire humans to relate to them the way that humans relate to each other. Then the A.I. can zero in on what it means to be human.”

“Sophia means wisdom,” Hanson explains, “and she is intended to evolve eventually to human-level wisdom and beyond.”

She still has a long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »


NASA to Announce Mars Mystery Solved 

NASA will detail a major science finding from the agency’s ongoing exploration of Mars during a news briefing at 11:30 a.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 28 at the James Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

News conference participants will be:

·         Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters

·         Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters

·         Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta

·         Mary Beth Wilhelm of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and the Georgia Institute of Technology

·         Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) at the University of Arizona in Tucson

A brief question-and-answer session will take place during the event with reporters on site and by phone. Members of the public also can ask questions during the briefing using #AskNASA.

To participate in the briefing by phone, reporters must email their name, media affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole at stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov by 9 a.m. EDT on Monday. Read the rest of this entry »


New Research Explores How to Stop Virtual Reality from Making You Want to Puke

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Rachel Metz writes: I’m sitting in Gordon Wetzstein’s lab at Stanford University with a hacked-together prototype of a head-mounted display strapped to my face, using a wireless Xbox controller to manipulate a series of 3-D models: a lion, a chessboard filled with chess pieces, an espresso machine, and so on.

“…the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.”

The images are fairly simple, run-of-the-mill models—the kind that anyone could download from the Internet. What is interesting, though, is what happens as I stare at the models, turning them with the controller so I can inspect them from different angles: I can focus on the different parts of the images at different depths as I would when gazing at something in real life, so when I look at, say, the chess pieces up close, those in the background look fuzzy, and vice versa when I focus on the pieces in the distance. And I don’t feel nauseous or dizzy like I sometimes do when I’m playing around with virtual reality, especially when looking at objects that are close to my face.

“In real life, when you’re looking at something—a flower, for instance—your eyes move and the lens in each eye adjusts to bring whatever’s in front of you into focus. With stereoscopic 3-D, a technology commonly used by companies making virtual reality headsets, things gets trickier.”

Virtual reality is on the verge of commercial availability, with consumer-geared headsets like the Oculus Rift poised for release next year (see “Oculus Shows Its First Consumer Headset, Circular Hand Controls”). Yet while the technology has improved immensely in the last couple years, there are still plenty of crucial issues to be sorted out—among them that feeling of motion sickness that some people like myself have when experiencing virtual reality, which arises from what’s known as vergence-accommodation conflict.

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This conflict is what Wetzstein, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, and other researchers at Stanford are trying to solve with the headset I tried on, which they call a light field stereoscope—essentially, a device that uses a stack of two LEDs to show each eye a “light field” that makes virtual images look more natural than they typically do.

[Read the full text here, at MIT Technology Review]

Sample images show what it looks like to use the light field stereoscope to focus on parts of a 3-D scene that appear to be at different depths.

Read the rest of this entry »


China Preparing for Drone Warfare

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 reports: China’s military plans to produce nearly 42,000 land-based and sea-based unmanned weapons and sensor platforms as part of its continuing, large-scale military buildup, the Pentagon’s annual report on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) disclosed Friday.

“Together with the increased mobility and survivability of the new generation of missiles, these technologies and training enhancements strengthen China’s nuclear force and bolster its strategic strike capabilities.”

China currently operates several armed and unarmed drone aircraft and is developing long-range range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for both intelligence gathering and bombing attacks.lijianUAV

“The acquisition and development of longer-range UAVs will increase China’s ability to conduct long-range reconnaissance and strike operations,” the report said.

China’s ability to use drones is increasing and the report said China “plans to produce upwards of 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, between 2014 and 2023.”

“The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV.”

Four UAVs under development include the Xianglong, Yilong, Sky Saber, and Lijian, with the latter three drones configured to fire precision-strike weapons.

“The Lijian, which first flew on Nov. 21, 2013, is China’s first stealthy flying wing UAV,” the report said.

The drone buildup is part of what the Pentagon identified as a decades-long military buildup that last year produced new multi-warhead missiles and a large number of submarines and ships.

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“China will likely continue to invest considerable resources to maintain a limited, but survivable, nuclear force to ensure the PLA can deliver a damaging responsive nuclear strike.”

Additionally, the Pentagon for the first time confirmed China’s development of an ultra-high speed maneuvering strike vehicle as part of its growing strategic nuclear arsenal.

“China is working on a range of technologies to attempt to counter U.S. and other countries’ ballistic missile defense systems, including maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRV), [multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles], decoys, chaff, jamming, and thermal shielding,” the report, made public Friday, states.

“The United States and China acknowledge that the Chinese tested a hypersonic glide vehicle in 2014,” the report noted.

It was the first time the Pentagon confirmed the existence of what is known as the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle, a strike weapon that travels at the edge of space at nearly 10 times the speed of sound.

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The Wu-14, designed to deliver nuclear weapons through U.S. missile defenses, was first disclosed by the Washington Free Beacon, which reported on three tests conducted in 2014.

“Together with the increased mobility and survivability of the new generation of missiles, these technologies and training enhancements strengthen China’s nuclear force and bolster its strategic strike capabilities,” the report said. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] BECAUSE, SCIENCE: Pouring Molten Aluminum In a Watermelon

Move over AntHillArt, theres a new guy in town! So today I decided I was going to pour molten aluminum on something. I just finished a new propane powered furnace and I wanted to put it to the test!

 


[VIDEO] Rand Paul’s STOU Rebuttal

Good evening. I wish I had better news for you, but… All is not well in America. America is adrift. Something is clearly wrong.

“I think we should put limits on the terms of Congress and infuse our government with fresh ideas.”

America needs many things, but what America desperately needs is new leadership.

I’ve only been in office a short time, but one thing I’ve discovered is that there is no monopoly on knowledge in Washington.

“The war on poverty is 50 years old, and still black unemployment is twice that of white unemployment.”

The best thing that could happen is for us—to once and for all—limit the terms of all politicians. We already limit the President to two terms.

I think we should put limits on the terms of Congress and infuse our government with fresh ideas.

[Go to Breitbart to read the rest.]

Before I ran for office, I practiced medicine for nearly 20 years in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Liberal elites fly over my small town, but they don’t understand us. They simply seek to impose their will upon us—from what insurance we can buy, to what light bulbs we can use, to how we generate electricity.

Most of us in flyover country, and I suspect many who live in our big cities, think those in government take us for granted. Those of us who are actively pursuing the American Dream simply want government to get out of our way. Read the rest of this entry »


California Dreamers: Ron & Nancy, 1960s

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Check out that linen suit. And Nancy’s pastel pink cotton dress, and pearls. A time capsule of summer style, but also timelessly contemporary. The cut of Ron’s linen sport jacket with tie and casual pocket square is identical to the current line of J Crew mens wear. Unclear what year this is, but I’m guessing it’s when Reagan was governor, and the location (both sunny and smoggy) looks like 1960s California.

[Also See – How Ronald Reagan Described the Economy in His 7th-Year State of the Union]


[VIDEO] Gutfeld: CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Calls Charlie Hebdo Terrorists ‘Activists’

Transcript by NewsBusters Tom Blumer:

GREG GUTFELD: It’s good to see all these vocal free speech supporters, many of whom were silent when [Ayaan] Hirsi Ali, Condoleezza Rice and others were kept from speaking on campuses. I suppose you only express solidarity when it’s cool, and there’s a neat hashtag.

But as we know, one aids terror by blocking speech through the fabrication of offense. We must fight evil, but what happens when the fight is labeled as “bigoted” by the media, our campuses, our leaders? Terror wins.

And so CNN’s Christiane Amanpour calls terrorists “activists.” I’m really not kidding.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR (in a broadcast on the day of the massacre, perhaps even shortly after it took place, given that CNN considered it “Breaking News”): On this day, these activists found their targets, and their targets were journalists. This was a clear attack on the freedom of expression, on the press, and on satire.

GUTFELD: What?

Anyway, and editors worrying more about right-wing reaction to terror than terror itself.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF (at MSNBC on Wednesday, Clip 1): I think they should have been more sensitive. I don’t believe in gratuitously offending people.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF (at MSNBC on Wednesday, Clip 2): We have to be really, really careful not to respond to the extraordinary intolerance of these jihadis with our own intolerance.

DAVID ROTHKOPF (at MSNBC on Wednesday, Clip 3): I think we have to be just as worried about the reaction to the attack from nationalists, from right-wingers, from people who have sought to drive this wedge, as it was described earlier, between the Islamic communities and the mainstream communities in Europe.

GUTFELD: I get it. The enemy is pre-ordained. It’s us. Which means Howard Dean is right. This is a cult, a cult of apologists. But Dean is also right when he says this is not a religious issue, which means, if I don’t see Islam when I fight terror, then you cannot see Islamophobia when I fight it.

What should we see instead? Again, a death cult, one that needs no understanding, just eradication. It would be nice for moderate Muslims to help, but if they don’t, we can handle it, it’s nothing personal, Muslims. Just step aside. Read the rest of this entry »


BBC: Fracking Not at Fault in Water Contamination

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Does this mean the tracking industry can sue for slander?

From The American Interest, via BBC News

Poorly encased wells are to blame for water contamination in fracked wells, not the controversial drilling process, according to a new study. The BBC reports:

The researchers used noble gases to trace the path of methane as these inert chemicals are not affected by microbial activity or oxidation. […] By measuring the ratios of the noble materials to the methane they were able to accurately determine the distance to the likely source. […]

“The mechanism of contamination looks to be well integrity,” said one of the authors, Prof Robert Jackson from Stanford University. […] “In about half the cases we believe the contamination came from poor cementing and in the other half it came from well casings that leaked.” Read the rest of this entry »


Victor Davis Hanson: Sherman Suddenly Took Atlanta, Confederacy Was Doomed


[VIDEO] Learning from Ancient Warfare

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From the YouTube summary: As part of our ongoing partnership with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, we spoke with Victor Davis Hanson, the Martin and Illie Anderson senior fellow and chair of the Military History Working Group at the Hoover Institution.

[Order Victor Davis Hanson’s book The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost – From Ancient Greece to Iraq from Amazon.com]

Hanson, an expert in the classics and military history, explains what today’s leaders can learn from the ancient Greeks and Romans. As Hanson says, the ancients teach us why wars begin, how they proceed and how they can be ended. Although this may not prevent future conflicts, the knowledge can help mitigate the effects of war on people.


Read the rest of this entry »


Reality Check: Boko Haram and the Sultan of Brunei Couldn’t Care Less About Western Twitter Outrage

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For National Review Online, Victor Davis Hanson writes:

Nigeria’s homegrown, al-Qaeda linked militant group, Boko Haram, brags openly that it recently kidnapped about 300 young Nigerian girls. It boasts that it will sell them into sexual slavery.

What do we do in the face of 19th-century evil that is unapologetic, has lethal weapons at its disposal, and uses savage rhetoric to goad us? Tweet it to death?

Those terrorists have a long and unapologetic history of murdering kids who dare to enroll in school, and Christians in general. For years, Western aid groups have pleaded with the State Department to at least put Boko Haram on the official list of terrorist groups. But former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team was reluctant to come down so harshly, in apparent worry that some might interpret such condemnation as potentially offensive to Islamic sensitivities.savior-generals

[Order Victor Davis Hanson’s book “The Savior Generals  from Amazon.com]

From Greece to Jerusalem to Rome to the Enlightenment to the Founding Fathers slowly grew a standard of human rights that could be applied to anyone, regardless of race, creed, or color. But that is still not how most of the non-Western world works today.

Instead, Western elites now flood Facebook and Twitter with angry postings about Boko Haram — either in vain hopes that public outrage might deter the terrorists, or simply to feel better by loudly condemning the perpetrators. Read the rest of this entry »


The Death of the Humanities

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A liberal arts education was once a gateway to wisdom; now, it can breed ignorance and arrogance

Victor Davis Hanson writes:  The humanities are in their latest periodic crisis. Though the causes of the ongoing decline may be debated, everyone accepts the dismal news about eroding university enrollments, ever fewer new faculty positions, the decline in majors, and the lack of jobs for humanities graduates. Less than 8% of current BA degrees are awarded to humanities majors. The New York Times recently reported that while 45% of the undergraduate faculty at Stanford teach in the humanities, only 15% of the students major in them.

Of course, the numbers of humanities majors have been in decline since the 1970s. But what seems different today is that the humanities are less sacrosanct in the university. Literature, philosophy, and art are no longer immune from budget cuts by virtue of their traditional intrinsic value to the university. Either humanities professors can no longer make the case for the traditional role of their subjects or no one cares to listen to what they have to say.

Read the rest of this entry »


The New Segregation

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Kevin D. Williamson writes:  If you divided American families into six graduated income groups — poor, low-income, lower-middle, upper-middle, high-income, and affluent — and took a trip in time back to the Age of Disco, you’d find that nearly two-thirds of all American families lived in neighborhoods with median incomes in the middle two groups: lower-middle and upper-middle. Return to the present day, and you’ll find that fewer than half of American families live in middle-income neighborhoods. Progressives wringing their hands over consistently misinterpreted income figures need not go so far as Wall Street boardrooms for evidence of the economic inequality that troubles them so — they need only look next door.

Those are the findings of Kendra Bischoff of Cornell University and Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University in their recent study “Residential Segregation by Income, 1970–2009,” published by the Russell Sage Foundation. The results, if not exactly surprising, are nonetheless troubling. Neighborhoods marked by a mix of residents in the fat middle of the economic bell curve are growing proportionally smaller, while both high-income and low-income neighborhoods grow proportionally more populous. The Bischoff-Reardon study, unlike many others of its kind, does not examine households but families, meaning households in which children and their guardians are present. (A household, for U.S. Census purposes, can be anything from an extended family to a single person to six young hipsters sharing a Brooklyn loft.) That is important in that the consequences of income segregation are likely to be felt most strongly by children. Our antique Prussian factory model of education still ensures that most children’s educational options are limited by geography (the best efforts of reformers notwithstanding), and the likelihood that children will encounter peers in an organized sports league, church group, or school who are from better-off families are much more circumscribed than are the opportunities of adults to move beyond their immediate geographic horizons. The most important social habits are learned, but they are not taught; children pick them up from those around them, the same way they pick up language.

Read the rest of this entry »


The First Carbon Nanotube Computer

A carbon nanotube computer processor is comparable to a chip from the early 1970s, and may be the first step beyond silicon electronics.

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Tube chip: This scanning electron microscopy image shows a section of the first-ever carbon nanotube computer. The image was colored to identify different parts of the chip.

Katherine Bourzac reports: For the first time, researchers have built a computer whose central processor is based entirely on carbon nanotubes, a form of carbon with remarkable material and electronic properties. The computer is slow and simple, but its creators, a group of Stanford University engineers, say it shows that carbon nanotube electronics are a viable potential replacement for silicon when it reaches its limits in ever-smaller electronic circuits.

The carbon nanotube processor is comparable in capabilities to the Intel 4004, that company’s first microprocessor, which was released in 1971, says Subhasish Mitra, an electrical engineer at Stanford and one of the project’s co-leaders. The computer, described today in the journal Nature, runs a simple software instruction set called MIPS. It can switch between multiple tasks (counting and sorting numbers) and keep track of them, and it can fetch data from and send it back to an external memory.

The nanotube processor is made up of 142 transistors, each of which contains carbon nanotubes that are about 10 to 200 nanometer long. The Stanford group says it has made six versions of carbon nanotube computers, including one that can be connected to external hardware—a numerical keypad that can be used to input numbers for addition. Read the rest of this entry »


Losing Is Good for You

The downside of the “everyone gets an A” generation

LOS ANGELES — AS children return to school this fall and sign up for a new year’s worth of extracurricular activities, parents should keep one question in mind. Whether your kid loves Little League or gymnastics, ask the program organizers this: “Which kids get awards?” If the answer is, “Everybody gets a trophy,” find another program.

Trophies were once rare things — sterling silver loving cups bought from jewelry stores for truly special occasions. But in the 1960s, they began to be mass-produced, marketed in catalogs to teachers and coaches, and sold in sporting-goods stores. Read the rest of this entry »


How long can China’s Communist party survive?

Shen_Zhihua,_2009“Xi Jinping and this administration provide the last chance for China to implement a social transformation [to a more liberal political system] that comes from within the party and within the system,” says Shen Zhihua, a professor at East China Normal University who specializes in the Soviet Union and the son of People’s Liberation Army officers who served alongside Mao. “Without these reforms there will certainly be a social explosion.”

“As the economy slows and middle-class discontent grows, it is the question that’s now being asked not only outside but inside the country. Even at the Central Party School there is talk of the unthinkable: the collapse of Chinese communism,” writes the FT’s Jamil Anderlini in a must-read analysis of prospects for China’s democratization.

A more significant change for an institution founded to enforce ideological purity is its relatively new role as an intellectual free-fire zone, where almost nothing is off-limits for discussion. “We just had a seminar with a big group of very influential party members and they were asking us how long we think the party will be in charge and what we have planned for when it collapses,” says one Party School professor. “To be honest, this is a question that everyone in China is asking but I’m afraid it is very difficult to answer.” Read the rest of this entry »


Sun Will Flip Its Magnetic Field Soon

by Miriam Kramer, Staff Writer

The sun is gearing up for a major solar flip, NASA says.

In an event that occurs once every 11 years, the magnetic field of the sun will change its polarity in a matter of months, according new observations by NASA-supported observatories.

The flipping of the sun’s magnetic field marks the peak of the star’s 11-year solar cycle and the halfway point in the sun’s “solar maximum” — the peak of its solar weather cycle. NASA released a new video describing the sun’s magnetic flip on Monday (Aug. 5).

“It looks like we’re no more than three to four months away from a complete field reversal,” Todd Hoeksema, the director of Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, said in a statement. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”

As the field shifts, the “current sheet” — a surface that radiates billions of kilometers outward from the sun’s equator — becomes very wavy, NASA officials said. Earth orbits the sun, dipping in and out of the waves of the current sheet. The transition from a wave to a dip can create stormy space weather around Earth, NASA officials said.

Sun's Magnetic Field to Flip
The sun’s magnetic field is gearing up to shift, a once in 11 year event, according to NASA officials.
Credit: NASA

“The sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity,” Stanford solar physicist Phil Scherrer said in a statement. “This is a regular part of the solar cycle.”

While the polarity shift can stir up some stormy weather, it also provides extra shielding from dangerous cosmic rays. These high-energy particles, which are accelerated by events like supernova explosions, zip through the universe at nearly the speed of light. They can harm satellites and astronauts in space, and the wrinkled current sheet better protects the planet from these particles.

The effects of the rippled sheet can also be felt throughout the solar system, far beyond Pluto and even touching the Voyager probes near the barrier of interstellar space.

“The sun’s north pole has already changed sign, while the south pole is racing to catch up,” Scherrer said. “Soon, however, both poles will be reversed, and the second half of solar max will be underway.”

The current solar maximum is the weakest in 100 years, experts have said. Usually, at the height of a solar cycle, sunspot activity increases. These dark regions on the sun’s surface can give birth to solar flares and ejections, but there have been fewer observed sunspots this year than in the maximums of previous cycles.

via  Space.com.