beams and bombs, sand dunes wallpaper, helen thomas held to account – conservatives not so much

In addition to drones the future of war is going to be full of beams. Not the kind of beams that will carry you back to the Enterprise, but either find explosives or set them off from a distance. IED beam could change face of war

The military has developed technology that uses a high-tech beam to detonate hidden IEDs, an insurgent weapon responsible for the deaths and maiming of thousands of U.S. servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some in the military caution that widespread use of the weapon could cause civilian casualties when the beam triggers improvised explosive devices.

If you have not seen The Hurt Locker (an excellent film) than you can view some of the videos of IEDs and their consequences in one of the many videos at YouTube. Simply scanning the horizon, pre-detonating an explosive device does have drawbacks. Any children or other civilians nearby become blast victims. One of the more harrowing scenes in Hurt Locker was when Sergeant James starts pulling on some wires and half a dozen old gas cylinders rigged with explosives emerge from the sand. This might have come in handy, Laser Sensor Can See Explosives’ Vapor Trails Even at Extremely Low Concentrations

Detecting explosives, whether they’re tucked into the roadside rubbish on a narrow street in Helmand Province or stashed in someone’s undergarments at the airport, can be difficult to do. But UK researchers have developed a potent new tool for sniffing out combustible contraband by creating a novel laser mechanism that can sense explosive molecules at concentrations below 10 parts per billion.

The new sensor tech relies on “pumping” a specific type of plastic called polyfluorene with photons. When polyfluorene is bombarded with light, it emits laser light. Molecules given off by TNT and similar explosives often present in improvised bombs react with that “plastic laser,” interfering with the light it emits to a detectable degree. That interference suggests the presence of explosives in the very near vicinity.

The laser sensor might be seen at airport screening areas in the future. It might not be fool-proof as not all explosives are TNT based. Some plastic explosives have very small amounts of explosive powder mixed in a matrix.

stone house sand dunes wallpaper

With oil spill, White House struggles to assert control of the unknown

Obama has also called in some of the many scientists on the federal payroll, led by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Chu at one point pushed the unusual idea of using gamma rays to peer into the blowout preventer to determine if its valves were closed, a technique he experimented with in graduate school while studying radioactive decay.

The suggestion at first elicited snickering and “Incredible Hulk” jokes. Then they tried it, and it worked. “They weren’t hot on his ideas,” a senior White House official said of BP’s initial reaction to Chu’s suggestions. “Now they are.”

I had read a few weeks ago about Chu and some colleagues being rounded up as a brainstorming team. I wonder if Chu’s idea is why the second attempt at placing containment cap over the spill was successful where the first one failed.

sunshine fresh

The population of the U.S. is currently about 330 million people. You do not have to be an expert on human behavior to know that everyone old enough to speak has either said something they regret saying, said something that came out different from the thought they had in their head or had a spiteful tone when they meant to just be inquisitive. Isn’t there some room for Helen Thomas?

Columnist Helen Thomas, a trailblazer for women journalists and one of the few in the White House press corps who courageously questioned President Bush and other officials in his administration on war, torture and U.S. policy toward Israel, announced her retirement Monday. It comes in the wake of a controversy triggered by offensive comments she made about Jews and Israel last week.

It is a sad ending to a legendary career. Thomas was the dean of the White House press corps and served for 57 67 years as a UPI correspondent and White House Bureau Chief, covering every president since John F. Kennedy. During the run-up to the Iraq war, Thomas was the only accredited White House correspondent with the guts to ask Bush the tough questions that define a free press.

In March 2006, Thomas wrote a piece for The Nation, “Lap Dogs of the Press” — a scathing indictment of the country’s leading print and broadcast media. She argued that the media could have saved lives if it had questioned the Bush administration’s pronouncements. Instead, the media became, with a very few exceptions, an echo chamber for the White House. “Two of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers,” Thomas wrote, “The New York Times and The Washington Post, kept up a drumbeat for war with Iraq…. They accepted almost unquestioningly the bogus evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the dubious White House rationale that proved to be so costly on a human scale, not to mention a drain on the Treasury…. [And] both newspapers played into the hands of the administration.”

Me, M’s Thomas herself (86 years old) and everyone else thinks what she said was screwy at best. No More Mister Nice Blog puts the whole thing in context – THE VILLAGE DISCOVERS COOTIES

I’ve stayed away from the whole Helen Thomas controversy because as far as I’m concerned, an 89-year old woman still working on the job gets to cash in a mulligan once in a while…

Sadly, the entire Village threw her under the bus, both left and right.  Familiarity breeds contempt, and given the gaffe, the wingers and the Village kicked her out of the cool kids club after she showed them up for the last several decades as Thomas announced her retirement here this afternoon.

[  ]…And well, she’s gone now.  Great work, the Village.  You finally got rid of the old bat, right?  You stopped the source of cooties after all these years.  Good luck filling her chair, any of you in the WHPC.  None of you are worthy, frankly.

We all get mulligans all the time when it comes to blurting stuff out, but that should especially go for an 86 year old with a distinguished career in which she held administrations of both parties accountable for their actions. She is truly a dinosaur and I mean that in a good way. That species of journalists, opinion maker, politician that screws up – apologizes and makes amends is on the verge of extinction. Just this week Glenn Beck endorsed a book written by a Nazi propagandist, sympathizer and virulent anti-Semite, and having been called out about it has refused to apologize and used the opportunity to attack his critics. A South Carolina state senator called a fellow Republican and the president a “f*cking raghead” and while he apologized he is has not resigned. Joining the circle jerk of conservative thinking right-wing conservative Stacey McCain who has had an ongoing relationship with neo-Nazi conservatives. Stacey has crawled out from under his rock to condemn the hateful xenophobic remark against President Obama, but finds it more appalling used against Nikki Haley because she is a Republican. No apologies are likely to be forthcoming from racist Nazi sympathizer S. McCain, nor if employed is he likely to be hounded out of his job by the same conservatives that were foaming at the mouth over Helen Thomas’ remarks. Sarah Palin, who many think is headed for a run as president in 2012 has never apologized for saying during the 2008 campaign, “Our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country.” She reportedly is making millions for speaking engagements and selling herself as the alternative media. As a member of the media her lack of honor and humility does not seem to be impeding her financial gains.

Today’s humor – Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics. This would be a nice gotcha for the crony capitalists, corporate socialists and other assorted denizens of of the right except Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 all trashed the economy. The last suspect to the degree Nobel prize winning economist and liberal Paul Krugman thinks we might be facing the lost decade in terms of economic health. So if conservatives are the great gurus of economics the only excuse they can have for their economic record is pure maliciousness.