Sunday, July 29, 2012

independents vs. moderates

Independents vs. Moderates: What’s the Difference?
Independents and moderates are the two major groups that make up the center of the American electorate. But they are not synonymous.
For starters, “Independent” is a partisan identification (like Democrat or Republican), and “moderate” is an ideological label (like liberal or conservative). And while they track closely in income, education, religiosity, and a belief that everyone has the power to succeed, they diverge slightly on a few other demographic and attitudinal markers.
By better understanding the similarities and differences of moderate and Independent voters, politicians and pundits can gain a better picture of where these two groups overlap—and where they don’t.
For a deeper look at who, exactly, are “Obama Independents,” read our recent report: 2012 Showdown: The Battle for the Obama Independents.
This infographic appeared in the July 2012 Inside Politics Newsletter

galactic collisions

Galactic collisions are among the most ferocious and stunning events in our universe.
These cosmic pile-ups occur whenever galaxies become gravitationally attracted to one another. Multiple galaxies may spiral around each other for billions of years, creating odd distortions and beautiful trails of stars as they pass. Eventually, the objects crash together in a forceful embrace.
Since the first galaxies coalesced several hundred million years after the Big Bang, their collisions have been influential in shaping the history of our universe.
“As small galaxies merge, they make larger galaxies, and those will then merge to make still larger galaxies, and so on, up to and including the present-day galaxies,” said astronomer Kirk Borne of George Mason University.
Because of the vast distances between them, there's a low probability that stars within galaxies will actually hit head-on. But gravitational forces can wrest stars from their previous orbits, scrambling the shape of the galaxies involved.
Friction between diffuse gas and dust inside each galaxy raises temperatures, and interstellar material often combines into huge molecular clouds. All this mass in one place triggers prodigious star formation, with stellar birth rates increasing by a hundredfold.
The increased light from this extra star formation allows astronomers to see galaxy mergers in the distant universe, helping them learn about some of the earliest periods of cosmic history. Understanding how larger galaxies coalesce from smaller galaxies provides important information on our own cosmic origin story: the formation of the Milky Way galaxy.
The Milky Way formed through the long-ago merging of progenitor galaxies and is on course to hit our neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, in about 4 billion years. Simulations indicate that the Earth and solar system won’t be destroyed in this collision, though the sun may be tossed into a brand new galactic region.
Along with other astronomers, Borne is a member of the Galaxy Zoo project, an online collaboration between scientists and interested citizens to sift through astronomical telescope datasets and classify galaxies and their behavior. His specialty is the Galaxy Zoo: Mergers project, which studies galactic collisions.
Their website has an online Java applet that lets anyone simulate galaxies smashing together. Just input parameters like the galaxies’ relative masses, collision speeds and angles, and then watch the results.
The applet's purpose is to find the initial conditions for different real-world galaxy collisions. Volunteers on the project have run more than 3 million simulations and found models describing 54 real-world galaxies, said astronomer John Wallin, the Galaxy Zoo: Mergers project lead.
The project's initial data was recently presented at a cosmology workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and they're still looking for more help. Volunteers can participate in Merger Wars, where different simulated outcomes are pitted against one another to see which best describes actual galaxy collisions.

the physics of swimming


The Physics of Swimming
With the 2012 Olympics now under way, swimming has been labeled, unsurprisingly, as one of, if not the, most competitive sport this time around. Thus, Quantumaniac wanted to share a scientific approach to swimming to give our readers a clue what to watch for when they see the events. Let’s start from the beginning of a race and go from the push-off to final stretch - scientifically of course: 
The push-off:  Basically, a swimmer wants to reduce drag resistance as much as possible by minimizing their surface area. As the body assumes a streamline position and is forced off the wall, the sleeker the body, the less drag produced. While pushing off the wall, the body should be submerged and facing the bottom of the pool. The swimmer should be flat and streamline in the water, with the feet swept back. The push-off is the same for all the strokes, except the backstroke, in which the body should be facing the ceiling. When the body begins to loose speed and float to the surface, the kick and first stroke is applied. The kick helps propel the body through the water, while the stroke helps pull it.
The stroke: Each stroke and pattern is unique. The physics of each stroke is similar, so let’s discuss Freestyle. Freestyle begins with the catch, a motion which allows the swimmer’s hand to engage the water. As the arm enters the water; first, the body rolls downward to the same side. Second, the shoulder pushes forward from the chest. These two movements mimic a person stretching to reach something beyond grasp. At this point the arm rolls counterclockwise and sweeps outward, using the latissimus muscle. When done correctly, a solid feel of water pressure against the hand is experienced. The power phase of the stroke drives the arm inward and backward to the hip. Finally, the recovery brings the hand back to the catch phase of the pulling pattern. 
The turn:  For freestyle, the second to last stroke ends at the hip and stays there while the body follows the last stroke into a summersault. When the body rotates, a tight ball is used to make the turn quick. Physics tells us that as an object is rotating, velocity is increased as the moment of inertia is decreased (i.e. the smaller the sphere, the faster the velocity of the turn). When the body has rotated 180 degrees, the feet are extended to the wall and the push-off from the wall propels the body into another cycle.                                   
Symmetry plays an important role in swimming. If a body and its motion are not symmetrical, the body tends to move in the direction with greater force. For example, a person who pulls hard on the right side will move in a counterclockwise circle. A good swimmer balances the body, the forces exerted, and the forces produced by the body. An imaginary line that passes down the center of the face and ends between the legs is the most common line of symmetry. 
For freestyle, before the power-phase the arm rotates counterclockwise and then sweeps outward. A common mistake is for the arm to rotate clockwise and them pull, which unfortunately causes the arms to pass the line of symmetry, causing the arms to pull water that is disrupted by the body itself, and leads to a very inefficient stroke. The arms that pull to the outside of the body are pulling water that is not disturbed by the body, leading to a greater force applied. 
Swimmers also get into a rhythm with their kicking and pulling. A swimmer with a set rhythm and lots of practice will use less energy to travel the same distance as a swimmer with no rhythm. If you’ve ever seen an Olympic swimmer, you will notice a set rhythm, however, compare them to a beginner and an obvious difference in the rhythm will be noticed. 
Swimming, like most sports, has evolved by leaps and bounds over time. As the sport evolved, the idea of square movement changed to curved paths. Good swimmers now use sculling actions to utilize lift forces. Sculling is a back-and-forth movement of the hands and forearms that provides almost constant propulsion. This is Bernoulli’s Principle at work. The principle of “foil-like” objects moving through a fluid at high speeds with small angles to the flow and a large lift forces is generated, while the drag forces are minimized. The lift forces are caused by the fluid traveling further and faster around the more curved side than the less curved side. Essentially, the hand acts as a foil.

Bernoulli’s Principle is only one explanation of the kinetics of the lift force. Drag and lift both contribute to the net force produced by the hand. Ideally, the combination of lift and drag forces is such that the resultant force is in the desired direction.
In the aquatic environment, propulsion is generated by accelerating water. The momentum, P, of a mass of water, m, traveling with velocity, v, is P = mv. By forcing water backward with a momentum, the resultant propels the swimmer forward.
The pushed-away mass of water acquires kinetic energy as a result of the work done by the swimmer on the pushed-away mass of water. Part of the total work of the swimmer is converted into kinetic energy of the water, rather than forward speed of the swimmer.
By combining these two ideas, a body is propelled through the water by giving water a momentum in the opposite direction and propelling the body forward. In order to give the water a momentum in the opposite direction, the hand manipulates the water and puts lift on the hand and momentum on the water in the opposite direction. 
We already know that as the body moves through the water, it disrupts the flow of water. As the body moves forward, water is given a momentum backwards and travels until the velocity is 0. The water behind the swimmer follows the motion of the swimmer and creates drag. If two people are swimming in a straight line with one in front of the other, the person in the back is being pulled behind the swimmer in the front by a small drag force. As the swimmer in the back slides their hand into the water for the catch, they are placing their hand into water that already has a momentum. For this reason the person in the back does not have to work as hard to travel the same distance.
The swimming pool has floating lane lines that typically divide the pool into six swimming lanes. Within each lane, the motion of swimming is counterclockwise (i.e. swim down on the right and return on the left). These floating lines keep waves to a minimum by knocking them down. They also minimize the momentum of a body of water after is has been pushed backwards. The water vortex breakup when they come into contact with the lines. 

no texting and driving!

Texting and driving: Study explains why you can’t do two things at once
Study: People are overconfident in how well they can multitask, especially when they combine two visual tasks, such as driving and texting.

anti chick-fil-a

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has long stood by its Bible-based roots, keeping stores closed on Sundays and donating millions to Christian causes. But when its president, Dan Cathy, went public to defend his company's stance against gay marriage, he set off a considerable controversy that has everyone from politicians to puppets weighing in.
First telling the Baptist Press his company supported the "biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy then told the radio program The Ken Coleman Show, "I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about."
The backlash spread swiftly. Boston's mayor pledged to block the chicken sandwich stores from opening in Beantown, a Chicago alderman said he'll try to stop a franchise from opening in his ward and the Jim Henson Co. cutoff its Chick-fil-A collaboration. Because it's a private company, it will be difficult to measure the bottom-line impact of all the attention.
Starbucks, Target and General Mills all stepped into the same-sex marriage issue by supporting gay marriage legislation in their home states. Each face ongoing boycotts led by theAmerican Family Association and the National Organization for Marriage for doing so. The National Organization for Marriage said it's uncertain whether its boycotts are having an impact on businesses.
And after JC Penney hired Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson, the socially conservative group One Million Moms called for her firing.

religion in america

Though more Americans go to church or believe in God than their counterparts in virtually every other Western country, fewer Americans now trust religious institutions. A recent Gallup pollshowed that just 44 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in "the church or organized religion."

It's unclear if this is a permanent shift or just a sign of the times, but NPR's religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty says it doesn't mean that America is less religious.
"Although among young people, belief in God is declining," Hagerty tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "But generally polls show that about 90 percent of Americans actually believe in God. So what's happening here is a decline in the trust of religious organizations."
People just don't want to go to church as much as they used to, Hagerty says, and the societal pressures to go aren't there anymore.
On the other end of the spectrum are those with no affiliation, agnostics and atheists. Their numbers have doubled in the last 20 years, Hagerty says.
That rise can be attributed to several factors, she says, including concerns over the merging of religion and politics in the '90s, and the popularity of atheist scholars like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins giving rise to what she calls "neo-atheists."
"Over the years, more and more people, especially young people, have been willing to come out of the closest [as atheists]," she says.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

lonesome george

Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta Island Tortoises, died on Sunday, June 24th. He left no survivors that are known.His death marks the extinction of Chelonidis nigra abingdoni.

NOAA on mermaids

But are mermaids real? No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found.

kitten meets octopus

Oneforni - Kirill

Oneforni - Kirill, 2012

Melissa Hartley


yoshitaka amano

Yoshitaka Amano

Yoshitaka Amano (born July 28, 1952) is a Japanese artist known for his illustrations for Vampire Hunter D and for his character designs, image illustrations and title logo designs for the Final Fantasy video game series.

the mannville group

GLAAD for boy scouts

floral giraffe

NJ coastal plain aquifers

dumpling squid

The dumpling squid is as unprepossessing as its name implies, but beneath that plump exterior lurks a savage lust. They mate for 1-3 hours, to the point where they’re completely physically exhausted, and an easy target for a predator…but it’s all so worth it.