A Plasma Rocket: To Mars in Just 39 Days!

Wow, this is fantastic!

A new plasma-fuelled rocket, VASIMR VX-200, will go fast enough to reach Mars in just 39 days!!!

And that is just the tip of the iceberg…

New Study: Windfarms Actually Cause Warming of the Environment

We have known for a long time that wind farms – those large fields filled with spinning turbines which harness wind energy and turn it into electricity have problems.

  • Infrasound – which activates the fight/flight reflex of many vertebrates, flooding the body with adrenaline and thus causing long term health damage (in addition to disrupting sleep).
  • Killing bats and endangered birds – by exploding their lungs as they fly in the low-air pressure pockets caused by the air turbulence they create.
  • Rain-shadows – those areas ‘behind’ the farm – as the wind blows – which now receive much less wind as a consequence of the wind harnessed by the wind farms also receive much fewer clouds which are pushed in by the winds, resulting in lands that receive significantly less precipitation than they would naturally, which destroys their ecosystems and may even make them too dry for farming.

Now, a new study led by Liming Zhou from the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of New Yorks says there is an additional harm wind farms cause:  they actually increase the temperature in the whole region in which they are located.

According to the study, because the turbines are high above the ground, they mix air higher up and prevent the mingling of the cooler air currents near the ground at night with the warmer air above.  This mechanism interferes with the natural cooling of air cycles and, the study found that as a result of this,  the local temperatures went up by about 1 degree Celsius over a decade!

That beats the pants off anything carbon dioxide has managed to do!!!

H/T:  SlashDot

What is happening in Egypt?

It seems that Egypt has gone to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is acting as the political wing of the military.

For some Egyptians, even the Saudis are too ‘Westernized’ and much too pro-Israel.

To clarify:  Islam teaches that religious leaders always outrank any monarch:  that is why the crowd mocks the Saudi royal house.

End well, this will not…

From the ‘Cops Behaving Badly’ Files

How about Christopher Lloyd?

In February 2006, he drove to his ex-wife’s home and shot her new husband 24 times – in self defense!!!

Where were all the politicians then, who are now so upset about people being shot in self-defense?!?!?

How do you even shoot somebody 24 times -with a gun and bullets, not ‘shoot with a camera’ – and have the gall to call this ‘self defense’?

Well, officer Lloyd did just that – but did not really get into trouble over it.

Now, working for a different police department in the Chicago area, officer Lloyd is in trouble again – it seems he had beaten up a teenager for having an untucked shirt…

Oh, yeah, he is also accused of raping a woman while smothering her with a pillow…

Gee, with cops like these, who needs bad laws?

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The pitfalls of ‘big’ medicine

This is the problem with ‘scaling up’:  something necessarily gets lost in the process.

I recall when the Canadian government was ‘standardizing’ their IM/IT infrastructure, implementings seamless inter-operability and portability and other optimization measures:  the result was that the whole system was now monolithic, with the necessary loss of flexibility and adaptability to specific, perhaps non-typical applications.

But it gets worse:  the only vendors who could service this behemoth were those who were bundling and re-selling ‘the one big solution’.  No independant little companies with clever, efficient and cost-effective solutions for particular applications could possibly penetrate this marketplace.

It got even worse:  when employees, burdened by the monolithic ‘optimized’ system would write their own bits of code to add back the functionality their specific little segment needed, but which was lost due to this stadardization, they were not celebrated as innovators – they were punished as rogues and ‘not team players’ and, eventually, this sort of innovative initiative had been completely stamped out of our Federal civil service.

This predictably depressing – but important to read nonetheless – article in Washington Monthly shows how this process had occurred in the US, as hospitals strove to optimize their purchasing practices:  they had ‘optimized’ them to such a level that now, highly superior products that would save lives – but which come from small innovators – have little or no chance to even enter the market, much less succeed in it.

‘ …  Edward Goodman, the hospital’s director of infection control, wrote a letter to the purchasing department, saying Shaw’s product was “essential to the safety and health of our employees, staff and patients.” But Shaw soon learned that the enthusiasm of health care workers was not enough to gain him entrée; the hospital initially promised him a contract, only to back out three months later. Though he didn’t realize it at the time, Shaw had just stumbled into the path of a juggernaut. ‘

‘… One of the first witnesses was California entrepreneur Joe Kiani, who had invented a machine to monitor blood-oxygen levels. Unlike other similar devices, Kiani’s worked even when patients moved around or had little blood flowing to their extremities, a crucial innovation for treating sickly, premature infants, who tend to squirm and need to be monitored constantly for oxygen saturation—too little and they suffocate, too much and they go blind. But most hospitals couldn’t buy Kiani’s product because his larger rival, Nellcor, had cut a deal with the GPOs. ‘  (Note:  GPO’s are the ‘purchasing optimization’ which has now gridlocked the hospitals, preventing them from purchasing better, safer and cheaper equipment.)

It also highlights something that ought to be a ‘no-brainer’, but that seems to be a mystery to our law-makers:  exempting anyone – ANYONE – from anti-trust, anti-racketeering and similar legislation is destructive and will end badly, no matter how noble the motivations may be.

‘Then, in 1986 Congress passed a bill exempting GPOs from the anti-kickback provisions embedded in Medicare law. This meant that instead of collecting membership dues, GPOs could collect “fees”—in other industries they might be called kickbacks or bribes—from suppliers in the form of a share of sales revenue.’

‘…But, as with many well-intended laws, the shift had some ground-shaking unintended consequences. Most importantly, it turned the incentives for GPOs upside down. Instead of being tied to the dues paid by members, GPOs’ revenues were now tied to the profits of the suppliers they were supposed to be pressing for lower prices. This created an incentive to cater to the sellers rather than to the buyers—to big companies like Becton Dickinson rather than to member hospitals.’

The article is long – but important and we should heed its message!