Daily Archives: March 14, 2012

Galactic Views (30)


Compact Planetary System
NASA – This artist’s concept depicts a planetary system so compact that it’s more like Jupiter and its moons than a star and its planets. Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler mission and ground-based telescopes recently confirmed that the system, called KOI-961, hosts the three smallest exoplanets currently known to orbit a star other than our sun. An exoplanet is a planet that resides outside of our solar system.

The star, which is located about 130 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation, is a red dwarf that is one-sixth the size of the sun, or just 70 percent bigger than Jupiter. The star is also cooler than our sun, and gives off more red light than yellow.

The smallest of the three planets, called KOI-961.03, is actually located the farthest from the star, and is pictured in the foreground. This planet is about the size of Mars, with a radius of 0.57 times that of Earth. The next planet to the upper right is KOI-961.01, which is 0.78 times the radius of Earth. The planet closest to the star is KOI-961.02, with a radius 0.73 times the Earth’s.

All three planets whip around the star in less than two days, with the closest planet taking less than half a day. Their close proximity to the star also means they are scorching hot, with temperatures ranging from 350 to 836 degrees Fahrenheit (176 to 447 degrees Celsius). The star’s habitable zone, or the region where liquid water could exist, is located far beyond the planets.

The ground-based observations contributing to these discoveries were made with the Palomar Observatory, near San Diego, Calif., and the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


A Partial Remedy for an Ailing Job Market

By Gary Burtless – Can we bribe employers to increase their payrolls? Many economists, including me, think we can and should, particularly when the job market is in the doldrums. The crucial question is how to design the bribe so it is as cheap and effective as possible.

One idea pushed by economists is to establish a temporary tax subsidy for employers who add to their payrolls.

A simple way to minimize payments to employers is to limit subsidies to those workers who represent net additions to an employer’s payroll. If an employer had 100 workers on its payroll last year, it must have at least 101 this year before obtaining any subsidy. For most employers, this requirement is straightforward to enforce because payrolls must be reported to the unemployment insurance system on a regular basis. more> http://is.gd/5cdHFy

Who is paying for the financial crisis?

European Central Bank

European Central Bank (Photo credit: kumbarov)

New Europe – The real money has come from the European Central Bank (ECB), which handed €1 trillion to the Eurozone‘s banks. It was this trillion euro that paid for Greece‘s debts, rather than German taxpayers, and this is how – the ‘liquidity’ loans from the ECB went to 800 banks at a negligible interest rate of 1%.

In total, these lenders are expected to make a windfall profit of €300bn, just by lending the trillion euro during this period of time. The profits made will be enough to pay for the losses on Greece’s debt or any other Eurozone sinner’s default.

Clever? We don’t think so, because actually, it will be the Eurozone citizens who will foot the bill through higher inflation or via a necessary capital increase in the ECB to cover for the central bank’s losses from loans that will not be repaid – even if all those loans are paid back to the ECB, the fact remains that the borrowing banks will make profits of €300bn just by exploiting the trillion for three years. more> http://is.gd/dDAZ71

The Circle of Materials Science Life

By Lindsay Hock – As materials science researchers look to drive new product innovations, they inspire—and are aided by—sophisticated analytical and imaging instruments.

Alexander Thesen, director of application development, Carl Zeiss NTS GmbH, Germany, identified a broad range of applications including novel materials for power generation and storage; optimization of steels, alloys, and ceramics based on their nanoscopic properties; exploration of novel materials for nanoelectronics; and improved understanding of complex interfaces.

“For researchers, this in particular increases the necessity to extend structural and compositional imaging from 2D to 3D both for large areas and on the atomic level, as well as to improve imaging contrast and analytical resolution to discern minute differences in composition, crystallic, and molecular structure,” Thesen says. more> http://is.gd/ua4MtT

Yahoo points up patent-law failure

English: United States Patent Cover from a rea...

Image @Wikipedia

By John Shinal – The patent lawsuit filed by Yahoo Inc. against Facebook Inc. is a reminder of the opportunity that was missed last year when Congress failed to pass meaningful patent-reform legislation, despite years of lobbying by the technology industry.

The watered-down patent bill that was eventually signed into law by President Barack Obama in September mostly pleased the pharmaceutical industry.

In the end, the “first-to-file” provisions in the America Invents Act tilted the playing field even further in favor of large, established players who can afford to employ armies of attorneys. If the flurry of patent lawsuits over mobile computing and wireless technology that have been filed since the bill’s passage is any indication, the legislation will end up being no more than a full-employment act for patent lawyers. more> http://is.gd/QLF6TQ


CONGRESS WATCH Bipartisan JOBS Act Passes House of Representatives, US Congress Camp’s Committee Approves IPAB Repeal Legislation, US Congress Camp: Comprehensive Tax Reform Necessary to Ensure Economic Growth and Job Creation, US Congress HOUSE HEARING: Committee on Ways and Means, … Continue reading


CONGRESS WATCH The State Health Flexibility Act – H.R. 4160, US Congress Rep. Sam Graves (MO-06): Stop Gas Prices from Fueling Trouble; Politico, March 5. Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49): Distorting the Debate of Religious Freedom; Roll Call, March 5. The … Continue reading