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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ISS - Isn't She Magnificent?

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World’s Most Powerful Laser has the Energy of a Hydrogen Bomb

Posted by Samuel R. Avro
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser bay at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser bay at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

At a cost of $3.5 billion and more than a decade of work, the 192 laser beams are billed as the most powerful in the world.

Scientists working at the National Ignition Facility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, have built the most powerful laser in the world, capable of simulating the energy force of a hydrogen bomb and the sun itself.

“The system already has produced 25 times more energy than any other laser system,” said NIF Director Ed Moses.

The Energy Department is expected to announce Tuesday that it has officially certified the National Ignition Facility, which would clear the way for a series of experiments which scientists hope will eventually will mimic the heat and pressure found at the center of the sun.

The successful completion of the laser is the culmination of more than a decade of work at a cost of $3.5 billion.

“NIF is well on its way to achieving breakthroughs in science never imagined. Through our readiness testing we will see glimpses of what that future will bring,” said Moses.

This artists rendering shows a NIF target pellet inside a hohlraum capsule with laser beams entering through openings on either end. The beams compress and heat the target to the necessary conditions for nuclear fusion to occur. Ignition experiments on NIF will be the culmination of more than 30 years of inertial confinement fusion research and development, opening the door to exploration of previously inaccessible physical regimes.

This artist's rendering shows a NIF target pellet inside a hohlraum capsule with laser beams entering through openings on either end. The beams compress and heat the target to the necessary conditions for nuclear fusion to occur. Ignition experiments on NIF will be the culmination of more than 30 years of inertial confinement fusion research and development, opening the door to exploration of previously inaccessible physical regimes.

NIF’s 192 laser beams, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, travel a long path, about 1,000 feet, from their birth at one of the two master oscillators to the center of the target chamber. As the beams move through NIF’s amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams’ total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule (a joule is the energy needed to lift a small apple one meter against the Earth’s gravity) to four million joules, a factor of more than a quadrillion - and it all happens in less than 25 billionths of a second.

Each master oscillator generates a very small, low-energy laser pulse. The pulse may range from 100 trillionths to 25 billionths of a second long, and has a specific temporal shape as requested by NIF experimenters.

The laser is expected to be used for a wide range of high-energy and high-density physics experiments, but its primary purpose is to assist government physicists in ensuring the reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons as they become older.

The Lawrence Livermore lab will be taking order of the world’s most powerful supercomputer –capable of performing at 20 petaflops (1 petaflop equals 1 thousand trillion floating-point operations per second), twenty times faster than the current record holder, and more powerful than all of the systems on the top 500 supercomputer list combined– currently being constructed by IBM under contract by the U.S. government, which will also be utilized to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear weapons.

“We are well on our way to achieving what we set out to do – controlled, sustained nuclear fusion and energy gain for the first time ever in a laboratory setting,” said Director Moses.

The Laser and Target Area Building is the size of three football fields.

The Laser and Target Area Building is the size of three football fields.

“This laser technology has the potential to revolutionize our energy future,” California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said during a tour last year of the stadium-sized NIF facility. “If successful, this new endeavor could generate thousands of megawatts of carbon-free nuclear power but without the drawbacks of conventional nuclear plants. This type of innovation is why we are a world leader in science, technology and clean energy, and I could not be prouder that this work is happening right here in California.”

The project is a national collaboration among government, industry and academia and many industrial partners throughout the nation.

The NIF’s 192 laser beams are 60 to 70 times more powerful than the world’s second strongest - a 60-beam system located at the University of Rochester.

Click here to take a complete 360° panoramic virtual tour of the entire NIF facility and their laser system.

Russia backs return to Gold Standard to solve financial crisis

Russia has become the first major country to call for a partial restoration of the Gold Standard to uphold discipline in the world financial system.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Arkady Dvorkevich, the Kremlin's chief economic adviser, said Russia would favour the inclusion of gold bullion in the basket-weighting of a new world currency based on Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund.

Chinese and Russian leaders both plan to open debate on an SDR-based reserve currency as an alternative to the US dollar at the G20 summit in London this week, although the world may not yet be ready for such a radical proposal.

Mr Dvorkevich said it was "logical" that the new currency should include the rouble and the yuan, adding that "we could also think about more effective use of gold in this system".

The Gold Standard was the anchor of world finance in the 19th Century but began breaking down during the First World War as governments engaged in unprecedented spending. It collapsed in the 1930s when the British Empire, the US, and France all abandoned their parities.

It was revived as part of fixed dollar system until US inflation caused by the Vietnam War and "Great Society" social spending forced President Richard Nixon to close the gold window in 1971.

The world's fiat paper currencies have lacked any external anchor ever since. It is widely argued that the financial excesses and extreme debt leverage of the last quarter century would have been impossible - or less likely - under the discipline of gold.

Russia is a major gold producer with large untapped reserves of ore so it has a clear interest in promoting the idea. The Kremlin has already instructed the central bank of gradually raise the gold share of foreign reserves to 10pc.

China's government has floated a variant of this idea, suggesting a currency based on 30 commodities along the lines of the "Bancor" proposed by John Maynard Keynes in 1944.

Modified tobacco plant may block HIV

OWENSBORO, Ky., March 31 (UPI) -- A gel derived from a close relative to the tobacco plant is being tested as an affordable preventative measure for HIV, U.S. researchers said.

Kenneth Palmer, a senior scientist in the University of Louisville's Owensboro Cancer Research Program, has published research that suggests growing large quantities of the protein griffithsin found in the transgenic plant Nicotiana benthamiana can prevent human immunodeficiency virus from infecting cells of the immune system, the university's James Graham Brown Cancer Center said in a release.

Palmer said the drug could be manufactured in the form of a microbicide gel or film for topical application, with a selling price comparable to condoms.

They modified the tobacco mosaic virus to incorporate the griffithsin gene and infected more than 9,300 tobacco plants. Scientists were able to extract enough griffithsin to produce about 100,000 HIV microbicide doses from the leaves. The chemical performed identically to griffithsin produced by other methods, the report said.

O aXXo, Where Art Thou?

Written by Ernesto

In what must appear like a lifetime to his loyal fans, the popular DVD ripper aXXo hasn’t uploaded any torrents for three weeks. As always, rumors surface that claim to explain the hiatus. Has aXXo been arrested, or transferred to one of the MPAA’s covert detention facilities? Did BitTorrent’s favorite uploader fall off a cliff?

axxo The most recent torrent uploaded by aXXo dates back to March 11. In the days that followed, millions have been waiting anxiously for fresh content, performing their daily aXXo search on their favorite torrent sites in vain.

The aXXo brand has achieved cult status and for some has become synonymous with quality. Over the years aXXo has grabbed the attention of scammers, the mainstream press and even documentary makers. So, when he goes silent it is quickly noticed and the demand from his fans for news or an update quickly grows.

This isn’t the first time that aXXo has taken a break from releasing. Last year there were no new releases for a full four months but eventually aXXo made a glorious return with the topical release of “I Am Legend.” Little is known about the reasons behind aXXo’s current absence, although he has not disappeared completely.

We can confirm that aXXo has been logging into his account at Mininova, which means that we can safely conclude that aXXo is still among us. When he plans to surface again is unclear, but time will tell.

It is fascinating to see how aXXo has gathered a following of millions of people in the years after he started uploading his first torrent. As always, opinions differ and controversy always surrounds aXXo. He is God to some, while others despise him for his lack of crediting ‘The Scene’ but it’s difficult to criticize his commitment or appreciate the pressure he is undoubtedly under on a daily basis.

Fact is, however, that every aXXo upload is good for a guaranteed entry in our movie download charts, adding up to millions of downloads in a few weeks. It may be Hollywood’s worst nightmare, but many independent film producers will dream of having their films ripped by aXXo, ensuring that they are associated with a global brand with an unprecedented reach on BitTorrent.

New 102% Increase in Tobacco Tax To Take Effect Wednesday

Flickr: Valerie Everett
If you smoke, this post won't be news because you've noticed the price of cigarettes jump in the past two weeks. Tobacco companies are getting ready for the increased federal tobacco tax by raising their own prices. (Can someone explain how tobacco companies raising the price of a pack 80 cents will help consumers "adjust," as the companies have put it? It just seems a way to eek more profit.)

On Wednesday, the federal tax will go from 39 cents per pack to $1.01. All the extra tax money is supposed to help fund the State Children's Health Insurance Plan, or SCHIP. I've written about the new excise tax and SCHIP before and how it relates to cigars. On Wednesday the tax on individual cigars goes up as well, by 40 cents. It's steep but not as bad as the original version of the SCHIP law, which called for an outrageous $10 tax per cigar. Now, that will be the tax on a box of cigars rather than an individual cigar. That hasn't stopped the most popular cigar Web site from selling off inventory in what it's calling "SCHIP Busters."

The biggest losers in the new excise tax are the makers of roll-your-own tobacco.
Loose-leaf tobacco is a more fragmented industry with smaller producers than the monopolized cigarette industry. There are even a couple of family businesses still around, but most likely not for long. Wednesday happens to be April 1 and the new excise tax on roll-your-own tobacco looks an April Fool's joke but it isn't. The tax on RYO tobacco goes from $1.10 per pound to $24.78 per pound. That's more than 2,100 percent! Tuesday, a sack of RYO tobacco will cost $15; Wednesday it will be $40.

If there's a silver lining it's that the "loose-leaf" definition doesn't affect pipe smokers. Loose-leaf pipe tobacco increase more than 150 percent but nothing like RYO tobacco. The new tax goes up on it $1.75 to $2.83 per pound.

All of the above have created the tobacco panic of 2009 as smokers stock up. Others are promising the new taxes will make them quit.

Beautiful Image of Coral Islands as Seen from Space [PIC]

Click twice to ENLARGE

NASA's satellite image of the Maldives, which is made up of a chain of 1192 small coral islands that are grouped into clusters of atolls. This particular image features the North and South Malosmadulu Atolls, the most complex group of the whole archipelago. Gorgeous picture contrasting the deep blue of the sea with the lagoons and coral islands.

NC-17 : To be or not to be

With this weekend’s announcement that the upcoming comedy from Sasha Baron Cohen has been given an NC-17 rating, Bruno now adds itself to the list of films ‘unsuitable’ for children under 17. The film was only given the rating after its first submission to the MPAA so odds are it will be re-edited down to a respectable R rating to earn more money. Studios are notorious for not releasing films in theatres that get an NC-17 rating in order to recoup their funds.

This process began back in 1989 when the Peter Greenaway film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover was the first film ever to receive the NC-17 label after the MPAA originally gave the film an X rating, but due to a large outcry over the films artistic integrity the new rating was created with approval from then president Jack Valenti.

Now, with most theatre chains out right refusing to show NC-17 films in their theatres for fear of public outcry, and the fact that they will not earn enough money, many studios now market their films with a ‘Hard R’ rating. The fake moniker has not been approved or denied by the MPAA and is just swept under the rug as its films contain scenes which under normal circumstances would be given an NC-17 rating.

Truth be told those films slapped with the NC-17 rating have historically not made that much money– as seen below– but what you got to wonder is that those films mentioned are all mainly independent films and some films of ‘lesser quality’.

Following grosses taken from box office mojo

1 2340 Showgirls MGM $20,350,754 1995
2 3195 Henry & June Uni. $11,567,449 1990
3 3687 The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover Mira. $7,724,701 1990
4 4146 Bad Education SPC $5,211,842 2004
5 4267 Lust, Caution Focus $4,604,982 2007
6 4392 Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Mira. $4,087,361 1990
7 4812 The Dreamers FoxS $2,532,228 2004
8 5026 Crash (1996) FL $2,038,450 1996
9 5054 Bad Lieutenant Aries $2,000,022 1992
10 5226 Wide Sargasso Sea NL $1,614,784 1993
11 5360 A Dirty Shame FL $1,339,668 2004
12 5672 Whore Trim. $1,008,404 1991
13 5898 Young Adam SPC $767,373 2004
14 5989 Inside Deep Throat Uni. $691,880 2005
15 6056 Dice Rules 7Art $637,327 1991
16 6106 Orgazmo Oct. $602,302 1998
17 6260 Bent Gold. $496,059 1997
18 6739 Tokyo Decadence N.Arts $277,845 1993
19 6995 Matador WA $206,952 1988
20 7001 Man Bites Dog Roxie $205,569 1993

From the past 17 years only 19 films were released in theatres under the NC-17 rating. Compare that to the number of films released each ear. According to the most recent data from the MPAA, 2007 saw 603 films released in the U.S theatrically.

Some films that were originally given the NC-17 rating and then changed to an R or a Hard R include:

The Godfather part III

Boys Don’t Cry

Last Tango in Paris

Requiem for a Dream ( I think we all know for what scene)

Pulp Fiction

The Wild Bunch- This 1969 film also holds the distinction for being originally an R rated film when it was shown in theatres and released on video then in 1993 when the film was gearing up for a re-release in theatres the film was then rated NC-17.

Of these few films mentioned all share on common element. They are all Oscar nominated films. Now of course the Oscars are by no means the end all as to what a great movie is, but it does certainly add questions as to whether quality films can earn respect with the NC-17 label. Either way with only 19 films released in the past 17 years there certainly is room for more films to come whether or not the films earns huge dollars at the box office.

Top 29: Best Cities To Live In If You're A Guy

2009 has been a rough year so far. Financial markets have tanked worldwide, those of us who still have jobs are waiting to lose them, the British Auto Show was cancelled, and Gisele got married. It's all enough to get one dreaming of a fresh start -- and what better way to get one than to start a new life in a new city? It's with this in mind that brings you our inaugural guide to greener pastures: The Top 29: Best Cities To Live In.

The editorial team chose this year's best cities by applying a statistical formula to eight lifestyle categories (you'll find them listed within each city's profile), then evaluating the results in conjunction with some of the less tangible characteristics that make cities great cities. Of course, the ongoing global recession influenced the selection and ranking of the Top 29; criteria such as cost of living and economic stability carried greater weight than they might have in different circumstances, securing places for some surprising inclusions. Their spots didn't come at the expense of some classic favorites, however: cities like New York City and Paris have experienced an economic beating, but they still offer enough in the way of women, culture and entertainment to offset this.

In short, the cities on the list are diverse, but they all have one thing in common: They're great cities for men to live in. Enjoy the Top 29! Start with No. 29

10 Video Game Theme Songs That Just Sticks

Here is a list of 10 memorable video game themes of all time. They're mostly classic theme songs for some of the best video games ever made. Most if not all of them are buried into our heads forever.

read more | digg story

Make a label for the Blind

Sighted friends, you have the advantage of picking Coke over Pepsi simply by picking red over blue. What will my sight-impaired friends do? Nothing much, but ask you to help out picking the preferred soda pop. However wouldn’t it be convenient for both if there was a label in Braille stuck to the can? Yup, that would be convenient!

Designers: Soonkyu Jang, Jieun Seo & Seung-un Kim

Don't mess with this guy!!!!

Best Sacha Baron Cohen Moments

(March 30) - In its first bout with ratings czars - the MPAA - Sacha Baron Cohen's new comedy 'Bruno' has been granted an NC-17, in part due to scenes of graphic sex. We know by the time 'Bruno' hits theaters, it will be toned down enough to earn an R-rating, as NC-17 has long been considered the kiss of death for box office success. But we're not surprised the envelope-pushing comedian started out with - if you'll pardon the pun - a bang. We looked back at our ten favorite out-there moments by Sasha Baron Cohen's various personas. Wow. WARNING: These clips are R-rated and appropriate for mature audiences... with strong stomachs.
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10. Bruno vs. Neo-Nazis: "Do you think there are any skinheads who aren't gay?"

9. Ali G interviews Posh and Becks: "Now Scary, is you comfy?"

8. Ali G interviews Noam Chomsky: "How many words does you know? What is some of them?"

7. Borat on 'Late Night With Conan o'Brien': "Very nice, you have a big head. Your family live near nuclear plant?"

6. Ali G on feminism: "Do you think there will be a woman prime minister?" "There has been." "When?"

5. Bruno gets a fashion designer to admit she wishes she could deport people without fashion sense, and another to admit that fashion exists to exclude poor people. Comedy gold.

4. Sasha Baron Cohen wins the Golden Globes: "I stared down and saw your two wrinkled golden globes..."

3. Bruno causes college kids on spring break to freak out, show their rear ends and confront their homophobia.

2. 'Throw the Jew Down the Well' - yes, Sasha Baron Cohen is definitely Jewish, and it's hilarious... no, scary... no, SCARLARIOUS how easy it is for him to get this cowboy bar to sing along.

1. 'Borat's Naked Fight' - Borat attacks his producer, Azamat Bagatov, for making a hand-party to pictures of Pamela Anderson. It's the most disgusting thing in the world. Also, funny.

2009 AOL LLC. All Rights Reserved.
2009-03-30 15:57:02

Footage unveils U-boat secrets

The U-40 was discovered by a team of divers 40 miles off the Berwickshire coast

Underwater footage from the wreck of a German U-boat sunk more than 90 years ago has been released.

The vessel - the U-40 - was recently discovered by divers off the coast of Eyemouth in Berwickshire.

It is thought to have been among the first to have been lured by a decoy trawler and then torpedoed by a British submarine during the First World War.

It is the second such discovery in the waters off the Scottish Borders after a similar U-boat find in January 2008.

The U-40 was discovered by a team of divers from Eyemouth-based Marine Quest about 40 miles off the Berwickshire coast.

It was sunk on 23 June 1915 with the loss of 29 German sailors.

According to Iain Easingwood of Marine Quest it took a lot of preparation to pinpoint the location of the U-boat.

"Given the history and amazing story behind the U-40, this is probably our most significant find to date," he said.

"There are so many other wrecks out there in the North Sea and we will be on the lookout for another exciting find."

Ultimate Battle: The Snuggie vs. Slanket vs. Freedom Blanket vs. Blankoat

By Jason Chen

The Slanket, the Snuggie, the Freedom Blanket or the supremely expensive and extravagant Blankoat? This is the most important question of the millennium. You're about to know the answer.

Those who haven't seen the Snuggie ad or one of its many parodies and aren't aware of the blanket-with-sleeves phenomenon get no sympathy from us. Unless, you've just awoken from an eight-month coma, in which case: Welcome back! To recap, the Snuggie is the most famous and widely marketed of the many blanket-with-sleeves. The Freedom Blanket originated the idea, the Slanket followed up, and recently, the Blankoat decided to take it into a ridiculous dimension.

But which is the best for you? We tried each of them the way they were meant to be worn: on the sofa, lying down, with one fist buried in a bag of Doritos and the other cradling a bottle of beer. We gained thirty-five pounds, but it was so worth it.

And for those of you who think that the whole blanket-with-sleeves product could just as easily be accomplished with a robe worn backwards? We tested that too.



Snuggie ($15): Don't buy this. Having the most ironic value contributes nothing to the final product when it's constructed out of material that's one step up from a papery hospital gown. Not only are the sleeves too cramped, the bottom part—the part that keeps your feet warm when you're lying down—isn't long enough for anyone of a decent height. I'm only 5' 10", and I have to bend my knees to keep all of my body covered. Bend them! This body wasn't constructed for that.

The Snuggie is also the most static-prone of all the blankets, and comes in such neon colors that surely are not found in nature. There's a reason why this is the cheapest of the bunch, which means you should only consider this if you have a plus-sized dog you want to dress up as a radioactive Superman. Krypto, if you will. Nobody else should buy it.

At $15, it's the cheapest

Can be conveniently found at many lousy stores

Generates a lot of static when being taken off

Thin, papery material

Too short for most people



Slanket ($38): The most expensive of the major three, the Slanket is where you turn when you want to make sure you get the best for your blanket money. It's 60 inches x 95 inches, so it's long enough even for people over 6 feet, and is made out of polyester microfibers, so it's soft and thick. Essentially, it's everything the Snuggie is not.

When someone asks why a regular blanket won't do, the Slanket is the answer. The sleeves are wizardy enough to keep you warm and allow enough space for maneuverability (gaming is the most prominent example). It has the most variety of colors choices—11 at my count—and is an example of the concept done right. If you're serious about staying warm while also keeping your hands one extra layer of material away from being able to fondle your genitals, this is it. [Slanket]

Very comfortable, very long, very usable

Comes in a wide variety of couch-matching colors

Most expensive of the 3 normal ones

Still generates a little static when removed

Freedom Blanket

Freedom BlanketFreedom Blanket

Freedom Blanket ($30): The original blanket with sleeves has become, unfortunately, lost between the media blitz of the Snuggie and the web-presence of the Slanket. But it shouldn't be. The price, $30, reflects exactly how the Freedom Blanket performs: somewhere in-between the Snuggie and the Slanket.

The Freedom Blanket isn't quite as comfortable as the Slanket, but comparing it to the Snuggie would be like comparing rubbing your face with a cotton towel to rubbing your face with Joaquin Phoenix's beard. At 72 inches, it's also longer than the Snuggie, but still falls slightly short of the Slanket's 95 inches. And that's pretty much the whole story.

If you don't want a piece of crap like the Snuggie but can't get over the fact that you're paying a couple Hamiltons for a blanket with sleeves, the Freedom Blanket is a good compromise. Plus, you'll sleep well knowing that you're supporting the people who actually invented the idea instead of someone who knows how to copy very well. [Freedom Blanket]

More comfortable than the Snuggie

Not quite as expensive as the Slanket

Also generates spouse-shocking static when removed

Slightly too short for tall people




Sruli Recht Blankoat ($330): The Blankoat is to the other three blankets as getting a full service massage is to setting your showerhead into massage mode. They may sound similar, but it's an entirely alien concept. If you have enough money to spend $330 on a gigantic 120-inch long blanket made out of wool from Icelandic sheep, you have enough money to run your heater and walk around in your underwear instead.

You know how wool sweaters are itchy? This is a wool sweater for your entire body. If you like wool, great—this will keep you very, very warm. If you don't, wearing this while watching an episode of America's Next Top Model is like an hour enduring Gitmo's mildest torture session.

But if your question is whether or not the Blankoat does its job, the answer is yes. With this much material, you can wrap yourself entirely inside the thing—including your head—with only a small hole left for your face. Having actually never lived in Iceland, or Boston, or anywhere where you actually have to physically move snow away so you can travel, I can't say whether the Blankoat would be worth the money in those situations. I imagine it would. But you're still paying $330, which is John Mayer money. [Blankoat]

Provides the most coverage of all the solutions

Wool is scratchy

It's $330!!

A Robe


A Bathrobe ($42 or cheaper): You may already have one of these. You may also wonder why you can't just turn one backwards and be done with it. Two reasons. One, no robe is long enough to cover your feet. People don't enjoy falling down repeatedly when going for a drink of water. Two, the sleeves aren't long enough to provide adequate coverage like all of the above options (save for the Snuggie). [Low-priced bathrobe on Amazon]

You may already own one, in which case it's free

Doesn't cover your feet when lying down, doesn't cover your arms adequately

Here's what you should take away. Get the Slanket if you're serious about staying warm while lying on your couch, the Freedom Blanket if you're not. Nobody anywhere should buy the Snuggie. The Blankoat is for rich people who can afford Icelandic wool. Bathrobes do not work, no matter how much you wish them to.

Thank you, Snuggie, for raising blanket-with-sleeves awareness. Now get out.