Friday, July 27, 2012

Chart of the Day

From Ritholtz:

He he, it says Buckyballs (you know, the world's most expensive element, well, not really).

The Origins Of Lager Yeast

From last year in Fast Company:
The modern-day lager yeast is a hybrid, born from an ancient hookup between a Saccharomyces cerevisiae--a popular ingredient for brewers and bakers--and another yeast that Diego Libkind and his company have identified and named Sacchyromyces eubyanus. They published their study in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers surmise that at some time after the 16th century, S. eubayanus hitched a ride from South America to Europe with the traveling tradesmen, and fused with S. cerevisiae to create the lager yeast. Bavarian brewers discovered this hybrid and delighted to find that unlike ale yeasts, this species thrived under cold conditions. (This infographic has more on the difference between an ale and a lager.)
While the stowaway story makes for a fascinating tale, the discovery of the lager yeast's parentage has implications for brewers. Diego Libkind, the primary researcher on the study, is already tapping into some of these ideas. With funding from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), an Argentinian government institution that funds scientific research, Libkind is working on collaborating with a local brewery to test the capabilities of other, non-lager S. eubayanus lines that didn’t make it into the lager hybrid.
“We're trying to see if we can generate a local project,” Libkind tells Fast Company.
The original S. eubayanus-cerevisiae pairing was a lucky accident. But with several similar yeast strains with as yet undiscovered talents as brewers, Libkind plans to test other combinations of yeasts. “It's anyone's guess how good those products will be,” Christopher Todd Hittinger, co-author on the paper, says.
Thank God for lager yeast.  It helps me get through this absurd world.  When I was doing a minor home brewing project, one of the discouraging things was that the yeast supplied was an ale yeast, which meant the fermenting beer was supposed to be kept at room temperature.  That was a major issue in my house in the winter.  The company I bought supplies from eventually came out with a lager yeast which would have done wonders for my project, but I got away from the project.

Land Use Changes From Space

From Wired:

The presence of shallow ground water has also brought land use change to parts of the Sandhills. In the 1950s, center pivot irrigation technology was developed and it allowed more acreage to be irrigated at a much lower labor cost. Center pivots use moveable, elevated piping on wheels that turn in a circle around irrigation wells and pumps. Water is pumped directly from the ground and applied to crops as the swinging arm passes over them.
Center pivot systems became much more used in the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially after spikes in grain prices driven by large purchases from the Soviet Union and other countries. For example, Nebraska had 2,735 of these systems in 1972 and by 1975 the number of center pivot irrigation systems had more than tripled to 8,517.
Peripheral areas of the Sandhills that had more level lands, shallow depth to water and somewhat less erosive soils became areas of potential land use conversion. In an Aug. 17, 1972, Landsat image, a discontinuous area of the Sandhills south of North Platte, Nebraska shows up as mostly shades of gray and green in this false color 4-2-1 band combination. The summer-dried grasslands in the center of the subset show little actively growing vegetation. Crop fields, mostly on the edge of the 1972 image, show up primarily as geometrical shapes of bright white (harvested, mostly bare soil reflecting back) and red (actively growing vegetation). Few circular features designating center pivot irrigation systems appear.
The situation had changed by the time of this Aug. 22, 2011, Landsat image that shows substantial gains in center pivot deployment across this portion of the Sandhills. The bright red circular fields, most likely growing crops such as corn and alfalfa hay, stand out interspersed among the mute grays of the native grasslands.
That is amazing.  The Sand Hills have more water resources than Western Kansas.  Out near Garden City, I would expect that in 40 years you'll see much less center pivot irrigation.

The Lucky Poor?

Jesse (h/t nc links):
The fortunate are indignant that the working poor, and the poor themselves, are paying so little in income taxes on the whole. And this is true, if one measures it by actual federal income tax receipts alone.

It is less so if one considers all the other taxes that add up, like sales taxes and gasoline taxes, and fees.

But even further, I contend that the poor are being taxed to death, by a rotten, corrupt crony capitalist economic system.

The tax may not be levied by the IRS, but it is set down by the system itself. It is set down by the banks that cheat them, by the powerful corporations that use the law for their own excessive profits to exploit them.

They are taxed by those who exploit and cheat them and collect their unjust rents, not because they are smart and hard working, but because they can.  They have carefully positioned themselves to do so.

The poor are taxed by sickness, and a healthcare system with insanely different classes of treatment and payments, and extractive and the predatory practices of pharma-healthcare trusts.

They are taxed by the accidents and tragedies of life, that if one is rich or comes from privilege are not a lasting problem, but if one is not, there is no second chance. One is held in debt bondage, forever.

And when it comes to it, it is the poor who predominantly offer their tears and blood, and their own children, to fight the wars for this nation around the world. And when those wars are not entered into reluctantly for the sake of defense, but rather as expansive adventures in nation building in far off places, for the benefit of the hellish combine of the manufacture of death for profits, that is the gravest injustice and most horrific tax of all.

The corporations, in one form or another, own the housing, pay the wages, charge what they will for the food and medicine, and essentially own the company store in a pernicious monopoly whose sole goal is to sustain and maximize itself as its own end.

The system is so unfair and so rigged now that the poor will pay the price of it, the taxes of its corruption and injustice, from the moment they are born until the day that they die.
In the end, the wealthy are wealthy because the not-so-wealthy buy what they are selling.  If the not-so-wealthy don't have the money to buy those things, the wealthy will not continue getting more wealthy.  As wages continue to be squeezed in the developed world, the rich need to realize that they aren't separate from the crowd, but actually dependent on it.  You can only squeeze so much juice out of that lemon before you can't make any more lemonade from it.  The middle class has borrowed as much as it can borrow.  The poor have been squeezed dry.  Without real wage growth, we are going to be in an economic mess for a long time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Good Thing I'm Not Running For President

I really didn't think there was much of anything about Mitt Romney that I would like.  But I have to admit, I really enjoy that he is pissing off all kind of folks in Britain.  That makes me laugh.  We may be following the British Empire down the tubes, but we ought to be able to mock them on the way down.  Although, this criticism from his book seems a little odd:
England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn't been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler's ambitions. Yet only two lifetimes ago, Britain ruled the largest and wealthiest empire in the history of humankind. Britain controlled a quarter of the earth's land and a quarter of the earth's population.
Small houses?  What's up with that?  Does that mean they don't have car elevators?  But the best part is that now the British are blasting back about Olympic games in the middle of nowhere, like Salt Lake City.

But this really highlights how stupid our politics have become.  I spent half the morning somewhat defending the Ag Secretary for a department newsletter saying that beef isn't good for us (technically, it isn't).  Why?  I don't know.  I mean, I eat tons of red meat, and generally stick to corn and potatoes as my only vegetables.  I don't care what anybody tells me about healthy food, I'll eat what I want.  And yet, it bothers me that somehow this story is supposed to prove that Obama is an incompetent boob who hates America. Seriously, the biggest issue the National Cattleman's Beef Association ought to be yelling about is the ethanol mandate.  Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan is having a cow about all the funnily out-of-touch things Romney has said while in London.  Really, does it matter?  Our economy is in the shitter, we've been fucking around in Afghanistan for nearly 11 years, idiots want to start another war with Iran, and the big news stories are about Romney pissing off English folks and some department newsletter at USDA says maybe you ought to take a day off each week from eating meat (oh, and double bacon corndogs).  Besides that, Obama has the nerve to say that government isn't entirely evil, and that businessmen didn't create businesses in a vacuum.  If we can't get over the day-to-day pissing contest and get around to dealing with the real issues we face, we deserve to follow the Limeys down the road of collapsing empires (and ours is).  How did our politics become so ridiculous?  When did we decide it was time to do absolutely nothing if our side wasn't entirely winning the political argument?  Shit, can't we try to cut spending AND raise revenue?  Can't we make fewer, better regulations?  I think we might be able to, but days like today make me wonder.

Screw it, I'm going to go get some food and beer.

Sharing the Sausage

Via the Awl, the Stranowski Brothers take the Johnsonville Brat Truck to a Renaissance Fair:

"Bye, Clydesdales."
 "They're Belgians."

Double Bacon Corn Dog

The Campbell's Concessions' Double Bacon Corn Dog will make its debut at this year's Iowa State Fair. / Special to the Register

Des Moines Register:
 What to eat first is the real question for the ages (or at least 11 days in August, from the 9th to 19th). That deep-fried butter thing is sooo last year. But take heart (and heart medication): The Campbell’s Concessions’ Double Bacon Corn Dog will make its debut this year.
It’s a pretty straightforward recipe: Wrap a hot dog in bacon, deep-fry it, dip it in “bacon-bit-enriched” batter and give it another hot grease bath. The technique is a little more complicated, though, and Eric Campbell, fry master extraordinaire, said these dogs are labor intensive and the method is proprietary.
“Keeping (the bacon) on the hot dog took a lot of experimenting,” he said. So don’t even try to bribe the sweaty teenagers working the stand for the secret.
That sounds healthy.  But let's all thank the Lord that Michele Bachman and Rick Perry aren't going to be in Des Moines campaigning this year.

A Drought Cure?

I mowed my third cutting hay on Sunday, because at the time, the forecast was calling for a 10% chance of rain on Monday and a 30% chance on Tuesday.  By the time I got done mowing, there was a 50% chance on Monday and a 60% chance on Tuesday.  After Sunday, we've gotten rain on four straight days.  Looks like I need more fields of hay to mow, to keep the drought at bay.  I was trying to get the hay baled up yesterday, in spite of the nine-tenths of an inch of rain on Tuesday, but I got caught out in the rain, and looked like a fool with 96 bales of already-too-green hay getting rained on.  Luckily, the money we'll make off of the beans will make up for the lost hay by twentyfold.  I still have 25 or so bales worth of hay getting rained on, but I'll get it cleaned up this weekend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Maps Show Water Resources

More on water as the next big resource play at Scientific American:
The Aqueduct Alliance, which allows users to create maps by combining hydrological data with geographically specific details, gives companies and investors unprecedented detail of water availability in some of the world's largest river basins.
The promoters say the data should help companies use water more responsibly while helping them to manage their exposure to risk.
But critics fear the data could be used to cash in on an increasingly scarce natural resource - two thirds of people are expected to face water shortages by 2025.
The maps, which are powered by previously proprietary Coca-Cola data collected over years of research in locations wherever the world's biggest soft drinks firm had manufacturing sites, are now publicly available for free on the Internet (
They allow users to create detailed high-resolution maps by aggregating and weighing indicators that drive water risk, much of it physical data but also local regulatory structures and media coverage of the issue.
Promoters and experts say communities will also be able to exploit the maps and contribute data and local knowledge so that practical solutions can be devised about how to use water sustainably at a local level.
The maps are pretty cool, and put the Rust Belt in a good light.  Prediction: if water becomes the big resource play of the future, the Rust Belt will grow accordingly.

Is Water The Next Oil?

MarketWatch (h/t Ritholtz):
You probably “think individuals consume the most water,” says Fortune. Not so. Agriculture accounts for 71%, and industry another 16% for a total 86% of all water use in the world. It even takes 71 gallons to produce a single cup of coffee, forcing Starbucks to “cut its in-store water usage by 25% by 2015 with, for example, espresso machines that dispense less water.”
Here’s Fortune’s summary of the global market for all water users: Total worldwide revenues of $508 billion in 2010 … the bottled water market generated $58 billion of that total and growing fast … industry needs $28 billion for water equipment and services to all kinds of businesses … another $10 billion covers agricultural irrigation … another $15 billion in retail products like filters and various heating and cooling systems … $170 billion is used for waste water, sewage systems, waste-water treatment and water recycling systems … and $226 billion for water utilities, treatment plants and distribution systems.
The part about bottled water blows me away.  Most of that water is tap water marked up 1000 times and trucked to your local store.  10% of all the money in the world spent on water is spent on water marked up that much?  Doesn't seem like a market for growth in the third world.  But, hey, I've been wrong before about how stupid people are.  Don't get me wrong, water will be valuable in the future, but anything that people waste a lot of money on to keep their grass green can be conserved pretty easily.

Gold In The Wisconsin Hills

Morning Edition:
LAURIE STERN, BYLINE: There's a unique geography here in the western Wisconsin counties bordering the Mississippi River: steep bluffs with layers and layers of silica sand. The sand is now extremely valuable because it's strong enough to prop open the underground veins in shale fields so that oil and natural gas can be released. It's called frac sand, and Wisconsin appears to have more of it than any other state. Now the sand rush is on. These hills are private property, so sand mining companies have to negotiate with local farmers.
Farmers like Dennis Bork, a rugged man in his early 50s.
DENNIS BORK: Just roll it between your fingers. It just feels like salt grains. Once that gets washed out that's all that's left is just those granules, those round and hard, and you can kind of see 'em there on my finger.
STERN: Wisconsin fill sand sells for about $6 a ton. This sand is worth much, much more about 30 times more - close to $200 a ton.
The economics of fracking don't make much sense to me.  $200 a ton for sand from Wisconsin to ship all over the country.  $2500 to $5000 an acre for mineral rights in southeast Ohio.  $19 an hour to have truck drivers haul millions of gallons of water to the well sites.  $10 million a well.  Then the wells deplete extremely fast and you have to do it all over again. 

But the thing that caught me off guard in this story was this detail:
Local landowners wear bright green T-shirts that say Glacier Sands on the front and sand = jobs on the back. The three guys from the county who will vote on the permit have questions for Tom Hubbard, a local engineer whose company would build the sand mine.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You're talking about taking these hills down about half as high as they are right now then?
TOM HUBBARD: Probably somewhere around in there I'd say, yeah.
STERN: Taking the hills down works for farmers like Dennis Bork. Back on his farm, he'll be able to grow corn where he can't now. Glacier Sands is promising to reclaim his hills.
BORK: My hills are going to be easier to farm when this is done with because they're going to be more of a level terrain that what they are now.
I can't imagine that the companies will strip the topsoil, mine the sand, regrade it, and make it very productive farmland anytime soon.  It probably is easier in sandy soils, but around here, you're going to end up with a bunch of clay mixed in with the topsoil and have a mess on your hands.  I would agree with this neighbor:
 STERN: If Glacier Sands gets its permits, hundreds of sand trucks a day would pass right by Rosenow's house. Sand pits would surround her property. She doesn't believe the bluffs can be rebuilt. Rosenow is part of an increasingly vocal opposition that plans to fight the mines here every step of the way.
According to the article, tens of thousands of acres have been put under contract for mining.  I would probably wipe out those acres as productive farmland.  I wouldn't be surprised if many of these farmers are disappointed down the road, even with their newfound wealth.

Chart of the Day

Via Big Picture Agriculture:

Well, the Corn Belt looks nice and pretty on that map.  Prettier than it does when you look at the corn.  With the recent rains, our beans may be better than previously feared, at least if the wetter weather continues.  My first prediction for the future is that the dark green areas in the Texas Panhandle and western Kansas will shrink in the not-too-distant future.  The future of the rest of the dark green areas?  I don't know.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Road Trip USA

Road Trip USA from Menassier Gabriel ///mg image on Vimeo.

A View Up North

An expat from the states describes her experience with the Canadian health system (h/t Ritholtz):
I started to wonder why I had been so opposed to government mandated Universal Health care. Almost every western country in the world has Universal Insurance of some kind, except the USA. Here in Canada, everyone was covered. If they worked full-time, if they worked part-time, or if they were homeless and lived on the street, they were all entitled to the same level of care if they had a medical need. People actually went in for routine check-ups and caught many of their illnesses early, before they were too advanced to treat. People were free to quit a job they hated, or even start their own business without fear of losing their medical coverage. In fact, the only real complaint I heard about the Universal Health Care from the Canadians themselves, was that sometimes there could be a wait time before a particular medical service could be provided. But even that didn’t seem to be that bad to me, in the States most people had to wait for medical care, or even be denied based on their coverage. Depending on where one lived and how rural the area was, one's access to care could be limited, and that was regardless of what country one lived in. The only people guaranteed immediate and full service in the USA, were those with the best (and most expensive) health coverage or wads of cash they could blow. In Canada, the wait times were usually short, and applied to everyone regardless of wealth. If you were discontent with the wait time (and had the money to cover it) you could always travel out of the country to someplace where you could demand a particular service for a price. Personally, I never experienced excessive wait times, I was accepted for maternity care within a few days or weeks, I was able to find a family care provider nearby easily and quickly, and when a child needed to be brought in for a health concern I was always able to get an appointment within that week.
"But, but, but...we've got the world's best health care system and Socialism and look at all those Canucks coming here for health care, and, and....."

I really don't understand that so many people defend our so terribly flawed health care system so vehemently.  I am stunned that anybody can take Rick Perry seriously when he wants to keep the federal government from helping Texans get health insurance.  25% of the state's population doesn't have health insurance, and he's opposed to them getting it.  Unbelievable.

Redefining History

By vacating 112 Penn State victories from 1998-2011, the sanctions cost Paterno 111 wins. Penn State finished last season 1-3 with Tom Bradley as coach after Paterno was fired in November, days after Sandusky was charged.
Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will now hold the top spot in the NCAA record book with 377 major-college wins. Paterno will be credited with 298 wins. Vacated wins are not the same as forfeits -- they don't count as losses or wins for either school.
"I didn't want it to happen like this," Bowden told The Associated Press. "Wish I could have earned it, but that's the way it is."
The late Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson has the overall NCAA Division I record with 408 wins.
The Paterno family released a statement Monday afternoon.
"The sanctions announced by the NCAA today defame the legacy and contributions of a great coach and educator without any input from our family or those who knew him best," the statement said. "That the president, the athletic director and the board of trustees accepted this unprecedented action by the NCAA without requiring a full due process hearing before the Committee on Infractions is an abdication of their responsibilities."
The Paterno family probably ought to just avoid talking to the media for a while.  They probably ought to think a little bit before accusing anybody of abdicating their responsibilities.  As for the sanctions, I get a kick out of the vacating 112 wins over 14 seasons and rewriting the record book.  I forget how many wins were vacated at Ohio State, but I don't really understand the point.  Does anybody think that a close examination of Bobby Bowden's career wouldn't find a number of violations which could result in the vacating of wins?  Whenever it is proven that Auburn paid Cam Newton, does that mean there wasn't a national champion in 2010-2011.  Same thing with UK basketball this year.  What will John Calipari's career record be?  The NCAA has passed the point of ridiculousness with that stuff.  We can safely assume that all major college programs have violations which could result in the vacation of wins.  It reminds me of Stalin's Soviet Union eliminating Leon Trotsky from the history books. 

Drought Area By Year

From the NYT, via nc links:

More than half of the country was under moderate to extreme drought in June, the largest area of the contiguous United States affected by such dryness in nearly 60 years. Nearly 1,300 counties across 29 states have been declared federal disaster areas. Areas under moderate to extreme drought in June of each year are shown in orange below.
1934 is pretty amazing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Drinking For Safety

Topless Robot:
Remember how in Signs the aliens were allergic to water, and everyone wondered why the hell aliens would come to a planet that is 70% water? Here's a similar situation: Say you're an alien, and alcohol is poison to your body. Why in the hell would you invade Ireland
That's a pretty funny-sounding movie.

The Church And Homosexuality

July 23, 1992:
A Vatican commission, led by Joseph Ratzinger, establishes that it is necessary to limit rights of homosexual people and non-married couples.
During his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) Benedict XVI made several efforts to tackle the issue of homosexuality within the Church and the wider world. In 1986 the CDF sent a letter to all Bishops entitled: On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. The letter condemned a liberal interpretation of the earlier CDF document Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, which had led to a "benign" attitude "to the homosexual condition itself". On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons clarified that the Church position on Homosexuality was that "although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder." However the document also condemned homophobic attacks and violence stating "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs."
In 1992 he again approved CDF documents declaring that homosexual "inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder" and extended this principle to civil law. "Sexual orientation", the document opined, was not equivalent to race or ethnicity, and it declared that it was "not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account."
The Church can hold whatever positions it wants on homosexuality, as people can choose to stay in the Church or not.  But the bishops should quit leading the opposition to gay marriage if they don't intend to drive young people away from the Church.  Gay marriage will win out eventually, so the bishops' aggressiveness only hurts them.  But I kind of suspect they figure legalized gay marriage will hurt priestly vocation numbers. 

Being In The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time. Twice

Robert Krulwich:
Japanese researchers later learned that roughly 150 people were unlucky enough to be in both in Nagasaki and Hiroshima when the bombs hit, but very few, only a handful, were in both blast zones, within 1.5 mile zone of intense radiation. Across Japan, the assumption was that these people shouldn't have children, that the gamma ray damage would be too heavy, too long-lasting to make child bearing safe.
But by the early 1950's, Yamaguchi and his wife Hisako felt strong enough to try, and the early 50s, they had two girls, Naoko and Toshiko. Both were born without birth defects, though when they reached their teenage years, they said they got sick more often than some of their friends. Both are still alive. The Yamaguchis' young son, Kasutoshi, lived to be 58 and died of cancer. Mrs. Yamaguchi died in 2008 of liver and kidney cancer when she was 88. While the Yamaguchi children may have had a slightly rougher time (their parents being triple blasted, he twice, she once), the big surprise is that after almost 70 years, there is no evidence of lasting DNA damage into the children of atomic bomb victims.
Wow, that is interesting.  I still would like to avoid nuclear explosions.

The Retirement Problem

My former intro to econ professor pushes for a mandatory retirement savings plan (h/t Ritholtz):
Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. The specter of downward mobility in retirement is a looming reality for both middle- and higher-income workers. Almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.
In my ad hoc retirement talks, I repeatedly hear about the “guy.” This is a for-profit investment adviser, often described as, “I have this guy who is pretty good, he always calls, doesn’t push me into investments.” When I ask how much the “guy” costs, or if the guy has fiduciary loyalty — to the client, not the firm — or if their investments do better than a standard low-fee benchmark, they inevitably don’t know. After hearing about their magical guy, I ask about their “number.”
To maintain living standards into old age we need roughly 20 times our annual income in financial wealth. If you earn $100,000 at retirement, you need about $2 million beyond what you will receive from Social Security. If you have an income-producing partner and a paid-off house, you need less. This number is startling in light of the stone-cold fact that most people aged 50 to 64 have nothing or next to nothing in retirement accounts and thus will rely solely on Social Security.
Those are some scary numbers, especially considering a lot of those folks have little or no equity in their homes.  That isn't going to be good. As for my economics prof, she thought that the reason girls weren't doing as well in her class as boys was because multiple choice tests favored boys.  So she gave us a choice on part of the tests with two essay questions or five multiple choice questions.  I obviously took the multiple choice part.  That was the class I where I would read the chapter summaries for all the chapters since the last test on the night before the exam.  I never once read any of the chapters themselves.  I got a really nice grade in that class.

Chart of the Day

Via Big Picture Agriculture:

 Change in annual precipitation (millimeters), from the baseline under the four climate change scenarios

his month, for what it’s worth, the USDA has come out with a publication titled “Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate – Economic and Environmental Implications Vary by U.S. Region” [pdf here]. I’ve excerpted the four model’s precipitation pattern change maps (below). How much they vary from one another is quite remarkable and stands as a message itself. The one showing temperature changes is also worth reviewing.
The USDA report also estimates yield impacts to various crops under the four scenarios.  The soybeans really take it on the chin in three of the situations.  There are also some really ugly drought pictures over there.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

NASA Photo of the Day

Today's photo:

M16: Pillars of Creation
Image Credit: J. Hester, P. Scowen (ASU), HST, NASA
Explanation: It was one of the most famous images of the 1990s. This image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 1995, shows evaporating gaseous globules (EGGs) emerging from pillars of molecular hydrogen gas and dust. The giant pillars are light years in length and are so dense that interior gas contracts gravitationally to form stars. At each pillars' end, the intense radiation of bright young stars causes low density material to boil away, leaving stellar nurseries of dense EGGs exposed. The Eagle Nebula, associated with the open star cluster M16, lies about 7000 light years away. The pillars of creation were imaged again in 2007 by the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared light, leading to the conjecture that the pillars may already have been destroyed by a local supernova, but light from that event has yet to reach the Earth.

The Best There Ever Was

Mary Jean Wall reviews Sharon B. Smith's new book, The Best There Ever Was, about early 20th century harness racing sensation Dan Patch:
In harness racing, horses trot or pace at speed while urged on by a driver in a single-seat cart called a sulky. Americans in the 19th century identified closely with this sport because most people drove horses as their primary transportation. Few could resist the urge to go fast when another horse and buggy pulled alongside. Harness racing was daily life lived large. People loved Dan Patch because he was fast and also because he started bowing to the grandstands, something he learned on his own. Newspapers called him the "national pet."
Ms. Smith makes the argument that Dan Patch stood for Middle America and its cultural values, accompanying a population shift from the East to the nation's geographical center. Wealthy industrialists of the East favored stylish trotters, a type defined by its gait. Midwesterners admired trotters but quickly grew to prefer pacers (again, defined by their gait), who raced faster than trotters. Dan Patch's game was pacing: Indiana-born and raised, he converted urban, Eastern horse enthusiasts to his style of racing.
All the elements of a good yarn come through in Dan Patch's story. No one would have believed at his birth that he would develop into a fast racehorse, one destined to break records. He was born crooked-legged, unable to stand on his legs and nurse naturally. His breeder-owner, Dan Messner of Oxford, Ind., said that he believed the colt would amount to no more than a delivery-wagon horse—if he lived.
Time and special shoeing to correct Dan Patch's gait turned the pacer into a racing machine. Dan Patch still had knobby knees and traveled with a peculiar motion caused by a misshapen left hind hoof. But this horse loved to race, as Messner and the colt's initial trainer discovered. His 1-minute-55-second mile (later disallowed on a technicality) set a mark not surpassed for more than half a century.
It is interesting that he may have been the first celebrity athletic product endorser.

Congratulations Barry Larkin

Aluminum Rod And A Non-Newtonian Fluid

High speed video of an aluminium rod striking the surface of a cornstarch and water suspension. Rather than penetrating, the impacting rod causes the suspension below it to solidify.

That is cool.