Discussion Post: Week 12
We’re just about ready to start our third round of presentations. How do you feel about the shift to persuasion? Are you confident in your topic, and is that outline coming together? What strategies are you employing to improve upon Informative Presentation II?
Harry Potter fans certainly remember the invisibility cloak of the “Boy Who Lived,” and I’m sure most of us have, at some point, dreamed of having a blanket that would let us hide from the world. Ali Aliev, a University of Texas scientist, is trying to make that possible. His prototype uses superheated, threadlike carbon nanotubes to create a “mirage effect” that bends light around the tubes and effectively makes objects beneath them disappear. Check out the effect below:
If you’re interested, you can read Aliev, Gartstein, and Baughman’s (2011) recently published article on the subject in the journal of Nanotechnology.
The Occupy Wall Street movement generated more unintended consequences on Thursday, as a 35-year-old military veteran shot himself in the head at one of the Vermont encampments. As of this post’s writing, the man’s name has not been released, as his family is still being notified. This is just the latest in a series of violent incidents related to the protests, from attempted arson to sexual assault. Another demonstrator in Salt Lake City is dead from what appears to be a combination of carbon monoxide poisoning and drug use, while an additional shooting death near Oakland is still being investigated. Things aren’t looking brighter as we move into the winter months and viruses take hold of many encampments. Both sides are trying to use these incidents to their advantage, with police saying that the dangers to protestors and bystanders are great enough for the efforts to be shut down, while those involved with the movement say that the veteran’s suicide in particular shows just how poor mental health care for those who have served in the armed forced really is.
With NASA essentially out of the manned space flight game, we’ve been looking at other alternatives to expand our horizons, particularly toward what many believe to be the natural next step after the moon: a mission to Mars. However, one of the top remaining players in manned flight, Russia, looks to be having serious problems with the prospect of a trip to the red planet, manned or otherwise. On Tuesday, November 8, Russia’s Federal Space Agency launched a probe, called Phobos-Grunt, which was supposed to visit Phobos, one of Mars’ moons. According to an article by military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov in Russian news outlet RIA Novosti,
By November 10, officials made some statements implying that the results of the communications sessions were not yet known. These statements gradually became more pessimistic, indicating that no communication had actually been established with the spacecraft, and that no telemetry data was available.
At present, the probe is essentially just floating in orbit above the earth, stranded amongst the “space junk” beyond our atmosphere (and possibly becoming just another piece of that junk as we speak). Some have called this a mere technical issue — a setback that can be overcome in the next mission. Others, like Bogdanov, say that this latest incident is just a symptom of a larger problem, “the result of negative trends in the management of the space program, which have been developing over the past 20 years, and, it seems, are not directly linked with specific issues of technical reliability.” Time will tell how serious the problem really is, and what the consequences will be for young Americans’ dreams of space flight. Let us all pray that the Russian Soyuz rocket set to lift off from Kazakhstan Monday morning — which will carry two Russians and one American astronaut — will fare better.
At least we can take solace in the knowledge that solar flares pose no real threat to our existence, despite what movies like Knowing may tell us. According to NASA officials, while the sun’s 11-year solar flare cycle is expected to peak soon, reports that it will launch a solar flare several times the size of our planet to destory much of the earth’s atmosphere are patent falsehoods, the report said, propogating 2012 armageddon fears. (Besides, the solar flare cycle is expected to peak in 2013 or 2014, not 2012.) As NASA officials said in their report, “there simply isn’t enough energy in the sun to send a killer fireball 93 million miles to destroy Earth.” In any case, everyone in our class has already lived through at least one solar flare cycle, and they have been occurring for millennia. Hype aside, scientists expect this one to be no different.
Now that we’ve covered the end-of-the-world stuff, let’s jump into something a bit more entertaining. A few people were interested in the Kim Kardashian wedding story from last week, so as a follow-up, Kardashian’s ex-publicist is now saying that the whole wedding was staged. As many of you already know, Kardashian’s wedding was a hotly-attended affair which garnered substantial magazine and television coverage, including “behind-the-scenes” exclusives and such. 72 days after the fairy-tale ceremony, Kardashian and NBA player Kris Humphries were divorced. A lot of people have since speculated that the affair was one giant sham, but none with as much inside information as former publicist Jonathon Jaxson. According to Jaxson, Kardashian never actually got over her romance with the NFL’s Reggie Bush. In any event, Humphries didn’t seem too destraught when Kardashian filed the divorce paperwork: he was working out at the gym, as usual, with his wedding ring still on his finger. (By Thursday, he was doing the same thing, just with the wedding ring removed.)
Things are looking up for the video game industry as 2011 winds down, with a tremendous number of major franchises gearing up for fourth-quarter releases. With Battlefield 3 already at the 5 million units sold mark by Friday and gamers wild over Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, released on Tuesday, the shooter genre is more than covered. With price cuts to the Nintendo Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3, hardware sales may climb as well. A bevy of other games are also expected to be major players in the next month and a half, including Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, to name just a few. Even the Nintendo 3DS, whose surprisingly pitiful sales just a few months ago prompted Nintendo to drop its price by roughly one-third shortly after its release — an unprecedented move from the company for which CEO Satoru Iwata had to issue a formal apology — is now on pace to beat the original Nintendo DS’ first-year sales. Despite concerns from some critics, Sony’s PS Vita, which will be released in the U.S. on February 22, is also seeing a significant increase in pre-orders. Factor in Strategy Analytics’ new study which shows that 15 million households use their gaming consoles to watch online videos, far more than competitors like Google TV or Boxee, and the gaming industry really can’t lose.
Sometimes, you have to wonder what parents are thinking. A federal prosecutor is having to warn parents that — surprise, surprise! — it’s illegal to trade chicken pox-laced lollipops by mail to intentionally make your children sick. (Why yes, if you were wondering, this practice can be lethal, according to Tennessee state epidemiologist Tim Jones.) The parents’ reasoning, according to media reports, was to expose their children to the virus early in life in order to build immunity without having to be vaccinated, as some parents believe that vaccinations are dangerous. If that wasn’t scary enough, this is actually just a new, covert version of an existing phenomenon — previously, “chicken pox parties” put sick and healthy children together in a confined space to rapidly spread the ailment.
We have quite a few more health care stories this week. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is now urging all parents to test their children for high cholesterol before they reach puberty. This comes in response to rapidly surging obesity rates among American children and the population as a whole. Elsewhere, researchers are considering whether a revolutionary anti-cancer peptide, which its creators call “adipotide,” could be used for weight loss. While the drug is still in the early stages of development, researchers noticed that monkeys on which the treatment was tested showed dramatic weight loss — for instance, after four weeks of treatment and a four-week follow-up without additional treatment, “10 obese female rhesus macaques lost an average of 11% of body weight and 39% of fat deposits.” Basically, the drug cuts off the blood supply to fat cells, which ultimately causes them to die and the subjects’ metabolism to change accordingly. Of course, there are still a variety of harmful side effects, from dehydration to kidney legions, and the drug is still in its earlier stages of development. It’s a curious prospect, though, to say the least.
If you think that smokers enjoy the pastime, think again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last Thursday that says most smokers, in fact, want to quit the habit. In their survey of about 27,000 adults, researchers found that 68.8% of smokers wanted to quit, and 52.4% tried to do so within the past year. (Only about 6% were successful.) Maybe they can turn to Wal-Mart for help — the retailing giant is considering expanding its clinic services to become a primary care service provider. Apparently the plan is to partner with outside companies to win over that additional marketplace. Maybe it’s counterproductive for a store to have doctors tell patients not to buy the bulk bags of potato chips sitting just a few aisles away, but since when have people listened to their doctor’s advice on that subject anyway? The battleplan hinges on Wal-Mart being the go-to provider for the millions which will presumably gain healthcare insurance over the coming years but with minimal spare cash to visit the doctor. However, it should be noted that the new health care law has yet to make any real change in the number of insured citizens according to a Gallup poll released on Friday.
That should be plenty for this week. What do you think about these issues?
Other articles of interest:
US soldier gets life sentence in Afghan killings
Rick Perry wants to scrap three government departments. What would that mean?
Obama spurns Congress for overseas
Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi resigns after austerity bill passes
Google Music launching without Sony and Warner
Report: LG to Unveil Google TV Device at CES
The 6 pillars of Steve Jobs’ design philosophy
Original iPod Nano recalled by Apple in USA
Facebook Retreats on Privacy
Sixth-grade iOS developer starts school app club, wows in TEDx video
Is Alzheimer’s disease really curable?
Study: Religious Folks Have a Sunnier Outlook
Tags: 2012, adipotide, Ali Aliev, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chicken pox, Federal Space Agency, Gallup, Harry Potter, invisibility cloak, Jonathon Jaxson, Kazakhstan, Kim Kardashian, Knowing, Konstantin Bogdanov, Kris Humphries, Mars, NASA, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, NBA, NFL, Nintendo, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Oakland, Occupy Wall Street, Phobos, Phobos-Grunt, PlayStation 3, Presentation II, Presentation III, PS Vita, Reggie Bush, Russia, Salt Lake City, Satoru Iwata, solar flares, Sony, Soyuz, Strategy Analytics, Tennessee, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Tim Jones, U.S., Vermont, Wal-Mart, Wii