Wednesday, September 24, 2008

360 News & Comment

The world's largest atom-smasher has been shut down for two months following a helium leak, just ten days after it was switched on amid great fanfare to probe the secrets of the universe.

"There has been an incident in a test. One section of the machine will have to be repaired," James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), told the AP. A CERN spokesman said in a funny, high squeaky voice that a fault resulted in a "large helium leak into the tunnel.”

Is it just me or did all the wild weather, volcanoes and earthquakes just suddenly stop when they turned off the atom smasher? It’s so quiet, weather-wise. You know, almost a little too quiet when you hear this next story....

( -- Abrupt climate change has occurred on earth many times over the past millions of years. Climate scientists hypothesize that these sharp transitions may be caused when the earth system reaches a tipping point, or a critical value, resulting in a change of several degrees. These abrupt transitions have caused, for example, the formation and melting of glaciers throughout the earth, North Africa’s change from savannah to desert 5,000 years ago, and various other changes.

Now, a recent study has shown that there might be an early warning signal that heralds climatic tipping points. By analyzing the geological records of eight ancient abrupt climate shifts, scientists have found that each shift is each preceded by a period of relative calm.

Like the calm we’re experiencing right now. Anybody else want to join me in cheering for just a little earthquake right now just to shake things up? Or maybe we should turn that atom-smasher back on!

( -- Why does it seem many people begin with political preferences and then try to find reasons justifying their inclinations? Why is it so difficult to sway people who care deeply about politics no matter how compelling the facts or persuasive the prose? University of Nebraska-Lincoln research may help to answer these questions.

By monitoring people's physical sensitivities to things like sudden noises and threatening visual images, political scientists were able to conclude that physiological reactions help predict variations in political beliefs.

For the first time, political scientists show that people who are physiologically highly responsive to threat are likely to advocate policies that protect against threats to the social unit: favoring defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism and the Iraq War. In contrast, people who are less startled by sudden noises and threatening visual images are more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism and gun control.

I’m so curious to find out if that’s true-right-wing-religious-conservatives are that way because they’re more easily startled. So maybe the first question at the first presidential debate should just be, “Boo!” And then we’ll know whether McCain really is the conservative he says he is!

And there is other new research into the differences between Republicans and Democrats.

Half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they've heard God speak to them, one-quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healings, 16 percent say they've received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues, according to a survey released Thursday by Baylor University.

The wide-ranging survey of 1,648 adults, who were asked 350 questions on their religious practices last fall, reveals a significant majority who are comfortable with the supernatural.

“Mystical experiences are widespread,” said Rodney Stark, co-director of Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion.

The survey, which has a margin of error of four percentage points, also revealed that theological liberals are more apt to believe in the paranormal and the occult - haunted houses, UFOs, communicating with the dead and astrology - than do conservatives.

Baylor researchers also criticized a much-ballyhooed “new atheism” as a barely discernable trend, saying the number of Americans who are atheists has stayed at 4 percent since 1944.

Why? Atheism is a “godless revolution that never happened,” the survey said, adding that irreligion often is not effectively transmitted to children who, when they reach adulthood, often join conservative religious denominations.

Peter Fenwick has been doing some amazing research on stuff just like for his book, “The Art of Dying.” What percentage of Americans have been visited by the dead? It’s all in the book. Plus a whole chapter on how to die a good death.

Maybe Microsoft’s marketing department ought to read that.

Two weeks ago there was a weird two-minute commercial with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld all about shoes and edible computers? It lasted two days before the whole campaign was yanked.

Now, in their latest battle against the surging Apple products, the Microsoft marketing geniuses decided to hire a look-a-like actor for the Mac “I’m a PC” commercials. Except there’s a hitch.

(Computerworld) Several digital images that Microsoft Corp. has posted on its Web site to trumpet its new "I'm a PC" advertising campaign were actually created on Macs, according to the files' originating-software stamp.

Four of the images that Microsoft made available to the press display the designation "Adobe Photoshop C3 Macintosh" when their file properties are examined. The images appear to be frames from the television ads which just started running.

Once more the Microsoft marketing department just might be hitting Ctrl + Alt + Del and having to reboot all over again.


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