Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3466 on: Mar 27th, 2011, 07:56am »
New York Times
March 26, 2011 Japanese Rules for Nuclear Plants Relied on Old Science By NORIMITSU ONISHI and JAMES GLANZ
TOKYO — In the country that gave the world the word tsunami, the Japanese nuclear establishment largely disregarded the potentially destructive force of the walls of water. The word did not even appear in government guidelines until 2006, decades after plants — including the Fukushima Daiichi facility that firefighters are still struggling to get under control — began dotting the Japanese coastline.
The lack of attention may help explain how, on an island nation surrounded by clashing tectonic plates that commonly produce tsunamis, the protections were so tragically minuscule compared with the nearly 46-foot tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima plant on March 11. Offshore breakwaters, designed to guard against typhoons but not tsunamis, succumbed quickly as a first line of defense. The wave grew three times as tall as the bluff on which the plant had been built.
Japanese government and utility officials have repeatedly said that engineers could never have anticipated the magnitude 9.0 earthquake — by far the largest in Japanese history — that caused the sea bottom to shudder and generated the huge tsunami. Even so, seismologists and tsunami experts say that according to readily available data, an earthquake with a magnitude as low as 7.5 — almost garden variety around the Pacific Rim — could have created a tsunami large enough to top the bluff at Fukushima.
After an advisory group issued nonbinding recommendations in 2002, Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant owner and Japan’s biggest utility, raised its maximum projected tsunami at Fukushima Daiichi to between 17.7 and 18.7 feet — considerably higher than the 13-foot-high bluff. Yet the company appeared to respond only by raising the level of an electric pump near the coast by 8 inches, presumably to protect it from high water, regulators said.
“We can only work on precedent, and there was no precedent,” said Tsuneo Futami, a former Tokyo Electric nuclear engineer who was the director of Fukushima Daiichi in the late 1990s. “When I headed the plant, the thought of a tsunami never crossed my mind.”
The intensity with which the earthquake shook the ground at Fukushima also exceeded the criteria used in the plant’s design, though by a less significant factor than the tsunami, according to data Tokyo Electric has given the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, a professional group. Based on what is known now, the tsunami set off the nuclear crisis by flooding the backup generators needed to power the reactor cooling system.
Japan is known for its technical expertise. For decades, though, Japanese officialdom and even parts of its engineering establishment clung to older scientific precepts for protecting nuclear plants, relying heavily on records of earthquakes and tsunamis, and failing to make use of advances in seismology and risk assessment since the 1970s.
For some experts, the underestimate of the tsunami threat at Fukushima is frustratingly reminiscent of the earthquake — this time with no tsunami — in July 2007 that struck Kashiwazaki, a Tokyo Electric nuclear plant on Japan’s western coast.. The ground at Kashiwazaki shook as much as two and a half times the maximum intensity envisioned in the plant’s design, prompting upgrades at the plant.
“They had years to prepare at that point, after Kashiwazaki, and I am seeing the same thing at Fukushima,” said Peter Yanev, an expert in seismic risk assessment based in California, who has studied Fukushima for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Energy Department.
There is no doubt that when Fukushima was designed, seismology and its intersection with the structural engineering of nuclear power plants was in its infancy, said Hiroyuki Aoyama, 78, an expert on the quake resistance of nuclear plants who has served on Japanese government panels. Engineers employed a lot of guesswork, adopting a standard that structures inside nuclear plants should have three times the quake resistance of general buildings.
“There was no basis in deciding on three times,” said Mr. Aoyama, an emeritus professor of structural engineering at the University of Tokyo. “They were shooting from the hip,” he added, making a sign of a pistol with his right thumb and index finger. “There was a vague target.”
Evolution of Designs
When Japanese engineers began designing their first nuclear power plants more than four decades ago, they turned to the past for clues on how to protect their investment in the energy of the future. Official archives, some centuries old, contained information on how tsunamis had flooded coastal villages, allowing engineers to surmise their height.
So seawalls were erected higher than the highest tsunamis on record. At Fukushima Daiichi, Japan’s fourth oldest nuclear plant, officials at Tokyo Electric used a contemporary tsunami — a 10.5-foot-high wave caused by a 9.5-magnitude earthquake in Chile in 1960 — as a reference point. The 13-foot-high cliff on which the plant was built would serve as a natural seawall, according to Masaru Kobayashi, an expert on quake resistance at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, Japan’s nuclear regulator.
Eighteen-foot-high offshore breakwaters were built as part of the company’s anti-tsunami strategy, said Jun Oshima, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric. But regulators said the breakwaters — mainly intended to shelter boats — offered some resistance against typhoons, but not tsunamis, Mr. Kobayashi said.
Over the decades, preparedness against tsunamis never became a priority for Japan’s power companies or nuclear regulators. They were perhaps lulled, experts said, by the fact that no tsunami had struck a nuclear plant until two weeks ago. Even though tsunami simulations offered new ways to assess the risks of tsunamis, plant operators made few changes at their aging facilities, and nuclear regulators did not press them.
Engineers took a similar approach with earthquakes. When it came to designing the Fukushima plant, official records dating from 1600 showed that the strongest earthquakes off the coast of present-day Fukushima Prefecture had registered between magnitude 7.0 and 8.0, Mr. Kobayashi said.
“We left it to the experts,” said Masatoshi Toyoda, a retired Tokyo Electric vice president who oversaw the construction of the plant. He added, “they researched old documents for information on how many tombstones had toppled over and such.”
Eventually, experts on government committees started pushing for tougher building codes, and by 1981, guidelines included references to earthquakes but not to tsunamis, according to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. That pressure grew exponentially after the devastating Kobe earthquake in 1995, said Kenji Sumita, who was deputy chairman of the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan in the late 1990s.
Mr. Sumita said power companies, which were focused on completing the construction of a dozen reactors, resisted adopting tougher standards, and did not send representatives to meetings on the subject at the Nuclear Safety Commission.
“Others sent people immediately,” Mr. Sumita said, referring to academics and construction industry experts. “But the power companies engaged in foot-dragging and didn’t come.”
Meanwhile, the sciences of seismology and risk assessment advanced around the world. Although the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has come under severe criticism for not taking the adoption of those new techniques far enough, the agency did use many of them in new, plant-by-plant reviews, said Greg S. Hardy, a structural engineer at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger who specializes in nuclear plant design and seismic risk.
For whatever reasons — whether cultural, historical or simply financial — Japanese engineers working on nuclear plants continued to predict what they believed were maximum earthquakes based on records.
Those methods, however, did not take into account serious uncertainties like faults that had not been discovered or earthquakes that were gigantic but rare, said Mr. Hardy, who visited Kashiwazaki after the 2007 quake as part of a study sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute.
“The Japanese fell behind,” Mr. Hardy said. “Once they made the proclamation that this was the maximum earthquake, they had a hard time re-evaluating that as new data came in.”
The Japanese approach, referred to in the field as “deterministic” — as opposed to “probabilistic,” or taking unknowns into account — somehow stuck, said Noboru Nakao, a consultant who was a nuclear engineer at Hitachi for 40 years and was president of Japan’s training center for operators of boiling-water reactors.
“Japanese safety rules generally are deterministic because probabilistic methods are too difficult,” Mr. Nakao said, adding that “the U.S. has a lot more risk assessment methods.”
The science of tsunamis also advanced, with far better measurements of their size, vastly expanded statistics as more occurred, and computer calculations that help predict what kinds of tsunamis are produced by earthquakes of various sizes. Two independent draft research papers by leading tsunami experts — Eric Geist of the United States Geological Survey and Costas Synolakis, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California — indicate that earthquakes of a magnitude down to about 7.5 can create tsunamis large enough to go over the 13-foot bluff protecting the Fukushima plant.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3467 on: Mar 27th, 2011, 08:01am »
TUC march: How a family day out turned to mayhem
A "family" day out to protest against cuts turned into a riot as anarchists hijacked the TUC's biggest demonstration in a generation.
By Patrick Sawer, David Barrett, Michael Howie and Ben Leach 7:30AM 27 Mar 2011
It was billed as a day of peaceful protest suitable for families.
But a demonstration against government cuts instead turned into a riot on the streets of central London yesterday, wrecking the hopes of hundreds of thousands of people and leaving the Labour leader with an embarrassment he may struggle to shake off.
The march and rally was supposed to make the case against what trade unions say are unsustainably deep cuts in public service spending. Organised by the TUC, it was called "The March for the Alternative" and was intended to bring together "middle Britain" in an attempt to change the Coalition's spending plans.
Jo Catchpole, a 27-year-old teacher who had joined more than 30 colleagues on a coach from Coalville, Leicestershire, summed up the mood at the start of the day.
"It's great to see people coming together from different backgrounds and campaigning against something that's wrong," she said. "Everyone's here for a good day."
And it should have been just that: a PR triumph for the trade unions and for Labour. The turnout exceeded even the wildest expectations of organisers, with at least 250,000 and possibly as many as 400,000 said to have taken part.
So big was the turnout that the rear of the march had barely left the Victoria Embankment when the rally in Hyde Park, three miles away, began.
In the swelling crowd were teachers, students, nurses and midwives, pensioners and even a delegation of 50 Gurkhas, there to protest at cuts to legal aid. The atmosphere was jovial, with the anger at cuts leavened with humorous chants and hand-drawn placards. One read: "David, all artists hate you. Except Tracey Emin and you're welcome to her."
But already there were hints of the violence to come.
Three unofficial feeder blocs had gathered in south, east and north London, organised by militant activists, students and grassroots community groups. Their intention was to march through the City to join up with the main TUC march, staging impromptu sit-downs and occupations along the way. Among their ranks were hundreds of black-clad anarchists, their faces masked to evade identification, who for weeks had been planning to use the march as cover for attacking shops and banks.
One of the "dissident" feeder blocs set off from Cable Street in London's East End. From there, about 200 people marched through the financial heart of the square mile.
Another 2,000 activists, marching under the name the Radical Workers Bloc, set off from Kennington, south London, while hundreds more, including teachers, students and the ubiquitous anarchists, marched from the University of London Union in Bloomsbury. As the crowds swelled into one giant stream of humanity, weaving its way along the Embankment and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly, the first confrontations began.
Just after 1pm about 200 protesters, some with their faces covered, gathered outside the entrance to Downing Street. Boos and whistles rang out and a yellow smoke bomb was set off.
At the same time a number of "black bloc" anarchists broke away from the main march to charge up Regent Street and through Chinatown. Despite the presence of hundreds of TUC stewards, dozens of protesters began rolling sit-down protests in an attempt to bring chaos to London's shopping district.
A branch of Boots in Piccadilly Circus was forced to close its shutters. Paint, glass bottles and food were thrown at a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in New Bond Street.
Some of the worst violence was seen in Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue.
Shortly before 2pm, a group of anarchists attempted to storm Topman, throwing sticks, setting fire to placards and smashing windows. The signal for the trouble to start appeared to be a green flare let off by one of the masked protesters. One was wrestled to the ground by police and arrested before a line of riot officers managed to form a line to protect the store.
At a pre-arranged time of 2.11pm, crowds numbering about 10,000 in Trafalgar Square cheered, yelled and let off fireworks, as the main procession continued up Whitehall towards Piccadilly and Hyde Park.
While all this was taking place, Ed Miliband was addressing the throng gathered peacefully for the TUC rally in Hyde Park. The Labour leader claimed that the Government wanted to take Britain back to the 1980s, telling the crowd: "We know what the government will say: that this is a march of the minority. They are so wrong. David Cameron: you wanted to create the big society. This is the big society."
But in the West End the violence was growing, as police, looking uncomfortably outnumbered at times, held off crowds of protesters.
Groups of activists turned on an HSBC bank at Cambridge Circus, throwing paint at police officers. Windows were smashed and "smash the banks" and "thieves" daubed on the building.
Reece Hughes, 41, from New Zealand, said a gang of "about 300 protesters" attacked the bank. "They came down the road and started smashing the place in," he said.
Although the branch was closed, some of the crowd managed to break in, dispersing shortly before vans of riot police arrived. Surveying the scene, one police officer declared: "We got here. Carnage. Job done."
Small-scale battles were taking place everywhere. Paint bombs were thrown at Niketown in Oxford Circus; the Ritz Hotel was targeted by a breakaway group throwing paint bombs and dustbins; even an Ann Summers shop in Soho had its windows smashed. In the midst of the mayhem, a samba band struck up to entertain the marchers.
For days, activists had been promising on Twitter and other social networking sites to invade a "secret target" at 3pm. At the allotted hour, 300 protesters from UKuncut and the Socialist Workers Party occupied Fortnum & Mason.
Twenty protesters clambered on to a balcony of the store, while others burst inside and emerged from first-floor windows. The police resorted to "kettling" the breakaway protesters, trapping thousands of people in Piccadilly.
Some activists began charging at officers. One father sheltered his distraught young daughter in a doorway as missiles were flung at riot police who hit back, striking some with their shields.
The Met Police apologised through its Twitter feed to those who had been "kettled" outside the store. It said: "The Met Police thank those outside Fortnum & Mason for their patience. They will not be held for any longer than necessary." Officers at the scene later arrested 40 protesters and regained control of the shop.
At 9.45pm, trouble flared again as officers came under sustained attack in Trafalgar Square. Witnesses claimed trouble flared after police went into the crowd of protesters, who had been drinking, at around 9.45pm.
Towards the north side of the square, passing buses were caught in the chaos as bottles and other missiles flew towards police lines.
Commander Bob Broadhurst from the Met condemned the violence, insisting: "They are not protesters, they are criminals."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3468 on: Mar 27th, 2011, 08:11am »
Robinson Helicopter, known for its low-cost choppers, was nearly grounded by the recession but is poised to soar again with a new CEO, an expanded factory and a new model that's generating buzz.
By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times March 27, 2011
The thump-thump-thump of rotor blades above the South Bay is the sound of the world's largest civilian helicopter maker emerging from the economic downturn.
After two years of layoffs and slumping sales, things are looking up for Robinson Helicopter Co., which for decades has manufactured low-cost helicopters for use by television news operations, banks transporting money between branches and, of course, police departments that depend on them for surveillance and rescue missions.
The Torrance company has a new chief executive, a book full of orders, an expanded factory and a new five-seat chopper that's generating plenty of buzz in the industry.
"When the economy went in a tailspin, it hit us hard," said CEO Kurt Robinson, the 53-year-old son of founder Frank Robinson, who retired in August. "We're ready to bounce back."
Central to the company's hopes for recovery is the new chopper, dubbed the R-66. Just arriving in showrooms, it is by far the company's most technologically advanced rotorcraft, capable of flying faster, higher and with more people and cargo than anything it has ever built.
Robinson may not have the name recognition of firms such as Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. or Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., whose bread and butter is military choppers. Still, analysts said Robinson's new jet-powered rotorcraft — as opposed to the smaller piston-powered choppers that the firm has been known for — could give Robinson more visibility.
"The R-66 opens up all kinds of opportunities. There's no doubt that it will enable the company to grow," said Matt Zuccaro, president of Helicopter Assn. International, an Alexandria, Va., trade group.
After years of growth and record sales, Robinson struggled during the recession as customers cut back orders, cash-poor owners flooded the market with used choppers, and the financing for new helicopters all but dried up.
In 2010, the company churned out just 162 choppers — an 82% plunge from the 893 it sold at its peak just two years earlier.
Robinson's payroll went from about 1,400 workers in 2008 to about 900 currently. Robinson is privately held, with little public information about its finances. Dun & Bradstreet Inc. estimated its 2010 sales at $75 million. Company officials said sales previously hovered around $100 million.
Robinson Helicopter CEO Kurt Robinson took over when his father, the company founder, retired. (Gary Friedman, Los Angeles Times / March 27, 2011)
The R-66 is the company's first new model since Frank Robinson's retirement. He built the business from scratch into the nation's largest civilian helicopter company. But after a grueling recession all but grounded the firm, it's now up to his son Kurt to make it fly high once again.
The company is a vestige of a once-vibrant era in commercial aircraft that helped to define Southern California in the post-World War II years as an industrial powerhouse. Assembly lines across the Southland hummed with the production of Boeing Co.'s 717, Douglas Aircraft Co.'s DC-8, and McDonnell Douglas Corp.'s MD-80.
Today, at a time when unemployment is hovering around 12.2% in California and new manufacturing jobs are few, Robinson holds the prospect of stability and growth.
Robinson's expanded factory, where its two-seat R-22 and four-seat R-44 are built, now hugs almost half a mile of runway at the east end of Torrance Municipal Airport.
For now, the new space where the R-66 will be made is empty. The light-gray floor has the radiance of an untouched ice rink. The company has finished about two dozen R-66s. And they have orders for 106 more. Soon, as production of the R-66 ramps up, hundreds of cutting machines, soldering tools and air wrenches will clutter the area — just as they have in the adjacent factory for more than 30 years.
Most major aerospace companies subcontract the fabrication of parts, but not Robinson. It makes nearly all its parts in-house at its plant. Swarms of workers operate high-tech machines that grind, bend and slice metal into helicopter parts.
Helicopter noise in Torrance remains a challenge for the company. But Kurt Robinson said the company always tries to be a good neighbor. "We live and work in the community, so we do our part to minimize" noise, he said.
Robinson is the rare aerospace company that does no work for the military. It produces strictly civilian aircraft.
From the beginning, the company thrived by selling helicopters for a fraction of the prices of its competitors. The R-22 sells for $250,000 and the R-44 goes for about $350,000 to $425,000. In a big leap, the company is pricing the R-66 at $800,000. In contrast, the R-66's closest rival, the Bell JetRanger, can cost about $1.4 million.
"We can operate them at half the cost of other agencies," said Bob Muse, a helicopter pilot with the El Monte Police Department, the first police force to purchase an R-44 in 1998. "They're not as flashy-looking as other helicopters. I know that, everybody does. But it gets the job done."
Robinson's prices may be appealing, but critics wonder whether buyers are sacrificing quality. Robinson maintains that it helicopters are safe and reliable.
In the mid-1990s, the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board put their spotlights on Robinson's safety record after several high-profile accidents.
Safety board officials investigated Robinson in 1994, citing 21 crashes from 1981 to 1994 in which 32 people died.
The board later concluded that pilot error and inexperience were to blame. "The investigation did not identify any precipitating progressive mechanical failures or material defects."
The scrutiny nearly brought the company down, Frank Robinson recalled.
Around the same time, an Orange County jury found the company partially liable for the crash in which a prominent surgeon was killed. Robinson was ordered to pay $4.5 million in damages. Frank Robinson said the case was later settled out of court for much less than that. He declined to say how much.
"Those were some very dark years," he said. "We handled it and moved on."
Frank Robinson isn't easily discouraged. It was in 1973, at age 43, that Robinson started the firm with little more than a dream to build a low-cost helicopter that he could mass-market around the world. It was a gamble. Helicopter companies typically concentrate on developing large, turbine-driven choppers for the military.
"Rather than go for these big government contracts, I wanted to build a small, reliable helicopter," he said. "Larger companies weren't willing to do that. So I started the company."
Robinson Helicopter didn't turn a profit until 1987, but just four years later, the company was the largest-volume helicopter producer in the world. Its growth was largely fueled by foreign sales, Kurt Robinson said.
"We have a broad swath of customers," he said, rattling off a list that included Australian cattle herders, Panamanian tuna fishermen and Chinese business executives. More than 60% of Robinson's sales come from outside the U.S.
The company's robust foreign sales prompted a visit from President Bush in 2008 on a three-day nationwide tour to push his free-trade agenda. "You can't tell the people at Robinson Helicopter that trade isn't good," Bush said.
A smile spreads across Kurt Robinson's face when he recalls the event. "I don't care if you're a Republican or a Democrat, it's a tremendous honor to shake the president's hand," he said. "The fact the president of the United States came to our house is a complete blow-away."
Today, Kurt Robinson knows he faces a tough market as the world emerges from recession. But he believes he's got the right product to lift his company.
The R-66 runs on jet fuel, which is more readily available around the world than the low-lead aviation gas that previous models used. It has a separate baggage compartment near the rear that's big enough for a bag of golf clubs or a few suitcases. The R-44 has a smaller space for baggage under each seat.
But the main deviation from Robinson's previous choppers is the jet engine.
"As soon I took off, I felt how much more power the helicopter had," said Steve Roe, a flight instructor with Helistream, a Costa Mesa helicopter dealer and pilot training facility. "It felt like I had two engines under me. It was quite a sensation."
With that added power, Robinson has loftier expectations: government contracts. That's right. Robinson Helicopter might go military.
The U.S. Army uses Bell JetRangers to train pilots because it is jet-powered. But it costs nearly twice as much as the R-66.
Peter Arment, an analyst with Gleacher & Co., said that Robinson's low-cost sales pitch might resonate with the Pentagon at a time when it is reining in spending. It could also benefit Robinson greatly.
"Exposure to the military brings stability to aerospace companies," he said. "You don't fall victim to the dramatic swings on the commercial side."
Even if the company doesn't get a military contract immediately, Kurt Robinson said he is confident that the company has a bright future.
"It may sound like the company is going in a completely new direction," he said. "In reality, we're just building on what's been there for all these years. We know what we're good at."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3469 on: Mar 27th, 2011, 08:19am »
Flawed Diamonds Could Store Quantum Data By Devin Powell, Science News March 25, 2011 | 1:01 pm Categories: Physics
DALLAS — Scientists have developed a new way to manipulate atoms inside diamond crystals so that they store information long enough to function as quantum memory, which encodes information not as the 0s and 1s crunched by conventional computers but in states that are both 0 and 1 at the same time. Physicists use such quantum data to send information securely, and hope to eventually build quantum computers capable of solving problems beyond the reach of today’s technology.
For those developing this quantum memory, the perfect diamonds don’t come from Tiffany & Co. — or Harry Winston, for that matter. Impurities are the key to the technology.
“Oddly enough, perfection may not be the way to go,” said David Awschalom of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We want to build in defects.”
One of the most common defects in diamond is nitrogen, which turns the stone yellow. When a nitrogen atom sits next to a vacant spot in the carbon crystal, the intruding element provides an extra electron that moves into the hole. Several years ago, scientists learned how to change the spin of such electrons using microwave energy and put them to work as quantum bits, or qubits.
In search of a more stable way to store quantum information, Awschalom has now figured out how to link the spin of a electron to the spin of the nearby nitrogen’s nucleus. This transfer, triggered by magnetic fields, is fast — about 100 nanoseconds, comparable to how long it takes to store information on a stick of RAM.
The technique has “a fidelity of 85 to 95 percent,” Awschalom said March 22 in Dallas at a meeting for the American Physical Society.
In contrast to some other quantum systems under development, which require temperatures close to absolute zero, this diamond memory works at room temperature. The spins inside the diamond can be both changed and measured by shining laser light into the diamond. This could make diamond an attractive material for scientists developing nanophotonic systems designed to move and store information in packets of light.
Unlike a diamond itself, this quantum memory isn’t forever. But it lasts for a very long time by quantum standards. The nuclear spin remains coherent for more than a millisecond, with the potential to improve to seconds.
“You can only do your quantum magic as long as you have coherence,” said Sebastian Loth, a physicist at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif. “If you have a lifetime of milliseconds, that lets you do millions of operations.”
In addition to stability, diamond may also overcome another hurdle that has faced quantum computing — it can be scaled up to larger sizes. In a paper published last year in Nano Letters, Awschalom developed a technique for creating customizable patterns of nitrogen atoms inside a diamond, using lasers to implant thousands of atoms in a grid.
Awschalom’s diamond quantum memory could also be useful for building large quantum networks. Currently, quantum information is transmitted by connecting, or entangling, qubits. This scheme is limited to distances of kilometers. Quantum repeaters could potentially use small chips of diamond to catch, store and retransmit this information to extend the range, enabling quantum networks to work over much longer distances.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3470 on: Mar 27th, 2011, 08:26am »
Movie Poster for Yuen Woo Ping's Martial Arts Film TRUE LEGEND
26 March 2011 by Venkman
Hey gang! Check out this awesome new 1970's style throwback poster to Yuen Woo Ping's upcoming martial arts film True Legend. For those of you who don't know Woo Ping was the kung fu choreographer of death on The Matrix films, Kill Bill 1 and 2, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Fearless. He was also the director of several classic martial arts films including Snake in Eagle's Shadow, Twin Warriors and Iron Monkey.
The movie was shown at Fantastic Fest last year, and I heard that it was pretty freakin' awesome, so this seems like a movie we can look forward to watching, especially if your a martial arts film fan.
Here's the plot of the movie:
Su Qi-Er (Man Cheuk Chiu) is a wealthy man living during the Qing Dynasty who loses his fortune and reputation as a result of a conspiracy against him. After being forced out onto the streets, Su dedicates his life to martial arts and reemerges as a patriotic hero known as the "King of Beggars."
The film is scheduled to hit theaters with a limited release on May 13th 2011.
Oh! and here's the badass movie trailer in case you missed it!
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3471 on: Mar 28th, 2011, 08:14am »
New York Times
March 27, 2011 For $1,000, Site Lets Celebrities Say It Ain’t So By SARAH LYALL
LONDON — Imagine you are a well-known person aggrieved by how you are portrayed on the Internet: the slapdash Wikipedia entry; the unflattering gossip item; the endlessly repeated story about how you cheated on your spouse when in point of fact you were blamelessly resuscitating a platonic friend who was choking on an olive.
Suing is too stressful and quixotic. Besides, it’s the Internet: how can anyone erase the inerasable? But courtesy of a new Web site called ICorrect: http://www.icorrect.com/ people who feel unhappy about “obvious misinterpretations, misinformation and what some might call total lies,” in the words of the site’s founder, Sir David Tang, can now attempt to set the record straight.
“The superhighway is jampacked with stops where at every place you’ll have mud thrown at you,” said Sir David, 56, a businessman, socialite and celebrity friend extraordinaire who is best known for founding the department store chain Shanghai Tang. “Can you afford to have it all stick and not try to clean it up?”
People concerned about their reputations can use the site to post as many corrections as they want, for $1,000 a year. Luckily, browsing through the posts is free.
Here is the actor Stephen Fry, rebutting a report that he dislikes Catholics. Here is the businessman Richard Caring, noting that he did not rudely fail to turn up at an important luncheon (it was a misunderstanding).
Meanwhile, Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, did not appear at a party wearing the same dress as the actress Hayden Panettiere; did not go shooting with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s son; and never declared that a burqa “is no more a threat than a nun’s habit.”
Sienna Miller would like to make it clear that she is not on Twitter. Tommy Hilfiger never said that he did not want black people to wear his clothes. And, despite what you may have heard, Viscount and Viscountess Linley were not sulking in a maritally discordant way after a recent wedding (they were, the viscount writes, “just waiting for our car”).
ICorrect went live this month and has about 35 founding members, or correctors, as they are called, plucked mostly from the pages of Sir David’s very thick book of contacts. Anyone can join, with payment and proof that he is who he claims to be; the site does not post items from nonmembers.
Sir David said that the site, apparently helped by a positive Twitter message from Mr. Fry, had 225,000 hits its first weekend. “It’s minimally designed to make sure that even the most stupid person can work it and understand it,” he said.
Although Sir David admits that it has been “quite a path to persuade people to join,” he has high hopes that someday ICorrect will be the world clearinghouse for corrections. “It’s my fervent desire to have NGO’s and big corporations like BP,” he said.
The new venture has been greeted with some skepticism in the British media world, in part because some people thought at first that it was a joke, and in part because many journalistic commentators are not naturally sympathetic to offended celebrities.
“As images of human desolation were beamed into our homes this week,” wrote Brian Reade in the Daily Mirror tabloid, referring to the Japanese tsunami, “rich and famous people were hunched over laptops alerting us to the grotesque injuries caused to their reputations.”
Stephen Pritchard, the ombudsman at The Observer of London, which has an actual corrections column, said in an interview that people who joined ICorrect risked drawing unnecessary attention to the very items they wished would go away. Also, he added, who is to say whether their corrections are in fact themselves correct, rather than fake alternatives they wish were true?
That is not the point. “We’re not here to police it or prove the veracity of what you post,” Sir David explained, “although we do make sure you don’t commit crimes by defaming people or inciting others to violence.”
The beauty of the site, he said, is that it allows the offending items to be viewed next to the offended person’s response, so that even lazy Internet users will be exposed to both sides of any given story.
”A lot of people simply look up Google and press a finger and lift whatever is in front of them,” Sir David said.
For example, he added, “If you say that Henry Kissinger bombed Cambodia illegally, you will have to do a bit of research before you find where he defends himself. But if he joins the site, he can say, ‘This was my reason, and it’s more fully explained on pages 85 and 86 of my autobiography.’ ”
Meanwhile, Mrs. Blair, who became a popular target for tabloid tales when her husband was prime minister, said that in a country where some newspapers made little effort to “get the basic facts of a story right,” the site was a welcome antidote.
”Anything which allows people publicly to correct factual inaccuracies in stories about them is a good idea,” she said in an e-mail message.
Of course. But on the other hand, one of ICorrect’s members is Bianca Jagger, and all you can do in reading her entries is sit back in dismay as the myths fall.
No, Ms. Jagger says, she did not go out with Pierre Trudeau, the former prime minister of Canada. No, Billy Joel’s song “Big Shot,” about a woman riding in a limousine with “the Dom Perignon in your hand and the spoon up your nose,” is not based on a bad date he had with her.
She also addresses the business about herself, the horse and Studio 54, revealing that, unfortunately, it was not as exciting as everyone thought.
As one visitor to the site, Laura LaRue, said on Twitter: “ICorrect is making me a little sad. Bianca Jagger did not ride a white horse half-naked in Studio 54. Sometimes a lie is more fun?”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3472 on: Mar 28th, 2011, 08:16am »
New York Times
March 27, 2011 Gates and Clinton Unite to Defend Libya Intervention, and Say It May Last Awhile By MARK LANDLER and THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates acknowledged Sunday that the unrest in Libya did not pose an immediate threat to the United States. Even so, he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Obama administration was justified in taking military action to avert a massacre there that could have altered the course of the popular revolts roiling the Arab world.
The comments by President Obama’s two top national security officials, made on multiple political talk shows on Sunday, offered a striking illustration of the complex calculus that Mr. Obama faced in committing the military to impose a no-fly zone over Libya — one of the greatest gambles of his presidency.
It was a rare joint appearance by Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton, improbable allies who started out with sharply different views of what to do about Libya but have converged in the belief that the brutality of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi demanded a military response.
Both officials acknowledged that the operation could drag on for months or even into next year.
Practically completing each other’s sentences, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gates projected the kind of unified message prized by the Obama White House. But that unity came only after a fraught internal debate, in which they and other senior officials had to weigh humanitarian values against national interests.
Their joint appearance laid the groundwork for a speech to the nation by Mr. Obama on Monday night, as the administration tries to answer critics in Congress and elsewhere who say that the president has failed to explain the scope, command structure and objective of the mission.
And the open-ended nature of the campaign drew fresh criticism from Republicans, including Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton said the allied airstrikes had scored early successes, sealing off the skies over Libya and averting a rout of the rebels by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces in the eastern city of Benghazi. Rebels are pushing Qaddafi forces back toward the capital, Tripoli, they said.
On the key question of whether Libya constituted the kind of vital national interest that would normally justify military intervention, Mr. Gates offered a blunt denial — one that hinted at the debate among Mr. Obama’s advisers about whether to push for a no-fly zone.
“No, I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have interests there, and it’s a part of a region which is a vital interest for the United States,” Mr. Gates said on “This Week” on ABC.
When Mr. Gates repeated that answer on the NBC program “Meet the Press,” Mrs. Clinton jumped in to clarify that the United States was obliged to act after allies like Britain and France, for whom Libya is a vital national interest, had requested that the international community respond.
“Let’s be fair here,” she said. “They didn’t attack us, but what they were doing and Qaddafi’s history and the potential for the disruption and instability was very much in our interests, as Bob said, and seen by our European friends and our Arab friends as very vital to their interests.”
For all that, Mrs. Clinton emphasized that the administration did not view the Libya intervention as a precedent. Speaking on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” she ruled out military action in Syria, where security forces killed dozens of protesters on Friday. She noted that lawmakers who visited Syria described President Bashar al-Assad as a reformer, in contrast to Colonel Qaddafi.
“There’s a difference between calling out aircraft and indiscriminately strafing and bombing your own cities,” she said, “and police actions that frankly have exceeded the use of force that any of us would want to see.”
Indeed, the administration has watched violent crackdowns in Bahrain, Yemen and other Arab countries without intervening. Only after Colonel Qaddafi launched a ferocious counterstrike against rebel forces did Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gates stake out their different positions.
Mrs. Clinton, hearing the growing chorus of calls for a no-fly zone, particularly in the Arab world, argued for a stronger international response. Mr. Gates, worried about the overstretched military getting entangled in another war, warned Congress about the risks and costs of a no-fly zone.
Mr. Gates said his remarks were not intended to derail the push for a no-fly zone, as many in Washington believed at the time, but to debunk arguments that it would be a surgical operation.
“I said, ‘Let’s call a spade a spade,’ ” Mr. Gates told reporters last week. “It was that a no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya. I think that was a pretty accurate statement. What I’ve tried to do is really just make clear what is involved in this, and that it is a complex undertaking.”
Officials close to Mrs. Clinton said she, too, made a point of telling Arab officials like Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, that a no-fly zone would require destroying Libya’s air defenses. She developed her views about no-fly zones from the 1990s, when Bill Clinton, who was then the president, worked with European countries to impose one over Kosovo.
The relationship between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Gates was cemented during the debate over Afghanistan, when they both argued for about 30,000 additional troops — the position that Mr. Obama would later adopt.
It has proved remarkably resilient, officials close to both of them say, weathering strains over the leak of confidential State Department cables from a Pentagon computer system and harsh public criticism of the military’s conduct from a former State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley.
Mr. Gates, officials said, was outraged when Mr. Crowley said that the military had mistreated Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is charged with giving cables to the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks. Mrs. Clinton quickly forced Mr. Crowley out, defusing any potential friction.
She and Mr. Gates will share the burden of selling the Libya policy at home and abroad, though with differences. When Mr. Gates was asked on ABC about NATO taking over command from the United States, he said, “Hillary’s been more engaged with that diplomacy than I have.”
Mrs. Clinton planned to travel to London on Tuesday to work out other details with Britain, France and other coalition members. Mr. Gates is just back from a trip to Russia, Egypt, Israel and Jordan, during which he encountered criticism by Russian leaders that the operation was killing civilians in Libya.
Mr. Gates said that the United States had no proof of civilian deaths from the airstrikes, and he made a startling charge. “We do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Qaddafi taking the bodies of people he’s killed and putting them at the site where we’ve attacked,” he said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3474 on: Mar 28th, 2011, 08:25am »
Wired Danger Room
Libya 2030: Lasers Vs. Tyrants By Spencer Ackerman March 28, 2011 | 7:00 am Categories: Weapons and Ammo
You wake up, 20 years into the future, as President of the United States, improbably. The dictator of a country with a lot of coastline is killing his people. You have a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing you to stop him. You also have a Navy filled with weapons out of Starship Troopers.
Thanks to research conducted long ago — that is, in the 2010s, before your Rip Van Winkle nap — you can shoot bullets at hypersonic speeds through your adversaries’ artillery, missile sites or infrastructure, from hundreds of miles away. From a similar safe distance, you can sink his ships with a crazy-powerful missile. And your ships, Marine vehicles, helicopters and planes should have the ultimate in geeky weaponry: laser guns. Fire at will.
These are all projects underway by the Office of Naval Research, the Navy’s in-house weapons geeks. ONR expects they’ll reach maturity within roughly the next 20 years. If Moammar Gadhafi manages to hold to power for that long, he’ll find himself facing weapons that are even more sophisticated than a missile that thinks it’s a drone.
Start with the super-fast bullet. By the 2020s, the Navy should have an electromagnetic rail gun ready — that is, a gun that uses a burst of energy to fire a 23-pound projectile (okay, maybe it’s more of a lightweight artillery shell than a bullet). And not just a little energy: a test this past December used 32 megajoules to send a 23 pounds of hurt 5,500 feet in a second, a speed of about Mach 8. By the time it’s ready to tear through enemy targets, it’s going to use twice that much energy to send a bullet hurtling to a target 200 miles away in six seconds. If this Stratfor map of the Libya fight is accurate, that’s about as far away as the Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi is from the besieged Libyan city of Misurata.
One challenge: outfitting the projectile with a GPS system that won’t melt from the intense heat generated by firing the rail gun. Dumb hypersonic bullets are not the greatest military idea.
But if the rail guns aren’t enough, that’s where the lasers come in. ONR tells Danger Room that perhaps the most applicable and realistic (!) weapons in its labs for a fight against the Gadhafi of 2030 are solid-state laser guns. They use crystals or glass to help generate their beams.
That laser tech comes in two varieties, explains ONR’s Peter Morrison, a veteran research program officer. The “bulk” or “slab” lasers operated by ONR use crystals — about half an inch thick and a foot long — to generate a beam of coherent light. Fiber lasers, the slab’s less-mature cousins, “pull” light through fiber optic cables for their beams. Bulk lasers are much closer to weaponization: the Navy’s tested them at “hundreds of kilowatts” — weapons-grade, in other words. The fiber lasers, which use less energy to operate, are barely in the kilowatt class.
And that’s a big deal for laser guns. Their purpose is to slice through steel. Right now, the auto industry uses fiber laser technology for welding and cutting. But since they can’t handle much incoming energy right now, their beams lose potency — what laser geeks call “fluence” — the further they travel. “The hope is that fibers, if they show what they currently show in trends, will actually perform better than slabs, if you get the beam quality and power level up,” Morrison says.
If so, they’ll have a ton of applications. By the 2020s, ONR will offer their laser guns to the Navy to put them on ships, helicopters, planes and ground vehicles. In the hundreds of kilowatt ranges, they’ll shoot “from long distances, potentially thousands of yards,” Morrison says, making them potent “offensive weapons on planes.” Lasers shooting beams in the tens of kilowatts are good for “close-range missions.” (By contrast, the Air Force’s Airborne Laser, with its poor track record, uses chemicals to generate its light beams.) As defensive tools, they’ll burn missiles, rockets, artillery and mortars out of the sky before an adversary reaches U.S. ships, planes or tanks. And they improve sensors and weapons guidance.
Downsides: Morrison says the packages housing the guns are likely to weigh “a couple hundred pounds.” That’s fine for a ship, and maybe a plane, but they’ll have to lighten that load if the guns are to fit aboard a helicopter or ground vehicle. Also, “you’ve got to be considerate about how much power it might draw, cooling it, and targeting,” Morrison explains. “How to direct a light beam onto moving target from a moving platform?”
But the solid-state lasers aren’t the Navy’s only laser tool. Sometime in the 2020s — after the solid-states are ready, ONR believes — it expects to have the mother of all lasers aboard a ship: a Free Electron Laser cannon. Unlike solid-state or chemical lasers, it doesn’t use any solid medium at all to generate its photons. Instead, a beam of electrons, passing over a series of magnets, do that work. It allows the laser to blast across multiple wavelengths, compensating for debris in the air that could diminish the beam’s potency.
Right now, the football-field sized Free Electron Laser at Jefferson Labs in Virginia produces a 14-kilowatt beam. It needs to shrink substantially and power up to a threshold of 100 kilowatts to protect a ship from a missile; and its program managers see it ultimately firing a megawatt-sized blast. That kind of power, which solid-state lasers are unlikely to produce, can cut through 2,000 feet of steel per second. Any adversary seeking to sink the Navy’s launching pad for all these other kinds of lasers will have to survive that high-energy piledriver.
That’s not all. Along with Darpa, ONR is working on a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile to sink enemy navies from long, long distances. The Navy won’t tell Danger Room the ranges of these missiles, launched from surface ships and subs, but Defense Industry Daily speculates that one variant of the so-called LRASM project will travel for 500 miles. That’s nearly the distance between Tripoli and the Navy base at Sigonella in Sicily.
Finally, Navy aircraft carriers — which, admittedly, aren’t being used in the Libya war — will one day be outfitted with an electromagnetic launch system to get its planes airborne. The system, known as EMALS, is way more efficient than the steam-powered catapults currently in use. By controlling the amount of energy pumped into the system, EMALS can launch anything from a fighter jet to a small drone. It’ll get easier, in other words, to get the airframes carrying the laser guns into the skies.
Even assuming that all these lasers, missiles, rail guns and launch systems can really be completed before 2030, the 2020s are still shaping up to be a trying decade for the Navy. “If you look at the ’20s, what is happening then is the growth that occurred in the ’80s in the fleet, where we were building multiple submarines and multiple combatants a year, all those ships age out in the ’20s,” warned Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, at a breakfast with reporters on Wednesday. It’s one thing to have Judge Dredd-style weapons, but unless there’s a shipbuilding surge in the next decade, there may be about 70 fewer vessels to put them on.
And to state the obvious, the best weapons in the world are no substitute for a strategy. But maybe future dictators will think twice about massacring their people if they knew they’d only be incinerated by giant frickin’ lasers. That is, if we’re not still fighting Gadhafi by then.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3475 on: Mar 28th, 2011, 08:30am »
Enthusiasts gather at 14th Aztec UFO Conference By Patrick Young Herald Staff Writer Article Last Updated: Saturday, March 26, 2011 8:46pm
Everyone has heard of the UFO crash site in Roswell, N.M., yet few know about another reported UFO crash that hit much closer to home, about 30 miles due south of Durango. Or so the legend goes.
It is this lesser-known crash that was celebrated Friday and Saturday at the 14th annual Aztec UFO Conference, bringing together skeptics and enthusiasts alike to ask the age-old question: “Are we alone in the universe?”
A fundraiser for the Friends of the Aztec Public Library, the group takes no stance one way or the other regarding the existence of alien life forms.
Saturday featured a full day of lectures from UFO experts, as well as guided tours of the Aztec UFO crash site.
Led by “Indiana” Judy Cowan, the 1½-hour tours took groups 12 miles northeast of Aztec into Hart Canyon, where it is believed a large spacecraft smashed into the ground March 25, 1948.
A volunteer at the Aztec Public Library circulation desk, Cowan has been leading tours to the site for five years.
“I’ve been told to relay that if you take any pictures, be sure to get a lot of sky,” she told a group before beginning the tour. “When those are printed, you may see some things you didn’t notice when you took the picture.”
A short hike from the parking lot, the nondescript site could easily be overlooked except for a simple metal sign detailing the crash and the subsequent secret military mission to transport the craft to the Los Alamos Laboratory.
Throughout the tour, Cowan recounted stories of the crash, some of which exist only in oral lore.
One such story involved a tall, blond alien who was found by two young Native Americans who were on a vision quest. They took the alien back to their village, where its injuries were healed.
Two years later, Cowan said, the blond alien disappeared at the same time as legions of spacecraft were seen flying over Farmington.
In fact, accounts of that strange event were well-documented in the March 18, 1950, Farmington Daily Times front-page story, “Huge ‘saucer’ armada jolts Farmington.”
“Fully half of the town’s population still is certain today that it saw space ships or some strange aircraft – hundreds of them – zooming through the skies yesterday,” the Times wrote. “Scores described the objects as silvery discs.”
Farmington resident Daniel Griffith and his 13-year-old son, London, toured the site for the first time Saturday.
“Whether you believe it or you don’t, it’s still fun,” Griffith said. “I dig stuff like this, and it’s cool when it’s this close to home.”
Despite living in the area most of his life, Griffith had only recently learned about the crash site. While Griffith has never seen a Martian, he believes it’s both “egotistical” and “shortsighted” to assume humans are the only intelligent life forms in the universe.
Organizer Katee McClure said the event isn’t about believing or disbelieving.
“We want to open up the conversation,” she said. “We want to present speakers so that people can make up their own mind.”
Even so, McClure, who has been involved with the event since 2000, was wearing a vest spotted with alien heads.
Overt believers in extraterrestrial life often seem to exist on the fringes of society, but if you ask McClure, they’re anything but crazy.
“It’s not a belief system, like bow unto the mighty alien,” she said. “It’s more people who are just seeking information.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3476 on: Mar 28th, 2011, 12:55pm »
All is right with the world.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 28, 2011 2011 White House Easter Egg Logo and Souvenir Egg Revealed
Today, the White House is unveiling the official souvenir egg and logo for the 2011 Easter Egg Roll. An image of the egg is below.
This year’s egg comes in four pastel colors – purple, pink, green, yellow – and includes the stamped signatures of the President and First Lady.
In a continued effort to make the Easter Egg Roll more environmentally friendly, all eggs have again been crafted in the United States from Forest Stewardship Council-certified hardwood. The packaging has also been designed to minimize waste and environmental impact, helping to create a ‘greener’ Easter Egg and Easter Egg packaging.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #3477 on: Mar 28th, 2011, 5:26pm »
Stuart Beattie to Write and Direct 'I, Frankenstein' The Lakeshore Entertainment project is aiming for a fall start.
3/28/2011 by Jay A. Fernandez
Stuart Beattie has come aboard the Lakeshore Entertainment project I, Frankenstein as writer and director. The filmmakers are looking to a fall shoot.
A Darkstorm Studios graphic novel created by Kevin Grevioux, I, Frankenstein pictures a modern-day world where the classic literary monster stands between humans and a host of other supernatural creatures looking to rise up and take over. Grevioux co-created the successful werewolves-vs.-vampires series Underworld, also produced by Lakeshore.
Beattie most recently wrote and directed the Aussie-centric teen action drama Tomorrow, When the War Began, which broke box office records in Beattie's native Australia when it opened last fall. The impact of the film's war scenes likely drew Lakeshore execs to Beattie, who was making his directorial debut. The writer-director is expected to shoot back-to-back sequels to TWTWB, all of them based on a popular series of novels by John Marsden, but that has been pushed off into the future.
Creatures and effects designer Patrick Tatopoulos, who directed Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, was at one point attached to direct I, Frankenstein. Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg and Richard Wright are producing for Lakeshore. Grevioux, who first penned the adapted screenplay, will serve as an executive producer.
The CAA-repped Beattie also recently co-wrote G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Australia and 30 Days of Night. He has a screenplay for a new Tarzan feature in development at Warner Bros.
Lakeshore recently produced The Ugly Truth, Elegy and Untraceable.