Cool new type of laser?

Since we haven’t covered any really cool laser news in a while, it’s time to throw out our shark-powered story-hounds (and yes, I recognize the incongruity of that analogy) and see what pops up.

Looks here like there is a story out on a new type of laser. While studying laser generation from a device called a quantum cascade laser, scientists noticed that a secondary laser with some unusual properties was generated.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 22, 2008) — A Princeton-led team of researchers has discovered an entirely new mechanism for making common electronic materials emit laser beams. The finding could lead to lasers that operate more efficiently and at higher temperatures than existing devices, and find applications in environmental monitoring and medical diagnostics.

In particular, this new type of laser apparently requires less energy to produce than a traditional laser. While the story in question makes no mention of strapping these frikkin’ lasers to frikkin’ sharks’ heads, I suspect a lower power draw would come in quite handy in any world take-over attempts based on such a premise. Assuming the scientists in question can figure out how to create this secondary laser without the primary laser still being there, of course.

The new laser phenomenon has some interesting features. For instance, in a conventional laser relying on low momentum electrons, electrons often reabsorb the emitted photons, and this reduces overall efficiency. In the new type of laser, however, this absorption is reduced by 90%, said Franz. This could potentially allow the device to run at lower currents, and also makes it less vulnerable to temperature changes. “It should let us dramatically improve laser performance,” he said.

The device used in the study does not fully attain this level of performance, because the conventional, low-efficiency laser mechanism dominates. To take full advantage of the new discovery, therefore, the conventional mechanism would need to be turned off. The researchers have started to work on methods to achieve this outcome, said Franz.

So work is still underway. And has been for a while, in fact. Word from the brains behind this work is they actually discovered this effect sometime last year, but have been working on perfecting or improving it since then. My current suspicions are if this doesn’t end up in shark-based warfare, it will be part of the coming robot uprising. And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords (unless the zombies take over first).

[tags]Lasers, Frikkin’ sharks, Throw me a bone, Robots, Quantum something I don’t understand, Science Daily[/tags]

The top 5 cheapest – but unhealthy – fast food choices

The Top Five Cheapest–But Least Healthy–Fast Food Choices [Food]

This is one that highlights one of my weaknesses – unhealthy, not so tasty, but still “wants na0!” food. The fatty content of some of these makes them satisfying despite not being so good. I am talking, of course, of the 5 cheapest but least healthy fast food choices (via LifeHacker).

Dollar “value meals” at fast food restaurants may not be such a bargain when you look at the potential health costs.

Many of these low-cost menu items are packed with fat, salt, cholesterol and processed meat, notes The Cancer Project, a nonprofit cancer prevention organization. The group has produced a list of what it says are the five unhealthiest items sold at the nation’s largest fast food chains.

In particular, note that 2nd worst place winner comes from my diet-killing guilty pleasure palace Taco Bell.

In second-worst place, the 89-cent Taco Bell cheesy double beef burrito, with 460 calories , 20 grams of fat and a whopping 1,620 milligrams of sodium.

As this New York Times article points out, this bad eating can cause real health issues (no surprise there, though, right?). Health issues such as diabetes and heart disease are the walk-away loss from eating this way. I know I, for one, am trying very hard to get my eating under control and get rid of the 40 extra pounds I’ve had for a few years. But it’s hard, especially if you are a stress-eater like I am – I get stressed, I eat. But check out the full (short) list and see how much you are hurting yourself.

[tags]NY Times, LifeHacker, Fast Food, Unhealthy, Cheap, Health issues[/tags]

Chicago returns to its political roots

Hell yes! This, dear reader, is how a political corruption scandal should break. None of this suspicion of vote fraud, no question of people kept away from the booth, no question of “Well maybe he didn’t really do that.”

On December 9, federal agents arrested Democratic Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on charges that he had put president-elect Barack Obama’s senate seat up for sale–though not on eBay, which probably would have made things a lot easier. The Blagojevich portrayed in the 76-page criminal complaint is, according to the New York Times, a “[d]elusional, narcissistic, vengeful, and profane” man who has been under investigation for years. They’re not kidding.

You want corruption?  They did it old-school in Chicago.  “Here’s a powerful position.  How much you pay me to get it?”  Plain.  Simple.  Direct.  Like was done in Capone’s time.

The really touching thing about this scandal is we also get to find out what kind of family the Blagojevichs have.

111 a. On or about November 27, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH, his wife and daughters, and BLAGOJEVICH’s chief of staff JOHN HARRIS ate Thanksgiving dinner together. BLAGOJEVICH’s wife asked BLAGOJEVICH to “please pass the potatoes.” BLAGOJEVICH asked what his wife was willing to give him for “the f—ing potatoes” because “these f—ing things aren’t f—ing cheap.” HARRIS said that BLAGOJEVICH’s wife might donate $250,000 to Friends of Blagojevich in exchange for the potatoes. BLAGOJEVICH’s wife said she thought that was a high price for a spoonful of mashed potatoes and asked BLAGOJEVICH to carve the turkey instead. BLAGOJEVICH said “What am I, your f—ing butler?” and reminded her that “I don’t f—ing work for free.” HARRIS asked BLAGOJEVICH to consider carving the turkey in exchange for a helping of BLAGOJEVICH’s wife’s cranberry sauce. BLAGOJEVICH said he “hated f—ing cranberry sauce, you stupid f–k,” and reminded his wife that the “only reason we have this f—ing turkey in the first place” was because Senate Candidate 5 had personally delivered it to the BLAGOJEVICH residence that morning. BLAGOJEVICH’s wife said BLAGOJEVICH could take Senate Candidate 5’s turkey and “shove it up your a–.” BLAGOJEVICH said she could have the turkey “but if you feel like you can do this and not f—ing give me anything, then I’ll f—ing go.” HARRIS volunteered to carve the turkey if BLAGOJEVICH did not want to and the group returned to eating in silence.

Not only is he an inspiring, honest, upright public servant, he also is a loving, caring, good-natured provider for his family.  Most areas of the country have tiny little bribery or abuse of power corruptions going on.  In Chicago, they show the rest of the country what a government employee should do to abuse power and stamp out democracy.

[tags]Blagojevich, Old school corruption, Chicago, Capone’s way, Family man[/tags]

Would you take a job where you were paid *NOT* to work?

Would you take a job where you were paid *NOT* to work?

In recent discussions on the future viability of US auto manufacturers, one of the topics to come up was the UAW job bank program.

According to that document, the basic guarantee from the 1987 agreement is that no eligible employee will be laid off over the term of the agreement, except under the following specific circumstances. 1)Reduced customer demand, a maximum of 42 weeks over the life of the agreement (commonly known as loss of marketshare); 2)Acts of God or other conditions beyond the control of management; 3)Conclusion of an assignment known in advance to be temporary; and 4) Plant rearrangement or model changeover.

Eligible employees can not be laid off because of new technology (robots), sourcing decisions, or company-implimented efficiency actions. There are generally three states of layoff: temporary layoffs where workers know their return date, indefinite layoffs where workers get 48 weeks of unemployment benefits and a supplemental from their employer equal to 100 percent of your salary. After 48 weeks workers are reemployed by the Job Bank, at which time they receive 95 percent of their salary.

Now if you are like me, you’ve never heard of this program before very recently. Ultimately, what the program is used for is to keep paying some number of UAW union members a worker’s salary while they don’t work. This is part of a program implemented in the 80s as a concession by auto manufacturers to the union to get support for productivity improvement efforts. In other words, the union realized that improving worker efficiency would mean fewer workers needed, so brought in this program as a way to keep paying some of the people who lost their jobs as a result.

How much does this cost the auto manufacturers? Well, we don’t know for certain, but looking back a few years gives us at least some idea:

Continue reading Would you take a job where you were paid *NOT* to work?

Never doubt the ‘hoff

He is one of the greatest performers ever, wouldn’t you agree?  This is 211 seconds of heaven wrapped up in a sexy black spycoat and wintry fur…

I hear he is huge in Germany, although all the video I’ve seen him makes me think he’s really the same size as all the other people there.  Therefore, either everyone in Germany is huge, or Hasselhoff is the same size in Germany as when he is in the US.

[tags]I can’t stop this feeling, Ooga chakka, Hasselhoff, Huge in Germany, Ich bin ein Hasselhoff[/tags]

D.C. tries new method for “controlling” guns in the District

After losing the fight to keep the Unconstitutional gun ban in the District, the Washington D.C. council has now turned to harassment law in hopes of reducing firearm ownership. Rather than saying you just can’t own a handgun, the new law will require permit renewals every 3 years and included a mandated annual recertification of ownership with district police.

Since September, D.C. residents have been allowed to register magazine-loaded semiautomatic handguns as well as revolvers. The legislation banned magazines that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Yesterday’s legislation would also require firearms owners to take a safety course and undergo a background check every six years.

After the vote, council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) said in a statement, “Today’s vote puts the District at the forefront of using regulation to reduce gun violence, rather than the simpler, prior approach of hoping that an outright ban will be effective.”

I am not a firearm owner, but to me the 2nd amendment is pretty clear on the right of ownership. While my limited reading of the recent legislation seems to follow the letter of the law, I think there is some question as to following the intended rights protection inherent in the amendment. I have to question my visitors who partake of this right – doesn’t it seem that the proper way to reduce gun violence to implement much harsher penalties for misuse? Rather than making legal owners suffer under laws illegal users will just ignore, isn’t it smarter to make sure the chance of repeat offense is reduced? Increase jail time for theft of a firearm. Increase jail time for theft carried out via firearm. Tack on additional sentencing mandates for homicides carried out by firearm.

I don’t directly benefit from loosening firearm restrictions for legitimate users. I do, however, know that if someone tries to rob a McDonald’s or a bank while I am there, I want to have the hope of someone in the facility being a legal carrier. My interactions with those that carry suggests to me that I am safer with them around than with most police.

[tags]Firearms, 2nd amendment, Washington DC, Right to bear arms[/tags]