The Mars Phoenix probe has just landed safely on the polar region of Mars. The terrain exhibits "polygonal cracking"—it looks like it has been shaped by repeated melting and freezing of ice below the surface. If Phoenix's digging arm can detect that ice, it would be the first contact with alien water.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
In the hotly contested Democratic primary for US President, many supporters on both sides have focused on things they see as unfair. Inevitably, issues of race and gender arise. Some people have voted for Senator Obama because he is black and some for Senator Clinton because she is female. In both cases these voters hope their candidates will break through a glass ceiling and provide a role model for those to come. I think this is fine. Others vote against Obama because he is black or against Clinton because she is female. This is of course terribly wrong, and supporters of both candidates should decry both sins. But I think that the vast majority of people, such as myself, voted for who they thought was the best candidate, not for issues of race or gender. Obama has won a good fraction of the white vote and Clinton has won a good fraction of the male vote.
- Senator Obama is a thoughtful, talented candidate with a powerful message of change.
- The Obama campaign has excelled strategically at the large (50 state strategy) and the small (cool website).
- There are millions of voters who were waiting for a candidate like Barack. We existed before his campaign, he just energized us.
- Senator Clinton's campaign made two key strategic blunders.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Much of the world economy is based on science and technology. While there is a lot of appreciation for the latter--just look at the computer you read this on--the role of basic scientific research in creating that technology is often overlooked. Without research over the previous decades, current technology could not continue advancing at the same rate. Without basic research today, future technological innovation would be starved.
Sometimes the payoff is fairly quick. For example, something called giant magnetoresistance was discovered 20 years ago, and now it is used in most computer hard drives. (The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg for their discovery of giant magnetoresistance.)
Sometimes the payoff takes a long time. For example, the arcane theory of quantum mechanics was developed in the 1920's. Few would have predicted a theory needed only at the atomic scale would end up being important to the world economy. But most of our understanding of electronics, lasers, nuclear technology, and chemistry depends on an understanding of quantum mechanics. In fact, it has been estimated that 1/3 of the can be traced back to quantum mechanics.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Since early February, Barack Obama has been chipping away at Hillary Clinton's lead in Superdelegates. The 2008 Democratic Convention Watch Superdelegate Endorsement List has chronicled her fall from a lead of around 100 on Super Tuesday, to 7.5 today. But this tally excludes an important category of superdelegates called the Pelosi Club, which I explain below. When the Pelosi Club superdelegates are included in the tally, her 'lead' is reduced by 8, which means that
Monday, May 5, 2008
Ordinarily, I would say that the opinions of people around the world should not matter much in a US election. But after 8 years of George W. Bush's policies destroying our image, it is relevant that there is only one candidate who has a great chance to restore that image, Barack Obama. In recognition of that, here is a video endorsement of Obama from an Italian who is married to an American.
"I love the US very much... we live in a globalized world... when I am outside the US, I always want to defend it... It is time for America to restore its moral standing in the world... Barack Obama is the only one who can bring about that change"
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Former President Jimmy Carter previously strongly hinted that he supported Senator Obama. Since he did not officially endorse him, I did not add him to my Running List of Obama Endorsements. But now President Carter has said he that as a superdelegate he would not go against the will of the people--he would vote for the winner of the pledged delegates, who is all but certain to be Barack Obama. In short, President Carter has joined the Pelosi Club.
“It would be undemocratic if the superdelegates blatantly went against the decision of Democratic voters across the nation... Whoever gets the most [pledged] delegates ought to be the nominee.”
--Former President Jimmy Carter [source]