Au Revoir, Le Monde

It seems the nation that prides itself on doing things just a little differently has succumbed to the newspaper industry’s woes just like everyone else. The French paper of record has accepted a bid from three business tycoons in order to stay afloat. One of the paper’s new patrons made his billions in pornography, though the trio insists that journalists will maintain editorial control, says Paid Content: UK.


Le Monde has been an evening daily newspaper since 1944, when General de Gaulle ordered its establishment after the liberation of France. But now the country which most resembles European socialism, whatever that means, has shrugged off a courting gesture from the State. French President Sarkozy pulled a Berlusconi when expressing his displeasure with the trio’s private bid, instead offering Le Monde public funds to pay off its debts.

Italian President Silvio Berlusconi controls four of Italy’s five public TV channels: two privately as a media tycoon and two more under the direction of the State. Le Monde declined Sarkozy’s offer, preferring a group of men who lead liberal lives and who have ties to the opposition socialist party—besides the pornography producer, the trio who will now control the finances of Le Monde includes an former associate of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.

Le Monde has been plagued with crises both capitalist and socialist in nature, demonstrating how technological revolution respects no political ideology. The paper once attempted to raise its cover price, only to be stymied by the State, and now that circulation has dropped to the point of losing money, it was once again the State who (attempted) to step in.

Sarkozy’s bid, made officially through the state media company France Telecom-Orange, has now been withdrawn. A third official bid was made for the paper by the Spanish media group Prisa, which also owns Spain’s most popular daily, El Pais. Now Prisa is said to have withdrawn its bid as well. 

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Why "nuclear pasta" is the strongest material in the universe

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Accretion disk surrounding a neutron star. Credit: NASA
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The competition between forces from protons and neutrons inside a neutron star create super-dense shapes that look like long cylinders or flat planes, referred to as "spaghetti" and "lasagna," respectively. That's also where we get the overall name of nuclear pasta.

Caplan & Horowitz/arXiv

Diagrams illustrating the different types of so-called nuclear pasta.

The researchers' computer simulations needed 2 million hours of processor time before completion, which would be, according to a press release from McGill University, "the equivalent of 250 years on a laptop with a single good GPU." Fortunately, the researchers had access to a supercomputer, although it still took a couple of years. The scientists' simulations consisted of stretching and deforming the nuclear pasta to see how it behaved and what it would take to break it.

While they were able to discover just how strong nuclear pasta seems to be, no one is holding their breath that we'll be sending out missions to mine this substance any time soon. Instead, the discovery has other significant applications.

One of the study's co-authors, Matthew Caplan, a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University, said the neutron stars would be "a hundred trillion times denser than anything on earth." Understanding what's inside them would be valuable for astronomers because now only the outer layer of such starts can be observed.

"A lot of interesting physics is going on here under extreme conditions and so understanding the physical properties of a neutron star is a way for scientists to test their theories and models," Caplan added. "With this result, many problems need to be revisited. How large a mountain can you build on a neutron star before the crust breaks and it collapses? What will it look like? And most importantly, how can astronomers observe it?"

Another possibility worth studying is that, due to its instability, nuclear pasta might generate gravitational waves. It may be possible to observe them at some point here on Earth by utilizing very sensitive equipment.

The team of scientists also included A. S. Schneider from California Institute of Technology and C. J. Horowitz from Indiana University.

Check out the study "The elasticity of nuclear pasta," published in Physical Review Letters.


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Image: NASA
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"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.

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The most effective design, according to the team's computer simulations, would be a miles-long and very tall wall, or "artificial sill," that serves as a "continuous barrier" across the length of the glacier, providing it both physical support and protection from warm waters. Although the study authors suggested this option is currently beyond any engineering feat humans have attempted, it was shown to be the most effective solution in preventing the glacier from collapsing.

Source: Wolovick et al.

An example of the proposed geoengineering project. By blocking off the warm water that would otherwise eat away at the glacier's base, further sea level rise might be preventable.

But other, more feasible options could also be effective. For example, building a smaller wall that blocks about 50% of warm water from reaching the glacier would have about a 70% chance of preventing a runaway collapse, while constructing a series of isolated, 1,000-foot-tall columns on the seafloor as supports had about a 30% chance of success.

Still, the authors note that the frigid waters of the Antarctica present unprecedently challenging conditions for such an ambitious geoengineering project. They were also sure to caution that their encouraging results shouldn't be seen as reasons to neglect other measures that would cut global emissions or otherwise combat climate change.

"There are dishonest elements of society that will try to use our research to argue against the necessity of emissions' reductions. Our research does not in any way support that interpretation," they wrote.

"The more carbon we emit, the less likely it becomes that the ice sheets will survive in the long term at anything close to their present volume."

A 2015 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine illustrates the potentially devastating effects of ice-shelf melting in western Antarctica.

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