Will the Broadband Plan Broadside Niche Media?
After the Federal Communications Commission unveiled its national plan for the future of broadband Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers began hailing it as a success that will shape the future of everything from energy use to the health industry to education. But can these new guidelines only succeed at the cost of the diverse and participatory models of information access many of us hoped the FCC's guidelines would make more common?
Already the accolades are flowing in: Senator John Kerry called the plan "a roadmap to an America with the most robust, accessible broadband infrastructure in the world and the jobs that come with it, and we should settle for nothing less." Massachusetts Representative Edward J. Markey said, "the commission has given us a roadmap to a broadband future in which we consume less energy, improve the quality of health care through the use of technologies such as electronic medical records and ensure that every American has access to the tools they need to succeed." How, then, are we going to achieve these laudable aspirations?
In the days leading up to the release of the report, the ways the plan would suggest freeing up parts of the broadband spectrum had major broadband providers and broadcasters worried: they mainly feared the plan would mandate broadcasters relinquish certain spectrum ranges to be put to other uses. But the plan released on Tuesday ultimately had them breathing a collective sigh of relief. For now, so-called "spectrum-reclamation" will proceed on a voluntary basis, so that willing companies can give up parts of their broadcast spectrum to be used for wireless broadband.
As I wrote earlier this week, the FCC shying away from a significant restructuring of the way Americans receive broadband service renders the plan—despite its many other positive aspects—less than satisfactory. But as Scott Sanders and James Owens convincingly argue in this Editor & Publisher Op-Ed, even a comprehensive effort to achieve universal broadband access and net neutrality does not in and of itself translate into a social justice success. Sure, it would be a huge step, but at the end of the day a "democratic media system" would be just one tool to be used to achieve larger ends. But the crucial question, and one that Sanders and Owens rightfully ask, is "who should produce that system? Open access to a media system controlled by the status quo will not provide the necessary means for disadvantaged communities and social justice movements to change power relations."
Unfortunately, not only does the FCC's plan not lay the groundwork for a more equitable and representative media system, it could in fact consolidate the ownership of that system in even fewer hands. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn expressed her reservations about the national broadband plan in general and the voluntary spectrum reclamation in particular, saying that "the plan does not study the impact that a spectrum sell-off would have on women and minority-owned broadcast television stations. It is certainly possible, if not likely, that the stations most amenable to accept the buyout would be those few owners."
A rather surprisingly high 78 percent of Americans get at least some of their news from local TV stations, so homogenizing the ownership of those stations—no matter how rapidly the media landscape may seem to be changing to the casual observer—would affect the way more than three quarters of the country find out about the world. Therefore, we should take Clyburn seriously when she warns that "we may be doing the country a disservice if our actions left Americans relying on over-the-air television with only the major networks at the expense of smaller stations serving niche audiences who rely on them for their news and information."
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, user Methoxyroxy.
It's just the current cycle that involves opiates, but methamphetamine, cocaine, and others have caused the trajectory of overdoses to head the same direction
- It appears that overdoses are increasing exponentially, no matter the drug itself
- If the study bears out, it means that even reducing opiates will not slow the trajectory.
- The causes of these trends remain obscure, but near the end of the write-up about the study, a hint might be apparent
Through computationally intensive computer simulations, researchers have discovered that "nuclear pasta," found in the crusts of neutron stars, is the strongest material in the universe.
- The strongest material in the universe may be the whimsically named "nuclear pasta."
- You can find this substance in the crust of neutron stars.
- This amazing material is super-dense, and is 10 billion times harder to break than steel.
Superman is known as the "Man of Steel" for his strength and indestructibility. But the discovery of a new material that's 10 billion times harder to break than steel begs the question—is it time for a new superhero known as "Nuclear Pasta"? That's the name of the substance that a team of researchers thinks is the strongest known material in the universe.
Unlike humans, when stars reach a certain age, they do not just wither and die, but they explode, collapsing into a mass of neurons. The resulting space entity, known as a neutron star, is incredibly dense. So much so that previous research showed that the surface of a such a star would feature amazingly strong material. The new research, which involved the largest-ever computer simulations of a neutron star's crust, proposes that "nuclear pasta," the material just under the surface, is actually stronger.
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.
Scientists think constructing a miles-long wall along an ice shelf in Antarctica could help protect the world's largest glacier from melting.
- Rising ocean levels are a serious threat to coastal regions around the globe.
- Scientists have proposed large-scale geoengineering projects that would prevent ice shelves from melting.
- The most successful solution proposed would be a miles-long, incredibly tall underwater wall at the edge of the ice shelves.
The world's oceans will rise significantly over the next century if the massive ice shelves connected to Antarctica begin to fail as a result of global warming.
To prevent or hold off such a catastrophe, a team of scientists recently proposed a radical plan: build underwater walls that would either support the ice or protect it from warm waters.
In a paper published in The Cryosphere, Michael Wolovick and John Moore from Princeton and the Beijing Normal University, respectively, outlined several "targeted geoengineering" solutions that could help prevent the melting of western Antarctica's Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier, whose melting waters are projected to be the largest source of sea-level rise in the foreseeable future.
An "unthinkable" engineering project
"If [glacial geoengineering] works there then we would expect it to work on less challenging glaciers as well," the authors wrote in the study.
One approach involves using sand or gravel to build artificial mounds on the seafloor that would help support the glacier and hopefully allow it to regrow. In another strategy, an underwater wall would be built to prevent warm waters from eating away at the glacier's base.
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.
"As the oceans and atmosphere warm, melting of ice shelves in key areas around the edges of the Antarctic ice sheet could trigger a runaway collapse process known as Marine Ice Sheet Instability. If this were to occur, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) could potentially contribute 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) of global sea level rise within just a few centuries."
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