Center for Inquiry (Kinda) Dials Down Park51 Rhetoric
The secularist Center for Inquiry issued a press release on Friday headlined: "The Center for Inquiry Urges That Ground Zero Be Kept Religion-Free." The press release outraged many CFI supporters, including me. In the original release, CFI opposed the construction of an Islamic cultural center, or any other house of worship, in the "immediate vicinity" of Ground Zero.
The old press release ignored basic facts. The proposed community center, Park51, is neither a house of worship, nor in the immediate vicinity of the former World Trade Center. The center will be two blocks away from the Vesey Street side of the WTC footprint, and even further away from the Ground Zero main drag on Church Street. Park51 is about seven blocks away from the planned 9-11 Tribute Center on Liberty Street, just off Church. A quick glance at a map of Lower Manhattan should convince anyone that this whole "controversy" was ginned up. You can't even see Park Place from the former WTC site.
The other factual problem with the initial press release's exhortation to "keep" "Ground Zero" "religion-free" is that the area around the Twin Towers has never been, and will never be, religion-free (or strip club-free, or discount shoe emporium-free). This is downtown New York City, folks. The major Ground Zero tourist strip is Church Street, which backs onto the old St. Paul's churchyard. There's already an honest-to-goodness mosque about as close to Ground Zero as Park51 would be. I find it ironic that an ostensibly secular organization would buy into the idea that there's a magic zone around the former World Trade Center where city life has to be suspended forever out of reverence for the dead.
CFI has issued a new press release with the intent of clarifying its stance on the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan. Unfortunately, the new press release isn't much of an improvement over its predecessor.
In the new release, CFI reaffirms its commitment to religious freedom and asserts that there should be no legal barrier to Park51 from being built. That's nice. It's also little behind the times. The last potential legal impediment to building Park51 dissolved three weeks ago when the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously rejected a bad-faith bid to preserve the old Burlington Coat Factory at 51 Park Place as an architectural treasure for the ages. Mayor Bloomberg came out strongly in favor of Park51 three weeks ago.
In the new press release, CFI repeats its request that the debate over Park51 not be "politicized." I don't even know what that's supposed to mean. At this point, not even the most retrograde mosque-basher believes that any branch of the city, state, or federal government has the slightest power to stop this development. Yet the facts haven't put the slightest dent in the demagoguery. Politicians still have a First Amendment right to rabble-rouse around Park51. When they do, are they "politicizing" the issue, if they aren't proposing a specific law or policy to ban the development? This is a political issue, regardless. It's a question of what kind of society we want to live in. Do we free-thinking humanists want to fight for a free, open, tolerant society or do we want to join the Christianist pile-on whenever a more vulnerable world religion is on the ropes?
I'm glad the new press release explicitly rejects the insinuation that all Muslims are terrorists. Baby steps, baby steps.
[Photo credit: David Shankbone, Creative Commons.]
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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