Tea Party Power

What happened in New York's 23rd district is just the beginning. A recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters found that if the so-called "conservative base"—the people behind the national "tea party" movement—were to split from the Republican Party, they might actually win more votes than the more moderate remainder of the party. In a generic three-way race 36% said they would vote for the Democrat, 23% would vote for the Tea Party candidate, and only 18% would vote for the Republican.

The Tea Party candidate was actually the top choice among independent voters, with almost three times as many independents saying the would vote for the Tea Party candidate than would vote for the Republican. And a separate Rasmussen track poll found that 73% of Republican voters think their leaders are out touch with the party's base. It's no wonder Sarah Palin might consider running for president as an independent in 2012.

These results need to be taken with a certain grain of salt. As Christopher Beam points out, Rasmussen polls often seem skewed toward conservative results, in part because the "likely voters" who respond to automated telephone polls tend to be older and more passionate about political issues. And fully 22% of respondents said they were undecided. As Beam argues, it's unlikely that a newly-founded Tea Party would actually beat the Republican Party. Third parties tend to sound and do better in theory than in practice. As Rasmussen puts it, "it is unlikely that a true third-party option would perform as well as the polling data indicates. The rules of the election process—written by Republicans and Democrats—provide substantial advantages for the two established major parties."

Nevertheless, if the poll results are even approximately right, it's reason for the tea-partiers to flex their muscle. Breaking with the Republican Party would probably be disastrous, at least in the short term, for both them and more moderate Republicans. But the tea-partiers have a lot of leverage, and can certainly make the case that they should play a strong role in shaping the party agenda. The problem is that even if they win some disaffected Republicans back to the party they will also certainly alienate more moderate Republican and swing voters. While the poll doesn't show how a Tea Party would do against the Democrats in a two-way election, it's a good bet that the Democrats would win.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less