Dean Baker on the First 100 Days of Barack Obama
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He is frequently cited in economics reporting in major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, CNBC, and National Public Radio. He is author of several books, including "False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy" and "The United States Since 1980." His popular blog Beat the Press is a weekly commentary on the state of financial reporting.
Question: How has Obama done so far?
Dean Baker: It’s a very mixed picture. I mean, he’s done some things that are very big, very important. The stimulus package got passed in his first month in office. That was important. It’s a big step towards combating the downturn. He’s gotten healthcare on the agenda. He has plans in his budget to start on healthcare and he’s worked with Congress to have it included in the reconciliation process which means the Republicans can’t filibuster it. He’s also put forward ambitious plans on energy, which is part of the stimulus. So he’s done a number of big, important things: extended employment benefits, changed the formulas so that a lot of people that had not been covered previously are now covered and provided healthcare benefits. People who are unemployed will have 65% of their healthcare benefit covered by the government, which makes it affordable for a lot of people that could not otherwise afford health insurance once they’ve lost their jobs. So a lot of good things.
Where I give him bad marks is his dealing with the financial system. We had a really big problem with finance run amok. That’s what got us here. That’s what led to the downturn and it has to be reined in and he doesn’t seem prepared, at least he hasn’t seemed prepared at this point, to really take the hard steps to rein in Wall Street. And what I worry is that we’re going to get out of this, one, costing the tax payers huge amounts of money because we’re looking at spending at least hundreds of billions, and quite possibly over a trillion dollars to bail out the banks. And, two, basically, leaving them in shape, leaving them as they were being prepared to run amok again. So, I think that would really be unfortunate. It’s a really big drain to the tax payers. It’s a huge amount of money. We’ve had big fights over sums that were less than a hundredth as large, and then on top of that, not to wrestle back the sector when it’s really crying out for serious regulation. It really has to be reined in. Wall Street has to serve the rest of the economy. When you have an economy that’s being run to serve the financial sector, you’re asking for trouble.
Recorded on: April 28 2009
The progressive economist Dean Baker on the first 100 days.
The Spilhaus Projection may be more than 75 years old, but it has never been more relevant than today.
- Athelstan Spilhaus designed an oceanic thermometer to fight the Nazis, and the weather balloon that got mistaken for a UFO in Roswell.
- In 1942, he produced a world map with a unique perspective, presenting the world's oceans as one body of water.
- The Spilhaus Projection could be just what the oceans need to get the attention their problems deserve.
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.
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