3 Trillion Dollar Spending Spree

Here, have $3,000,000,000,000 and spend it!

What appears to be an art project (or is it marketing?) is critiquing the cost of the USA invading and occupying Iraq. That’s right, it will cost $3 trillion to fight for oil, er, freedom. The website linked above is a challenge to see how well you can spend the same amount of money for the world that you want. It’s obviously aimed at Americans. Take a look at my shopping cart here.

$3 TRILLION isn’t just how much the Iraq War will cost our government, it’s how much it will cost our sputtering economy. When the Bush administration launched this war, they claimed Americans would not have to make sacrifices. They even cut taxes with the help of a Republican-led Congress, rather than raising them as had been done historically in times of war. According to Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes in their book The Three Trillion Dollar War, we’re fighting an unnecessary war on borrowed money. The war has caused our skyrocketing national debt. And more than anything else, the war has caused our recession.
Here’s how $3 trillion breaks down:

$526 billion — borrowed money poured into Iraq so far
$615 billion — total interest costs for taxpayers
$280 billion — to rebuild our military
$590 billion — disability benefits and health care for Iraq veterans
$1.5 trillion — estimated costs through 2017

Whale Songs to Warn Mariners of Their Presence

A system of buoys that will warn boats of the presence of whales has been put in place along a part of the east coast of the USA. The network of buoys listen for sounds that whales make and then the network will relay messages to boaters in the area to stay clear of the undersea creatures.

They have developed a cutting-edge underwater listening system to protect the creatures from their number one killer: ships. The Massachusetts Bay network can track right whales by their signature call – and in as little as 20 minutes warn mariners to slow if they’re too close.

The devices are also giving scientists unprecedented insight into how the creatures change behavior to respond to the cacophony of man-made noises in the bay.

“We need to listen to these whales” to save them, said Christopher W. Clark, director of Cornell University’s Bioacoustics Research Program, which developed the technology with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Clarks said an increasing number of pipelines, cruise ships, tankers, and construction projects are drowning out the whales’ soft calls, making it difficult for them to connect. Clark has evidence that the whales simply don’t “whoop” when the bay gets too noisy.

“In the world of right whales, we know it’s a noisy place to live,” Clark said in an e-mail. “Underwater [is] not much different than living on the tarmac at Logan.”

Bike Sharing Starts in the USA

Bicycle sharing has been around in most of the world for quite some time, now it is hitting the land of the automobile. The program is going to start in Washington DC. The symbolism here cannot be ignored.

A new public-private venture called SmartBike DC will make 120 bicycles available at 10 spots in central locations in the city. The automated program, which district officials say is the first of its kind in the nation, will operate in a similar fashion to car-sharing programs like Zipcar.

The district has teamed up with an advertiser, Clear Channel Outdoor, to put the bikes on the streets.

“There’s a lot of stress on our transit systems currently,” said Jim Sebastian, who manages bicycle and pedestrian programs for Washington’s Transportation Department. Offering another option, Mr. Sebastian said, “will help us reduce congestion and pollution,” as well as parking problems.

Grow a Heart

A team of international scientists have successfully grown heart tissue from embryonic stem cells. This is great news for people who have had all sorts of heart problems. Except perhaps a broken heart, for them perhaps a hug would work best.

More on the stem cell derived heart:

The researchers created the cells by supplying embryonic stem cell cultures with a cocktail of growth factors and other molecules involved in development.
By supplying the right growth factors at the right time, they encouraged the cells to grow into immature versions of three different types of cardiac cell.
The three cell types they created – cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells and vascular smooth muscle cells are each important constituents of heart muscle.

Hybrid F1 Racing

I’ve always thought of F1 racing as being good research and development for car companies. That line of thinking inevitably lead me to wonder why the cars still use gas when all signs point to hybrid automobiles in the future. I’ve been wondering this for years, and my brother has taken the brunt of my unrelenting curiosity around this.

Finally, F1 will be using hybrid technology in their cars.

The hybrid system that will be phased in is know as KERS, which stands for Kinetic Energy Recovery System. KERS doesn’t store as much energy as a traditional hybrid system, but it only weighs 55 pounds and the limited energy storage capacity is well suited for Formula-style racing.

The biggest difference between KERS and a regular battery-electric hybrid is that KERS stores recovered waste energy in a rotating flywheel. Instead of converting waste energy into electricity and than back into useful energy again with an electric motor, KERS simply transfers the kinetic energy to a ~5kg flywheel in the F1 car’s transmission. The energy stored in the flywheel can then be used by the driver by pushing a “boost” button.

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