Sunday, January 13, 2013

White House's Reply to the Death Star Petition is Great Writing

Remember that internet petition that the Government build a Death Star? Read the surprisingly humorous and clever reply.

OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TOSecure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.

This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For

By Paul Shawcross
The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:
  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?
However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.
Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.
Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.
We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.
We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White Housescience fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.
If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.
Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Is It Healthier to be Fat?


Don't draw the wrong conclusions from the NPR report; it is still better to be thin.  This was about a thirty year underfeeding study where very thin monkeys were shown to have the same life expectancy the control group. This creates a conflict with other studies, but I don't advocate this diet for people.

In the population data, there is an effect that relatively thin people arn't healthier than very thin people.  This blog discusses this topic in some detail: .

It is not hard to understand. People with chronic diseases like alcoholism and Alzheimer's and long-term cancer often lose weight as their various systems fail. So for older people especially, the thinnest people are not the healthiest. Just as important, people who smoke tend to be thinner.

People want believe it is OK to add a pound a year: it actually is unhealthy as you end up fat.

I don't have the answer to weight control, but it is not to ignore it. 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 Stock Market Increases Across the World

I have assembled the stock market increases for 2012, and I say increases because they are all increases. The collective stock market is higher today than it has been since the crash in 2008.

Leading the pack in 2012 is the German DAX with 29% increase and pulling up the rear is London at 5.9%. The American markets did poorer than others, but when judged over the 2011-2012 span they did better. Europe and China took big losses in 2011 that we did not see here. The Nikkei (Japan) and the Hang Seng (China) are up strongly, but are coming off weak 2011 performances.

What is best for next year?    It is a good bet for the laggards to bound ahead, so that bodes well for England.  Typically markets over-react and everyone tends to be average over time.