Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Large Hadron Collider creates mini Big Bang

Results from the experiment
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) succeeded in creating a minature Big Bang, after switching the particles used for its collisions from protons to lead ions.

The LHC recorded its first lead ion collisions through the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) on 7 November, producing an effect that has been closer than ever to remaking the conditions just moments after the universe was formed.

Up until this point, CERN had been using this energy-particle accelerator to collide protons, in order to find the Higgs Boson particle and find new physical laws, such as super symmetry.

Lead ions were used in this experiment, which are heavier than protons, meaning higher energy is necessary to circulate them, more likely to create the matter that the experiment needs.

Researchers hope these collisions will create a thick soup of matter called ‘quark-gluon plasma,’ the matter which existed just after the Big Bang.

Researchers will analyse the data obtained from the lead ion collisions for the next four weeks.

The LHC was launched in September 2008. It’s a 27-km long circular ring under the French Swiss border, located at about 100m underground.

It’s the world’s largest and highest-energy particle collider with about 9,300 magnets within it.

The LHC had caused a lot of controversy over fears the experiment would trigger a Doomsday event.

However, scientists said the possibility of the Higgs Boson creating micro black holes that grow and swallow up the universe would be more or less impossible, considering the small chance there is of these holes being created. They also said they would pop out of existence just as quickly, too.


At least we didn't all die.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hillary Clinton praising Christchurch's earthquake efforts

Hillary Clinton safe from the horrible NZ weather.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has praised the Christchurch community for its efforts in getting the city back to normal after the earthquake.

Council staff, civil defence workers and emergency service representatives were among an audience of about 500 people invited to listen to Clinton at the Christchurch Town Hall this afternoon.

Clinton shook the hand of Sam Johnson, the student leader who organised groups of volunteers to help in the clean-up effort.

The hour-long public meeting heard questions about a handful of people in the audience including a young student from Rangi Ruru who asked Clinton about the risk of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorist groups.

Former National government finance minister Ruth Richardson also stood up to ask Clinton how she thought the world would be in her grandchildren's time.

Clinton said it was "a very profound question'' which she wished she was smart enough to answer it comprehensively.

Clinton opened the meeting with a big "kia ora".

Like her early engagement in Wellington, the meeting was unexpectedly brought forward by about half an hour, without explanation.

The meeting brought teachers, academics, students, business people and others to the Christchurch town hall for a once in a lifetime opportunity to ask the secretary questions.

The first question was about Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiations.

Mrs Clinton opened the meeting acknowledging the difficulties faced by Christchurch in the wake of the Canterbury earthquake and praised the efforts of local leaders as well as Canterbury University students who used Facebook to gather a volunteer army.

She said the US sent its best wishes and was impressed by how the community responded.

"Americans admire your willingness to step up and do whatever is needed and do it with resilience.."

She also used her opening remarks to praise the work of New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan and referred to yesterday's Wellington Declaration, signed by the two governments, as a sign of the US wanting a broader and deeper relationship with New Zealand.

She also referred to the nuclear issue which has stood in the way of warmer relations between the two countries for the past 25 years.

"We don't agree on every issue ... and nuclear issues have divided us but we share a common goal."

Both countries were committed to creating a world without nuclear weapons, and there was an "enormous agenda" ahead of them, she said.

"New Zealand is highly admired by Americans who are intrigued by what you have built here, who are trying to understand rugby and the great attraction it holds and who are committed to learning more from New Zealand."


She was on a plane for an entire day to get here, and we had to go and let it rain on her.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Update: Record Lotto winner interview :D

Lotto :D
A pig-hunting Papakura father has today claimed New Zealand's $28.7 million record Lotto Powerball prize.

The winning Lotto Powerball ticket was sold at Mobil Papakura and is worth a total of $28,710,403, with $28,309,882 million from Powerball First Division and $400,521 from Lotto First Division.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, drove down to Wellington with family members from Auckland to claim his prize, leaving at midnight.

"I don't like flying, and I had a lot to think about, so the drive was a good way to clear my head," the winner said.

"I had only been to Wellington once before, and I went the wrong way down a one way street - so I vowed I wouldn't be back again. However, I made an exception to come down and get my millions."

The Papakura father initially checked his ticket on the Saturday night, but did not read the numbers very closely and did not think he had won anything.

"I chucked the ticket on the floor and it wasn't until I heard on the Monday morning that the Papakura prize hadn't been claimed that I thought to take another look at it. I showed it to my daughter, and we checked the numbers online. We both went crazy when we realised I had won the big one, she started crying and I started shaking.

"I could not even write my name on the back of the ticket as my hand was shaking so much," he said.

The winner did not tell his wife about their big win immediately, as she was at work on Monday and he did not want to distract her.

"So I picked her up after work, and asked her to shake my hand in order to meet New Zealand's latest millionaire! She started crying as well, and kept asking me, 'was it true?', the winner said.

The man says the win is almost too much to take in. "We have been down to our last dollar a couple of times this year, so winning this much money is amazing."

The family plan to sit down and have a family discussion about what to do with their prize money.

However, the winner does have one thing planned.

"I am a keen pig hunter, and like to get out on the weekends, plus I love diving and fishing. I have been too busy lately to get out much on the water, so I hope to have a bit more time now for my hobbies," he said.

The man plays Lotto when he feels lucky and only bought his ticket on impulse when he stopped for petrol at Mobil Papakura and saw a woman in front of him buy a Lotto ticket.

His win eclipses the previous biggest Lotto Powerball prize of $22.4 million which was won in October 2009 by a ticket holder from Manukau.


At least it went to somebody that deserves it. :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Largest Lotto prize in NZ so far claimed.

"The winner of Saturday's record $28.7 million Powerball jackpot has claimed their prize but their identity remains secret.

The ticket was bought at a Mobil service station in Papakura.

The Lotteries Commission says it has received a visit from the winner of New Zealand's biggest ever Lotto Powerball.

It is not known if the ticket, worth a total of $28,710,403, was bought by an individual or a syndicate.
NZ Lotteries head of communications Karen Jones said most people who win big tend to stay quiet for a while.

She said yesterday: "We haven't heard from anyone yet. It's not uncommon for people to wait a couple of days before they claim their prize.

"They can check their ticket in a lotto shop, but most winners who want to claim a big prize should come to our office in Wellington because we have to check the ticket before the money can be transferred into their account."

She said 1.5 million tickets were sold for Saturday's draw."

$28.7 Million Dollars.. Lucky person.
Literally everybody in New Zealand had gotten themselves a ticket for that draw, increasing the chanses of any of them actually winning anything.

The most I've ever won from Lotto was $32 and a free strike ticket, and that was a Christmas present from my parents.

Brothels in Taipei? Sure..

Taiwan Sex Worker lounging about instead of working
 Taiwan's government plans to allow sex workers to set up small businesses in the latest change to laws that had once forced the huge industry underground, the interior ministry said.

In a statement on its website, the ministry said it would consider brothels of three to five staff away from areas frequented by children. It will put plans to a cabinet committee by the end of the year.

The ministry ruled out earlier proposals to set up red-light districts or allow larger businesses due to concerns among members of its committee set up to study the issue that such measures would turn the sex trade into a regular industry.

Prostitution was legal only in Taiwans capital, Taipei, until 1997 when the city authorities made it a criminal offence to be a prostitute though not to patronize one.

The government began debating new laws two years ago after pressure from prostitute groups over the unfairness of the law. In 2009 it stopped punishing sex workers.

Bars and night clubs in older parts of Taipei still teem with sex workers. Estimates from activists put the number of people involved in sex-related jobs in Taiwan at 600,000.

(Reporting by Jonathan Standing and Ralph Jennings)

Sounds like I'm off to Taipei in the not to distant future...

Halley's Comet produces Moonlight Meteor Shower

View of the Moonlight Meteor Shower
A junior version of the famous Perseid meteor shower thought to have originated from the remains of Halley's Comet will hit its peak over the next week, but the light of the moon may intrude on the sky show.

This upcoming meteor display is known as the Orionids because the meteors seem to fan out from a region to the north of the Orion constellation's second brightest star, ruddy Betelgeuse.

The annual event peaks before sunrise on Thursday (Oct. 21) but several viewing opportunities arise before then for skywatchers in North America. [Where to look to see the Orionids]

The shooting stars are created by small bits of space dust — most no larger than sand grains — thought to be left over from the famed Halley's Comet, which orbits the sun once every 76 years.

Currently, Orion appears ahead of us in our journey around the sun, and has not completely risen above the eastern horizon until after 11 p.m. local daylight time.

The constellation is at its best several hours later. At around 5 a.m. – Orion will be highest in the sky toward the south – Orionids typically produce around 20 to 30 meteors per hour under a clear, dark sky.    

But skywatchers beware: You will be facing a major obstacle in your attempt to observe this year’s Orionid performance. As bad luck would have it, the moon will turn full on Oct. 23. Bright moonlight outshines fainter meteors, seriously reducing the number anyone can see.

The gradual build up to the full moon will hamper – if not outright prevent – dark-sky observing during the Orionid meteor shower's peak on Oct. 21.

The Orionids are actually already underway, having been active only in a very weak and scattered form since about Oct. 2. But a noticeable upswing in activity is expected to begin around Oct. 17, leading up to their peak night. 

"Orionid meteors are normally dim and not well seen from urban locations,"  notes meteor expert, Robert Lunsford, adding that "it is highly suggested that you find a safe rural location to see the best Orionid activity."

Damage control for 2010 

With all this as a background, perhaps the best times to look this year will be during the predawn hours several mornings before the night of full moon. That’s when the constellation Orion (from where the meteors get their name) will stand high in the northeast sky. 

In fact, three "windows" of dark skies will be available between moonset and the first light of dawn on the mornings of Oct. 18, 19 and 20.

Generally speaking, there will be about 150 minutes of completely dark skies available on the morning of the 18th.This shrinks to about 100 minutes on the 19th, and to about 50 minutes by the morning of the 20th.
This skywatching table shows prime Orionid meteor shower viewing times for some select U.S. cities.
In the table, all times are a.m. and are local daylight times.  "Dawn" is the time when morning (astronomical) twilight begins.  A "Window" is the number of minutes between the time of moonset and the start of twilight.
For example:  When will the sky be dark and moonless for Orionid viewing on the morning of Oct. 20 from Houston? 

Answer:  There will be a 50-minute period of dark skies beginning at moonset (5:16 a.m.) and continuing until dawn breaks (6:06 a.m.).

Perhaps up to a dozen forerunners of the main Orionid display might appear to steak by within an hour’s watch on these mornings, particularly on the 20th, the morning before the peak. It might even be worthwhile to try on Thursday morning, Oct. 21, although for most places, the moon will not set until just after the first light of dawn. 

Halley's legacy
In studying the orbits of many meteor swarms, astronomers have found that they correspond closely to the orbits of known comets.

The Orionids are thought to result from the orbit of Halley's Comet, as some of the dust that has been shed by this famous object intersect earth’s orbit around the sun during October.

There are actually two points along Halley’s path, where it comes relatively near to our orbit. Another one of these points occurs in early May causing a meteor display from the constellation Aquarius, the Water Carrier.

The tiny particles that are responsible for the Orionid and Aquarid meteors are – like Halley itself – moving through space in a direction opposite to that the earth.  This results in meteors that ram through our atmosphere very swiftly at 41 miles (66 km) per second. Of all the meteor displays, only the November Leonids move faster.      

Orionid postmortem
After the peak, activity will begin to slowly descend, although most of the meteors will be squelched by the light of the moon. Rates drop back to around five per hour around Oct. 26. The last stragglers usually appear sometime around Nov. 7.

It is indeed unfortunate that the Moon will likely obliterate most of the Orionids in the nights following the peak, but the viewing odds will be much better before the break of dawn on those mornings leading up to the peak. Almost certainly, you should sight at least a few of these offspring of Halley's Comet as they streak across the sky.

In the absence of moonlight a single observer might see at least a couple of dozen meteors per hour on the morning of the peak, a number that sadly can not be hoped to be approached in 2010. In fact, it appears that this year, fans of the Orionids will be uttering the same lament that the old Dodger fans in Brooklyn used to:  "Wait till next year!

 Source: http://www.space.com/spacewatch/orionid-meteor-shower-moonlight-interference-101015.html

Beloved Paul Henery Resignation.

Paul Henry 
Controversial Breakfast presenter Paul Henry has resigned amid an uproar over racial comments.

Just three weeks after Henry was named the People's Choice at the Qantas media awards, TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis accepted his resignation at a meeting today.

Earlier in the week Henry had been suspended without pay after asking the Prime Minister whether Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand was "even a New Zealander".

The situation escalated when reports emerged of Henry laughing at the name of Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

Ellis said the impact on New Zealand's reputation and the relationship between New Zealand and India had reached a crescendo and he commended Henry's decision to resign.

Henry has again apologised for his comments and said it was no longer practical for him to do the job he has "so loved doing". Read Paul Henry's full statement .

"I am astonished and dismayed that my comments have created a diplomatic incident," Henry said. "I walk the finest of lines and accept that I have inadvertently crossed it from time to time."

Henry has had support from thousands of New Zealanders since the scandal broke, and said he is saddened to know that TVNZ has had to suffer the consequences of his actions.

"I do not want to be the lightning rod for racial disharmony in this country," he said.

Ellis has apologised to the Indian community in New Zealand and India, and said he will be apologising to the Governor General in person. Read Rick Ellis' full statement.

"The reality is that his (Henry's) comments have split the community and damaged New Zealand's international relationships," Ellis said.

"Any suggestion of racism, whether intended or not, is unacceptable."

Ellis acknowledged that thousands of New Zealanders will be disappointed at the outcome, but said the issue has generated a divisive debate and there is no going back from that.

Prime Minister John Key told NZPA that Henry's resignation has brought "closure" to a "sad and regrettable" episode.