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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bits and Pieces

PARTY!!!...“Bend over”…April Fool’s close call…bring on the Pink Slime…Wind versus solar…Bug out to Bugarach…Another seal release?
By Will Collette
World Party Day. No, we're not talking about some One World conspiracy. No black helicopters. Since 1996, World Party Day has been celebrated on April 3 (slogan: "Pass the food; turn up the music") to promote "the opposite of war" which "is not passive action or peace, but party." If you live near Charlestown's salt marshes and you hear loud noises and champagne corks popping, that's just the CCA Steering Committee celebrating the day in their secret club house.
Supreme Court says “bend over.” In classic 5-4 fashion, the US Supreme Court decreed that you may be stripped-searched for any offense before being admitted to jail. Safety outweighs personal privacy. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington.
This controversial decision stemmed from a case brought by a New Jersey man who was mistakenly arrested and “invasively searched” TWICE for not paying a court fine. 
In fact, Florence had paid the fine and even carried the receipt in his glove box, on the belief that he stood a higher chance of being stopped than most drivers, since he was a black man driving a nice car. Justice Kennedy wrote that police have good reason “to perform thorough searches at intake for disease, gang affiliation, and contraband.”
Close Call on April Fool’s Day. A 150-foot-wide rock, asteroid 2012 EG5, slipped between the Earth and the Moon on Sunday. The asteroid was spotted and reported on Friday, along with the message that there was no chance the asteroid would hit the Earth on this fly-by.
Pink Slime. It’s what’s for dinner! We have it from one of America’s most authoritative sources, Texas Governor Rick Perry, that “pink slime,” the hamburger additive recently in the news, is perfectly fine stuff and a great addition to America’s food supply. “Pink Slime” is a new profit-generator for the food industry and consists largely of otherwise inedible meat scraps that are processed into a pulp, run through an ammonia bath, squeezed into bricks and later added to real hamburger before it is sold or served to unsuspecting consumers. The official industry term for Pink Slime is “lean finely textured beef.”  Soylent Green cannot be far off.
Wind versus solar. Along the Massachusetts South Coast, lots of new alternative energy projects are underway. These include wind turbines, both on land and off-shore, and large-scale solar energy installations. Though it should never be an either-or choice, comparisons are being made between the energy potential for a proposed 35-acre, 6-megawatt solar installation being planned in Dartmouth and the new Fairhaven wind farm.
Solar projects tend to take up a lot of space – but that’s horizontal space, rather than vertical space as is the case with wind turbines, resulting in less NIMBY resistance to solar because they are less likely to be seen, or heard.
But solar energy installations tend to be less efficient than wind power. According to No Fossil Fuel LLC exec Sean Sullivan, wind turbines have a “net capacity factor” of 30%, compared to solar’s 16%. Net capacity factor is the actual output of energy the system produces as opposed to its potential output.
Both forms of energy generation are dependent on proper weather conditions.
Best Place for a December 21 vacation. According to this year’s end-of-the-world intelligentsia, the end of the world will occur on December 21 as “predicted” by the Mayan calendar. Despite all evidence to the contrary, it is hard to convince believers in a Doomsday Cult that maybe their information might be a little faulty.
In one variant on the December 21 Doomsday scenario, an alien spaceship is on its way to rescue the chosen few who are smart enough to know the location of the Doomsday bus stop. And the secret is out: the alien ship will be coming to the village of Bugarach in the French Pyrenees. The village of 200 is expecting that as many as 100,000 people will descend on Bugarach before the big day and may be staying a while. Or not.
Anyway, the Mayor of Bugarach, Jean-Pierre Delord, says he will have wine and cheese (no doubt at a price) for visitors. But he has also asked the French national government to station troops nearby, in case problems, such as mass suicide, should occur.
If the alien ships don’t arrive, vacationing Millenialists might like to check out the beautiful array of wind turbines that are nearby along the bluffs overlooking the Mediterranean.  
Alberta recovering at Mystic Aquarium
Charlestown may see another rescued seal release soon. Just a few days ago, we reported on the release of “Valentine,” a rescued harp seal, at the Charlestown Breachway state beach. The Block Island Times reports that the Mystic Aquarium sea creature rescue crew picked up another injured and beached seal and have taken it back to their infirmary for healing and rehabilitation.
The young female grey seal was found beached on Block Island’s Snake Hole Beach on March 17 in distress with wounds on its back. The seal’s rescuers called her “Alberta,” a name the folks at Mystic might use. Hopefully, “Alberta,” or whatever the Aquarium folks decide to call her, will get patched up and be fit for release in Charlestown soon.
The Republican Brain. The good news is that there is one. The bad news is that it is at war with science. According to a new book, The Republican Brain, data shows that while there is a correlation between public trust in science and political ideology, the only group to show significant changes in attitude toward science are conservatives. The book is based on work by UNC researcher Gordon Gauchat.
Gauchat tracked attitudes toward science correlated with ideology from 1974 to 2010. He notes the most marked declines in conservative attitudes occurred right after the election of Ronald Reagan and again after the election of George W. Bush.
The data shows that liberals have the greatest trust in science and that trust has held steady during the study period. Moderates tend to have a low trust in science. Their attitudes have remained almost steady during the study period, with a slight trend toward increased trust.
Conservatives’ trust in science has gone through erratic swings, but mostly on a downward slope.
Gauchat also noted the “smart idiot” effect:
“…conservatives with high school degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees all experienced greater distrust in science over time and these declines are statistically significant. In addition, a comparison of predicted probabilities indicates that conservatives with college degrees decline more quickly than those with only a high school degree. These results are quite profound, because they imply that conservative discontent with science was not attributable to the uneducated but to rising distrust among educated conservatives.”