Chief Justice Roberts Inexplicably Saves Obamacare

June 28th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

In the mega-blockbuster Supreme Court decision of our time, conservative operator Chief Justice John Roberts switched sides and joined with the Court’s four liberals to save Obamacare in a 5-4 victory for the controversial health care reform law.

In his dissent, Justice Kennedy wrote: “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.” So there were four votes to burn the entire thing to the ground.

Roberts characterized the requirement to purchase insurance or pay a penalty (the Individual Mandate) as being supported by Congress’s power to tax, rather than by the Commerce Clause.

The question everyone will be asking is WHY did Roberts “switch sides”? This went against my prediction, and I cannot yet fathom it.

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Curiosity Approaching Mars

June 27th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

Our science rover Curiosity is about 40 days from its August 5 landing on Mars. Here (via Bad Astronomy) is an awesome video explaining the landing sequence.

 

Tune in August 5.

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Supreme Court Primer

June 26th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

While we wait for the big health care reform decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court has handed down decisions on life-without-parole for minors, Montana’s flouting of the much-hated Citizens United decision, and Arizona’s strict illegal-immigration law. Slate has an ongoing roundtable discussion, a feature I have enjoyed in the past.

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Wind Energy Revolution?

June 20th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

Via Carl Franzen at TPM, will two Tunisians, Hassine Labaied and Anis Aouin, become household names?

Watch:

Their company, Saphon Energy.

This recalls wave-energy power generation, but without the difficulties of being under water!

Best wishes to Saphon Energy. I will try to post Labaied’s TED talk, scheduled for June 28.

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Today is the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812

June 18th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

Foreign Policy has a review.

This war is perhaps most famous for birthing The Star Spangled Banner.

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Teens & Adults: Don’t Text and Drive

June 7th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

A lot of people do it. It’s distracting per say, but everyone things they’re careful enough to manage it. It’s just a glance, right? But if you slip up and cause injury or death, “the book” will quite likely be thrown at you. Not only did you destroy lives, you destroyed your own (if you survive unhurt – as Aaron Deveau did in Massachusetts). He was 17 at the time. Now he’s been convicted and sentence to a year in jail, with more years suspended, and 15 years suspended license. He’s going to have massive problems with employment due to his record.

His defense claimed that texts weren’t the cause of the wreck, but he’d sent and received 193 that day. There was a 37 minute gap around the time of the accident, but it was found upon examination of the phone records that two messages had been erased during that gap. I don’t know what the explanation for this, but apparently it was insufficient to convince the jury of reasonable doubt.

I wonder if an option will come out for cars that will prevent your cell from working inside, except for emergency calls and preset numbers (ie home, not friends). Would a parent of teen drivers consider this a good investment? I wonder if teen accidents have increased since the proliferation of cell phones?

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My Transit of Venus, 2012

June 6th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

So Venus could be seen transiting across the face of the sun yesterday, starting in the late afternoon where I live in Mississippi. This happens only rarely, twice in an eight year period every 115ish years or so. I had only seen pictures in 2004, and decided to try for a more personalized experience this time around. I wanted to see it with my own eyes.

I knew that one can’t look at the sun (without special eye armor I hadn’t acquired) unless it’s the big dim orange disc on the horizon, so I tried to think of places I could actually see that from – I considered pulling over at the top of a hill on the highway, hand-waving my way past the desk and into the elevator to a 20-something floor conference room at a local hotel (would’ve been nice if they’d had a public event), climbing onto my roof, climbing the large sweet gum tree in my back yard (which I threaten to cut down every year when it litters the ground with spiky gumballs, but I do appreciate its shade), etcetera ad infinitum.

But the deal breaker in all of these was that my family couldn’t partake. My daughters are probably among the most astronomy-literate kids short of the children of actual astronomers. I wanted them, and my wife, to see this. So when I got home, we made a quick pinhole projector using a couple of paper plates and the tin foil in the cutout square. The sky was clear. We saw the disc of the sun, but it was too blurry.

I got the binoculars. After I figured out which way to turn them, presto, there was the sun, there was Venus. A tad of focus revealed a perfectly clear little black dot the size of a pinhead. The family had wandered by then, and I ran giddily hooting into the house to retrieve them. I grabbed some books to set the binocs on (so they’d be perfectly steady). The family liked.

I took some close ups of the setup and projection from a couple of inches away. I should post them. They came out well. As I fooled with the setup for a while, the sun lowering, some nice shadows appeared within the projected disc, pine needles in perfect focus, and what looked like a little multi-stemmed flower, I think some seed pod from another treetop. Best and one-in-a-million was the astounding appearance of a perfect little silhouette of a bird – which had to be flying directly toward or away from me – with outstretched wings flapping slowly like a little animation in the sun’s disc. About three seconds, and it was gone.

I went inside then and got the kids interested in the various online presentations, we alternated between Phil’s and NASA’s.

All in all, a great experience, the experience I had aspired to.

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Fracking Causing Earthquakes!? Oh Dear.

June 6th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

Gov’t scientists say their study indicates fracking is causing earthquakes. The evidence is pretty convincing.

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Viva Long Life! Via Stuff You Drink Anyway.

May 18th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

Wonderful, wonderful news. Thank you, coffee.

But wait, it gets even better.

104 here I come.

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5 Balls, 1 Strike, Y’er Out! Helmet Bounces, Beer Flies.

May 17th, 2012 by Bryan Lieb

An incident occurred in Major League Baseball. It is all mildly funny to the disinterested viewer. The moral of the story is that you should never throw a helmet when you aren’t sure where it’ll bounce. Also from my POV, MLB should automate umpiring as much as possible. Don’t miss the involuntary beer bath.

The Internet’s response is another in a long line of Hitler videos, a rather well done example of the genre. If you found the above amusing, you really must watch.

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