Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Business Legacy of Steve Jobs

No one has done more to shape the consumer electronics revolution more that Steve Jobs and it appears he steps down from a company designed to maintain the momentum.  The best days of consumer electronics are yet to come.

We all know he would only step aside at this time because of the energy been drained from him by his ongoing fight with cancer.  It is unfortunate and there is little more to say when anyone in his prime is so challenged.

I have posted a couple of times that cancer is plausibly a solved problem choked by a grossly corrupted medical science establishment.  I now suspect that all victims are been short changed inexcusably.  It is why I am lobbing to begin a health restoration movement that taps the several strains of alternative care protocols as well as obvious empirical science.  Note that I am not interested in curing anyone, but am interested in restoring health to an optimum level to resist the attack of any disease.

Steve Jobs achievement is monumental and it is absolutely clear that he has created a better tomorrow with his actions.

The business legacy of Mr. Jobs

21:48 August 29, 2011

Revered by many, hated by some, but respected by most, the indisputable fact remains that Steve Jobs is the most successful business leader of his generation and quite possibly of all time. The numbers are impressive in themselves but the most remarkable aspect of his success is how it was achieved. Though he remains at Apple, the end of his tenure as CEO is the end of an era and an opportunity to try and grasp just exactly what it is he did and what lessons there are for all of us "trying to make a dent in the universe."

The 41 year old Steve Jobs who arrived back at Apple in 1996 had already had a lifetime's worth of business experience. Due to the success of the Apple II personal computer he had a multi-million fortune by the age of 25. Doubtless he felt that he could do no wrong. The next fifteen years however were a series of tumultuous mistakes and betrayals that saw Steve being thrown out of the company he created and suffering significant failures at Pixar, the computer graphics division he bought from George Lucas, and NeXT, the business computer company he created. These were crucial experiences in Steve's transition from entrepreneur to business leader.


Neither company could make a profit and in both cases the problem was hardware. Pixar were involved in the creation of very high-end rendering machines for their animations but they weren't selling any and the cost was killing them, or rather Steve, since they were operating solely off his bank account. His pride couldn't let them fail. Eventually Steve stops the hardware development, fires half the workforce, keeping only the Renderman (CG rendering software) programmers and crucially John Lassiter's animation department - the only department making any money.

At the same time the beautifully designed NeXT Cube computer was simply too expensive for individuals to buy and could not compete with the likes of Sun Microsystems and IBM in the enterprise market. In a devastating blow The COO of NeXT tried to sell the company from under Steve's feet to Sun. It didn't come off but the writing was on the wall. NeXT closed their manufacturing plant, losing 300 workers, and became a small software company, licensing the excellent NeXT operating system that they had developed in tandem with the hardware. This was the lowest point and by 1993 Steve Jobs had virtually retired to be with his new young family at the age of 38.

Big Bucks

John Lasseter at Pixar was recognized as one of the finest animators in the business and had won several awards for adverts and short films. Jeffrey Katzenburg at Disney tried to lure him to the "Magic Kingdom" but Lasseter knew he would get buried at Disney and wanted to stay with his team. Eventually Disney agreed a deal for Pixar to produce three full-length animated movies for US$27 million each with Pixar getting 12.5% of gross - a surprisingly poor deal - but Pixar and Jobs knew no better at the time. The first Toy Story script was rejected out-of-hand but Lasseter eventually turned it around to Disney's liking and by 1995 the film had been made. Steve actually had little to do with the running of Pixar at that stage but turned up at a preview screening to see Disney's Pocahontas and Toy Storyback to back. He very quickly realized what the team at Pixar had achieved and saw how the deal with Disney could turn into something very big indeed.

Jobs swiftly took over the reins at Pixar and brought on board a CFO with Wall Street credibility to prepare for an IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the Stock Exchange. It seemed a ridiculous idea - Pixar had never made a profit - but Jobs was convinced that Toy Story was going to be a massive hit and timed the IPO for a week after the film's release. Sure enough the film opened at $28 million and went on to gross $127 million. The IPO was a massive success and Steve Jobs was suddenly worth $1.5 billion. Controversially, most of the Pixar workers got nothing. Jobs went back to Disney and demanded a new 50/50 deal for the next two films - and got it. Incredibly, in 2005 when Disney boss Michael Eisner was finally fired, Pixar and Jobs engineered a "reverse-takeover" of Disney Studios that cost Disney $7.5 billion and put Pixar's Ed Catmull and John Lasseter in charge. Steve Jobs remains Disney's largest shareholder.

Apple 2.0

Apple in 1996 was in a poor state. Windows 95, Mac clones, an ageing operating system, a lacklustre roster of products and an equally uninspiring CEO meant that Q4 1996 was one of the worst financial quarters ever. Uncharacteristically Jobs had refused to take up the offer of a hostile takeover of the company by Oracle's Larry Ellison in 1995 but when Apple went shopping for a new modern operating system Steve managed to convince the board to buy NeXT for $400 million and he became an "informal advisor" to the CEO Gil Amelio. While Amelio stumbled and mumbled through his presentation at the WWDC of January 1997, Steve Jobs ended the developer conference with a remarkable one hour Q&A session in which the roots of everything we see today from Apple are plain to see. Within months Amelio had been sacked and Jobs agreed to take the position of "Interim CEO." Apparently he was concerned about being CEO of two public companies but one suspects that there were deeper psychological effects at play. It's as if Jobs felt he had to earn his place at Apple again and not just be handed the keys.

Steve launched himself into Apple's turnaround with extraordinary energy. A deal was done with Microsoft to end all hostilities, guaranteeing MS Office for Mac for five years and securing a symbolic $150 million share deal. Jobs famously remarked that the PC wars were over and that Microsoft had won. This deftly stopped the constant market-share comparisons and allowed Apple room to get quietly profitable. A new advertising company was engaged and a series of cool black and white photos of iconic people with the slogan "Think Different" were produced to play on the notion of Apple as the maverick underdog capable of changing the world. Jobs interviewed every product team and asked them to justify themselves. Gil Amelio had got the number of Apple projects from 350 down to 50 - Jobs got it down to 10. Life at Apple quickly changed - smoking was banned and a fantastic new cafeteria created. A policy of absolute secrecy concerning product development was introduced and strictly enforced. Porting the NeXTSTEP operating system to the Mac platform began and a product strategy consisting of only four segments was devised: Pro Desktop, Pro Portable, Consumer Desktop, Consumer Portable.


A quiet Brit, Jonathan Ives was working on a side project at Apple for a network computer. He wasn't happy and wanted to leave but Steve Jobs was impressed with his ideas and sensibilities and made him Head of Industrial Design. They worked closely together on the design of the "Internet Mac" for the consumer desktop segment and this became the original Bondi Blue iMac. It was launched in the same room as the original Mac was 14 years earlier in an occasion heavy with symbolism and emotion, and the clear message that Apple was back and reconnected to its roots. It was of course a massive success.

All Steve's experience and the lessons learned in the previous years had come to this point, and from this point the seeds of all Apple's subsequent successes were sown. He had seen a talent in Jon Ives and immediately put him in a position to exploit that talent. They worked on a design that was unique yet true to the physical essence of the computer, which of course at that point was the CRT inside. They developed a new plastic composition to take the heat of the processor while allowing them translucency and color. The machine had a cute face and a rounded form to make the emotional connection that was so important for the success of the first Mac but had consequently been lost at Apple. They also worked hard to ensure that the machine was actually affordable, in part by removing a bunch of legacy connectors and the floppy disc drive. A move that shocked the tech community but delighted customers - a common theme to come. The iMac was also noteworthy for introducing the mass market to USB, a connection technology invented by Intel that was frankly dying. With Apple committing to it as their only peripheral connector on consumer machines there was an explosion of activity by peripheral manufacturers wanting to standardize on USB. Here was a new phenomenon - a vast ecosystem of subsidiary manufacturers emerging around the popularization of a standard.

A few months later the G3 PowerMac was introduced in a new Bondi Blue plastic case, the iMac now came in five fruit colors and the brightly colored iBook was launched. The share price rocketed and in two years the turnaround had been achieved. Steve now entered what might be called the visionary phase at Apple.

At the beginning of the new century a number of significant things occurred; Steve now felt able to call himself CEO, the first iteration of Mac OSX was released, the "Digital Hub" strategy was conceived and the first Apple retail store was opened. The last two are particularly interesting in that they flew against all the received wisdom of the time. Everybody was obsessed with the Internet. PC's would become simple "thin clients" to remote servers and all computers would be bought on-line. Jobs disagreed vehemently. In fact he had to disagree because if that was indeed the future then Apple was undoubtedly doomed. Even with all the talk about market-share being irrelevant Apple was still stuck at 5 percent and needed a strategy to push consumers to switch from PC's to Macs. Steve positioned the Mac as the center of your "digital lifestyle," connected to your still cameras, video cameras and music players. Apple started to produce software to allow mere mortals to edit their photos, video or make a DVD. Apple also noticed, a little late in fact, how the craze for downloading music from Napster or from your own CD collection was snowballing. iTunes was created in just a few months to allow you to rip from CD's and organize your music library.

Shops and Pods

Jobs felt that although they were now making a superior product, PC users simply wouldn't get over their inertia and buy a Mac unless they saw and felt how well designed they were and how easy to use. The retail strategy was a risky and expensive one and Steve knew it. He drafted in retail heavy-hitters from Gap and Target and built a dummy store in a warehouse to get the meticulous design exactly right. At the same time an engineer, Tony Fadell, was trying to sell a small mp3 music player that he had invented and nobody was interested. Jobs immediately saw the potential and nine months later the beautifully designed white iPod with a unique click-wheel interface and a huge capacity was launched. It was quite expensive but nobody cared. It was exactly what people wanted for their new digital music collections and it became the new Walkman, selling massively across the world.

Truth be told Jobs and Apple were shocked by the numbers but as per usual they wasted no time in exploiting the phenomenon and all the logical steps that followed. An iTunes for Windows, a whole range of iPods and eventually the iTunes music store. Steve's experience with Disney was particularly useful in persuading the record companies that they really had no option but to offer their wares through the iTunes store. This symbiosis of hardware and software that only Apple could do was finally the magic combination that brought Apple products to the attention of the whole world. Mac market share began to increase and the retail stores started to become the most profitable pieces of real estate in the world. From 2004 on, Apple's profits rose exponentially.


By June 2005 the transition to OSX was complete with 10.4 proving to be the most solid and popular release. Apple had a problem however, the PowerPC processors it was using, made by IBM, were too power hungry and hot to be used in the smaller and lighter portable laptops that were becoming such an important market segment. In addition they were perceived as slow by the tech community. Jobs revealed to a shocked audience that they had been writing an Intel compatible version of OSX in parallel all this time and that Apple would be moving to an all Intel line up. It was a masterstroke. Life became much easier for developers wishing to port to the Mac and in any case you could run Windows on it if you really had to. Another psychological barrier to Mac ownership had been removed.


The iPod had re-kindled Job's interest in the possibility of a hand-held computer. He hated the PDA's of the time and had famously killed the Newton on his return to Apple. As early as 2003 Steve was playing with a handheld touchscreen that some of the engineers had programmed with the inertial scrolling and bounce that we see today. At some point there came a eureka moment when Jobs saw that the "killer app" of a hand-held could be as a phone. In fact you could make the easiest phone possible. The existing mobile phones were very poor in how their functions were accessed and most people just used them for calls. Once again Jobs saw a unique opportunity and the next few years were spent developing the hardware required, creating a port of Mac OSX to work on that hardware, and negotiating with the mobile carriers to ensure that the iPhone experience was unique. Plus of course in typical Steve Jobs style getting a better deal than any other handset maker.

The iPhone was launched in January 2007 and Jobs understood completely the significance of the event. If Apple got this right, then rather than fighting a decades-old battle of Mac verses PC they would be creating an entirely new computing market, potentially dominating it for years to come. The launch of course was an extraordinary success and again Apple were quick to iterate all the logical steps that followed that success - the App Store and eventually in 2010 the iPad. What's remarkable about the iPad is that although the operating system is exactly the same, the form factor and the context in which it is used have created yet another unique market segment that Apple continues to dominate.

Health and Legacy

It's no secret that since 2003 Steve Jobs has faced severe health problems. It's no secret either that these problems seems to have taken a dark turn since 2008 culminating in his resignation last week. An event timed to perfection in typical Jobsian style at the point when Apple briefly became the most valuable quoted company in the world. In many ways the past few years have seen Steve preparing Apple for a future without him. Tim Cook has been with Apple for 15 years and Steve's second in command since 2004 - there was never any doubt of his succession. Steve has instigated an internal "University" for the numerous Vice Presidents of the company run by an ex-Yale business professor to teach them the "Apple way." In one of his final acts as CEO he obtained planning permission for a quite extraordinary new head office campus building that should meet Apple's needs for at least a decade.


So what can Steve Jobs teach us about success? Well there really is no secret - the usual clichės apply - passion, vision and focus. In Jobs however these qualities are turned up to 11 and certainly in his early career caused much friction and upset to those around him. As some close to him have said, in later life he learned how to "ride the beast within" and become an extraordinary leader. Steve himself said, "you have to have a crazy passion for what you do because without it you will never put up with what's necessary for success". Steve is also famous for maintaining a vision of how he believes the world will be in five, ten or even twenty years time and planning accordingly, "we try to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is". Apple is an extraordinarily focused company and this of course comes from the top. Job's obsession with the slightest detail is legendary and Apple prototypes many more products that are rejected than are ever produced, "in a way we are prouder of the hundreds of products we throw out than the few we make."

In a few years Apple will very likely become America's first trillion dollar company and that will be due in large part to the "Apple DNA" that Steve Jobs has created, in the end his greatest triumph.

Stanford Scientists Find Way to Predict Sunspots

This is obviously good news.  Having a two day lead time and perhaps even a measure of intensity is going to allow detailed predictions and plausible defensive protocols that do not demand crash stop capability.  One really likes to be able to shut things down slowly when the big one erupts and two days is a darn good start.

It is hard to believe we will get that much better than this but one never says never.

It will still take a few years to both fully model and understand the apparent system and further time to fully exploit this knowledge, but we are well on the way to having an excellent space weather system in place.

Stanford scientists find way to predict sunspots

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Friday, August 19, 2011

This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept. 8, 2010 the active region erupted, producing a solar flare and a fantastic prominence. The eruption also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection into space. The eruption was not directed toward any planets.

Stanford physicists probing the sun's deep interior have predicted the emergence of sunspots on the surface a full two days before they appear, providing the first early warning of the violent solar storms that can endanger astronauts in space, disrupt electric power grids on Earth, and plunge cities into darkness.

Erupting sunspot regions release immensely powerful blasts of X-rays and clouds of ionized gases in two forms that speed toward Earth at millions of miles per hour.

Solar flares, moving at the speed of light, can intensify high-frequency radio communications and generate the shimmering northern lights - the aurora borealis.

But far worse storms called coronal mass ejections can send X-rays and immense ionized gas clouds called plasma into the Earth's atmosphere. At their peak, these invisible electromagnetic clouds form part of the solar wind and can wipe out power lines, warp Global Positioning Systems, distort satellite instrument readings and delay satellite launches.

One such event in 1989 disrupted a Canadian power grid so badly that circuit breakers tripped all over Quebec, and much of the province was blacked out for nine hours.

Until now, space weather forecasters have been able to warn power companies, airlines, NASA and others to prepare only when the sunspots and the ensuing solar storms occurred.

A longtime desire

Solar physicist David Hathaway at NASA's Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala., called the Stanford group's predictions "an important result."

 "It's long been our hope to see the storms of sunspots before they show up," Hathaway said.

 The experiments that led to today's report in the Journal Science were conducted by Stathis Ilonidis, a graduate student in physics at Stanford, and his colleagues. Analyzing signals from a satellite peering at the sun, they detected the acoustic signs of four electromagnetic storms that were being generated as turbulence 40,000 miles deep in what Ilonidis calls "the roaring ocean" of the sun's interior.

His calculations showed that the sunspots raced upward from storm centers in the sun's deep interior at speeds of more than 1,300 mph, Ilonidis reported. Within one to two days those bursts, churning the sun's interior like earthquakes, emerged as wide sunspot regions on the surface, he said. It was, in effect, an achievement in what solar physicists call helioseismology.

In each case, the physicists said they measured the time it took for the storms to emerge as sunspots. The method, they said, could provide time for forecasters to issue early warnings that episodes of bad space weather were coming, but it first will have to be refined and proved.

Using satellite data

The scientists gathered their observations primarily from a satellite named SOHO- the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory - that has been flying for 15 years as a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency. The satellite orbits around a point in space a million miles out between Earth and the sun, where the gravity of each body cancels out the other and keeps the craft on a stable path. Another NASA satellite, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, also provided data for one sunspot detection.

Ilonidis, who has been working on the project alongside solar physicists Junwei Zhao and Alexander Kosovichev for 10 years, predicted sunspots and the "minor to strong" solar storms that followed events retrospectively in 1996 and 1998, and in real time to one in 2003 and most recently last Feb. 12, they said.

Government solar scientists not involved in the Stanford work were quick to praise it.

Joseph Kunches, at the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colo., called the report "very promising," and said if it proves that sunspots can be predicted regularly, the Stanford team's work will be a major advance.

E-mail David Perlman at

Global Methane Riddle

Methane has attracted a lot of misplaced attention from the global warming crowd and this continues the tradition.  It is sort of amusing to see the arguments marshaled in the face of a major reversal.

I have argued before that methane simply does not matter.  It is produced everywhere by the soil in particular and then migrates directly upward out of harm’s way.  In time it is consumed in the troposphere.

It has always been irrelevant with no evidence of real accumulation anywhere.  That has not stopped debate however.

UCI studies find different reasons for global methane riddle

by Staff Writers

Irvine, CA (SPX) Aug 12, 2011

Two new UC Irvine papers reach markedly different conclusions about why methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, unexpectedly leveled off near the end of the 20th century. They appear in the journal Nature.

Both note that after decades of increases due to worldwide industry and agriculture, the tapering off of the hazardous hydrocarbon in the atmosphere - which began in the 1980s - was remarkable.

"It was an amazing mystery as to why this occurred," said earth system science professor Eric Saltzman, a co-author of one paper, which suggests that reduced use of petroleum and increased capture and commercial use of natural gas were the driving factors. Huh? What reduction?

A second UCI paper found that water efficiency and heavier commercial fertilizer use in the booming Asian farming sector provided less fertile ground for soil microbes that create methane, while at the same time increasing nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas.
Associate researcher Murat Aydin, lead author on the first paper, drilled into South Pole and Greenland glaciers to extract trapped air as much as a century old. The samples were analyzed for ethane, a chemical that has some of the same sources as methane but is easier to track.

"Levels rose from early in the century until the 1980s, when the trend reverses, with a period of decline over 20 years," Aydin wrote. "We find this variability is primarily driven by changes in emissions from fossil fuels."

The authors posit that replacement of oil with lower-priced natural gas could be key.

The second team measured and analyzed the chemical composition of methane in the atmosphere from the late 1980s to 2005. They found no evidence of fewer methane atoms linked to fossil fuel.

Instead, the sharpest trend by far was changes in the Northern Hemisphere linked to new farm practices, mainly the use of inorganic fertilizers instead of traditional manure and drainage of fields mid-season.

"Approximately half of the decrease in methane can be explained by reduced emissions from rice agriculture in Asia over the past three decades, associated with increases in fertilizer application and reductions in water use," said lead author Fuu Ming Kai, who wrote his UCI doctoral thesis on the work and is now with the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.

Martin Heimann, director of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, was asked by Nature editors to write a commentary on both papers.

"It is indeed very remarkably rare that two differing studies about the same subject come out from the same department - I can't think of a similar case. But I think both analyses are scientifically sound and in themselves consistent," said Heimann, lead author on the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. "At this time I would not favor one over the other."

Heimann has invited members of both teams to a September symposium at which, he said, "we will discuss the two studies from all angles."

Identifying methane sources is urgent. Research has shown that the fast-acting greenhouse gas is the second-largest contributor to climate change. Scientists around the world were heartened by the stabilizing levels, but there are now signs the hydrocarbon may be on the upswing again.

"We will need to reconcile the differences," said earth system science professor James Randerson, a co-author on the second paper. "The important thing is that we must figure out - as scientists and a society - ways to reduce methane emissions."

Other co-authors on the ethane paper are UCI's Kristal Verhulst, Qi Tang, Michael Prather and Donald Blake; Mark Battle, from Maine's Bowdoin College; and Stephen Montzka, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Additional contributors on the microbial paper are Blake and retired UCI researcher Stanley Tyler. Funding was provided by NASA, the National Science Foundation and the W.M. Keck Foundation

Vesta Puzzle

I do not know about you, but my expectations were pretty low for Vesta.   Instead we are given a nice problem in impact behavior from the very beginning. 

One quiet though thought is warranted.  This object has been impacted plenty of times, but in no manner do I get the sense that it has accumulated a lot of mass when we compare it to the volume available in the belt itself.

In fact, one presumes that the early solar system was just as crowded and the present theory supposes that natural accumulation did all the heavy lifting.  I do not like that theory anymore since a better alternative exists that avoids such orbital accumulation.  The better theory allows all accumulation to be done by Jupiter.  Jupiter is operating close to the rotational instability range that generates the ejection of emergents as the accumulation progresses. 

We have already written on the likelihood of Venus been a recent such emergent.  All the inner planets were earlier such emergents and perhaps some of the smaller moons and outer planets that are not gas giants.

Anyway, to our surprise Vesta is interesting.

Close-up of Vesta poses puzzle

Astronomers keen to look into strange hole on second-largest asteroid.

Ron Cowen

Published online 12 August 2011 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2011.480

The origin of Vesta's large crater and equatorial ridges is mysterious.NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Planetary scientists thought they knew what to expect when NASA's Dawn spacecraft returned the first close-up portrait of the giant asteroid Vesta last month. Fuzzy images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) taken in 1996 seemed to show that something had taken a big bite out of the asteroid's south polar region1.

The crater was posited as the source of Vesta-like fragments that populate the asteroid belt, and of a surprisingly large fraction of the meteorites found on Earth.

But seconds after viewing the first image, Peter Thomas of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, shot off an e-mail to other members of the team: "Looks like HST results were fantasy!"

Thomas later realized he had misjudged Dawn's location when he sent that e-mail, but his words give an idea of scientists' surprise. Vesta's huge depression isn't like those of most impact craters: it is ringed by a wall for only about half its circumference, says Dawn team member Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. It also has a large rounded mound in its middle, rather than the usual conical uplift.

Perhaps strangest of all is a series of troughs ringing the asteroid's equator, a feature not seen in any other body in the Solar System and which may be related to the impact and its huge scale.

If it was caused by an impact, the crater is shaping up to be one of the biggest puzzles of the mission, says Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Looking for answers

Russell has commissioned a task force of scientists on the Dawn team to solve the puzzle in time for two conferences in October.

New, sharper, images and spectra will help, as will maps of the asteroid's gravity. Dawn is now orbiting Vesta at a distance of about 2,700 kilometres, some six times closer than when the initial observations were made last month.

The task force will use the data gathered from this closer approach to hunt for evidence of whether the hole really was caused by some sort of collision. Tell-tale signs would include rock that has melted and resolidified on the floor of the depression, and a mixture of broken rock and melted material splashed out of the hole by the force of the blow.

Researchers have already come up with several possible explanations for the hole's strange shape. These all assume that the roughly 460-kilometre-wide crater was gouged out by a piece of space debris measuring 40-80 kilometres across.

One idea is that Vesta, which, at 530 kilometres across is the second-largest asteroid in the Solar System, was struck not at its south pole but midway between the pole and the equator. Because it spins rapidly, completing a full rotation in about five hours, Vesta would have reoriented itself so that the gouged-out region became the rock's new south pole.

This would be the most stable configuration for the damaged asteroid, says Schenk. "I don't think we've ever seen before a body with such a large impact and such a high rotation rate," he says.

In January, Martin Jutzi of the University of Bern in Switzerland and Erik Asphaug of the University of California, Santa Cruz, modelled the impact that walloped Vesta and obtained some surprising results2.

They calculate that Vesta completed an entire revolution while the crater was forming. As a result, the debris thrown up by the impact did not settle evenly around the crater, but fell in uneven clumps. This lopsided excavation might explain why a wall runs around only half of the impact site.

The cause of the equatorial troughs remain a mystery, says Asphaug, but they might be the result of material rushing back into the hole created by the impact. "We really don't know the physics when the crater gets to be about the size of the body [it strikes]," he says.

Russell is also hoping that Dawn will explain why Vesta is the brightest member of the asteroid belt, reflecting some 40% of the sunlight that hits it.

Images from the craft have already showed that some regions of the asteroid are brighter than average, and revealed dark streaks on the inside of craters. Compositional information recorded by Dawn's spectrometers may also show whether the bright regions are made from different material or whether they simply have a more crystalline structure, which scatters more light, Russell says. 

Thomas, P. C. et al. Science 277, 1492-1495 (1997). | Article | ISI | ChemPort |
Jutzi, M. & Asphaug, E. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L01102 (2011). | Article |

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Teen Acres

This story does not touch much on the details but it echoes my contention that young people including those who are prepubescent want the opportunity to contribute to general production and to get paid a fair reward for doing so.  The historic problem was that farm labor in particular was never properly monetized and usually left the bad taste of exploitation.

We have reached the point with computer support that it is completely possible to operate an internal closed economy using internal fiat currency around a farm based production unit in which it becomes plausible for both youth and the less active adults to contribute in many ways and earn financial benefits.

For that reason I proposed the deliberate linking on the condo tower living complex with its minute footprint to a working farm.  The natural synergy could be captured through its internal economy to the benefit of both.

The farm labor problem has bedeviled agriculture from the beginning.   There are times that the farm needs all hands on deck to get the crop in or to properly process a product.  Front ending the cost with cash has always been an issue easily overcome with an internal fiat economy that resolves naturally these issues.  Importantly, teens are an important part of that part of the farm economy.

As I have posted in the past, working out the details will be a challenge, but it will also assist in sorting out a large number of obvious societal inefficiencies while it is been done.  The modern age of the internet is allowing a new way of living to emerge and this item does throw down the one issue that has to be addressed first.  It is the importance of  the young to a lot of farming  that can be monetized but is presently opposed by flawed thinking from the past.

I suspect we will see more such stories emenrge.

Teen acres

26 AUG 2011 8:00 AM

This week's installment finds us in Portland, Ore., where I really wanted to make a Portlandia-inspired episode. It didn't quite happen, but there were plenty of moments that reminded us of the show -- like getting free valet parking because we were driving a hybrid. We also decided to visit an ultra-practical and amazing farm project called Janus Food Works, where we found young people from Portland getting paid to farm (it's about time) and selling the produce they'd grown. After filming with the kids, we created a meal with their crop for the Plate and Pitchfork farm dinner series. We felt it only fair to invite the kids to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Check out the video to see these young farmers in action:

The Perennial Plate Episode 67: Kids at a Farm from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Lager's Patagonian Roots

Rather a neat discovery and important in reminding us that many potential hybrids likely exist that we have not tried out yet.  What is clear is that lager beer is a completely new creation from two unlikely feedstocks that somehow married up.  It is an accidental human invention.

It reminds us also that the microbial universe is still loaded with local types whose capacity for travel is real and rather disconcerting.  A surprise melding is both possible and likely and even highly common I our modern world. Boots on the ground transports microbes globally today.

Of course the interesting ones are specialists and naturally geographically limited without some effort.

500 Years Ago, Yeast’s Epic Journey Gave Rise to Lager Beer

Released: 8/17/2011 1:20 PM EDT 

Embargo expired: 8/22/2011 3:00 PM EDT

Newswise — MADISON — In the 15th century, when Europeans first began moving people and goods across the Atlantic, a microscopic stowaway somehow made its way to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria.

The stowaway, a yeast that may have been transported from a distant shore on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly, was destined for great things. In the dank caves and monastery cellars where 15th century brewmeisters stored their product, the newly arrived yeast fused with a distant relative, the domesticated yeast used for millennia to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. The resulting hybrid — representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens — would give us lager, the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed by 15th century Bavarians and that today is among the most popular — if not the most popular — alcoholic beverage in the world.

And while scientists and brewers have long known that the yeast that gives beer the capacity to ferment at cold temperatures was a hybrid, only one player was known: Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the yeast used to make leavened bread and ferment wine and ale. Its partner, which conferred on beer the ability to ferment in the cold, remained a puzzle, as scientists were unable to find it among the 1,000 or so species of yeast known to science.

Now, an international team of researchers believes it has identified the wild yeast that, in the age of sail, apparently traveled more than 7,000 miles to those Bavarian caves to make a fortuitous microbial match that today underpins the $250 billion a year lager beer industry.

Writing this week (Aug. 22) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Portugal, Argentina and the United States describe the discovery of a wild yeast in the beech forests of Patagonia, the alpine region at the tip of South America, that apparently solves the age-old mystery of the origin of the yeast that made cold-temperature fermentation and lager beer possible.

“People have been hunting for this thing for decades,” explains Chris Todd Hittinger, a University of Wisconsin-Madison genetics professor and a co-author of the new study. “And now we’ve found it. It is clearly the missing species. The only thing we can’t say is if it also exists elsewhere (in the wild) and hasn’t been found.”

The newfound yeast, dubbed Saccharomyces eubayanus, was discovered as part of an exhaustive global search, led by the New University of Lisbon’s José Paulo Sampaio and Paula Gonçalves. Aimed squarely at resolving the lager yeast mystery, the Portuguese team sorted through European yeast collections, combed the scientific literature and gathered new yeasts from European environments. Their efforts yielded no candidate species of European origin.

Expanding the search to other parts of the world, however, finally paid dividends when collaborator Diego Libkind of the Institute for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CONICET) in Bariloche, Argentina, found in galls that infect beech trees a candidate species whose genetic material seemed to be a close match to the missing half of the lager yeast.

“Beech galls are very rich in simple sugars. It’s a sugar rich habitat that yeast seem to love,” notes Hittinger.

The yeast is so active in the galls, according to Libkind, that they spontaneously ferment. “When overmature, they fall all together to the (forest) floor where they often form a thick carpet that has an intense ethanol odor, most probably due to the hard work of our new Saccharomyces eubayanus.”

The new yeast was hustled off to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where a team that included Hittinger, Jim Dover and Mark Johnston sequenced its genome. “It proved to be distinct from every known wild species of yeast, but was 99.5 percent identical to the non-ale yeast portion of the lager genome,” says Hittinger, now an assistant professor of genetics at UW-Madison.

The Colorado team also identified genetic mutations in the lager yeast hybrid distinctive from the genome of the wild lager yeast. Those changes — taking place in a brewing environment where evolution can be amped up by the abundance of yeast — accumulated since those first immigrant yeasts melded with their ale cousins 500 years ago and have refined the lager yeast’s ability to metabolize sugar and malt and to produce sulfites, transforming an organism that evolved on beech trees into a lean, mean beer-making machine.

“Our discovery suggests that hybridization instantaneously formed an imperfect ‘proto-lager’ yeast that was more cold-tolerant than ale yeast and ideal for the cool Bavarian lagering process,” Hittinger avers. “After adding some new variation for brewers to exploit, its sugar metabolism probably became more like ale yeast and better at producing beer.”

Titanic Market Battle?

A lot has been written about the Bilderbergers and their speculative global conspiracy to concentrate corporate power.  A lot of this material by Ellen is along that vein and again tries to link market movements to a hand other than the invisible hand of the market.  Perhaps but perhaps not.

The market actions of the past week reflect the imbalance created by the soap opera acted out in Washington.  It carried on for long enough for a lot of folks to get seriously offside.  The resolution immediately caused them to pile back into the market, but over several days and producing market chaos as it all sorted itself out.

In short we had a mass of confusion that had absolutely nothing to do with what the press thought.

With impeccable timing S&P finally down graded US government credit, a move not followed by others.  This description makes it sound like an ego trip.

The really good news is that we got all this nonsense over with in August setting up a bullish quarter in the face of a lot of hand wringing.  See you in January a lot higher.

Titanic Battle or Insider Trading? The S&P Downgrade and the Bilderbergers: All Part of the Plan?

By Ellen Brown

August 18, 2011

What just happened in the stock market?

Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose or fell by at least 400 points for four straight days, a stock market first.

The worst drop was on Monday, 8-8-11, when the Dow plunged 624 points. Monday was the first day of trading after US Treasury bonds were downgraded from AAA to AA+ by Standard and Poor’s.

But the roller coaster actually began on Tuesday, 8-2-11, the day after the last-minute deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling -- a deal that was supposed to avoid the downgrade that happened anyway five days later.  The Dow changed directions for eight consecutive trading sessions after that, another first.  

The volatility was unprecedented, leaving 
analysts at a loss to explain it. High frequency program trading no doubt added to the wild swings, but why the daily reversals?  Why didn’t the market head down and just keep going, as it did in September 2008? 

The plunge on 8
-8-11 was the worst since 2008 and the sixth largest stock market crash ever. According to Der Spiegel, one of the most widely read periodicals in Europe:

Many economists have been pointing out that last week's panic resembled the fear that swept financial markets after the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Then as now, banks stopped lending each other money. Then as now, banks' cash deposits at the central bank doubled within days.

But on Tuesday, August 9, the market gained more points from its low than it lost on Monday. Why? A tug of war seemed to be going on between two titanic forces, one bent on crashing the market, the other on propping it up.

The Dubious S&P Downgrade

Many commentators questioned the validity of the downgrade that threatened to be another Lehman Brothers. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said in a statement:

"The Treasury Department revealed that S&P’s decision was initially based on a $2 trillion error in accounting. However, even after this enormous error was corrected, S&P went ahead with the downgrade. This suggests that S&P had made the decision to downgrade independent of the evidence.  [Emphasis added.]

Paul Krugman, 
writing in the New York Times, was also skeptical, stating:

[E]verything I’ve heard about S&P’s demands suggests that it’s talking nonsense about the US fiscal situation. The agency has suggested that the downgrade depended on the size of agreed deficit reduction over the next decade, with $4 trillion apparently the magic number. Yet US solvency depends hardly at all on what happens in the near or even medium term: an extra trillion in debt adds only a fraction of a percent of GDP to future interest costs . . . .

In short, S&P is just making stuff up — and after the mortgage debacle, they really don’t have that right.

In an illuminating expose posted on Firedoglake on August 5, Jane Hamsher concluded:

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Standard and Poor’s has a political agenda riding on the notion that the US is at risk of default on its debt based on some arbitrary limit to the debt-to-GDP ratio. There is no sound basis for that limit, or for S&P’s insistence on at least a $4 trillion down payment on debt reduction, any more than there is for the crackpot notion that a non-crazy US can be forced to default on its debt. . . .

It’s time the media and Congress started asking Standard and Poors what their political agenda is and whom it serves.

Who Drove the S&P Agenda?

Jason Schwarz shed light on this question in an article on Seeking Alpha titled
 “The Rise of Financial Terrorism”. Hewrote:

[A]fter the market close on Friday August 5th, we received word that S&P CEO Deven Sharma
 had taken control of the ratings agency and personally led the push for a U.S. downgrade. There is a lot of evidence that he has deliberately tried to trash the U.S. economy. Even after discovering that the S&P debt calculations were off by $2 trillion, Sharma made the decision to go ahead with the unethical downgrade. This is a guy who was a key contributor at the 2009 Bilderberg Summit that organized 120 of the world's richest men and women to push for an end to the dollar as the global reserve currency.

[T]hrough his writings on “competitive strategy” S&P CEO Sharma considers the United States the PROBLEM in today’s world, operating with what he implies is an unfair and reckless advantage. The brutal reality is that for "globalization" to succeed the United States must be torn asunder . . .

Also named by Schwarz as a suspect in the market manipulations was Michel Barnier, head of European Regulation. Barnier triggered an alarming 513-point drop in the Dow on August 4, when he blocked the plan of Hans Hoogervorst,
newly appointed Chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board, to save Europe by adopting a new rule called IFRS 9. The rule would have eliminated mark-to-market accounting of sovereign debt from European bank balance sheets. Schwarz writes:

We all should be experts on the dangers of mark-to-market accounting after observing the U.S. banking crisis of 2008/2009 and the Great Depression in the 1930s. Mark-to-market was repealed at 8:45 a.m on April 2, 2009, which finally put a stop to the short term liquidity crisis and at the same time ushered in a stock market recovery. Banks no longer had to raise capital as long term stability was brought back to the system. The exact same scenario would have happened in 2011 Europe under Hoogervorst's plan. Without the threat of failure by those banks who hold high amounts of euro sovereign debt, investors would be free to move on from the European crisis and the stock market could resume its fundamental course.

Schwarz notes that Barnier, like Sharma, was a
 confirmed attendee at past Bilderberger conferences. What, then, is the agenda of the Bilderbergers?

The One World Company

Daniel Estulin, noted expert on the Bilderbergers, describes that secretive globalist group
 as “a medium of bringing together financial institutions which are the world’s most powerful and most predatory financial interests.” Writing in June 2011, he said:

Bilderberg isn’t a secret society. . . . It’s a meeting of people who represent a certain ideology. . . . Not OWG [One World Government] or NWO [New World Order]
 as too many people mistakenly believe. Rather, the ideology is of a ONE WORLD COMPANY LIMITED.

It seems the Bilderbergers are less interested in governing the world than in owning the world. The “world company” was a term first used at a Bilderberger meeting in Canada in 1968 by George Ball,
 U.S. Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs and a managing director of banking giants Lehman Brothers and Kuhn Loeb. The world company was to be a new form of colonialism, in which global assets would be acquired by economic rather than military coercion. The company would extend across national boundaries, aggressively engaging in mergers and acquisitions until the assets of the world were subsumed under one privately-owned corporation, with nation-states subservient to a private international central banking system.  

 Estulin continues:

The idea behind each and every Bilderberg meeting is to create what they themselves call THE ARISTOCRACY OF PURPOSE between European and North American elites on the best way to manage the planet. In other words, the creation of a global network of giant cartels, more powerful than any nation on Earth, destined to control the necessities of life of the rest of humanity.

. . . This explains what George Ball . . . said back in 1968, at a Bilderberg meeting in Canada: “Where does one find a legitimate base for the power of corporate management to make decisions that can profoundly affect the economic life of nations to whose governments they have only limited responsibility?”

That base of power was found in the private global banking system. Estulin goes on:

The problem with today’s system is that the world is run by monetary systems, not by national credit systems. . . . [Y]ou don’t want a monetary system to run the world. You want sovereign nation-states to have their own credit systems, which is the system of their currency. . . . [T]he possibility of productive, non-inflationary credit creation by the state, which is firmly stated in the US Constitution, was excluded by Maastricht [the Treaty of the European Union] as a method of determining economic and financial policy.

The world company acquires assets by preventing governments from issuing their own currencies and credit. Money is created instead by banks as loans at interest. The debts inexorably grow, since more is always owed back than was created in the original loans. 
 (For more on this, see here.) If currencies are not allowed to expand to meet increased costs and growth, the inevitable result is a wave of bankruptcies, foreclosures, and sales of assets at firesale prices. Sales to whom?  To the “world company.” 

Battle of the Titans

If that was the plan behind the market assaults on August 4 and August 8, however, it evidently failed.
 What turned the market around, according to Der Spiegel, was the European Central Bank, which saved the day by embarking on a program of buying Spanish and Italian bonds. Sidestepping the Maastricht Treaty, the ECB said it would engage in the equivalent of “quantitative easing,” purchasing bonds with money created with accounting entries on its books.  It had done this earlier with Greek and Irish sovereign debt but had resisted doing it with Spanish and Italian bonds, which were much larger obligations. On Tuesday, August 16, the ECB announced that it was engaging in a record $32 billion bond-buying spree in an attempt to appease the markets and save the Eurozone from collapse.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was also expected to come through with another round of quantitative easing, but his speech on August 9 made no mention of QE3. As blogger Jesse Livermore summarized the market’s response:
 . . [T]he markets sold off rather rapidly as no announcement was made about
  QE3. . . . It wasn’t until . . . the last 75 min of market activity [that] the DJIA gained 639 pts to close at a day high of 11,242. That begs the question, where did that injection of capital come from? The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets? Or did the “policy tools” to promote price stability by any chance include the next round of Quantitative Easing unannounced?
Was that QE3 Incognito, Ben?

Titanic Battle or Insider Trading?

That leaves the question, why the suspicious downgrade on August 5, AFTER the government had made major concessions just to avoid default, and despite the embarrassing revelation that S&P’s figures were off by $2 trillion? Suspicious bloggers have pointed out that Lehman Brothers was brought down by a massive bear raid on 9-11-08, echoing the disaster of 9-11-01; that the S&P downgrade hit the market on 8-8-11; and that the S&P fell exactly 6.66% and the Dow fell exactly 5.55% on that date.  In Illuminati lore, these are power numbers, of the sort chosen for power moves.

But we don’t need to turn to numerology to find a motive for proceeding with the downgrade. On August 12,
 MSN.Money reported that it “wasn't much of a surprise”:

Wall Street had heard a rumor early on that the downgrade was coming. News sites reported the rumor all day.

Unless it was all a huge coincidence, it's likely that someone in the know leaked the information. The questions are who and whether the leak led to early insider trading.

The Daily Mail had the 
story of someone placing an $850 million bet in the futures market on the prospects of a US debt downgrade:

The latest bet was made on July 21 on trades of 5,370 ten-year Treasury futures and 3,100 Treasury bond futures, reported ETF Daily News.

Now the investor’s gamble seems to have paid off after Standard and Poor’s issued a credit rating downgrade from AAA to AA+ last Friday.

Whoever it is stands to earn a 1,000 per cent return on their money, with the expectation that interest rates will be going up after the downgrade.

The Securities Exchange Commission announced on August 8 that it is
 investigating the downgradeAccording to the Financial Times, the move is part of a preliminary examination into potential insider trading. 

Whatever can be said about the first two weeks of August, their market action was unprecedented, unnatural, and bears close observation.

Ellen Brown is president of the Public Banking Institute and the author of eleven books. She developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles.  In Web of Debt, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” Her websites are  and