Friday, November 22, 2013

$700 Million And Millions More Yet To Come: A Webpage; Gamma-Ray Physics And A Note To The Granddaughters

Yahoo!News is reporting:
Technology experts say healing what ails the website will be a tougher task than the Obama administration acknowledges.
"It's going to cost a lot of tax dollars to get this done," says Bill Curtis, senior vice president and chief scientist at CAST, a French software analysis company with offices in the U.S.
Curtis says programmers and systems analysts start fixing troubled websites by addressing the glitches they can see. But based on his analysis of the site, he believes the ongoing repairs are likely to reveal even deeper problems, making it tough to predict when all the site's issues will be resolved. [For what it's worth, I've heard the same deep analysis by folks here in Starbucks.]
"Will it eventually work? Yes, because they have to make it work," he says. But it'll be very expensive."
Curtis and other technology executives say the site's problems are the result of poor management of its many working parts. They also believe, as Congressional testimony has revealed, the site suffered from a lack of testing once all its systems were in place.
The federal health insurance exchange website —which cost taxpayers more than $600 million to build, according to the Government Accountability Office— has been crippled by technical problems since its October 1 launch.
Since then, everyone from top White House officials to the contractors who worked on the site have been called before congressional committees to determine what went wrong and who is to blame. ["... from top White House officials...." I assume the president himself is learning HTML. There is nothing this guy can't do once he sets his mind to it. It sort of puts Michelle's garden into perspective which I think died due to sequestration.]
The White House originally promised to have the site running smoothly by the end of November. But at a news conference last week, President Obama said he couldn't guarantee that the site will be completely bug free by then. ["... by the end of November... " what year? Folks have got to learn to listen closely to spokespeople in Washington.]

A Note To The Granddaughters

This is so incredibly fascinating.

The Christian Science Monitor is reporting a massive gamma-ray burst but scientists are not yet able to explain it. It really helps to be watching re-runs of The Big Bang Theory every night to keep up with physics. LOL.

So, for the granddaughters.

Based on increasing energy:
  • alpha rays
  • beta rays
  • gamma-rays
Gamma rays occur naturally on earth from radioactive decay, but the astronomical event witnessed by scientists in the linked article above are too large to result from radioactive decay. From wiki:
A notable example is extremely powerful bursts of high-energy radiation normally referred to as long duration gamma-ray bursts, which produce gamma rays by a mechanism not compatible with radioactive decay. These bursts of gamma rays, thought to be due to the collapse of stars called hypernovae, are the most powerful events so far discovered in the cosmos.
Wouldn't it be interesting if this event was extraterrestrial intelligence doing the equivalent of earth beings doing atmospheric testing of hydrogen bombs in the previous century. That's what I think. Astronomers think this most recent event is similar to the collapse of huge stars, but I think it's "extraterrestrial intrastellar nuclear testing." Just saying.

Magnetic fields and these rays
  • Alpha rays: deflected by magnetic fields
  • Beta rays: deflected by magnetic fields
  • Gamma-rays: not (easily) deflected by magnetic rays
  • Alpha rays: particles with mass
  • Beta rays: particles with mass
  • Gamma-rays: no mass
  • Alpha rays: charged
  • Beta rays: charges
  • Gamma-rays: no charge
  • Alpha rays: 2 protons + 2 neutrons, identical to a helium nucleus (He +2)
  • Beta rays: high-speed, high-energy electrons (e -1) or positrons (e +1)
  • Gamma-rays: emitted by the nucleus or by means of other particle decay
  • X-rays: emitted by electrons outside the nucleus
Distinction between gamma rays and x-rays
  • gamma-rays: from the nucleus
  • x-rays: from electrons (outside the nucleus) 
Gamma rays, two sources
  • gamma decay: an excited nucleus emits a gamma ray almost immediately upon formation
  • collapse of hypernovae  
Again from wiki:
Another example is gamma-ray bursts, now known to be produced from processes too powerful to involve simple collections of atoms undergoing radioactive decay.
This has led to the realization that many gamma rays produced in astronomical processes result not from radioactive decay or particle annihilation, but rather in much the same manner as the production of X-rays.
Although gamma rays in astronomy are discussed as non-radioactive events, in fact a few gamma rays are known in astronomy to originate explicitly from gamma decay of nuclei (as demonstrated by their spectra and emission half life). A classic example is that of supernova SN 1987A, which emits an "afterglow" of gamma-ray photons from the decay of newly-made radioactive nickel-56 and cobalt-56.
Most gamma rays in astronomy, however, arise by other mechanisms. Astronomical literature tends to write "gamma-ray" with a hyphen, by analogy to X-rays, rather than in a way analogous to alpha rays and beta rays. This notation tends to subtly stress the non-nuclear source of most astronomical "gamma-rays."
Now back to the Christian Science Monitor story:
An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.
Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years for the processes driving the evolution of a burst from flash to fade out, according to four research papers appearing Friday in the journal Science.
The burst, known as GRB 130427A, dubbed a long-duration gamma-ray burst (GRB), is typically seen in the distant, early universe, Dr. Dermer said during a briefing Thursday. This one was much closer. And while typical long-duration bursts last from a few seconds to a few minutes, GRB 130427A put on its display for 20 hours.
The event's duration, relatively close proximity, and the range of observatories in space and on the ground that could monitor it at a range of wavelengths has provided scientists with an unprecedented opportunity to explore the workings of one of the more extreme ends a star can inflict on itself.
The encouraging news: Traits seen in the gamma-ray emissions from initial burst through the afterglow compare favorably to the traits seen in the behavior of gamma rays in more-distant, long-duration bursts.
GRB 130427A “topped the charts” in the amount of gamma-ray photons it released, the energy levels some of those photons achieved, total explosion energy, and its gamma-ray brilliance, added Paul Hertz, who heads NASA's astrophysics division in Washington. At visible wavelengths, the burst was the second brightest GRB researchers have seen.
I think the extraterrestrials are getting better at increasing the duration of gamma-ray bursts. 

For what purpose?

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