How a black hole really works.
Scientists in Garching, Germany, are closely watching a rare event some 26,000 light years away: a supermassive black hole in the act of devouring a huge gas cloud. It's providing the first-ever glimpse of how a black hole uses its massive gravitational power to pull in and consume interstellar materials—a little understood phenomenon.
"The cloud is being torn apart," said Stefan Gillessen of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, who first brought the event to the world's attention in 2011.I guess if you want to see how another kind of black hole works, visit the IRS in Washington, DC, less than a light-year away.
Wow, I agree: whatever happened to August?
Not so long ago—well within the memory of half the American population—August was the vacation month.
It was a time, much anticipated and much appreciated, of leisure, languor, lassitude and lingering at the beach well into suppertime.
Unlike July, it had no holiday disruption, no grocery-store rush, no rituals, no reason to hurry, except maybe to get to the ice-cream stand before closing time, and even that was flexible, depending upon the length of the line. Hardly anyone got married, and no one went to class. Congress barely met, and then it departed for most of the month, a great relief to them and an even bigger one for the nation. It was an idyll of idleness, a time of pure ease—and now it's gone.
We've made August a horror of back-to-school and blinding activity, a time when offices are open late and summer camps close early.August is busier than ever. August is the new September. At least the French have something right: they still take the entire month of August off from work. And most of the rest of the rest of the year also, for that matter.
Sophie Fontanel on "sleeping alone": The French author talks about her long run with celibacy and the state of our relationships. I was not aware that sleeping alone and celibacy were synonymous. Just saying.
A case for CBR: new technology missing cracks in pipelines leading to spills.
In February, Exxon Mobil Corp. sent a small robotic device known as a "smart pig" through a 60-year-old oil pipeline in central Arkansas to find cracks or other problems.
The next month, a 22-foot section of the 858-mile-long Pegasus pipeline split open, spilling 5,000 barrels of crude into backyards and wetlands. The cause of the accident, according to a report Exxon filed with regulators last month: tiny cracks along the pipe's lengthwise seam. The torpedo-like robot didn't spot them, the company said this week.
Such ruptures are rare, but failures to identify small cracks are common, regulators and some industry experts say. Smart pigs are the linchpin of the industry's efforts to monitor pipes, but they aren't reliable for finding all serious flaws. And even when smart pigs do spot problems, analyzing the reams of data collected can take months.Funny how things change.
Is it over for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? Probably not, but the group will go far underground. With the country about to implode and the tourist industry all but dead, the Egyptians have said "enough is enough." Send in the military.
A month of deadly conflict between security forces and the mostly Islamist supporters of Egypt's ousted president has battered the country's once-powerful Muslim Brotherhood, leaving it with diminishing prospects for restoring its former pre-eminence.
At least 42 people were killed in clashes around Egypt on Friday, according to officials, in violence set off two days previously when police raids on Muslim Brotherhood protests in Cairo left hundreds dead, in modern Egypt's worst violence in memory.
As Brotherhood supporters defied martial law and faced off Friday with government security forces and civilians, leaders of the group upped the ante by announcing they were calling for a Week of Departure—protests aimed at ousting the head of Egypt's armed forces, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.
But the group, which was the country's most popular political force as recently as two years ago, now faces an openly hostile national media, shriveling public good will and a huge security apparatus intent on destroying it. Many of its leaders are in jail. Those who remain free have been driven underground—declining to appear in public even for Friday's funeral of a top leader's daughter.
Some of these leaders met in secret Friday, said one Brotherhood leader, to debate their "alternatives and next steps."
Their moves appear limited. The group has called for its supporters to keep pressing for the reinstatement of Mohammed Morsi, the elected Muslim Brotherhood president who was removed by the military on July 3, spurring several deadly clashes in recent weeks with security forces.Any comparison between what is going on in Egypt now and China's Tiananmen Square is incredibly ridiculous -- even Drudge saw that and removed the link. Even the shopkeepers in Cairo have said enough is enough.
Open all night: America's car factories. Wow.
More U.S. auto plants are cranking out cars around the clock like never before, a change that is driving robust profit increases at Detroit's Big Three.
After years of layoffs, plant closures and corporate bankruptcies, U.S. auto makers and parts suppliers are pushing factories to the limits. At General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, more flexible union agreements now allow the companies to build cars for 120 hours a week or more while paying less in overtime pay.
Nearly 40% of car factories in North America now operate on work schedules that push production well past 80 hours a week, compared with 11% in 2008, said Ron Harbour, a senior partner with the Oliver Wyman Inc. management consulting firm.
"There has never been a time in the U.S. industry that we've had this high a level of capacity utilization," he said.A lot of story lines in that article.
And then this: US new-home construction up almost 6%.
Builders started construction on single-family homes at the slowest pace in eight months, underscoring worries that higher mortgage rates could restrain the housing sector's upturn.
Starts of single-family homes fell 2.2% in July from a month earlier to an annual rate of 591,000, the Commerce Department said Friday. That ended two months of gains and marked the lowest level of single-family starts since November.Say it ain't so: Planned Parenthood settles in fraud case. Billed for care it didn't provide.
Here we go again: another threat to cut Post Office services -- Congress will be inundated with mail:
On the oldest rural postal route in the U.S., mail carrier Richard Morrison greeted customers by name as he stuffed letters in mailboxes alongside a farm field in eastern West Virginia.
The ritual, repeated on weekends when customers are home, could be one of the casualties of the U.S. Postal Service's inability to stanch its red ink. With the agency hemorrhaging money, including a $3.9 billion loss in the first nine months of fiscal 2013 announced Aug. 9, the service and Congress are contemplating sweeping changes, including ending Saturday letter delivery, increasing privatization and raising stamp prices.
Saturday delivery in a way represents the Postal Service's dilemma in returning to profitability. Younger populations have replaced many mail services with the Internet, mobile devices and computers, leading to a plunge in volume, while older people, particularly in rural areas, still rely heavily on mail services, creating a small but vocal voice of concern about reduced services.
"Customers are confused by everything they're hearing," Mr. Morrison said. "I think they are going to lose trust in the ability of the Postal Service to do the job." Retirees on his route worry changes could force them travel farther to pick up mail, or make for slow bill payments and disruptions in medicine shipments, he said.Lots of news from the Middle East, but nothing on Syria. Whatever happened to Syria?
And we'll end with a video of Sharon Robinson, Leonard Cohen, et al: