Friday, 30 November 2012

Off We Go

Time to pack up the 'pooter and get ready for our long haul flight to San Fran.

We'll landing earlier on today, after a somewhat gruelling 10 - 11 hour flight but if all goes well, we'll be back on air sometime last week.

See you soon and let's hope the weather is warmer.

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Plain Jane

Almost two thirds of people in the UK back proposals to strip cigarette packages of their logos, a new survey suggests.

Tomorrow (Saturday), Australia will become the first country in the world to put all tobacco products in standardised packs.  Cigarette packs and other products will just have the name of the brand and warnings will be visible.

The law bans the use of logos, brand imagery, symbols, other images, colours and promotional text.  Packs will all be in a plain dark brown colour, displaying a graphic health warning with the name of the brand printed but in a standard colour, position, font size and style.

Earlier this year the British Government launched a consultation on plans to introduce mandatory standardised packaging for tobacco products. Health campaigners have welcomed the proposal, but opponents claimed it would lead to increased smuggling and job losses.

Information generated by the consultation, which closed in August, is still being analysed by health officials.

Charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said the main purpose of standardised packaging is to dissuade children from smoking.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: "The tobacco industry is terrified of the removal of the last vestiges of advertising from their products and is spending millions of pounds in the UK to fight the measure. We trust our Government will calmly review the evidence and not be swayed by the distorted misinformation put out by the tobacco industry and its allies."

Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "With so many children starting to smoke each year, the Government must show strong leadership to reduce the deadly lure of cigarettes. Smoking causes at least 14 different cancers as well as a long list of other illnesses. So it's vital the Government introduces standardised packaging as soon as possible, giving millions of children one less reason to start smoking."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The Government has an open mind on this issue and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the consultation responses, evidence and other relevant information."

Yours For Five Bucks


 Eat cat food

Eat cat food
"I will eat a handful of dry cat food for $5. For just one extra gig, I will eat two tablespoons of wet cat food. I will record the entire thing, and can even do it live on Skype. The recording will be on my webcam. For another gig, I can record it in high resolution." (Link)


 Flirt with your boyfriend or husband to see if they are committed

Flirt with your boyfriend or husband to see if they are committed
"I will flirt or hit on your boyfriend, husband, (or girlfriend) to see if they are committed and faithful. If you suspect something, find out the truth. This way you don't have to spend heaps hiring a PI or snooping around." (Link)


 Write messages on lips and take photos

Write messages on lips and take photos
"I am a lip model with very desirable lips :) Maximum of 2 words: one on top, one on bottom. I will write your message on my lips then take pictures! I guarantee my text will be legible and clearer than my competitors! Writing is in Black. Thank you. PS: Lip ring is optional!" (Link)

 Let you verbally abuse me
Let you verbally abuse me
"Your boss got you upset? Can't stand something your spouse did? Want to cuss-out your little-old granny? Here's your chance to express your thoughts in the most vulgar, nasty, and unapologetic way possible. Hit me where it hurts as I imitate your nemesis for five minutes over the phone." (Link)


 Fill shoes with ketchup or mustard and wear them for 5 minutes

Fill shoes with ketchup or mustard and wear them for 5 minutes
"I am willing to dump ketchup in my shoes (Air Force ones) and wear them around for five minutes (doing whatever moves you think I could do). Maybe mustard is more your style. It's your choice." (Link)


 Say anything as Harry Potter

Say anything as Harry Potter
"Do you like Harry Potter? Well now, the boy wizard will say absolutely anything for up to 30 seconds for $5! It's that simple! This British wizard has no problem saying anything rude or outrageous, it's all just magical to him! SO ORDER NOW! :D " (Link)


 Put a curse on someone

Put a curse on someone
"You hate your boss? Your boyfriend/girlfriend cheated on you? Some idiot stole something from you? Put a curse on them! Best anger management ever! Plus it really works, so what are you waiting for?" (Link)


 Let you watch my friend slap me

Let you watch my friend slap me
"I will allow my friend to slap me. You choose how hard the slap will be from a scale of 1-10 and then he will slap me." (Link)


 Do jumping jacks or dance in my chicken outfit

Do jumping jacks or dance in my chicken outfit
"Top Rated Seller will do jumping jacks or dance while wearing a crazy chicken suit." (Link)


 Post videos of my piranhas tearing apart anything you ask for

Post videos of my piranhas tearing apart anything you ask for
"I have 3 pirahnas that will eat anything that you put in their tank. For 5$, you can tell me what you want me to give them and I'll do it." (Link)


 Promote your product, service, event, or announcement as a preacher

Promote your product, service, event, or announcement as a preacher
"Let me make a one minute long video for you that will announce your event, store, product, etc, in a fun way....as a Televangelist/Preacher. I draw out the words as a preacher, so as to give that famous diction we all love to hate. Nothing irreverent is produced, please. I can refuse any assignment. I will wear a white dress shirt with a dark coat that looks professional." (Link)


 Write the message of your choice in alphabetti spaghetti on toast, photograph it and email you the jpg image for you to use as you wish

Write the message of your choice in alphabetti spaghetti on toast, photograph it and email you the jpg image for you to use as you wish
"Do you have something you want to say in a different and unique way? Tell me the message & I'll spell it out for you then email you the photo. PLEASE try to keep the words short enough to fit on a slice of toast – 10 characters are about the most that fit before it starts to look messy! " (Link)
Oddee

180


ALMOST every Union Jack flag in the UK is currently flying upside down, it has emerged.
Incorrect
The Institute for Studies found that 98% of British flags are the wrong way up, including the one at Buckingham Palace.
Professor Henry Brubaker said: “It’s a quite incredible oversight on the part of the nation.
“For sailors, the flying of an upside-down flag denotes distress. It is also a gesture beloved of anarchists, as a means of saying ‘fuck the system, and tits to all forms of hierarchy’.”
Patriot Mary Fisher said: “I’ve turned it over three times today and I’m still none the wiser. Can someone please explain this in a bit more detail?
“Is there a tiny picture of a bulldog in the blue that is only visible when you stare through it, like a ‘magic eye’ picture?
“My eyeball are starting to vibrate with the stress. The flag in my garden and the ‘No Turning’ sign at the end of my drive were pretty much my whole identity.”

DYK?

The average cow produces 40 glasses of milk a day.

Who?


THE thing where everyone gets their news has promised to find out what a ‘Leveson’ is.
No results for ‘nyoospayper’
As Sir Brian Leveson’s 2,000 page report on media standards was unveiled, The Internet reckoned it would be very useful for sticking underneath the wonky legs on the tables where people put their laptops.
The Internet said: “According to Wikipedia this chap has spent 16 months investigating the behaviour of the British press. It also says he used to be a woman.
“Anyway, I’m sure this independent watchdog will do a fantastic job of watchdogging – I’m sorry how do you pronounce it… ‘nyoospaypers’?
“And then in five years time, when the last printing press has been melted down and turned into servers, they can watchdog something else.”
The Internet added: “I see there’s now thousands of interesting blog entries popping about Leveson. I’m just so brilliant at this kind of thing.
“It does look like it’s shaping up to be a very lively, well-informed debate with many people speculating exactly when Mr Leveson had his sex change.
“Meanwhile, there do seem to be some other people stressing that he was never a woman, but that he is King of the Masons.
“And look, there’s Twitter and Facebook, bursting at the seams with people committing the most flagrant contempt of court, over and over and over again.
“Good luck sorting that lot out.”

Subtle


APPRECIATORS of super strength lager’s complex flavours feel they are being victimised by the government.
The lager may be decanted, or enjoyed straight from the tin
The introduction of a minimum alcohol unit price has enraged those who appreciate powerful, reasonably priced lager on a purely aesthetic level.
64-year-old bon viveur Stephen Malley, of no fixed abode, said: “There is a stigma attached to lager of a strength above 8%, that it is the preserve of so-called ‘pissheads’.
“But the joy of Super T is in the delicate aroma. It’s subtly autumnal with a woody undercurrent, so evocative.
“Flavourwise it is a mass of delicate complexity. So many different notes coming through – a hint of peach there, perhaps the subtlest whiff of – could that be cinnamon?
“Special Brew, by comparison, is a more robust flavour somewhat redolent of the Highlands.
“It’s best enjoyed outdoors, perhaps while seated in an underpass with one’s dog, muttering obscenities.”
He added: “May I ask, do you have some change? Perhaps a pound. I need to avail myself of a bus.”

Feast Your Eyes

TInd suggest which mince pies should be on your able this festive season.


£9.95 for 12, fortnumandmason.com
This combination shouldn't work, but bizarrely it does. It is innovative stuff.
£2.99 for four, marksandspencer.com
The pasty-to-filling ratio of these festive morsels, which are brand new this year, is spot on.
£2.20 for nine, co-operativefood.co.uk
These pretty tarts are a mouthful each, but are bursting with flavour.
30p each or £1.40 for six, greggs.co.uk
You could easily get away with pretending that a plate of these superb-value mince pies are homemade.
£11.50 for 12, bettys.co.uk
These are so fresh that they're best eaten within three days of delivery (or frozen for Christmas), but you're unlikely to have much trouble.
These posh pies are bound to be a talking point at any gathering.
£3.29 for six, waitrose.com
You can always trust Heston to put a quirky slant (pine-flavour sugar) on a traditional favourite.
£2.50 for six, tesco.com
The thin pasty is buttery and crunchy, while the filling is packed with glace cherries, almonds and walnuts.
£2.80 for 6, thomasthebaker.co.uk
Made by an award-winning bakery in Yorkshire, these pies use a recipe that's been passed down for generations.
£2 for 6, morrisons.co.uk
If ever there was a taste of Christmas, this is it – chewy, gooey dried fruit, with candied peels and festive spices.

Play Nicely

Worried that excessive drinking may affect the performance of its employees (most notably its executives), Samsung has begun rolling out an internal campaign banning binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption during company events.

According to local media reports, Samsung has banned employees from forcing others to drink, where employees would be told to take drinks down in “one shot” or forced to drink as a punishment.

Korea already ranks as one of the biggest drinking and smoking nations and Samsung appears to be willing to do something about it.  Over the past year, the company removed ashtrays from its buildings, reportedly going as far as to threaten employees that if they didn’t quit they may find it harder to get promoted within the company.

Such practices might be frowned upon in the West, but Samsung has now introduced guidelines to limit such actions and attempt to promote a healthier lifestyle and curb excessive behaviour.

This means that instead bringing out the alcohol at a ”hoesik” (staff dinner), employees are told to organise more formal dinner parties or even meet on the tennis court – with sport also recommended as an alternative to drinks.

I just wish they had outlets in town to have a browse of their MP-3 players...

Crunchy or Smooth? The History of Peanut Butter

Shipped off to boarding school in England during the Great Depression, the twelve-year-old William F. Buckley, Jr., was sustained by regular care packages from his father. The biweekly deliveries contained a case of grapefruit and a large jar of peanut butter. In a 1981 essay titled “In the Thrall of an Addiction,” Buckley recalled that his British schoolmates “grabbed instinctively for the grapefruit—but one after another actually spit out the peanut butter.” No wonder, he sneered, “they needed help to win the war.”

Half a century later, when I left Washington, D.C., for school in Northern Ireland, I packed my bags with jars of Skippy. Not much had changed. “Mashed peanuts on bread?” my friends in Belfast asked, incredulously—as if peanuts were synonymous with maggots. The American love of peanut butter is as mystifying to many Britons as the British love of Marmite (yeast extract on toast?) is to me, but, as Jon Krampner writes in “Creamy & Crunchy,” his enjoyable and informative new history of peanut butter, there are plenty of other countries that adore the crushed goober pea. Canadians eat it for breakfast; Haitians call it mamba and buy it, freshly pulverized, from street vendors; it is popular in the Netherlands, where it is known as pindakaas, or peanut cheese. Peanut butter is also increasingly found in the Saudi Arabian diet, thanks, in part, to expatriate oil workers. Nevertheless, it remains, in Krampner’s phrase, an “all-American food.”

Like other all-American foods such as the hamburger, the hot dog, and the ice-cream cone, peanut butter first emerged as a retail item at the end of the nineteenth century. With the assistance of corporations like ConAgra and Procter & Gamble, it was transformed into a billion-dollar business in the middle of the twentieth century. Peanut-butter sales, which dipped in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, because of health concerns, have steadily risen in recent years, particularly since the start of the recession. Cheap and nutritious, it’s the perfect food for hard times. The twenty-first century has also seen the increasing popularity and availability of alternatives to peanut butter’s Big Three: Jif, Skippy, and Peter Pan. Artisanal and organic varieties are easier than ever to find as food entrepreneurs try to do to peanut butter what Starbucks did to coffee.

Peanut butter, the everyman staple, which contains neither butter nor nuts (peanuts are legumes), originated as a health food of the upper classes. First created for sanitariums like John Harvey Kellogg’s Western Health Reform Institute, it satisfied the need for a protein-rich food that did not have to be chewed. Wealthy guests at those institutions popularized it among the well-heeled. But there were economic pressures to expand peanut-butter consumption more democratically. Once the boll weevil devastated cotton cultivation at the turn of the century, Southern farmers were encouraged by George Washington Carver and others to adopt the peanut as a replacement crop. A burgeoning market for peanut butter substantially increased demand for their harvests. While both Kellogg and Carver have been touted as “the father of peanut butter,” Krampner makes a case for George Bayle, a St. Louis businessman who, in 1894, became the first to produce and sell it as a snack food. Peanut butter was featured in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and soon thereafter Beech-Nut and Heinz introduced it nationally. By 1907, thirty-four million pounds of peanut butter were produced, up from two million in 1899.

Even then, peanut butter, which did not travel well, was mostly produced for regional markets. It was the development of hydrogenation in the nineteen-twenties that led directly to the industrialization of peanut-butter production, the rise of the Big Three national brands, and the arrival of peanut butter in America’s lunch boxes. (In raising the melting point of peanut butter so that it is solid at room temperature, hydrogenation stops the separation of peanut oil and solids in the container and extends the product’s shelf life.) By 1937—the year before the young William Buckley was shipped across the pond—it had become so common that The New Yorker published its first peanut-butter cartoon. Hydrogenated peanut butter outsold natural for the first time in 1942. Today more than eighty per cent of the market is hydrogenated.

Krampner gives brief histories of all three of the major brands, which each had their turn as the nation’s top spread. They illustrate the concentration and mechanization of the nation’s food supply. Peter Pan, introduced in 1928, was the first dominant national peanut butter. It used a partial-hydrogenation process patented by Joseph Rosefield, an entrepreneur from Lexington, Kentucky. In 1932, after Peter Pan’s parent company sought to cut his licensing fee, Rosefield ended the partnership and started making his own brand: Skippy. Inventive and obsessed with quality control, Rosefield emerges as perhaps the most important and likable figure in the history of peanut butter. By the end of his career, he held ten patents relating to the food and numerous notable innovations. He set up his own research lab and conceived a new way of churning—rather than grinding—his peanuts to produce a smoother texture. By introducing fragments of crushed peanuts into his butter, he invented crunchy—or chunky, if you prefer. He instituted the wide-mouth jar that has been standard ever since. And he paid his employees well, to boot. Five years before Reese’s created its peanut-butter cup, Rosefield brought Choc-Nut Butter to market. He seems to have been a little too far ahead of the curve in combining peanuts and chocolate: the product failed. Nevertheless, Skippy thrived, overtaking Peter Pan in the late forties and remaining the nation’s favorite until 1980. Rosefield sold his company to Best Foods (makers of Hellman’s mayonnaise) for six million dollars in 1955.

That same year, Procter & Gamble bought Big Top peanut butter from William T. Young of Kentucky and, in the ensuing years, reformulated and rebranded it to compete with Skippy and Peter Pan. P. & G. named its product Jif, used oils other than peanut oil in its hydrogenation process, and sweetened the recipe, adding sugar and molasses. These changes—many of which were emulated by Jif’s competitors—prompted a lengthy battle between the peanut-butter industry and the federal government over the standard of identity for the food. The Food and Drug Administration proposed that a minimum of ninety-five per cent peanuts were required for it to be called peanut butter. Peanut-butter makers wanted the level set at eighty-seven per cent. After a dozen years of legal wrangling, the standard of ninety per cent was established in 1971. Jif, meanwhile, had, with the assistance of Grey Advertising, come up with a new slogan— “Choosy mothers choose Jif”—which helped propel it from third to first. Now owned by Smucker’s, Jif has been the nation’s best-selling peanut butter for more than three decades.

As beloved as it is, peanut butter has not been exempt from the backlash against the industrialization of food. Krampner discusses the “dark side” of peanut butter: the recent spike in peanut allergies, the deaths from salmonella contamination at processing plants, and public-health concerns over its fat content. He also devotes a chapter to Frank Ford of Arrowhead Mills, the natural-foods pioneer who started making peanut butter in 1970. Arrowhead’s Deaf Smith brand was the first organic peanut butter and the first to use the difficult-to-grow Valencia peanut. It became the progenitor of many of the natural and gourmet varieties now available at your local Whole Foods. I myself am part of this shift in tastes, having some years ago given up my loyalty to Skippy in favor of natural peanut butters made by Smucker’s and Trader Joe’s. Krampner helpfully lists some of his favorites—and one of the unexpected pleasures of reading this book has been sampling the artisanal peanut butters made by Woodstock Foods of Providence, Rhode Island, the Krema Nut Company of Columbus, Ohio, and Koeze Cream-Nut of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The difference between the Big Three and these peanut butters is akin to the difference between Velveeta and a good aged cheddar. One can only wonder what Buckley—a Skippy man like myself—might have said.

Busted


“Person of the Year” Nomination for Higgs Boson Riddled with Errors

Time magazine recently posted 30 nominations for its ever-popular “Person of the Year” award. Tucked in between President Barack Obama and the Korean rapper Psy is an unlikely candidate for the “Person of the Year”—a subatomic particle. As Scientific American readers are well aware, physicists at the Large Hadron Colliderannounced this summer that they had found something that looks much like long-elusive Higgs boson, causing a brief but wondrous worldwide bout of Higgsteria.
Under ordinary circumstances, we would be all for the elevation of the Higgs to “Person of the Year” status, if only to further honor the heroic efforts of thousands of scientists and engineers who made the discovery possible (more on that below). But Time’s nomination threatens to do more harm than good. Every single sentence inTime’s nomination contains at least one serious error. The magazine scores a perfect five for five. In the interest of clarity, let’s do a quick edit:
Sentence 1: Take a moment to thank this little particle for all the work it does, because without it, you’d be just inchoate energy without so much as a bit of mass.
Error: The common understanding of the Higgs is that it is responsible for all mass in the universe, but this is untrue, as my colleague Daisy Yuhas explained last week in an illuminating (and factually accurate!) post: “The Higgs field does not explain the origin of all mass. ‘Many uninformed physicists have been saying that for years,’ says theoretical physicist Chris Quigg of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. ‘We have actually understood the source of most of the mass in the proton [for example] for some time,’ Most mass—including your own—comes from the strong force, a force of nature that keeps the nucleus of atoms bound together.” The Higgs field does give rise to the masses of particles such as the W and Z bosons, as well as the electron. And it’s true that without it, the universe would be a very different place. “Without that mass, electrons wouldn’t hook up with nuclei to form atoms. ‘That would mean no valence bonding, so much of chemistry, essentially all, would vanish,’ Quigg says. ‘Therefore no solid structures and no template for life.’”
Sentence 2: What’s more, the same would be true for the entire universe.
Error: See Sentence 1. Protons and neutrons would still have mass.
Sentence 3: It was in the 1960s that Scottish physicist Peter Higgs first posited the existence of a particle that causes energy to make the jump to matter.
Error: The Higgs field does not “cause energy to make the jump to matter,” and it’s unclear why the author of this piece would think that true. But let’s be generous with our interpretation. The Higgs does explain why the W and Z bosons—the carriers of the weak force—have mass. Were they to be massless, they would necessarily travel at the speed of light, and thus could be considered “energy” rather than “matter” (as though there were a hard and fast dividing line between the two). They would be something like the photon—the carrier of the electromagnetic force. But is the photon pure “energy”? Not at all. The photon is the poster child for behaving as both wave (energy) and particle (matter) at the same time.
And Peter Higgs was neither the first nor the only physicist to posit the existence of the particle that bears his name.
And he’s English (born in Newcastle), not Scottish.
Sentence 4: But it was not until last summer that a team of researchers at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider — Rolf Heuer, Joseph Incandela and Fabiola Gianotti — at last sealed the deal and in so doing finally fully confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Error: Where to begin? Let’s start with Einstein. I honestly have no idea why the author would make any connection between the Higgs and general relativity. None! Because there is none. Einstein did teach us that energy and mass are two sides of the same coin (and that insight is a consequence of his special, not general, theory of relativity), but this teaching works at cross purposes to the author’s repeated assertions that the Higgs somehow transforms energy into matter.
Not to mention that no scientific theory could ever be “finally fully” confirmed. What would it mean for a scientific theory to be “finally fully” confirmed? Is he suggesting that no evidence could ever arise that could challenge it? Purely mathematicaltheorems can be proven. Scientific theories can only be disproven.
And then there’s the attribution problem. The author cites “a team” of three researchers that discovered the Higgs. He’s only off by three or four orders of magnitude. Two experiments at the LHC—ATLAS and CMS—independently confirmed the discovery this summer. Each of these experiments is made of about3,000 working physicists. At the time of the announcement, Incandela and Gianotti were leading each of the experiments, but leaders change all the time (Incandela has led CMS for less than a year, for example), and the Higgs discovery has been a multi-decade long project.
Sentence 5: The Higgs — as particles do — immediately decayed to more-fundamental particles, but the scientists would surely be happy to collect any honors or awards in its stead.
Error: “More-fundamental” particles? Certain particles such as the proton or the neutron are “composite” particles—they’re composed of other particles (in this case, quarks and gluons). But the “fundamental” particles in the Standard Model of particle physics are not composites. They are, so far as we can tell, indivisible. Certainly they can change from one to another, but they don’t break apart into “more fundamental” particles. The Higgs is itself a fundamental particle. In fact, this is a big part of the reason for all the excitement—it was the last fundamental particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics that had eluded detection. It decays, but when it does it changes into other equally fundamental particles.
Time, I’m all for awarding the Higgs boson as the 2012 Person of the Year. But if you do, please let someone who understands something about particle physics read the laudatory article before it goes to print. I can think of 6,000-odd people who would be good for the job.

DYK?

Squirrels can climb trees faster than they can run on the ground.

Called Out

Ryanair has introduced a new policy which sees it charge a blanket £6 a head "website administration fee", and a 2% booking fee on credit card transactions.  It said the new levies were being made "to comply with the Office of Fair Trading’s recent ruling".

However, the watchdog is denying it had any part in the budget carrier’s decision that leaves customers worse off.  It said: 

"We have not required any airline to introduce new payment charges, increase their credit card charges or scrap any discounts." 

Ryanair previously charged a £6 admin fee on tickets, unless customers paid with the airline’s cash passport, but the OFT ruled debit card customers should not be charged it.  Now, everyone will face the fee and those paying by credit card will be forced to stump up both charges.  

A spokesperson defended the move saying the charges would "cover credit card processing costs" and comply with OFT’s ruling.

BOGOF

Misleading "buy one, get one free" offers and other deals should be a thing of the past after Aldi, The Co-operative, Lidl, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose adopted rules ensuring offers are "fair and meaningful".

One of four agreed principles demands that stores no longer inflate prices to make a later discount look more attractive, while another says that if discounts are offered over a long period of time, the lower figure should be adopted as the normal selling price.

An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading found supermarkets had not breached the law or engaged in misleading promotional practices, but it did find "inconsistency in the way the law was being interpreted and applied".  The OFT chief executive said the new rules set "a clear benchmark" for stores.

"Household budgets across the country are under pressure and shoppers should be able to trust that special offers and promotions really are bargains.  Nowhere is this more important than during regular shopping for groceries." 

Who cares?  If you need something you buy it.  if you don't like the price, go elsewhere.  Why are some people so needy and reliant on others to take charge?  No wonder we live in a Nanny State.

Letters of Note



On August 2nd, 1939, after consultation with fellow physicistsLeó Szilárd and Eugene WignerAlbert Einstein signed the following letter to then-U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt. The letter warned that the construction of an atomic bomb using uranium was indeed possible, advised the U.S. Government to invest time and money into its research, and then hinted that physicists in Nazi Germany had already begun similar work. As a result of the letter, Roosevelt created the Briggs Advisory Committee. This slowly evolved to become the Manhattan Project, an enormous project that later developed the Little Boyand Fat Man bombs. These were dropped on Hiroshima andNagasaki in 1945, killing over 200,000 people.

Einstein later described signing the letter as the "one great mistake in my life."

(Source: Wikimedia; Image of Einstein, via.



Transcript
Albert Einstein
Old Grove Rd.
Nassau Point
Peconic, Long Island

August 2nd, 1939

F.D. Roosevelt,
President of the United States,
White House
Washington, D.C.

Sir:

Some recent work by E.Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:

In the course of the last four months it has been made probable - through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America - that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable - though much less certain - that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.

The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.

In view of the situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an inofficial capacity. His task might comprise the following:

a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium ore for the United States;

b) to speed up the experimental work, which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories which have the necessary equipment.

I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.

Yours very truly,

(Signed)

(Albert Einstein)

Letters of Note

Email on the Road

Many people think that managing their e-mail while on a long-distance trip will be just that — manageable.

But travel is about spending time on new experiences, not your inbox. So next time you go away, try one of these simple web and mobile applications to help keep trifling messages out of sight and ease the eventual return to reality.


When you only want to receive messages from specific people
Most BlackBerry phones have a flashing light that blinks when an e-mail comes in, and a built-in option to filter alerts so that you only receive them from contacts you prioritise. The free Who Is It appcustomises this functionality further, so the light blinks in one of three colours for up to three different people.
Apple’s latest operating system, iOS6, uses Email VIP, a free feature that screens out unimportant messages and allows users to create a list of VIPs (very important people) whose messages should always be shown. Then, you can adjust your iPhone’s notification settings to only provide alerts for those VIP list e-mails.
If you are an Android user with a Gmail e-mail address, you can create a filter, called a Label, for all messages from the people you designate “top priority”. Then, you can use the free Android Gmail app to customise the Label and Notification settings so that the device only alerts you when you have received a message labelled top priority.
AwayFind is another iPhone app that can screen messages so only urgent ones come to your attention, but it has a few advanced features as well. For example, you can create an out-of-office message that includes a link to an online form that a person can use to override your filter system and send a text message to your phone. That way, even if you forget to add someone important to your filtered list, they can still reach you if they feel the matter is urgent enough. Pricing depends on the volume of alerts you want to receive, starting with 10 alerts a month for free and rising to 1,000 alerts a month for $15.
When you want to automate the screening process
If you like the premise of filtering, but think maintaining lists will be too onerous, you can hand over the work to a computer algorithm. New this year, Sanebox is a web-based tool that studies the patterns of the types of messages you open, don’t open, save and delete and then makes educated guesses about which e-mails should immediately get your attention, storing the others for you to review later. The paid service starts at $2 a month for basic usage -- though a free 14-day trial is available. Unfortunately there’s no mobile version yet.
When you need to send messages while offline
The browser-based tool Boomerang  has a “Send Later” feature, which lets you write a message now and schedule a time for it to be sent later. For instance, if you know you’ll be offline but want to make sure you send birthday greetings to a family member, you can schedule a message to be delivered at the time of your choosing.Boomerang for Gmail is free for the first 10 messages processed and then $5 a month for unlimited usage, with a mobile browser version for iPhone and Android devices. The version for Outlook is free for one month and then $30 for a one-time fee for subsequent usage, but it isn’t available on smartphones. New since September,Boomerang for Yahoo Mail brings the service to Yahoo’s web-based e-mail application (free, unlimited messages) but isn’t yet easily accessible on a smartphone.
For keeping track of e-mailed reservation confirmations
If your e-mail use on the road is mainly for pulling up flight, hotel and other travel-related bookings, then use the free TripIt app to store that important information and ignore your inbox. If you use Gmail, TripIt will automatically pull any relevant travel e-mails from your account. If you use another mail service, such as Yahoo Mail, you will need to forward your confirmation messages one-by-one. TripIt then neatly presents the information in mini-itineraries that are viewable via its website and its mobile app (built for Apple, Android, Blackberry and Windows 7).

BBC

The Leveson Inquiry Findings


The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press has published its report. Here are the key points.
Briefly:
  • New self-regulation body recommended
  • Independent of serving editors, government and business
  • No widespread corruption of police by the press found
  • Politicians and press have been too close
  • Press behaviour, at times, has been 'outrageous'

Regulation

An independent regulatory body for the press should be established.
It should take an active role in promoting high standards, including having the power to investigate serious breaches and sanction newspapers.
The new body should be backed by legislation designed to assess whether it is doing its job properly.
The legislation would enshrine, for the first time, a legal duty on the government to protect the freedom of the press.
An arbitration system should be created through which people who say they have been victims of the press can seek redress without having to go through the courts.
Newspapers that refuse to join the new body could face direct regulation by media watchdog Ofcom.
The body should be independent of current journalists, the government and commercial concerns, and not include any serving editors, government members or MPs.
The body should consider encouraging the press to be as transparent as possible in relation to sources for its stories, if the information is in the public domain.
whistle-blowing hotline should be established for journalists who feel under pressure to do unethical things.

Police

No evidence of widespread police corruption.
Former Met Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates's relationship with media publisher News International, where he had friends working at the News of the World, including the deputy editor, was criticised.

Politicians

Politicians of all parties had developed "too close a relationship with the press in a way which has not been in the public interest".
The relationship between politicians and press over the last three decades has damaged the perception of public affairs.

Public

When chasing stories, journalists have caused "real hardship and, on occasion, wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people". This happened to both famous people and members of the public. Press behaviour, at times, "can only be described as outrageous".
At the News of the World, quite apart from phone hacking, there was a failure of systems of management and compliance. There was a general lack of respect for individual privacy and dignity at the paper.