Daily Archives: February 9, 2012

Galactic Views (21)


                                                                                                                                        
SPACE WATCH

Remnant of a Supernova
NASA – Vital clues about the devastating ends to the lives of massive stars can be found by studying the aftermath of their explosions. In its more than twelve years of science operations, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has studied many of these supernova remnants sprinkled across the galaxy.

The latest example of this important investigation is Chandra’s new image of the supernova remnant known as G350.1-0.3. This stellar debris field is located some 14,700 light years from the Earth toward the center of the Milky Way.

Evidence from Chandra and from ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope suggest that a compact object within G350.1+0.3 may be the dense core of the star that exploded. The position of this likely neutron star, seen by the arrow pointing to “neutron star” in the inset image, is well away from the center of the X-ray emission. If the supernova explosion occurred near the center of the X-ray emission then the neutron star must have received a powerful kick in the supernova explosion.

Data suggest this supernova remnant, as it appears in the image, is 600 and 1,200 years old. If the estimated location of the explosion is correct, this means the neutron star has been moving at a speed of at least 3 million miles per hour since the explosion.

Another intriguing aspect of G350.1-0.3 is its unusual shape. Many supernova remnants are nearly circular, but G350.1-0.3 is strikingly asymmetrical as seen in the Chandra data in this image (gold). Infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (light blue) also trace the morphology found by Chandra. Astronomers think that this bizarre shape is due to stellar debris field expanding into a nearby cloud of cold molecular gas.

The age of 600-1,200 years puts the explosion that created G350.1-0.3 in the same time frame as other famous supernovas that formed the Crab and SN 1006 supernova remnants. However, it is unlikely that anyone on Earth would have seen the explosion because of the obscuring gas and dust that lies along our line of sight to the remnant.

These results appeared in the April 10, 2011 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/I. Lovchinsky et al; IR: NASA/JPL-Caltech

How Our Broken Tax System Drives the Economy


Rear view of the Treasury Department building ...

Image @Wikipedia

BOOK REVIEW

The Benefit and the Burden: Tax Reform – Why We Need it and What it Will Take, Author: Bruce Bartlett

By Henry J. Aaron – Bruce Bartlett joins a long list of critics who point to the needless complexity of the current income tax. He documents the damage to economic efficiency resulting from an Amazon jungle of special tax provisions. He explains the unfairness resulting from countless provisions justified as increasing fairness. He blames both parties, faulting Presidents Obama and Bush (the second) for contributing to the current mess by advocating narrowly targeted provisions which Congress unwisely approved.

Scolding fellow conservatives is not what this book is primarily about. Most of it is about the myriad and irrational ways the tax system influences just about everything — how much housing we buy, how we pay for our health care, who gives how much to what charities, and on and on. Part of the reason for the deterioration of tax policy, Bartlett suggests, is the reduced role of the Treasury Department’s once-formidable Office of Tax Analysis, which at one time bestrode tax policy. But, as Bartlett points out with devastating clarity, the blame mostly lies elsewhere. The tax system was comparatively simple immediately after enactment of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Most of the superb professionals who had staffed the OTA for decades and who drafted TRA 86 were still in place. Creeping clutter took over the Internal Revenue Code, not because OTA staff relaxed vigilance or decamped for well-paying jobs elsewhere, but because successive presidents and members of Congress of both parties wanted to use government to accomplish objectives they (or their campaign contributors) deemed worth doing, but were afraid to be charged with abetting “big government.” After all, spending equals big government, and cutting taxes shrinks government. Right? more> http://tinyurl.com/7lf3c99

Rebuilding Manufacturing: Fixing the Dysfunctional R&D Tax Credit


BOOK REVIEW

The Practical Guide to Research and Development Tax Incentives, Author: Michael Rashkin.

By George Leopold – Rashkin argues that the R&D tax credit in its current form isn’t working. Created in 1981, the provision gives US companies a tax break on R&D expenses. Other R&D incentives include faster writeoffs of equipment and favorable tax treatment for stock option costs.

According to Rashkin, the current tax structure works like this: Government agencies like the National Science Foundation fund basic research; then tax incentives and other subsidies are used to encourage product development, often based on federally funded basic research. Rather than investing in US manufacturing of new products, Rashkin told Congress that the structure encourages US companies to “park the resulting intellectual property in tax havens.” more> http://tinyurl.com/7lhazbo

AT&T users report getting throttled at 2GB despite ‘unlimited’ data plans


PenDrive Kingston 2GB DataTraveler (Toma 2)By Brad Reed – AT&T representatives told Cozen that the carrier begins throttling users’ data speeds if they are among the top 5% of data users among users with unlimited plans. In other words, if the top 5% of data users consume 2GB of data or more on their unlimited plans, then they get their service reduced for exceeding 2GB, despite the fact that AT&T offers users tiered data plans that charge $30 a month for 3GB of data.

“This is unacceptable and unfair,” writes John Cozen. “I signed up for an unlimited data plan at the agreed upon price and am now being throttled for exceeding 2GB of data while those on a 3GB plan paying the same price do not experience throttling. I remain upset and feel taken advantage of.” more> http://tinyurl.com/7qkuqp6

Americans Gaining Energy Independence With U.S. as Top Producer


By Rich Miller, Asjylyn Loder and Jim Polson – Domestic oil output is the highest in eight years. The U.S. is producing so much natural gas that, where the government warned four years ago of a critical need to boost imports, it now may approve an export terminal. Methanex Corp. (MX), the world’s biggest methanol maker, said it will dismantle a factory in Chile and reassemble it in Louisiana to take advantage of low natural gas prices. And higher mileage standards and federally mandated ethanol use, along with slow economic growth, have curbed demand.

The result: The U.S. has reversed a two-decade-long decline in energy independence, increasing the proportion of demand met from domestic sources over the last six years to an estimated 81 percent through the first 10 months of 2011. more> http://tinyurl.com/7ogzl8e

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CONGRESS WATCH Sen. Sanders Presses Obama on Smog Rule, Clean Air Standards, US Senate Boosting Fuel Standards to 54.5 MPG, US Senate Special Review Launched Into Permitting of Keystone XL Pipeline, US Senate House Republicans Would Slash EPA by One-Third, … Continue reading

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CONGRESS WATCH Paul Ryan on Fox and Friends, YouTube [VIDEO 3:38]