Winter Ice Games

Another weekend rolled by but this one is had a different meaning for snowsports fans. The 15th Winter X Games kicked off on Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen, CO last Thursday. 21 different medal events took place over the past four days for skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers. American’s once again swept the board, winning eleven of the 21 gold medals at steak: 9 men’s and 2 women’s. Canada wrapped up second with six golds in skiing and snowboarding.
These Winter X Games were a change from years past. As with every year the best pull out their bag of tricks and steal the show but the finish line looked harder to reach this year. Every event at the X Games sends participants home long faced and bruised but the frequency of wrecks this year was absurd. From the superpipe to skier x the best found themselves struggling on the poor conditions.
Ice was the biggest trouble maker in Aspen. As tracks became wore down through practice and qualifying ice built up. It made jumps slick, ruined the edge of the halfpipe, and turned the race course into a danger zone. With no fresh snow coming down the riders were left to fight it out on their own. The women’s skier x finals saw the top three come crashing through the finish leaving the Canadian gold medalist with a broken nose.
While to the casual viewer it may have looked like competitors were having difficulties staying on their equipment it truly showed who can win under any condition. It takes a high skill level to carve on ice and Shaun White did it, again.

Not So Pro Bowl

After battling my way through deteriorating roads and hellish traffic conditions I found myself in the state capitol for the weekend. Being in Richmond means ESPN all day and party all night, but I’m not getting into the latter. The Pro Bowl is my topic of focus, and if you watched it you might agree that there wasn’t much pro about it.
After the first half of play in Honolulu, HI the American Football Conference was trailing its counterpart 7 - 42. Lead by Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers the AFC managed to throw four interceptions and have a fumble taken back for a touchdown; all in 30 minutes of play.
Philadelphia Eagle Michael Vick and company took the field for the National Football Conference and played a commanding first half. Halftime marked the end of impressive plays from the NFC as they came out from the locker room looking ready to go home. The lack of caring from the NFC players lead to a sloppy comeback from the AFC. All capped off by two laterals and a 67 yard pass that ended in the Cleveland Browns center scoring a touchdown. The NFC may have won 41 - 55 but the game did nothing to boost the fading Pro Bowl image. Why should we watch a game the players don’t even care about. DeAngelo Hall, corner for the Washington Redskins, was one of the few players to put effort into the game, and he was rewarded with MVP and a brand new Cadillac Escalade. As for the other players, everyone playing for the NFC walked away with $40,000 and the AFC players left with $20,000. With an all expense paid trip to Hawaii and a guarantee of at least 20 grand for losing, what’s the point in trying?


What Is Going on Here?

Birds falling from the sky.  Fish floating up to the surface and washing up shore.  Cows falling over dead.  All mysteries that have just occurred for no particular reason, or is there?  On January 1, 2011 the first day of the new year is supposed to be a start of something fresh, but not for birds in Beebe, Arkansas.  At least 1,000 red-winged blackbirds were found dead across lawns, streets and rooftops which has scared many people to this day.  Experts are saying this may have been caused by a severe lightning or high-altitude hail.
This isn’t all what has been happening in Arkansas, a recorded 100,000 drum fish have been found floating dead along a 20-mile stretch of a river in Little Rock.  A possible disease is at it best for this reason for why they mysteriously appeared dead, but no one really knows.  These two reason are apparently unrelated but have happened within a couple days of each other and in the same state.  Also, along Maryland’s coast millions of fish carcasses were gathered along the beaches.
Migrating up north to Wisconsin, where about 200 cows have been found dead for a cause which is unknown.  Samples were sent to a lab for testing to figure out what is happening to all these innocent animals are being found dead.  Some say this is a Biblical prophecy or may even be a government conspiracy. Whatever this is, I really hope the real reason behind this is answered so we can go on with our lives and not worry why this happening.  Can this happen to humans?  Can this happen to you and I?  I sure hope not.
Credit to guess blogger Klu. You can catch up on the Red Sox at his blog here


Trains: Railroaded by Bureaucracy

    The post Civil War era brought about an industrial revolution that hurried America’s way to a global super power. Such radical growth would not have been possible without a transcontinental network for heavy transport, railroads. With the promise of federal land, more than 200000000 acres nationally, and over ten billion in government subsidies investors pounced on the ripe opportunity.
    The majority of the expansion only occurred over a short period of time (1870-1900), but the amount of track laid in thirty years was an engineering marvel. When the major upheaval of the US rail network started there weren’t even 50000 km of track. By the turn of the century there were beyond 320000 km nationally, more rails than the continent of Europe and all of Russia had combined. Seven conglomerates controlled these steel highways across the land at their peak. Jump back to the present and you’ll find only one: Amtrak.
It seems no one really notices trains, unless you have to stop for one. Once the prime mode of transportation, trains have mostly been forgotten about in the US, especially by passengers. Now accounting for only one tenth of a percent of the United States passenger travel, rail was near last on the mode of intercity travel survey released in 2005.
Three major issues surround the decline in train usage: lack of competition, planes, and Richard Nixon. The 1900s and 10s, a boom time for railroads, saw the rise of corporations taking over large chunks of rail property. Owning an entire line gave these companies the ability to control the price of tickets without threat from competition. By the 1920s congress had gotten wind of the monopolies and laid down strict regulations directed at the railroad industry. With price gouging fixed passenger travel by rail increased for a few decades, until the cheap price of fuel boomed air travel after WWII. Train travel decreased over the 50s and 60s and in 1970 president Nixon thought he had the answer to save intercity rail, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. The NRPC is a government owned and subsidized corporation that operates all but one passenger service route in America. You probably know NRPC by its brand name Amtrak. Owning only 1,100 km of track, Amtrak operates on more than 30,000 km worth of contract routes taken over from other companies through the Railroad Passenger Services Act of 1970. The NRPC basically formed the monopolies Washington had stopped 50 years earlier. Today passenger railroad tickets cost as much as airline ticket but have more than twice the profit margin.
While intercity rail is alive and well in Europe and Asia accounting for over 15 percent of travel, more than three fourths of USA’s railroads are abandoned or in need of repair. Passenger rail service is one of the most reliable, cheapest, and fuel efficient way to travel any distance. Sadly America is lagging behind on this wonderful technology and as long as the government has control over it we may not see advancements.

Time: It's Not Just a Number

Think about where you are right now. You’re probably sitting down in your room, maybe school, or a coffee shop. No matter what’s going on around you the last thing on your mind is that you and your computer and everything else is hurling around the sun at over 100,000 km/h. So the past 48 hours have taken you around 5,000,000 km through our solar system and that’s just on one orbit.
No matter what, everything, from electrons to entire galaxies, is in motion on an infinite number of planes. You are spinning around earth’s axis, while earth is orbiting the sun; the sun is rotating around a blackhole at the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way; the Milky Way is floating in the Local Group, made up of more than 35 galaxies; finally, the Local Group is part of the Virgo Supercluster, consisting of over 100 groups interacting with each other. But if that’s not enough locomotion for you, the observable universe (because there’s space beyond what we can see) is expanding at more than 250,000 km/h per megaparsec from earth.
Now all that celestial movement, which is on too large of a scale for the human mind to fully comprehend, makes up a single but intricate part of our lives: time. That’s right, time is a dependent variable, completely reliant on the interactions of the universe. A year is more a unit of distance than time, which is why the light-year serves as an astronomical ruler.
See, the vastness of space can do vary strange things to time, distorting and breaking it down to the fibers of existence. Speed and gravity are the predominant effectors of time; the more of each you have the more they alter time as we perceive it. At excessive speeds time decelerates around you, and Sergei Avdeyev has experienced this time warp first hand. Spending 748 days on the space station Mir, Avdeyev traveled more than 25,000 km/r faster than us which puts him 20 milliseconds ahead the rest of the word.
Imagine you find yourself loaded in a geostationary cannon orbiting over Earth (yes, this is all plausible) and will momentarily be blasted through our solar system close to the speed of light. On the other side of things, I am sitting inside the satellite preparing to fire you (sorry). When first launched things seem to be moving extremely fast to you but it will soon slow down, way down. While you are actually covering covering extreme distances time begins to appear slower than you’re used to. At even higher velocity bodies and stars around you may look stretched as you move past them. To me, though, you won’t look anything anything but fast because I’m still traveling at Earth speed.
The same basic principle applies between gravity and time, and it takes an immensely dense object to create a gravitational pull great enough to distort time. Blackholes, imploded giant stars, are the only known body with such power being strong enough to trap even light. Let’s do another scenario but this time you can have some revenge and throw me into a blackhole. Every blackhole has an event horizon, the point where nothing can escape, not time, not light, and I don’t even have a chance. Falling past the horizon is the point where time begins to feel slowed down, although I won’t notice crossing it. Moving closer to the blackhole makes time creep towards a halt it can’t reach, but by this point the intense gravity has destroyed me. The scene for you is not so morbid as I appear to be frozen in the position I was when I hit the event horizon.
Time completely depends on the conditions you are under but no matter what you do or where you go it will never come to a stop. So next time you find yourself looking at a clock remember we’re all travelers of both time and space.