Gongol.com Archives: April 2012
Brian Gongol

April 17, 2012

Weather and Disasters Creston incident shows why we need more weather-radar installations
The tornado sirens in Creston weren't activated prior to the tornado touchdown there, even though lots of people were on the lookout for a tornado -- including the National Weather Service. But Creston is around 70 miles away from the nearest National Weather Service radar installation, at Johnston. At that distance, the radar can only see to about 5,000 feet above the surface. Anything below that 5,000' level can be invisible to radar (this depends on the precise pattern that's chosen, but the curvature of the earth can't be overcome -- at a distance of 70 miles, the horizon is about 3300' above the ground. (Conversely, by the way, the orientation of the radar scans means that radar can't see things immediately above it.) Considering the dramatic improvement in the quality and speed of tornado warnings that occurred after the current generation of Nexrad radar sites were installed, it seems like the next logical extension is to increase the density of coverage by those radar installations, to improve warnings and forecasts even further. The coverage map for Nexrad installations still shows a lot of completely empty regions and others with very sparse coverage, including stretches of northern and southern Iowa. Considering that the initial installation cost of the original WSR-88D (Nexrad) installations was about $5 million each, it would seem that a reasonable cost-benefit argument could be made for installing a lot more of these radar sites in the interest of public safety.

Computers and the Internet US and China play cyber-war games
It was a test to see if the two could get along without coming to a shooting war, even if they suspected the other of attacking them via the Internet. The results? Not particularly reassuring.

Computers and the Internet Anyone who's squeaky-clean enough to run for office in 20 years will have to be a borderline-psychopath
(Video) The Onion jokes about it, but it's true. Kids generally lack judgment -- and in the past, that made little difference. Mistakes were made, and the worst that could happen was generally that an embarrasing photo showed up in the school newspaper or in the yearbook. But tools like Facebook and Twitter are (a) arming them with the tools to do really colossally-stupid things in front of a global audience, (b) recording those errors for all time, and (c) encouraging them to say and do stupid things in the hopes of obtaining just a tiny sliver of passing notoriety. Whether the mistakes are small or large, it seems hard to imagine that anyone is going to be able to leave behind any kind of digital footprint that lasts from age 13 to age 35 without leaving behind a few regrettable patches. And anyone who is so good at avoiding those mistakes from such a young age and for so long is likely the kind of person who's so focused on being "perfect" that they lose touch with reality. As a society, we're going to have to (a) adjust to the new reality and become more forgiving of people's past errors, and (b) do a better job of helping kids understand that they shouldn't make unforced errors online.

Business and Finance Japan offers IMF $60 billion to keep the wheels from falling off the world economy
Meanwhile, the US nominee to head the World Bank has gotten the job, even if Brazil doesn't like the decision

Socialism Doesn't Work Sometimes, it's good to get out of the family business
The new heir to power in North Korea must have signed off on the failed rocket launch the other day that cost his country nearly a billion dollars in actual expense, plus massive amounts of diplomatic goodwill worldwide. Someone needs to find a way to make the case to Kim Jong Un that belligerence isn't going to be in his own personal interests. He clearly doesn't care about the best interests of the people of his country -- and that kind of abuse of his own people, unfortunately, has been his family's legacy.

Science and Technology Shingles that double as solar-power collectors now on the market
They're being sold in California, Colorado, and Texas to start

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