Jul 20, 2012

President Obama Speaks on the Shootings in Aurora, Colorado

Published on Jul 20, 2012 by whitehouse

President Obama says that last night's tragedy in Colorado reminds us of all the ways that we are united as one American family, and commits the Federal government to doing whatever is necessary to bring whoever is responsible to justice and ensure the safety of all of our people. July 20, 2012.

2012 Drought Officially Reaches Dust Bowl-Era Intensity | Farm Journal Magazine

NCDC marks June 2012 as the 6th worst month on record.

It’s time to stop comparing this year’s drought to the dire conditions of 1988. The 2012 drought has officially entered Dust Bowl-era intensity. The percentage of U.S. currently in drought now rivals conditions not seen since the mid-1950s and early 1930s.

A recent report by the Weather Channel indicates that more than 54% of the nation was in drought this June, which makes it the 6th worst month since the National Climatic Data Center began tracking such data in 1895.

Highest Percentage of U.S. In Drought
July 1934 79.9%
December 1939 62.1%
July 1954 60.4%
December 1956 57.6%
September 1931 54.9%
June 2012
August 1936 54.4%
May 1925 54.0%
June 1977 52.5%
June 1988 52.3%


Here are some additional items of interest, collected from various media outlets:

· A map on USA Today compares the drought intensity between 2012 and 1934.

· CNN recently interviewed Indiana farmer Brian Scott about how the drought has affected his Indiana farm.

Illinois farmer David Albin shares some of his recent observations on the drought and what still needs to be done this crop season, at this week's Farm Journal Corn College.

Jul 19, 2012

Cradle Crops: Miscanthus Giganteus (olifantsgras) - YouTube

Published on Jul 19, 2012 by cradlecrops

Cultivation process Miscanthus Giganteus Cradle Crops is a Dutch pioneer with the first goal of creating a market for Miscanthus giganteus, or elephant grass and other fiber and Biobased crops in the Netherlands and Belgium. To achieve this goal Cradle Crops plays a role in the establishment of the crop (s) with our plant and machinery we create markets for the marketing of biobased crops!

Downward spiral of drought conditions in Midwest... National Drought Summary -- July 17, 2012

Downward spiral of drought conditions in Midwest... Monte

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 National Drought Summary -- July 17, 2012

The discussion in the Looking Ahead section is simply a description of what the official national guidance from the National Weather Service (NWS) National Centers for Environmental Prediction is depicting for current areas of dryness and drought. The NWS forecast products utilized include the HPC 5-day QPF and 5-day Mean Temperature progs, the 6-10 Day Outlooks of Temperature and Precipitation Probability, and the 8-14 Day Outlooks of Temperature and Precipitation Probability, valid as of late Wednesday afternoon of the USDM release week. The NWS forecast web page used for this section is: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/forecasts/.

Weather Summary: A strong upper-level ridge of high pressure dominated the nation’s weather this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week, bringing well above-normal temperatures to the central and northern tier states. Clouds with scattered showers and thunderstorms along a stalled cool front kept temperatures below-normal in the southern states. But even then, maximum temperatures were 90 degrees F or warmer across much of the country, with maximums exceeding 100 from South Dakota to Kansas. Philip, South Dakota, reached 109 degrees on July 15. Beneficial rain fell from southern Texas to the southern Appalachians along the front. Excessive rainfall occurred over southeast Texas where amounts totaled 10 inches or more in places, but elsewhere rainfall amounts were generally localized with limited relief. Monsoon showers and thunderstorms brought above-normal rain to parts of the West, but the rain had little impact on deficits which have accumulated over several months. Weak fronts triggered localized showers and thunderstorms along the northern tier states. In between, hot and dry weather dominated from the central Plains to Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, and Northeast.

Another week of hot and dry weather continued the deterioration of crop conditions in America’s breadbasket. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports for the week ending July 15 indicated that 38 percent of the nation’s corn crop was in poor to very poor condition, compared to 30 percent a week ago, and 30 percent of soybeans were in poor to very poor condition (compared to 27 percent last week). Fifty-four percent of the nation’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, which is a jump of 4 percent compared to last week and is an all-time high for the 1995-2012 growing season weekly history. About two dozen large wildfires, mostly in the West, were burning on July 17, about half the number compared to a week ago. Streamflows were in the lower tenth percentile of record, or at record low values at several time scales, across much of the Midwest and parts of the central Plains, West, Southeast, and even parts of New England. As a result, the impacts boundaries were shifted to reflect short-term and long-term drought conditions from the west coast to Ohio Valley and Southeast, with short-term conditions indicated in the northern tier states and from eastern Tennessee to New England. Long-term impacts were indicated for parts of the Southwest and central Gulf of Mexico states.

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic: Light to locally moderate rain fell across parts of the region. But even the heaviest amounts, which fell in southeastern Pennsylvania and extreme southeast New York, were barely above normal for the week. Most areas were drier than normal and hot, with abnormally dry (D0) conditions expanding across New York, southern New England, northern Pennsylvania, and northern New Jersey. Moderate drought (D1) spread eastward from western New York, grew in the Chesapeake Bay area, and was added to western Massachusetts.

The Southeast, Deep South, and Southern Texas: Widespread heavy rains and flooding in southeast Texas resulted in significant improvement with the USDM depiction improving by two categories in parts of Texas and adjacent Louisiana. Elsewhere along the front, drought conditions improved by one category in a few local areas where 2-3 inches, or more, of rain fell, from Mississippi and southern Arkansas to West Virginia, and from Georgia to North Carolina. But expansion occurred in a few local areas missed by the rains in Alabama and North Carolina. Exceptional drought (D4) expanded in western Kentucky and southern Illinois, severe drought (D2) expanded in northwest Kentucky, and D1 filled in the hole from northern Kentucky into southwest Ohio. D1 expanded in the Florida panhandle which had below-normal rainfall and where low lake levels persisted.

The Great Plains to Midwest: Unrelenting heat and lack of rain continued the downward spiral of drought conditions. D0 to D2 expanded across parts of the Plains from Texas to North Dakota, from Missouri to Minnesota, and in the southern Great Lakes. Extreme drought (D3) was introduced in Nebraska, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and D3 expanded in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Indiana. The city of Indianapolis, Indiana, implemented mandatory water restrictions for the first time ever with many trees dropping their leaves and going dormant months early. Exceptional drought (D4) expanded in Arkansas and was introduced in western Kansas.

The West: Monsoon showers held drought deterioration at bay across much of the West, but with amounts mostly an inch or less, little improvement was seen. Even the 2+ inch rains in parts of Arizona were not enough to change the drought depiction. D4 in northwest Colorado was removed as conditions improved from recent rains, and the D1 was removed and surrounding D0 shrank in central Washington as precipitation in recent weeks justified the reassessment there. But drought conditions deteriorated in other parts of the West. D4 expanded slightly in southeast Colorado, and D0-D2 expanded from southeast Oregon and northern Utah to southern Montana.

Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico: The week was mostly drier than normal at most stations in Alaska and Hawaii, but no change was made to the depiction there. It was another dry week for much of Puerto Rico, with accumulated deficits exceeding 8 inches for the last two months. D0 was added to the western and eastern sections of the island which were persistently drier than normal out to 90 to 180 days and where below-normal streamflows were beginning to appear.

Looking Ahead: Beneficial rains could continue from the Gulf of Mexico coast to Mid-Atlantic States during July 18-23, with amounts in excess of two inches in places. Some of these rains could spread into the eastern sections of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys. Monsoon showers are expected in the Southwest and showers and thunderstorms may develop with fronts moving across the northern tier states, although rainfall amounts should generally be less than an inch in these areas. The southern to central Plains will likely be devoid of precipitation. Temperatures for much of the country east of the Rockies will be above normal, with departures possibly 10 to 15 degrees above normal from the central Plains to Great Lakes.

For July 24-August 1, dry weather is expected to dominate in the southern to central Plains, across the Gulf coast, and along the west coast, while monsoon showers should bring above normal precipitation to the Southwest. Above-normal temperatures should maintain their hold across the interior U.S. from the Plains to Southeast, with cooler-than-normal conditions along the west coast. Alaska is forecast to be wet with above-normal temperatures in the northeast and cooler-than-normal conditions in the west and south.

Author: Richard Heim, National Climatic Data Center, NOAA

Related Link:

Jul 18, 2012

Permaculture Keyline Water Systems: Don Tipping @ Seven Seeds Farm

Published on Jul 18, 2012 by amillison

Permaculture seed wizard Don Tipping takes us on a 10 minute animated tour of the epic Seven Seeds Farm in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon, USA. The farm was designed using Permaculture Principles and Keyline patterning. We follow the water system from top to bottom, and then the amazing downstream effects are revealed. This video was produced by Andrew Millison as part of the course content for his online Advanced Permaculture Design Practicum, Hort 485, taught through the Horticulture department at Oregon State University's Extended Campus: www.beaverstatepermaculture.com.

Beginner's Guide to Seed Saving

Created 2012-07-05
Things are getting round and ripe in your garden. That means it's time to think about saving seeds from your best tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and melons.

If left to themselves, these fleshy fruits would naturally fall to the earth, where some of their seeds would sprout when spring arrives again. Saving seeds from these plants mimics Nature's way—and it's not at all difficult to do.

But remember, only seeds from open-pollinated, not hybrid, plants will produce the same crop next year. (The packet that the seeds came from will tell you whether the variety is open-pollinated or hybrid.) And, except for tomatoes, the plants shouldn't be cross-pollinated by insects (which would happen if several varieties grew in the same area). Such saved seeds might grow into something that resembles the parent, or something tough and tasteless.

Tomatoes are self-pollinating. So if you avoid hybrid varieties, you'll be able to grow the same tomato next year from seeds you save this year—even if different varieties were grown close together. That's not the case with peppers and eggplants. Their flowers can be cross-pollinated by insects, so different varieties of these must be separated by 500 feet for the seeds to be pure.

Cucurbits—such as squash, cucumbers, gourds, and melons—need even more personal space. All of these garden favorites must be pollinated by insects. So unless close relatives (of the same species) are separated by a half-mile or more, you'll get a surprise if you grow the seeds.

For example, a zucchini and an acorn squash (both Cucurbita pepo) in the same garden will cross, thanks to pollinating insects. And the seeds probably won't produce a replica of either parent plant. But if you're growing zucchini and a butternut squash (C. moschata) in the same garden, you can save the seeds from each and expect to have your plants come up true to type when you plant them next year, since they are different species.

Easy to Save Seeds

The seeds of tomatoes, peppers, melons, and winter squash are ready for saving when the fruits are ripe and ready to eat.

Peppers are the easiest. The seeds are mature after the peppers have changed color, indicating final ripeness. Cut the peppers open, scrape out the seeds onto a plate (eat the pepper), and let the seeds dry in a nonhumid, shaded place, testing them occasionally until they break rather than bend. What could be simpler?

(Note: Dry all wet seeds on a glass or ceramic plate. Spread the seeds evenly over the surface of the plate and stir twice daily to ensure even drying and to keep them from clumping together. Don't dry seeds on paper plates or paper towels—they'll stick like glue. A food dehydrator set at 85ºF works well, but don't dry them in a warm oven or any place the temperature exceeds 95ºF.)

Saving tomato seeds takes a little more time, but it's just as easy. Harvest ripe tomatoes from several different vines of the same variety, cut each across the middle and gently squeeze the juice and seeds into a bowl. You'll see that each tomato seed is encased in a gelatinous coating. (This prevents the seed from sprouting inside the tomato). Remove this coating by fermenting it. This mimics the natural rotting of the fruit and has the added bonus of killing any seedborne tomato diseases that might affect next year's crop.

To ferment the seeds, add about half as much water as there are tomato seeds and juice in the bowl and stir the mixture twice a day for about three days. Keep a close eye on the mixture—especially if it's a warm area—fermentation happens more quickly at high temperatures. As the mixture ferments, its surface will become covered with white or gray mold. (Don't keep the bowl in the kitchen, anywhere it can be tipped over by animals or children, or where you'd be able to smell it—it will get pretty rank.)

When bubbles begin to rise to the top of the mass, or when a thick coat of mold has formed, stop the fermentation by adding enough water to double the mixture, and stir vigorously. The clean, good seeds will settle to the bottom of the bowl. Gently pour off mold, debris and any seeds that float (they're hollow). Add more water and repeat the process until only clean seeds remain.

Capture the seeds to be saved by pouring the liquid through a strainer, wipe the strainer bottom with a towel to remove as much moisture as possible, then dump the seeds onto a glass or ceramic plate to dry. Stir twice a day to ensure even drying and to prevent the seeds from clumping together. Warning: Tomato seeds will germinate unless you dry them quickly. To speed drying, you can use a fan, but don't put the seeds in sunlight or an oven.

Melons and squash
Muskmelons, watermelons, and winter squash? Super easy. Cut muskmelons open, scoop the seeds into a strainer, rinse, and set out to dry. Watermelons are almost as easy. Put the seeds in a strainer and add a dash of dishwashing liquid to remove any sugar left on the seeds. Rinse and dry.

Winter squashes need to be carefully cut to expose the seed cavity. Don't cut straight through the center of the squash—you'll cut through some seeds, too. Just stick the knife in as far as necessary to cut through the flesh and move it around the circumference. (Be careful—some squashes will fight back!) Pull the seeds from the fibers, rinse, and dry. And don't cut a squash before you're ready to eat it—seeds can be saved from most winter squashes many months after harvest (although a few of the long-storage varieties may have sprouted seeds inside after 6 months or so).

Seeds That Need More Time

Eggplants, cucumbers, and summer squash must ripen beyond the normal, ready-to-eat stage to allow viable seeds to develop inside.

To save the seeds of your eggplants, you'll need to wait until the fruits are far past the stage when you'd pick them for eating. Any seeds saved from table-ready eggplants will be immature and won't be viable. If left on the plant, purple eggplant varieties will ripen to a dull brownish color, green varieties to a yellowish green, and white varieties to golden. Eggplants ready for seed saving will be dull, off-colored, hard, and sometimes shriveled.

Cut the ripe eggplants in half and pull the flesh away from the seeded areas. If you want to save more than a few seeds, use a food processor or blender to mash the flesh and expose the seeds. Process (without peeling), and put the pulp in a bowl. Add water, let the good seeds settle, then pour off the water and debris. Repeat until only clean seeds remain. Add a bit more water and pour the mix through a strainer with a mesh fine enough to catch the tiny seeds. Dry the bottom of the strainer with a towel to absorb excess moisture and dump the seeds out onto a plate to dry.

After cucumbers ripen, they change color and become soft. (Remember, if you stop picking cucumbers, their vines will stop producing new fruit, so pick your fruit for seed saving toward the end of the season.)

Cut the ripe cucumber in half and scrape the seeds into a bowl. To remove the seeds' coating, rub them gently around the inside of a sieve while washing them or soak them in water for 2 days. Rinse and dry. (Note: Make sure the cucumbers you use for seed are disease-free; some diseases can be carried on seed and could affect your future crop.)

Summer squash
You'll need to let summer squash ripen past the tender stage, too. When you can't dent the squash with a fingernail, the fruit is at the right stage for seed saving. Pick it, cut it open, scrape the seeds into a bowl, wash, drain, and dry.

Source URL: http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/saving-seeds-for-next-season


Gary Zimmer - Dig a hole and observe the subsoil and aerate - YouTube

Published on Jul 17, 2012 by farmingsecrets

http://www.farmingsecrets.com/ Poor water penetration when water is running off like a river is often the result of farming the top 2 inches only. Dig a hole to find if you have an issue. What we do is use a Yeoman's plough to aerate the soil.

Jul 17, 2012

New Strategy Teaches Landowners Proper Conservation Management - Farm Progress

Invasive juniper trees, tall fescue and heavy grazing are three areas on which the group is working with landowners.
Published on: Jul 17, 2012

A new strategy to manage invasive species and achieve broader conservation goals is being tested in the Grand River Grasslands, an area within the North American tallgrass prairie ecoregion.

A University of Illinois researcher along with his colleagues at Iowa State and Oklahoma State Universities enlisted private landowners in a grassroots community-building effort to establish a more diverse landscape for native wildlife.

The Grand River Grasslands has three main problems that pose challenges to conservation efforts: invasive juniper trees, tall fescue, and heavy grazing of cattle. U of I ecologist Jim Miller and his team developed a new model for conservation that begins by raising landowners’ awareness of these problems and providing strategies, such as moderate livestock grazing and regularly scheduled controlled burns. Miller and his team identified landowners who are interested in trying something different -- who will, in turn, transfer their newfound knowledge and understanding to larger groups of people in the region.
New Strategy Teaches Landowners Proper Conservation Management

"We conducted a survey and learned that people recognize burning as a legitimate management tool but don’t have experience with it," Miller says. "Most of the landowners have never participated in a controlled burn, so we’ve essentially lost a fire culture in much of that part of the country."

Miller’s team invited landowners to hands-on educational field days at nearby nature reserves to show them how grazing and burning techniques work. They got experience with drip torches and learned how to work with the wind and moisture levels.

"We followed that up with a burn at one of the landowner’s savannahs that he was trying to restore," Miller notes. "It went really well and was a key step for us in our process because now we’re getting landowners to try these new strategies on their own properties."

Miller says the next step in the model is to encourage the landowners to champion these new practices to the larger community.

"If we’re successful with this, we’ll start to see changes, not just on individual properties here and there for key landowners but over the whole landscape or the whole region," he adds.

According to Miller, the fastest-growing group of landowners in the area is non-traditional. They don’t live in the region or come from a farming background, but they instead buy land to hunt deer, turkey, quail, or maybe just to birdwatch. He adds that on land with intensive cattle grazing, the cedars can be kept at bay.

"Without burning or grazing, the cedars will take over," Miller says. "Trees seem like a good thing to wildlife enthusiasts, but they don’t see that their land will go from being an open grassland to a closed-canopy cedar stand in 20 to 25 years. Under those conditions, there are no deer, no turkey, no quail – it’s a biological desert, and it’s too late to do much with it. We think we can make the most inroads with the non-traditional owners."

Juniper trees are invasive, largely due to fire suppression. Junipers are a fire-intolerant, woody plant. This particular species of juniper is also called eastern redcedar. Although that may sound appealing for patio furniture or decking or biofuels, it’s not. Miller said there’s no market for this type of tree. The trees produce a prodigious seed rain that facilitates rapid colonization of an area when left unchecked. With a survey from aerial photography dating back to 1983, Miller estimated a 3% increase in cedar coverage per year.

Tall fescue, an exotic invasive plant that forms a monoculture, greens up early in the spring making it difficult to burn.

"Heavy stocking of cattle is an issue," Miller says. "Cattle quickly reduce available forage to the point that some ranchers feed hay by July and August. That’s not quality habitat for grassland birds, which have seen the steepest declines in North America since we’ve been monitoring bird populations."

Frontiers in ecology and the environment: Nature reserves as catalysts for landscape change was published in The Ecological Society of America. Lois Wright Morton, David Engle, Diane Debinski, and Ryan Harr contributed. Photos were provided by Ryan Hart, Devin McGranahan, and Dave Engle.

The research was supported by funding from the Iowa State Wildlife Grants Program in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its Grant Competitive Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative, the Joint Fire Sciences Program, and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

The Story of Change - YouTube

Published on Jul 16, 2012 by storyofstuffproject
http://storyofchange.org — Can shopping save the world? The Story of Change urges viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles to build a more sustainable, just and fulfilling world.

Is it or isn't it? The Higgs boson story

Artist's impression of a proton-proton collision producing a pair of gamma rays (yellow) in the ATLAS detector (Image: CERN)

The recent discovery at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) of a massive particle "consistent with" the predicted properties of the Higgs boson hit the news with the force of a hurricane. But the phrase "consistent with" suggests that the CERN observation may also be "consistent with" other types of particle. Is it or isn't it? We're going to attempt to clarify the situation for you.

Before we start, let's get rid of one widespread misconception being thrown about by the news media. The Higgs boson is often called the God particle (but never by scientists). The reason for that moniker is that Leon Lederman, Director Emeritus of Fermilab and Nobel Prize winner, wrote a popular book on the Higgs boson. He wanted to call the book "The Goddamn Particle" because of the difficulty and expense of finding the Higgs, but the publisher thought that sales might suffer. The publisher then suggested "The God Particle" as an alternative, to which Lederman eventually acceded. The name is thus a response to a bad joke, rather than an indication of spirituality or divine origin.

Structures of atoms, nucleons, electrons, and quarks according to the Standard Model of particle physics (Image: CERN)

We're going to look at just what the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experiments at CERN saw, why the data is "consistent with" detection of the Higgs boson, and what other particles may be "consistent with" the same data.

First, though, some background information. There are four known forces in nature, two of which (gravity and electromagnetism) you can experience directly. When you get up out of a chair you fight the force of gravity, and when you shuffle your feet on carpet and touch a doorknob, the small spark is driven by the electromagnetic force.

The others are the strong and weak nuclear forces. The strong force holds together the nuclei of atoms, as well as binding the quarks inside protons and neutrons. If it were slightly smaller in strength, there would be no stable atoms, save for hydrogen.

Finally, the weak nuclear force is a large part of what makes particle physics interesting. This is because only the weak force can change an up quark into a down quark, and vice versa. Quarks are the particles which make up protons and neutrons – a proton is the combination of two up quarks and a down quark, while a neutron consists of one up quark and two down quarks. In the decay of a neutron into a proton one quark changes from down to up, which requires that a weak interaction happens.

Without the weak force, the type of hydrogen fusion that powers the Sun would be impossible – when you fuse four hydrogen atoms to get a helium-4 nucleus, two of the hydrogen atoms must turn into neutrons. This will not occur without the weak force.

The Standard Model of particle physics is a theoretical description of three of the four forces which control our universe (gravity strongly resists treatment within the structure of the Standard Model). Developed in its current form when quarks were first observed, discoveries of the Standard Model-predicted top and bottom quarks, and the tau neutrino (possibly also the Higgs boson) have given physicists more confidence in the basic picture.

However, the Standard Model is not a complete theory of the underlying structure of the universe. Among other problems, it does not allow prediction of the masses of the various particles, and it contains neither gravity, dark energy nor dark matter (together making up about 96 percent of the universe!). It's the best we have at present, but further work is required to formulate better models, which is where the CERN experiments come in.

The Standard Model predicts that the Higgs boson is the last elementary particle waiting to be discovered. In this view, all particles gain mass through their interaction with the uniform Higgs field, which exists throughout the universe. (Why uniform? Otherwise mass would vary depending on which direction it was traveling through space.) This is the simplest, but not the only, approach to explain why particles, kings, and cabbages have mass. If you can find the Higgs boson, the Higgs field also exists. But if the new particle discovered at CERN is not the Higgs boson, this could be the first solid indication that the Standard Model is wrong.

The ATLAS (right) and CMS (left) detectors (Photo: CERN)

What we know

What have the CERN experiments actually seen? Well, to start with, there is almost certainly a new particle with a mass of roughly 125 GeV. This mass can be estimated from the trajectories taken by the decay products. Weighing about 133 times the mass of a proton, the new particle is among the most massive particles so far detected. Only the top quark is heavier, at about 170 GeV. Among particles that can be isolated, the W and Z bosons (carriers of the weak nuclear force) are heaviest at 80-90 GeV.

A proton-proton collision producing a pair of energetic photons (gamma rays) as seen by the ATLAS detector. The photons are indicated by the red trajectories. An excess of such gamma pairs is among the evidence for the new Higgs candidate particle (Image: CERN)

In order to appreciate the CERN result, it's important to understand what's meant by the term "spin." Spin is a quantum mechanical property related to angular momentum that also obeys properties and rules that seem very strange compared to our experience of spinning objects. Fortunately, all we need to know here is that quantum mechanics predicts (and observation confirms) that spin comes in integer multiples of half of a fundamental magnitude. Thus, all particles have either half-integral spin (...-3/2, -1/2, 1/2, 3/2...) or integral spin (...-2, -1, 0, 1, 2...). Half-integral spin particles are called fermions, and integral spin particles are called bosons for reasons which need not concern us here.

CERN's new particle is observed to decay into a pair of photons (gamma rays). As photons have a spin of one, the particle from which they are emitted must have either spin-0 (1-1), or spin-2 (1+1). The experiments show the new particle has integral spin, so it is a boson. Spin-2 particles are rather unlikely to be made in a collider, so the new particle is probably (but not necessarily) a spin-0 particle.

Event recorded with the CMS detector in 2012 at a proton-proton centre of mass energy of 8 TeV. The event shows what may be a two-photon Higgs boson decay (photons in green) (Image: CERN)

The final bit of data we have characterizing the new particle is its decay modes – that is, what do we see the particle decaying into and with what probability? The new particle has been observed to decay via the following modes. The Higgs boson can also decay into the same modes.
A bottom quark and an antibottom quark
A tau lepton and an antitau lepton
A pair of photons
A W boson and an anti-W boson
A Z boson and an anti-Z bosonWhile the theoretical Higgs boson and the new particle have the same decay modes, it appears that there are certain discrepancies between the new particle's decay probabilities and those predicted for the Higgs boson. The probabilities for the bottom quark and tau lepton decay modes is much smaller in observations of the new particle than those predicted for the Higgs boson, and the probability for the photon decay mode is about 50 percent larger than predicted for the Higgs boson.

In summary, the data tells us that the new particle weighs about 125 GeV, has a spin of 0 or 2, and is not solidly in agreement with the decay modes predicted for the Standard Model Higgs. Not a lot of information. The CERN researchers describe the properties of the new particle as "consistent with" the Higgs boson. However, if the current distribution of decay mode probabilities survives the improved statistics resulting from the accumulation of more data, the Standard Model Higgs boson is in a bit of trouble, as is the Standard Model itself.
Other contenders

What else could the new particle be? There are other version of the Higgs interaction giving mass to particles. If the new particle does not decay into tau leptons, that would suggest that its interaction with tau leptons is rather weak, and also that it is not responsible for their mass. Perhaps the new particle is only the Higgs boson for bosons, but some other particle gives the fermions (electrons and leptons) their mass. This is in line with the original formulations of the Higgs field, which was to only explain how bosons got their mass.

This answer would require an extension of the Standard Model, probably in the direction of supersymmetry. Supersymmetry relates elementary particles of one spin to other particles called superpartners that differ by half a unit of spin. Supersymmetry is only one possible theory that would extend the Standard Model, but it is particularly interesting in that it offers possible solutions to numerous problems. An explanation for dark matter (80 percent of the matter in the universe) is among the benefits.

In addition, mathematical physicists have proven that supersymmetry is the only approach to develop a consistent description of spacetime and the internal symmetries of the particle zoo. On the other hand, there is no clear experimental result pointing toward a supersymmetric model of the universe. Such a model would contain at least five "Higgs bosons," whose properties would differ from the Higgs boson of the Standard Model. The property that could help make this distinction is something known as "parity." All we really need to know here is that if the new particle has odd rather than even parity, it would be suggestive of the influence of supersymmetry.
Is it, or isn't it?

Back to the original question - is it or isn't it? If the new particle is found to have odd parity, or if the decay mode discrepancies survive as more data is acquired, the new particle is likely not the Higgs boson of the Standard Model. This would actually be very exciting, as it may be the first dent in the Standard Model taking us toward a new level of understanding of the universe. Or we may have indeed just discovered the Higgs, but there is still a need to search for new clues as to the extra levels of structure we know must exist. The answers (and the questions) will become clearer as more data is gathered in coming years. Either way, these are certainly interesting times for physics.

Source: CERN

Illinois Innovators: Rajmohan Ghandi

Published on Jul 17, 2012 by Illinois1867
Rajmohan Ghandi is the biographer and grandson of the Mahatma Gandhi. He is also a research professor at the University of Illinois Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. He continues the work of his grandfather, trying to bring the world together through understanding and cooperation. Since September 11, 2001, he has addressed the issues between the West and the world of Islam. We look at this remarkable man, who is internationally recognized not just for his name, but for his work.

I am proud that University of Illinois leaders, professors, students, and former students are known for more meaningful endeavors than their sports program, Bud Lite endorsements, ... etc. All universities should learn from Penn State's mistaken priorities... Monte

Jul 16, 2012

Two of the Best Social Commentaries Ever Made

Published on Jun 19, 2012 by Namaste1001

George Carlin and Bill Hicks telling it like it is... Monte

Building an Office Shelf/Storage Unit - YouTube

Published on Jul 16, 2012 by thintz12

Building an (office) shelf unit. Building it square.

Precautions with late-season herbicide applications July 12, 2012 - University of Illinois Extension

Aaron Hager
Aaron Hager, Extension Specialist, Weed Science/IPM, hager@illinois.edu

The adverse environmental conditions common across much of Illinois are challenging the performance of many foliar-applied soybean herbicides.

Weeds that survive an initial herbicide application are often resprayed later in the season. However, according to University of Illinois associate professor of weed science Aaron Hager, the likelihood of controlling larger, moisture-stressed weeds continues to decline.

Moreover, herbicides applied late in the season are more likely to persist long enough to injure sensitive rotational crops. Nearly all herbicide labels (soil-applied or postemergence) specify the interval between herbicide application and planting a rotational crop. Some of these restrictions are based solely on time, while others take into account factors such as soil pH and the amount of precipitation received after herbicide application when determining interval length.

"Soil moisture is often the most critical factor governing the efficacy and persistence of soil-residual herbicides," Hager said. "Many herbicides are degraded in soil by the activity of soil microorganisms, and populations of these microorganisms can be greatly depressed when soil moisture is limited."

Dry soils can also enhance herbicide adsorption to soil colloids, thus rendering the herbicide unavailable for plant uptake and degradation by soil microbial populations. Some herbicide rotational intervals are increased if a specified amount of precipitation is not received by a certain calendar date.

The intervals are established to prevent herbicide residues from reaching levels that will adversely affect the rotational crop. Respecting these intervals becomes particularly important with late-season herbicide applications and when soil moisture is limited.

"Please keep in mind that the labels of almost all postemergence soybean herbicides indicate a preharvest interval or a soybean developmental stage beyond which applications cannot be made," said Hager.

Labels of some products may indicate both a developmental stage (before soybean bloom, for example) and a preharvest interval. Preharvest intervals indicate the amount of time that must elapse between the herbicide application and crop harvest.

Failure to observe the preharvest interval may result in herbicide residue levels in the harvested portion of the crop in excess of established limits. Moreover, labels on many postemergence soybean herbicides specify that foraging of, or grazing livestock on, treated soybean is not allowed.

Source: Aaron Hager, Extension Specialist, Weed Science/IPM, hager@illinois.edu

Local Contact: Russel Higgins, Commercial Agriculture Educator, Crop Sciences (Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center, Shabbona IL), rahiggin@illinois.edu

Growing Bulb Fennel

Benedict Vanheems
Full Article

For those in the Northern Hemisphere the longest day of the year falls on either the 20th or 21st June (for Southern Hemispherists it’s the 21st/22nd December). The longest day of the year marks a distinct turning point in the gardener’s calendar, with summer well and truly in command and, hopefully, the first flush of harvests coming and thick and fast if not already snaffled up.

With the likes of early peas and potatoes, broad beans and carrots lifted and plucked, the first free gaps on the plot will be making an appearance round about now. Of course, no vegetable grower worth his salt needs reminding that this is the perfect signal to sow and plant once more, for crops that will be enjoyed in a few months’ time and on into autumn/fall. For me, spring is very much a mad rush to get everything up and running before the really good growing weather arrives; starting off veg from midsummer is a more relaxed affair – a far cry from the sprinter’s pace of those earlier sowings.
Fabulous Florence fennel

Perhaps the most indulgent vegetable to start off at this time of year is Florence fennel, otherwise known as finocchio or, more commonly, bulb fennel. The handsome feathery foliage of this crop is matched only by its exquisite aniseed flavour that makes a fine pairing with fish (try baking parcels of mackerel with slices of fennel and lemon for a sublime dinner). But fennel has more strings to its bow than this – pop chunks into a stew to freshen things up, or finely slice a bulb over a garden-gathered salad using a chef’s mandolin. The leaves can be used in place of herb fennel.

Bulb fennel is perhaps a slightly misleading name, as the ‘bulb’ is in fact the swollen stem base of the plant. But this is nitpicking as all you really need to know is that this is a vegetable to luxuriate in – a gourmet kitchen gardener’s treat!
The right site

One of the reasons to sow bulb fennel at midsummer is its love of sunny conditions. Hailing from the Mediterranean, it is at home in a fertile yet free-drained soil that’s lovingly basked by the warming rays of summer. While those in Mediterranean-equivalent zones can of course sow in spring, those at more northerly latitudes must bide their time to be sure of success. By midsummer the soil will have warmed up more than adequately and success will be all but assured.

Despite its sun-kissed origins, however, bulb fennel will not tolerate dry conditions. While a moisture-starved soil isn’t necessarily bad for the plant itself, it’s not great news for us; dry soil encourages plants to run to flower prematurely at the expense of those juicy bulbs. Soil that was manured for a previous crop and that’s topped with a mulch of organic matter will stand a better chance at retaining that all-important soil moisture.

To be sure of adequate moisture it is likely you’ll need to thoroughly water the ground before re-sowing with fennel. Beware the thick canopies of the potato, which exclude all but the heaviest downpours of rain. Having lifted all of your spuds the soil that’s left has a tendency to be dust-dry. Either wait for a good rainstorm to pass before sowing your fennel, or go over the ground several times with the watering can or hose to re-wet. Bulb fennel can also be grown in containers of multipurpose compost.
Sowing and growing

Sowing is easy and best done direct where the bulb fennel is to grow. Sow the seeds into weed-free soil that’s been raked to a fine texture, setting seeds about 1cm (0.5in) deep. You can either station sow three or four seeds every 25-30cm (10-12in) each way, thinning to leave the strongest seedling at each position, or sow the seeds in rows before thinning in stages. It’s also possible to sow into module trays of compost before planting out, but do this promptly as the plants absolutely hate root disturbance.

Few pests will trouble your seedlings but slugs (as ever!) can be the exception. Nightly patrols to collect the slimy molluscs, the laying of beer traps or a sprinkling of pet-safe slug pellets will help to control the population.

As the stem bases begin to swell plants can be ‘earthed up’ just like potatoes by pushing loose soil up against the bases. This not only produces paler and hence more tender bulbs, it will give plants proper support and keep them from rocking back and forth in the wind.
Bolt out of the blue

Don’t let your bulb fennel run to seed or 'bolt'. The number one rule when growing this otherwise easy-care vegetable is that you must – and I mean must – keep the roots quenched (though never waterlogged). Water during any dry spells and apply a mulch of grass clippings or similar around the plants to lock it in.

Modern varieties are proving ever more resistant to bolting. The roll call of bolt-resistant varieties includes ‘Victoria’ with its orderly foliage, late-season ‘Cantino’ and the appropriately-named ‘Perfection’. Look out for them. In the very hottest climates heat alone can induce flowering – shading from other taller crops or temporary netting can alleviate the heat.

If one or two plants do stretch to flower, don’t despair. There’s no hurry to lift them out for the compost bin. The yellow umbels that follow not only look fantastic but are a powerful draw for all manner of beneficial insects. Fennel in full flower is a stunning sight and you could even put the case that your fennel is acting as pollinator/pest predator provider!
Enjoying the bulbs

Bulb fennel can be used at any size, with the smallest and most tender bulbs best for use raw in salads. Warm bulbs taken during the heat of the day can be freshened up by submerging thin slices in a bowl of iced water for up to an hour. They’ll soon regain their rigidity and full flavour. Cut the bulbs an inch above ground level and allow the stump to re-sprout (a trick that also works for cabbages). The bonus take of feathery shoots is both delicious and delicate.

However you use your bulb fennel you’ll be pleased you made the sowing. Just think, within just two months of reading this you could be enjoying the luxury of your own bulbs. It’s a tempting thought.

Permaculture Principles for Vegetable Gardeners

Friday, July 13, 2012 by Barbara Pleasant
Full Article

I hear that permaculture gardening is a hot topic in Europe, but every time I decide to study permaculture, my eyes glaze over and I get sleepy before I find new nuggets of wisdom I can put into action in my garden. I think it's the somewhat abstract design principles that throw me off. After 30 years of organic gardening in several different places, I favor a "first things first and get it done" approach to creating a sustainable landscape that provides an abundance of good food. The five guidelines below summarize my personal approach to putting permaculture principles to work in a productive vegetable garden.
1. Use your best spot to grow vegetables in permanent beds

Growing vegetables involves a big investment of time, and many gardeners struggle with small spaces and too much shade. The sunniest spot is always the best place for veggies, which cannot reach their peak of flavor and nutrition without at least 6 hours of direct sun each day. Once you have selected the best spot, you may need to thin low branches from nearby trees as you gradually create deeply dug, permanent beds that provide fertile, well-drained growing space for your home grown veggies. Do everything you can to make sure your vegetable garden site is as good as it can be.

2. Grow perennial vegetables and herbs that are adapted to your site, soil and climate

Food crops that come back year after year like asparagus and rhubarb are huge time-savers in the garden, and the same goes for long-lived kitchen herbs. Upkeep is usually limited to pruning, weeding and fertilizing once or twice a year, and I think perennial plants help give a garden personality. Because they like it there, a distant area of my garden is becoming a preserve for medicinal herbs like echinacea, elecampane, lemon balm and valerian. A low spot that stays moist for a long time after it rains has proven ideal for rhubarb. Finding the perfect site for a productive perennial you love earns you a permaculture star.
3. Enrich boundaries with berries

Blueberries, currants, grapes, raspberries, blackberries and other small fruits can be used to structure the landscape's boundaries. Most benefit from a trellis or other support, so training them over or along a fence is often quite practical. Grapes are especially useful in small yards, because they can be trained.
4. Use mulching, drip irrigation and composting to minimize water inputs and eliminate waste

These are permaculture principles that smart organic gardeners follow anyway, mostly because they are good for our gardens and our plants. I always need more mulch and compost, so I cultivate several grassy areas for clipping production, and pull up and compost what seems like tons of cover crop plants. I am not trying to reform the world. Rather, attentive organic gardening practices such as these naturally transform any spot into a more beautiful and productive space.
5. Watch and learn

This echoes the permaculture principle to observe and interact, but my garden humbles my fragile human intellect season after season. Too often our tendencies are to take thriving crops for granted, and react with alarm when problems develop.

Taking the time to stop, watch and learn is critical to your development as a vegetable gardener - a complicated process that requires learning a little about ten thousand things, from soil science to plant pathology. The best way I have found to make sure I take learning breaks is to make myself walk among my beds for ten minutes without doing anything - just looking to see how the plants, soil, insects, and sun are getting along together. It's rare for me not to discover something new.

Just for fun, I like to imagine what my landscape would do if left to return to its natural state. What plants would keep coming back, and which would perish by the end of the first season? My human-enforced permaculture principles would crumble as trees took over, but until then many birds and beasts would eat their fill of berries and apples, and the asparagus and rhubarb would fight to the end to hold their space. I can aspire to permaculture perfection all of my days, but nature will win in the end.

Jul 15, 2012

Kings Royal XXIX at Eldora Speedway - Music Mashup - Burn It To The Ground - YouTube


Published on Jul 15, 2012 by EldoraSpeedwayInc
A 'mashup' of video clips from around the track during the 29th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway - July 14, 2012

Published on Jul 15, 2012 by EldoraSpeedwayInc
Highlights from the 29th annual Kings Royal, held at the Eldora Speedway July 14, 2012. An entertaining race saw Sammy Swindell pick up his third Kings Royal crown. The event will air on SPEED TV July 28, 2012 at 2:00 P.M. (EST)

Published on Jul 14, 2012 by EldoraSpeedwayInc
Feature highlights from the July 13, 2012 'Knight Before the Kings Royal' event at Eldora Speedway. Joey Saldana topped a field of 48 World of Outlaws Sprint Car drivers, including reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart.