Find your truth

Monday, September 22, 2008

First day of the fall of 2008

The first day of fall occurs at the autumnal equinox: Monday, September 22, 2008, at 11:44:16 EDT (15:44:16 UCT).
This date is different from the season of fall, which is one of the major divisions of the year based on the change of weather. In temperate and polar regions generally four seasons are recognized while in tropical or subtropical regions seasons are defined by wet, dry, and sometimes cool. These meteorological seasons are reckoned by temperature, with summer being the hottest quarter of the year and winter the coldest quarter of the year. The equinoxes and solstices mark the start of spring/autumn and summer/winter. The divisions are based on the rotation of the earth with respect to the angle of the earth. As the earth goes around the sun, picture it looking down on its orbit from above. summer solstice is when the earth's north pole is pointed most directly towards the sun (longest day) - warming the northern hemisphere. Winter solstice is when the earth's south pole is most directly pointed toward the sun warming the southern hemisphere and leaving the north cold. (shortest day) The equinoxes are the midway points between the solstices with the sun halfway between its northmost and southmost points, so we have equal day and night.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Technical fault halts LHC machine for 2 months

The giant Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most expensive scientific experiment, will be shut down for at least two months, scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Geneva said Saturday.
The shutdown casts into doubt the hopes of CERN physicists to achieve high-energy collisions of protons in the machine before the end of the year.
“It’s too early to say whether we’ll still be having collisions this year,” said James Gillies, chief of communications for CERN, in an e-mail message.
The laboratory shuts down to save money on electricity during the winter. A gala inauguration party scheduled for Oct. 21 will still take place, Dr. Gillies said.
The collider is designed to accelerate the subatomic particles known as protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts, far surpassing any other accelerator on Earth, and bang them together in search of new particles and forces.
After the initial success of threading protons through the machine on Sept. 10, physicists had hoped they could move ahead quickly to low-energy collisions at 450 billion electron volts and then five-trillion-electron volt collisions as early as mid-October.
Several mishaps, including the failure of a 30-ton electrical transformer, have slowed progress since then. In the worst case, on Friday, one of the giant superconducting magnets that guide the protons failed during a test. A large amount of helium, which is used to cool the magnets to within 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit of absolute zero, leaked into the collider tunnel.
In a terse statement, the laboratory said that an electrical connection between the magnets had melted because of the high current. To fix it, engineers will have to warm that section of the tunnel, and then cool it all the way down again.
Physicists say such setbacks are an inevitable part of starting up such a large and complicated machine, which has cost $8 billion and taken 14 years.
“This is just an unfortunate fact of life when starting up a machine like the L.H.C,” Dr. Gillies said.

Learn about LHC

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Worst Crisis Since '30s, With No End Yet in Sight

The financial crisis that began 13 months ago has entered a new, far more serious phase.
Lingering hopes that the damage could be contained to a handful of financial institutions that made bad bets on mortgages have evaporated. New fault lines are emerging beyond the original problem -- troubled subprime mortgages -- in areas like credit-default swaps, the credit insurance contracts sold by American International Group Inc. and others. There's also a growing sense of wariness about the health of trading partners.

The consequences for companies and chief executives who tarry -- hoping for better times in which to raise capital, sell assets or acknowledge losses -- are now clear and brutal, as falling share prices and fearful lenders send troubled companies into ever-deeper holes. This weekend, such a realization led John Thain to sell the century-old Merrill Lynch & Co. to Bank of America Corp. Each episode seems to bring government intervention that is more extensive and expensive than the previous one, and carries greater risk of unintended consequences.
Expectations for a quick end to the crisis are fading fast. "I think it's going to last a lot longer than perhaps we would have anticipated," Anne Mulcahy, chief executive of Xerox Corp., said Wednesday.
"This has been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. There is no question about it," said Mark Gertler, a New York University economist who worked with fellow academic Ben Bernanke, now the Federal Reserve chairman, to explain how financial turmoil can infect the overall economy. "But at the same time we have the policy mechanisms in place fighting it, which is something we didn't have during the Great Depression."
Spreading Disease
The U.S. financial system resembles a patient in intensive care. The body is trying to fight off a disease that is spreading, and as it does so, the body convulses, settles for a time and then convulses again. The illness seems to be overwhelming the self-healing tendencies of markets. The doctors in charge are resorting to ever-more invasive treatment, and are now experimenting with remedies that have never before been applied. Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, walking into a hastily arranged meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday night to brief them on the government's unprecedented rescue of AIG, looked like exhausted surgeons delivering grim news to the family.

Fed and Treasury officials have identified the disease. It's called deleveraging, or the unwinding of debt. During the credit boom, financial institutions and American households took on too much debt. Between 2002 and 2006, household borrowing grew at an average annual rate of 11%, far outpacing overall economic growth. Borrowing by financial institutions grew by a 10% annualized rate. Now many of those borrowers can't pay back the loans, a problem that is exacerbated by the collapse in housing prices. They need to reduce their dependence on borrowed money, a painful and drawn-out process that can choke off credit and economic growth.
At least three things need to happen to bring the deleveraging process to an end, and they're hard to do at once. Financial institutions and others need to fess up to their mistakes by selling or writing down the value of distressed assets they bought with borrowed money. They need to pay off debt. Finally, they need to rebuild their capital cushions, which have been eroded by losses on those distressed assets.
But many of the distressed assets are hard to value and there are few if any buyers. Deleveraging also feeds on itself in a way that can create a downward spiral: Trying to sell assets pushes down the assets' prices, which makes them harder to sell and leads firms to try to sell more assets. That, in turn, suppresses these firms' share prices and makes it harder for them to sell new shares to raise capital. Mr. Bernanke, as an academic, dubbed this self-feeding loop a "financial accelerator."

"Many of the CEO types weren't take these losses, and say, 'I accept the fact that I'm selling these way below fundamental value,'" said Anil Kashyap, a University of Chicago Business School economics professor. "The ones that had the biggest exposure, they've all died."
Deleveraging started with securities tied to subprime mortgages, where defaults started rising rapidly in 2006. But the deleveraging process has now spread well beyond, to commercial real estate and auto loans to the short-term commitments on which investment banks rely to fund themselves. In the first quarter, financial-sector borrowing slowed to a 5.1% growth rate, about half of the average from 2002 to 2007. Household borrowing has slowed even more, to a 3.5% pace.
Not Enough
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economist Jan Hatzius estimates that in the past year, financial institutions around the world have already written down $408 billion worth of assets and raised $367 billion worth of capital.
But that doesn't appear to be enough. Every time financial firms and investors suggest that they've written assets down enough and raised enough new capital, a new wave of selling triggers a reevaluation, propelling the crisis into new territory. Residential mortgage losses alone could hit $636 billion by 2012, Goldman estimates, triggering widespread retrenchment in bank lending. That could shave 1.8 percentage points a year off economic growth in 2008 and 2009 -- the equivalent of $250 billion in lost goods and services each year.
"This is a deleveraging like nothing we've ever seen before," said Robert Glauber, now a professor of Harvard's government and law schools who came to Washington in 1989 to help organize the savings and loan cleanup of the early 1990s. "The S&L losses to the government were small compared to this."
Hedge funds could be among the next problem areas. Many rely on borrowed money to amplify their returns. With banks under pressure, many hedge funds are less able to borrow this money now, pressuring returns. Meanwhile, there are growing indications that fewer investors are shifting into hedge funds while others are pulling out. Fund investors are dealing with their own problems: Many have taken out loans to make their investments and are finding it more difficult now to borrow.
That all makes it likely that more hedge funds will shutter in the months ahead, forcing them to sell their investments, further weighing on the market.
Debt-driven financial traumas have a long history, from the Great Depression to the S&L crisis to the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Neither economists nor policymakers have easy solutions. Cutting interest rates and writing stimulus checks to families can help -- and may have prevented or delayed a deep recession. But, at least in this instance, they don't suffice.
In such circumstances, governments almost invariably experiment with solutions with varying degrees of success. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt unleashed an alphabet soup of new agencies and a host of new regulations in the aftermath of the market crash of 1929. In the 1990s, Japan embarked on a decade of often-wasteful government spending to counter the aftereffects of a bursting bubble. President George H.W. Bush and Congress created the Resolution Trust Corp. to take and sell the assets of failed thrifts. Hong Kong's free-market government went on a massive stock-buying spree in 1998, buying up shares of every company listed in the benchmark Hang Seng index. It ended up packaging them into an exchange-traded fund and making money.
Taking Out the Playbook
Today, Mr. Bernanke is taking out his playbook, said NYU economist Mr. Gertler, "and rewriting it as we go."
Merrill Lynch & Co.'s emergency sale to Bank of America Corp. last weekend was an example of the perniciousness and unpredictability of deleveraging. In the past year, Merrill had hired a new chief executive, written off $41.4 billion in assets and raised $21 billion in equity capital.
But Merrill couldn't keep up. The more it raised, the more it was forced to write off. When Merrill CEO John Thain attended a meeting with the New York Fed and other Wall Street executives last week, he saw that Merrill was the next most vulnerable brokerage firm. "We watched Bear and Lehman. We knew we could be next," said one Merrill executive. Fearful that its lenders would shut the firm off, he sold to Bank of America.
This crisis is complicated by innovative financial instruments that Wall Street created and distributed. They're making it harder for officials and Wall Street executives to know where the next set of risks is hiding and also contributing to the crisis's spreading impact.
Swaps Game
The latest trouble spot is an area called credit-default swaps, which are private contracts that let firms trade bets on whether a borrower is going to default. When a default occurs, one party pays off the other. The value of the swaps rise and fall as the market reassesses the risk that a company won't be able to honor its obligations. Firms use these instruments both as insurance -- to hedge their exposures to risk -- and to wager on the health of other companies. There are now credit-default swaps on more than $62 trillion in debt, up from about $144 billion a decade ago.
One of the big new players in the swaps game was AIG, the world's largest insurer and a major seller of credit-default swaps to financial institutions and companies. When the credit markets were booming, many firms bought these instruments from AIG, believing the insurance giant's strong credit ratings and large balance sheet could provide a shield against bond and loan defaults. AIG believed the risk of default was low on many securities it insured.
As of June 30, an AIG unit had written credit-default swaps on more than $446 billion in credit assets, including mortgage securities, corporate loans and complex structured products. Last year, when rising subprime-mortgage delinquencies damaged the value of many securities AIG had insured, the firm was forced to book large write-downs on its derivative positions. That spooked investors, who reacted by dumping its shares, making it harder for AIG to raise the capital it increasingly needed.

Credit default swaps "didn't cause the problem, but they certainly exacerbated the financial crisis," said Leslie Rahl, president of Capital Market Risk Advisors, a consulting firm in New York. The sheer volume of CDS contracts outstanding -- and the fact that they trade directly between institutions, without centralized clearing -- intertwined the fates of many large banks and brokerages.
Few financial crises have been sorted out in modern times without massive government intervention. Increasingly, officials are coming to the conclusion that even more might be needed. A big problem: The Fed can and has provided short-term money to sound, but struggling, institutions that are out of favor. It can, and has, reduced the interest rates it influences to attempt to reduce borrowing costs through the economy and encourage investment and spending.
But it is ill-equipped to provide the capital that financial institutions now desperately need to shore up their finances and expand lending.
Resolution Trust Scenario
In normal times, capital-starved companies usually can raise money on their own. In the current crisis, a number of big Wall Street firms, including Citigroup Inc., have turned to sovereign-wealth funds, the government-controlled pools of money.
But both on Wall Street and in Washington, there is increasing expectation that U.S. taxpayers will either take the bad assets off the hands of financial institutions so they can raise capital, or put taxpayer capital into the companies, as the Treasury has agreed to do with mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
One proposal was raised by Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Rep. Frank is looking at whether to create an analog to the Resolution Trust Corp., which took assets from failed banks and thrifts and found buyers over several years.
"When you have a big loss in the marketplace, there are only three people that can take the loss -- the bondholders, the shareholders and the government," said William Seidman, who led the RTC from 1989 to 1991. "That's the dance we're seeing right now. Are we going to shove this loss into the hands of the taxpayers?"
The RTC seemed controversial and ambitious at the time. Any version today would be even more complex. The RTC dispensed mostly of commercial real estate. Today's troubled assets are complex debt securities -- many of which include pieces of other instruments, which in turn include pieces of others, many steps removed from the actual mortgages or consumer loans on which they are based. Unraveling these strands will be tedious and getting at the underlying collateral, difficult.
In the early stages of this crisis, regulators saw that their rules didn't fit the rapidly changing financial system they were asked to oversee. Investment banks, at the core of the crisis, weren't as closely monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission as commercial banks were by their regulators.
The government has a system to close failed banks, created after the Great Depression in part to avoid sudden runs by depositors. Now, runs happen in spheres regulators may not fully understand, such as the repurchase agreement, or repo, market, in which investment banks fund their day-to-day operations. And regulators have no process for handling the failure of an investment bank like Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Insurers like AIG aren't even federally regulated.
Regulators have all but promised that more banks will fail in the coming months. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is drawing up a plan to raise the premiums it charges banks so that it can rebuild the fund it uses to back deposits. Examiners are tightening their leash on banks across the country.
Pleasant Mystery
One pleasant mystery is why the crisis hasn't hit the economy harder -- at least so far. "This financial crisis hasn't yet translated into fewer...companies starting up, less research and development, less marketing," Ivan Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, said Wednesday. "We haven't seen that yet. I'm sure every company is keeping their eyes on it."
At 6.1%, the unemployment rate remains well below the peak of 7.8% in 1992, amid the S&L crisis.
In part, that's because government has reacted aggressively. The Fed's classic mistake that led to the Great Depression was that it tightened monetary policy when it should have eased. Mr. Bernanke didn't repeat that error. And Congress moved more swiftly to approve fiscal stimulus than most Washington veterans thought possible.
In part, the broader economy has held mostly steady because exports have been so strong at just the right moment, a reminder of the global economy's importance to the U.S. And in part, it's because the U.S. economy is demonstrating impressive resilience, as information technology allows executives to react more quickly to emerging problems and -- to the discomfort of workers -- companies are quicker to adjust wages, hiring and work hours when the economy softens.
But the risk remains that Wall Street's woes will spread to Main Street, as credit tightens for consumers and business. Already, U.S. auto makers have been forced to tighten the terms on their leasing programs, or abandon writing leases themselves altogether, because of problems in their finance units. Goldman Sachs economists' optimistic scenario is a couple years of mild recession or painfully slow economy growth.


Thou seest reality in the transitory body because of ignorance.Remove this ignorance that viels thy true knowledge, and know thy self as pure,free, divine, abolute.
-Srimad Bhagavatam 11.4

Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Most of us can forgive and forget; we just don't want the other person to forget that we forgave.
- Ivern Ball

Konowledge is power,
but enthusiasm pulls the switch...
- Ivern Ball

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lehman Bros files for bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch taken over

Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest US investment bank, has filed for bankruptcy protection, dealing a blow to the fragile global financial system. The news led to sharp falls in share prices around the world, and officials took measures to reassure markets. Lehman had incurred losses of billions of dollars in the US mortgage market.
Merrill Lynch, also stung by the credit crunch, has agreed to be taken over by Bank of America, the latest twist in a dramatic turn of events on Wall Street. US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said the US was "working through a difficult period in our financial markets right

Lehman Bros headquarters at Manhattan

now as we work off some of the past excesses". Paulson upbeat despite turmoil but he added: "The American people can remain confident in the soundness and resilience of our financial system." However he warned that uncertainty remained and it was likely that there would be further "rough spots" ahead before the market was corrected.

Turmoil would continue in financial markets until the housing correction was completed, he added. Mr Paulson said he was committed to working with regulators in the US and abroad, as well as policymakers in Congress to take the necessary steps "to maintain the stability and orderliness of our financial markets". But he gave no details of what such steps might mean.
Earlier in the day President George W Bush said: "In the long term I am confident that our financial markets are flexible and resilient and can deal with these adjustments."
'Extraordinary 24 hours'
Separately, Bank of America said it had agreed to buy investment bank Merrill Lynch for $50bn (£28bn), in a deal that will create the world's largest financial services company. Three of the top five US investment banks have now fallen victim to the credit crunch. Lehman and Merrill join Bear Stearns, which was sold to JP Morgan for a knockdown price in March.
The BBC's business editor, Robert Peston, said that it had been Wall Street's most extraordinary 24 hours since the late 1920s. He said that Merrill's sale was almost as shocking as Lehman's demise. "The global financial economy has never in recent years been tested by quite such a combination of accidents and jolts to confidence," he said.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A subatomic venture

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

These were the words of the famous physicist Albert Einstein, who went on to say that "Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

If you venture into the subatomic world in an attempt to unveil its inner workings, possession of all the knowledge in the world is not enough. Instead, invite your imagination to serve as a guide, because many rules as we know them no longer apply. Just like the story of Alice In Wonderland, this new world may look familiar but it is not fully comprehensible. Scales shift and matter transforms. Transitory twins appear and extra dimensions hide.
Nature has the ability to throw us the biggest surprises, so expect dramatic twists and unexpected turns; many before you have dreamed up mind–blowing theories and crazy concepts. Some of these have prevailed against the tests of time and armies of knowledgeable critics – thus far.
Someone, sometime, somewhere, may succeed in completing these unfinished mysteries, or even rewrite the chapters entirely. The book is by no means finished.
For more, go to following link of CERN site

Big Bang Experiment

Google search showed the LHC as part of its logo today.

First beam in the LHC - accelerating science

Geneva, 10 September 2008. The first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN1 was successfully steered around the full 27 kilometres of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator at 10h28 this morning. This historic event marks a key moment in the transition from over two decades of preparation to a new era of scientific discovery.
“It’s a fantastic moment,” said LHC project leader Lyn Evans, “we can now look forward to a new era of
understanding about the origins and evolution of the
A historic moment in the CERN Control
Centre: the beam was successfully steered
around the accelerator.

Starting up a major new particle accelerator takes much more than flipping a switch. Thousands of individual elements have to work in harmony, timings have to be synchronized to under a billionth of a second, and beams finer than a human hair have to be brought into head-on collision. Today’s success puts a tick next to the first of those steps, and over the next few weeks, as the LHC’s operators gain experience and confidence with the new machine, the machine’s acceleration systems will be brought into play, and the beams will be brought into collision to allow the research programme to begin.
Once colliding beams have been established, there will be a period of measurement and calibration for the LHC’s four major experiments, and new results could start to appear in around a year. Experiments at the LHC will allow physicists to complete a journey that started with Newton's description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science is unable to explain the mechanism that generates mass. Experiments at the LHC will provide the answer. LHC experiments will also try to probe the mysterious dark matter of the universe – visible matter seems to account for just 5% of what must exist, while about a quarter is believed to be dark matter. They will investigate the reason for nature's preference for matter over antimatter, and they will probe matter as it existed at the very beginning of time.
“The LHC is a discovery machine,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar, “its research programme has the potential to change our view of the Universe profoundly, continuing a tradition of human curiosity that’s as old as mankind itself.”
Tributes have been coming in from laboratories around the world that have contributed to today’s success.
“The completion of the LHC marks the start of a revolution in particle physics,” said Pier Oddone, Director of the US Fermilab. “We commend CERN and its member countries for creating the foundation for many nations to come together in this magnificent enterprise. We appreciate the support that DOE and NSF have provided throughout the LHC's construction. We in the US are proud to have contributed to the accelerator and detectors at the LHC, together with thousands of colleagues around the world with whom we share this quest.”
“I congratulate you on the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider,” said Atsuto Suzuki, Director of Japan’s KEK laboratory, “This is a historical moment.”
“It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience for us,” said Vinod C. Sahni, Director of India’s Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, “I extend our best wishes to CERN for a productive run with the LHC machine in the years to come.”
“As some might say: ‘One short trip for a proton, but one giant leap for mankind!’ TRIUMF, and indeed all of Canada, is delighted to bear witness to this amazing feat,” said Nigel S. Lockyer, Director of Canada’s TRIUMF laboratory. “Everyone has been involved but CERN is to be especially congratulated for bringing the world together to embark on such an incredible adventure.”
In a visit to CERN shortly before the LHC’s start-up United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said: “I am very honored to visit CERN, an invaluable scientific institution and a shining example what international community can achieve through joint efforts and contribution. I convey my deepest admiration to all the scientists and wish them all the success for their research for peaceful development of scientific progress.”
1 CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fed's Cup

No matter what anyone else said or thought, Roger Federer knew he was still capable of elite tennis.
Knew he was still capable of winning Grand Slam titles.
Knew he was still Roger Federer.
Back at his best, back at the top of tennis, Federer easily beat Andy Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 Monday to win his fifth consecutive U.S. Open championship and 13th major title overall.
Federer is the first man since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win the tournament that many times in a row. He also moved within one major championship of tying Pete Sampras' career record of 14.
"One thing's for sure," Federer said in an on-court interview. "I'm not going to stop at 13. That would be terrible."
The victory clearly came as something of a relief to Federer, who has struggled during a lackluster-only-for-him season. He lost in the semifinals at the Australian Open, and to nemesis Rafael Nadal in the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon, meaning Federer was on the verge of his first year since 2002 without a major title. And his record streak of 237 consecutive weeks at No. 1 ended last month when Nadal surpassed him.
"I had a couple of tough Grand Slams this year ... so to take this one home is incredible," Federer said. "It means the world to me."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Belgian GP - Rain plays havoc

Kimi Raikkonen says he wasn't prepared to settle for second following a disappointing end to the Belgian Grand Prix. The Finn was slugging it out with Lewis Hamilton for P1 when the two made contact during the final stages of the race. Hamilton eventually passed him, but just as Raikkonen looked like he was ready to challenge the Brit again, the rain started to fall and he spun off the track. The Ferrari driver says he was ready to go all out during the battle with Hamilton. "I was prepared to win or lose, but unfortunately I went off," the Finn told reporters. "I only wanted to win. I slid wide on the fast left-hander, and tried to come back on the circuit but I spun. "I needed to get points so wanted to win it or lose it but unfortunately went off. I didn't want to finish behind we would have lost points." Raikkonen refused to go into too much detail about the race stewards' decision to investigate his altercation with Hamilton. The two made contact at the Bus Stop corner and the McLaren driver jumped the chicane, but Hamilton allowed the Finn to pass him. Hamilton earlier claimed Raikkonen "pushed him wide", but the Ferrari didn't want to comment about the incident. "There are rules about cutting chicanes and gaining an advantage and they are looking it. So I don't have anything to say," he added.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fruit Art

Paes-Black - Mixed Double US Open Title Winners

Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Leander Paes of India won their first U.S. Open mixed doubles title by beating Liezel Huber of the United States and Jamie Murray of Britain 7-6 (6), 6-4 in the final Thursday.
Paes has won four Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, and Black has won three — but this was the first for each at Flushing Meadows and the first for them as a team.They were seeded fifth at the U.S. Open. Huber and Murray were unseeded.