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September 30, 2008

Dow Jones record dive

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Belinda Long-Ivey created this piece for the Sun Sentinel's Tuesday's print edition, reacting to the bailout controversy.

The Sun Sentinel provides a minute-by-minute update of the DJIA.

Bloomberg.com shows changes in 30 blue-chip stocks in real time and a chart showing movement in the last year.

POSTED IN: Belinda Long-Ivey (39), Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Economics (5)

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September 27, 2008

The Ford Model T 100 years later

Wednesday, October 1 marks 100 years for the Ford Model T. It transformed cars from a luxury item to something the average American could afford. Click here to see a video about the Model T.

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Now, car companies are having a tough time. One hundred years after introducing the Model T and rising to the top in car sales, here is a look at Ford Motor Co.

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To learn more about the Ford Model T,
check out the News Illustrated page here.

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POSTED IN: History (20), LIndsay Dubois (35)

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September 26, 2008

Tyrannosaurus Debt: Federal government is $9 trillion in the red

Good grief!

According to the Treasury Department, our total national debt is $9.79 trillion! And according to the National Debt Clock, that averages to $32,126.51 per U.S. citizen (does that include my unborn child?). Seems like the government has been spending money faster than the women on Bravo's The Real Housewives series.

So naturally, the next question comes to mind: If the $700 billion bailout plan is approved, how will it affect the national debt?

I don't have an answer causes I'm not an economist. But at least I can have a little fun while the Wall Street crisis continues. Enter School House Rock's "Tyrannosaurus Debt." I like how it just sums everything up ...





But don't fret just yet! I found this graphic on the AP wire that kind of puts our public debt in a positive light, if you compare it against our Gross Domestic Product. It's a little comforting ...

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September 23, 2008

Arctic Sea Ice: How much is there today?

I've always been interested in this topic. The amount of ice that is melting has surpassed predictions, several times. It just amazes me how quickly things are changing.

The ice in the Arctic has reached its lowest extent for 2008.

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The orange line in the Arctic Ocean shows the normal edge of the ice extent, that is, the average from 1979 to 2000. The chart shows the reduction of ice extent so far this year, 2007 and average. The black cross in the center of the map is the north pole. To see the daily extent of sea ice and more information, check out the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

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Comparing Sept. 2007 to Sept. 2008, ice melting opened the Northern Sea Route. The Northwest Passage has opened for the last two years. Read more about these passages.

Images courtesy of National Snow and Ice Data Center and United Nations Environment Programme.

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Environment (52)

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September 19, 2008

Maglev trains: The future of high-speed travel?

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Can you imagine riding a train that goes more than 350 miles per hour? That's faster than current high-speed trains, and a cheaper ride than in an airplane (think about the money you save if you don't have to check in a bag or pay for peanuts).

What's so great about these, you ask? Well for starters ... they FLOAT (yes, float!) on tracks and use magnets to guide them along, creating less friction which makes for a faster ride. How can you not get excited about that?

There are three magnetically levitating trains (or maglevs) in existence, but only China has the first working system. The other two are either a test track or still in planning phase (as evidenced in the photo above).

As for the United States, there are several proposed routes in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and even Atlanta. There was even a proposed route in Florida back in the late 1990s, linking Port Canaveral to the Kennedy Space Center and eventually to Orlando, but the project is stalled due to a lack of fundraising.

And finally, there's even a site dedicated to putting a maglev in the country.

But the problem is they cost so much to build — try billions of dollars — because of new tracks. But we may be closer to getting our first maglev, since a proposed Los Angeles-Las Vegas route got a huge federal grant this summer.

Take a look at this Sunday's News Illustrated to find out more about how maglevs work and where these routes could take place.

Meanwhile, to wet your appetite, check out this wire graphic that compares maglevs to other existing high-speed trains.




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Just in the nick of time? Federal reserve has a history of bail outs

I think we're all aware of the stock crisis that's been exploding this week — all thanks to that pesky little problem called the housing market.

It was also announced this week that the Federal Reserve would bail out AIG, and I heard on NPR this morning that they're considering doing more. So that got me thinking: Just how many of these has the Feds done?

Voila! AP comes to my rescue, and they sent out a chart yesterday explaining its history. And while we're at it, let's do a review of the top banks in America and look at how many billions both the Federal Reserve and world banks are investing to keep this ship from sinking.


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September 17, 2008

It's no Air & Sea show substitute, but...

Negotiations have been set in motion for a replacement show in 2010 for the Air & Sea show that has been a Florida tradition for the past 13 years. But since we have to do without it for two years, you can get your fix with this paper airplane garage. Learn about aircraft, how planes fly and design your own paper airplane.

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September 12, 2008

Hurricane slams Lake Okeechobee: Flashback to 1928

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Coffins are stacked and readied for victims of the hurricane, near Belle Glade.
Courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach


Eighty years ago, families witnessed unfathomable losses. The category 4 hurricane swept across South Florida killing and drowning an estimated 3,000 people.

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The hurricane forced Lake Okeechobee to breach its shores. See an animation that shows the rise in lake levels and flooding, produced by the Tropical Prediction Center.

Take a look at photos from the hurricane's destruction provided by the National Weather Service of the following cities: Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and Pompano Beach. Additional photos courtesy of Thomas Markham.

The 1928 Hurricane was the second worst natural disaster in the nation, followed only by the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, where 8,000 people were killed. Get information on some of the worst hurricanes and interactive graphics on their path at the National Hurricane Center.


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UPDATE: Download the pdf of the News Illustrated page on the 1928 Hurricane. The hurricane took much of the area by surprise, see how 3,000 people died, the hurricane's strength, its destruction, and the Herbert Hoover dike, past and present.


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There are memorials at several sites in Palm Beach County.

It is estimated that 75 percent of the victims were minority agricultural workers. The hurricane hit the rich farmland south of the lake. Many people were never found, covered in muck from flood waters or swept into the Everglades.

A stone marker was laid in memory of 69 victims in Woodlawn Cemetary,
West Palm Beach.

A historical marker locates 674 victims from Belle Glade, in West Palm Beach at Tamarind Avenue and 25th Street.

A stone marker lays at a mass grave in the Port Mayaca Cemetary which holds the remains of 1,600 victims.

At right, a memorial statue stands to the hurricane victims, located near the library in Belle Glade.
LIZ DOUP, Sun Sentinel file photo

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Environment (52), History (20)

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Hurricane evacuations: Who says I have to go?

So, now that Hurricane Ike is barrelling towards Houston and the Texas coast, one has to wonder how many people are actually taking this storm seriously.

Compare this to Florida's reaction last week when Ike was threatening to hit our lovely beaches. Our attitude was a wait-and-see approach.

The Associated Press must have been wondering the same thing and did some graphics about it. The first is a poll, asking coastal residents (though they don't say where they're from) about how they feel towards hurricane evacutions.

The second is look at the average costs of evacuating from New Orleans when Gustav was coming two weeks ago. I thought it was relevant because you kind of get an idea of what a family of four faces when they hit the road.


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Haiti's hurricane dilemma: Severe erosion helps cause worse flooding


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Haiti is in the middle of a major environmental disaster, not unlike Katrina when it hit New Orleans. Except, instead of a breach in levees, Hurricane Ike has left Haiti has to deal with runoff from the mountains which cause extreme flooding to the valleys and cities below.

Why is the runoff so bad? Consider this: Poor Haitians go into the mountains to harvest trees to make charcoal which is sold in the cities. Because there's no regulation, the trees disappear before you know it and now there's nothing to keep the ground soil from washing away.

In 2003, we did a series called Haiti, The Eroding Nation. Attached is a News Illustrated we did that describes the environmental problem in detail. And if you want more, you can see the multimedia project on The Edge here.

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September 9, 2008

Particle Accelerator Countdown: A new age in science

Scientists are waiting in anticipation - one more day.

Plans are set for the Large Hadron Collider, a multibillion-dollar particle accelerator, to produce its first beam. It will be seven times more energetic than any previous machine. The collider will be used to search for signs of invisible "dark matter" and "dark energy" and undiscovered particles thought to give matter mass. Some people fear that the collider may destoy the world but the scientific community has assured us that it would never happen.

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If you would like to follow the news on the event, or read about the final testing at CERN, the Europ0ean Organization for Nuclear Research.

We live in a fascinating time.

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Environment (52), Science (44), Technology (27)

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September 8, 2008

Blimp patrol: Florida's future tool for capturing drug smugglers

The Navy along with the Coast Guard finished their surveillance test of the Florida Straits using a blimp. You might be wondering "what good is a slow moving blimp." Well, this was not just any blimp advertising your favorite energy drink. This was a custom fitted "Skyship 600," equipped with a special infrared camera, a powerful radar, two Porsche engines and a large gondola with enough room to fit special equipment.

The main advantage of the blimp is that it can remain airborne for extended periods of time which helps to save on fuel dollars. During its 6-week test the blimp produce great results and actually helped officials spot migrants on two different occasions.

The blimp could possibly be used to patrol the Straits and help protect the U.S. borders in the future.

You can download the News Illustrated page here.

Learn more about the blimp at Airship Management Services, Inc or check out airshipoperations.com.

POSTED IN: Environment (52), Government (48), Kwency Norman (13), Safety (10), Science (44), Technology (27)

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September 5, 2008

Convention wrap-ups: How did the presidential candidates speeches stack up?

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Who says you can't have fun with politics?

If you recall, last week I posted a graphic word cloud (or is that graphic cloud??) of sorts summarizing the Democratic National Convention. This week, I have a word cloud summarizing both conventions (sorry, there wasn't one specifically for the Republican convention — I checked).

Based on the number of times certain words were said in the presidential and vice-presidential candidate speeches, one set focused more on issues than the other.

Still can't get enough? Check out these word clouds generated by 10000words.net for the GOP and DNC conventions. Or, as I said last week, try making your own!

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September 4, 2008

How computer models forecast hurricanes

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Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center study a wide array of data and use experience and intuition to predict a hurricane’s future path. Computer-generated weather models and measurements gathered by Hurricane Hunter aircraft play a major role. Here’s how some of the models work:

CLIPER CLImatology and PERsistence; National Hurricane Center
Type: Statistical model
How it works: Compares a storm to historically similar storms.

NHC981998 National Hurricane Center model, National Hurricane Center
Type: Combined model
How it works: Combines the CLIPER and GFS models. 

GFS Global Forecast System, National Centers for Environmental Prediction
Type: Dynamic model
How it works: Creates worldwide forecasts by plotting the storm on a large grid that covers the globe. Readings from the grid points nearest the storm are combined with known values consistent with hurricanes, such as convection.

BAM Beta and Advection Model, National Hurricane Center
Type: Dynamic model
How it works: Follows a vortex placed in the storm’s current position and corrects errors caused by the earth’s spin not accounted for in the GFS trajectory. Three types of BAM models:
BAMS (Shallow): For winds 5,000 to 10,000 feet
BAMM (Medium): For winds 10,000 to 24,500 feet
BAMD (Deep): For winds 24,500 to 47,000 feet

GFDL Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
Type: Dynamic baroclinic model
How it works: This model, developed specifically for hurricane prediction, uses a grid similar to GFS. It adds smaller grids over the storm to compute additional data. Meteorologists give this model significant weight.

NOGAPS Naval Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System, Naval Research Laboratory
Type: Dynamic global model
How it works: This model uses parameters of physical processes and a bogussing, or faking, scheme for a tropical cyclone.

UKMET United Kingdom Meteorological Office
Type: Dynamic Global model
How it works: Like the NOGAPS and GFS models, the UKMET includes extensive readings and a bogussing system.

GUNS Ensemble Naval Research Laboratory
Type: Combined model
How it works: This model averages the GFDL, UKMET and NOGAPS tracks. It is more accurate at 24, 48 and 72 hours than the best of individual models.

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How do you use your cell phone?

Technology is constantly changing and the trend seems to be having one device that can do everything. I think that sounds great and if I wanted to shell out the money, I'd probably have something like an iPhone too. I mean let's face it, I'm so ahead of the times that in high school, I had games like Tetris on my graphing calculator that I'd play during math class - I'm all for combining.

Given that cell phones are starting to be used more for their built in technologies than for actually making phone calls (check out the chart below), I think it's a great idea to do what this article is talking about. If I could wave my cell phone like a magic wand to purchase something, I'd shop even more than I already do. I never have cash as it is and that pesky plastic needs to go.

The only question that leaves me with is: What if I loose my cell phone? I already feel lost without it, and I really only use it for making phone calls...

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POSTED IN: LIndsay Dubois (35), Technology (27)

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September 3, 2008

Hurricane season: here we go again

Looks like there are hurricanes lined up for South Florida as we head towards the season's peak. But it's nowhere as bad as the continuous hits we endured in 2005. Below is a chronological chart of all the storms that year.
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Download the 2005 'cane News Illustrated and compare 2005's hectic hurricane season to 2008's so far.

POSTED IN: Environment (52), Renee Kwok (24)

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September 2, 2008

Rip currents are killers: Don't be the next victim

Here in Florida we take rip currents seriously.
Every year people die, from the young to the old, from Floridians to weekend visitors.

Before you hit our beaches please take a minute to learn about rip currents and tell your family. Then have a great time.

See an interactive on rip currents by the Sun Sentinel.
Read more information from NOAA.

POSTED IN: Cindy Jones-Hulfachor (46), Environment (52), Safety (10)

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