April 2, 2013 12:09 pm
In Nelson, Ga., the city council passed a new ordinance yesterday mandating that every head of household own a gun and ammunition.
The new measure—the Family Protection Ordinance—also requires that the heads of houses “provide for the emergency management of the city”and “provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants,” says the Associated Press. As the AP notes, the town’s law is mostly political posturing—no one plans to actually enforce the law, and the ordinance bears no penalties for breaking it.
Though Nelson’s measure is new, the idea is a throwback to the foundations of the nation.
In 1791, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution gave citizens the right to bear arms. The second Militia Act of 1792 mandated it. The Atlantic:
The Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that, were they running for office today, the NRA would not endorse them. While they did not care to completely disarm the citizenry, the founding generation denied gun ownership to many people: not only slaves and free blacks, but law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution.
For those men who were allowed to own guns, the Founders… required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls.
On May 8, 1792, says History.com, the passing of the second Militia Act required “every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years be enrolled in the militia.”
The law didn’t just mandate gun ownership, it was actually incredibly specific about the kit you’d need to pack. According to Politifact you’d need:
“A good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges,” along with balls and gunpowder. A rifle could be substituted.
But the purpose of Georgia’s new gun mandate is also very different from this eighteenth century idea. It’s meant to act as a “security sign” for the town, says the AP. The 1792 Militia Acts were designed to establish State militia, the precursor to the National Guard, for the defense of the nation and the quelling of rebellion.
More from Smithsonian.com:
Open For Business: The 3D Printed Gun Store
The Navy’s Future Is Filled With Laser Guns
In Canada, People Gladly Trade in Guns for Shiny New Cameras
In 2010 $600 Million in Guns and Ammo Were Exported from the US
April 2, 2013 11:36 am
This morning, President Obama announced that his 2014 budget would include $100 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. As the New York Times writes, the administration hopes this project will do for the brain what the 1990 Human Genome project did for genetics.
So just what is the BRAIN Initiative?
It’ll be a decade-long efforts to understand the inner workings of the human brain and chart all of its activities once and for all. Like the Human Genome project, this new effort will draw from federal agencies, private foundations and scientists. In the best-case scenario, the Times writes, the project could lead to treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a number of mental illnesses. Or it could help develop artificial intelligence or nail down the elusive concept of consciousness.
As the Times points out, the brain remains one of science’s greatest mysteries:
Composed of roughly 100 billion neurons that each electrically “spike” in response to outside stimuli, as well as in vast ensembles based on conscious and unconscious activity, the human brain is so complex that scientists have not yet found a way to record the activity of more than a small number of neurons at once, and in most cases that is done invasively with physical probes.
But a group of nanotechnologists and neuroscientists say they believe that technologies are at hand to make it possible to observe and gain a more complete understanding of the brain, and to do it less intrusively.
NPR has reported that some of this work has already started; there’s just a need for more cooperation:
There are several ways to map the brain, [science writer Carl] Zimmer says, one well-known example being an MRI. The resolution, however, is not nearly high enough for scientists to see all of the intricate wiring of the brain, where hundreds of thousands or even millions of neurons can fit in an area the size of a poppy seed.
“There are people who are trying to go down to that level,” he says.
Some of this is already happening, albeit slowly, in labs around the world, Zimmer says. The problem is the efforts aren’t coordinated.
One-hundred million dollars is just a tiny bit of the funding that’ll be needed to do this work, though. In the end, it’ll likely cost billions to truly understand how our brains work.
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April 1, 2013 12:40 pm
Over the weekend, an oil pipeline burst in the middle of Mayflower, Arkansas. The leaking oil forced the evacuation of a few dozen homes and brought more than 100 workers from ExxonMobil, the company that owns the pipe, in for the clean-up response.
A flow of oil that was on its way from a pipeline hub in Illinois on its way to Texas sprung from the ground, says the City of Mayflower, dumping more than 12,000 barrels of oil and water into the street. (During a 2011 spill into the Yellowstone River, for which the Department of Transportation fined Exxon $1.7 million last week, 1,500 barrels of oil went into the river.) The heavy oil, known as Wabasca Heavy crude, started its life in Canada’s tar sands developments.
Exposure to the heavy crude fumes can irritate the eyes, nose and respiratory tract and can cause headaches and possibly nausea. What causes respiratory irritation in healthy people can be dangerous for those with breathing difficulties, though. At the worst for a spill like this, heavy crude oil inhalation can cause a “depression of the central nervous system, cardiac sensitization, drowsiness, narcosis and asphyxia.”
Over the weekend, says Reuters, Exxon turned off the pipeline and set to work cleaning up the oil. As of this morning, says Reuters, cleanup is still underway. To figure out what happened, and what drove the pipeline to burst, says Bloomberg, the company will be excavating the pipe.
March 29, 2013 10:53 am
Three weeks ago North Korea announced that if joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises were not called off by March 11 then they would consider the sixty-year old armistice between the two Koreas null. March 11 has come and gone. The U.S. and Korea are still exercising their militaries, and North Korea is still not happy about it. At all.
In an act that certainly didn’t de-escalate the situation, the U.S. sent a pair of B-2 stealth bombers cruising over the Korean peninsula. The two bombers left from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, says the Atlantic Wire, buzzed South Korea’s western coast, and then returned home.
Obviously, the test run demonstrates that the U.S. has the capability of flying that far without actually crossing into North Korea and it appears to be meant to send a message that the U.S. is willing to defend South Korea against the North. There’s also probably some historical symbolism thrown in. Hun adds, “After suffering from the American carpet-bombing during the 1950-53 Korean War, North Korea remains particularly sensitive about U.S. bombers.”
“The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel,” says the Guardian, “said that the decision to send B-2 bombers to join the military drills was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke North Korea.”
But it did.
In response to the flights, says the BBC, North Korea trained its missiles on American and South Korean military bases, with the North Korean state news agency reporting that “the US mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theatres in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea” were all being targeted.
As the BBC reports, “Russia has warned of tensions in North Korea slipping out of control… Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the situation could slip “toward the spiral of a vicious circle”.
Though North Korea has a long history of making quite threatening displays, an unnamed U.S official told NBC News that “North Korea is “not a paper tiger” and its repeated threats to attack South Korea and the U.S. should not be dismissed as “pure bluster.”
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March 29, 2013 10:00 am
In what might have simply been a gigantic publicity stunt, China Airlines and Hawaii News Now have teamed together to return a camera to a woman who lost it. The incredible part is that she lost it six years ago, in the ocean. The Canon Power Shot, sheathed in a plastic waterproof housing, survived, and the pictures were even salvaged from the memory card.
The story can tell us a lot about the durability of plastic, but it’s also an interesting look at just how connected the corners of the globe can be. This isn’t the first camera lost in an exotic place and returned to its owner. In 2009, a couple hiking around Scotland spotted a digital camera lying on the ground and handed it over to the police. When it was returned to them with no sign of the owners, the couple who found the camera opened up the memory card and went searching for the couple in the pictures. Eventually, after posting the pictures on the Internet and recruiting a group of online sleuths, they found the owner.
The story is like the fairy tale of the internet—using the interconnectedness that it provides for good, for returning nostalgic images, for reuniting lost loves and wallets. This New York Times story tells of good samaritans returning laptops, cameras and all sorts of other bits and pieces.
While we love these sorts of stories, they also make returning a lost item sound easy. And for some people perhaps it is. When you’re David Pogue, someone with over a million Twitter followers, for example:
And then there’s that particular vein of connections that happen when photographers accidentally catch things. Like this couple who’s marriage proposal was caught by a photographer. The photographer then used Reddit to find who they were and give them the picture. And the less romantic version: Reddit helped identify a woman who threw her neighbor’s cat in the garbage and bring her to animal justice.
There are a lot of people on the internet who want to make this sort of thing easier for people. For a while, there was a site called I Found Your Camera—although it’s no longer running. Now, there are some Facebook groups to help camera-losers and camera-finders unite. There’s also the startup Found in Town, which gives you little stickers with serial numbers on them that you can put on your valuable items to help people track you down.
But the majority of things that are found, are never reunited with their owners. Look at Found Magazine, full of images that people find without homes. In a lot of ways, reuniting someone with their camera from the ocean, or their proposal photograph, is like reconnecting with someone on Missed Connections on Craigslist. The structure is there, but the chances that the right people will connect is still slim. Which makes these sorts of stories all the more magical, really.
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