To the moon and back

first_imgI admit it. I grew up as a science nerd. My hometown was a big contradiction – a once sleepy Alabama town that suddenly found itself home to a major NASA installation. My hometown built the rocket that went to the moon.That’s why the recent passing of Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on any celestial body other than mother Earth, was especially significant to me. When President Kennedy pledged to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade of the 1960s, Huntsville, Alabama, was transformed and I lived that transformation.A hometown connectionI saw the influx of scientists and engineers from all over the world. I felt the ground shake under my feet when the massive Saturn V rocket engines were test fired. Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist that directed the program, once dropped candy in my trick-or-treat bag. I graduated from a high school that was named for Virgil I. Grissom, one of the three Apollo astronauts killed in a fire during a training exercise.I didn’t understand the science that was being put to work just miles from my home, but I directly benefitted from the better roads and schools that came my way because it was there. Still just a teenager, I felt a huge sense of pride on that warm July night in 1969 when I looked up at the moon on which Neil Armstrong stood and looked back at Earth.Before cell phones and the InternetToday, it is hard for me to understand why that event ranks so low in the public perception of significant historic events. Before desktop computers, cell phones, the Internet – before GPS, Google and Twitter- using less computing power than most of us now have in our personal automobiles – man found a way to put two human beings on the surface of the moon and bring them home again.Scientific achievements continue to dazzle and then pale in comparison to subsequent ones. Scientific achievements are necessary to fuel progress, but it’s what we do with those scientific achievements that really matters. I didn’t know it at the time, but my future was in the field of agricultural science. To me, the scientific achievements of modern agriculture rank right up there with putting a man on the moon. But scientific breakthroughs alone don’t make life on this planet better. Someone has to find a way to apply that breakthrough, put it to work, adapt it, modify it and explain it to others until progress becomes a reality. Applying science to our daily livesNobody combines scientific breakthroughs and scientific application any better than land grant universities like the University of Georgia. We do the basic research, we make scientific breakthroughs, we make it work in the real world and we show people how to use the resulting technology for the betterment of mankind. To the untrained eye, the cotton that still grows around my hometown may seem unchanged from the 1960s. The fact is, that cotton and the technology that is used to grow it is a success story that rivals the success story that happened there in the 1960s.Thank you, Neil Armstrong for what you did for the human race. Your humble ways certainly didn’t draw the public’s attention. Thank you too, agricultural scientists and those that put that science to work. Your accomplishments have benefitted man even more than that first trip to the moon, yet you share a place in the shadows with heroes like Neil Armstrong.last_img read more

ESMA OKs exemption of Danish schemes from EMIR clearing duty

first_imgThe European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has backed the Danish financial regulator Finanstilsynet, saying three unnamed Danish pension schemes should be exempt from the obligation to centrally clear OTC derivatives contracts under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR). In line with the process national regulators have to go through before they can grant exemptions from these rules to individual pension funds and providers, Finanstilsynet had written to ESMA for its opinion.ESMA has now written back to the Danish regulator saying that, in all three cases, exemptions are justified because of difficulties in meeting the variation-margin requirements.In each of the three letters, ESMA states: “The national competent authority is of the opinion that the entity type would encounter difficulties in meeting variation-margin requirements for centrally cleared transactions due to limited holdings of cash within the entity type, high cost (e.g. lower investment returns or transaction costs) and risk of inefficiencies as a result of converting assets into cash.” It said EIOPA shared this view.While some types of pension scheme are given automatic temporary exemptions from the central clearing obligation, others need to be authorised beforehand.In February, ESMA supported exemptions for 16 pension schemes in the UK.last_img read more

Julio Urias has talent, poise beyond his 19 years

first_imgBrito said Urias’ command of three pitches was apparent when he scouted a national tournament in Mexico four years ago. Urias was 15 and already throwing 90 mph fastballs with command.“I said, ‘This is the guy that I’ve been looking for,’” Brito recalled.More recently, moving up a level has been a bit of a problem for Urias. He allowed nine runs in his first two starts at Triple-A at the end of last season. Invited to major-league spring training for the first time this year, Urias again struggled with command on occasion.One scout who followed Urias to Double-A Tulsa last year recalled a similar problem.“I won’t be surprised if he struggles at all,” the scout said. “He has a tendency to try to do too much, overthrow and lose command. It’s a youth issue. He settles in everywhere, but every time he gets to a new level he struggles a little. I don’t think he’ll dominate from Day 1.”Brito, for one, isn’t worried.“Struggling last year in Triple-A when they called him up, he knows how to pitch to the Triple-A hitter,” he said. “That can mean a lot. The struggles he had last year can make him a better pitcher now.”The Dodgers, at last, will find out for themselves Friday. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “For a pitcher,” Brito said, “he’s a good hitter. Like Valenzuela.”Brito signed Urias and Fernando Valenzuela out of small towns on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Valenzuela won the 1981 National League Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards at age 20; 35 years later, the temptation to compare the two pitchers is inescapable. Urias will be exactly 30 days younger than Valenzuela was when he debuted.If the peril of hindsight is an unmatchable degree of hype, its benefit is that Urias arrives in a virtual sheath of protection. The Dodgers have placed an innings limit on Urias this year believed to be in the neighborhood of 100 innings. He’s thrown 41 innings already at Triple-A — never more than six in a single game — and has not allowed a run in the past 27.Speaking by telephone from Mexico, Brito said Urias was well tended to long before he signed with the Dodgers. It began with Urias’ father, Carlos, a catcher.“He played in the local municipal league in Sinaloa,” Brito said. “His father never played professional ball. His father took care of him. His father was always watching him. One thing I know for sure, his father was a high-character guy, took care of (Julio).”center_img So much has been written about Julio Urias as a baseball player already, it’s impossible that he could be only 19 years old. Magazine covers? Urias crossed that off his checklist long before reaching New York, where he will start for the Dodgers against the Mets in his major league debut Friday.Urias’ many weapons as a pitcher have already been scouted to death. His mid-90s fastball that occasionally reaches 97; his changeup, his curveball, and his command of all three pitches that belies his age. Add it all up, and the left-hander is the consensus No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball for more than one reason.Mike Brito, the Dodgers scout who helped sign Urias out of Sinaloa, Mexico, in 2012, had one more thing to offer on the eve of Urias’ debut.last_img read more