Five at 8 – 1/4/10: Where are the boys?

No decade can officially begin until the Monday Morning Rouser ushers in the first Monday:

1) One of the biggest operations the FBI has launched since February 11 is trying to figure out who recruited Minneapolis Somali young men and sent them into battle back in Somalia. NPR’s counterterrorism correspondent, Dina Temple-Raston, considers what’s likely to come of the investigation in 2010.

2) Why do houses make those “popping” sounds in cold weather? Right, because it’s cold. But why? Because we need to learn science and physics. Carleton University in Canada has the answer.


Roofs and walls are both good examples of this. Wooden studs that make-up walls have one face close to the outside and one face close to the inside, usually with insulation in between. Roofs have a more complex structure built from rafters or wooden trusses shaped in the form of a triangle. The top parts are exposed to near-outdoor temperatures (the temperature of the vented attic space) and the bottom part is wrapped in insulation near the ceiling of the warm living space below. Parts of the structure therefore, are shrinking while others are staying essentially the same. The differential temperatures cause the wall or roof assemblies to distort in shape. In principle, these systems (walls and roofs) are designed and built so they stay in place and are connected to each other in a sturdy and relatively tight manner. While the connectors that provide this structural assembly vary (nails, screws, metal plates, etc.), they are designed to resist excessive movement while allowing for some expansion and contraction of the component parts. When components of a building shrink quickly, an extreme amount of stress is produced in the connections and joints.

More science: Why does snow “crunch” when it’s particularly cold? There’s some debate about this, says Science Geek Girl. Are our shoes making the noise, or the snowflakes?


The mechanism behind all three is the same — lubrication, good or bad. When snow does NOT crunch, then the grains / crystals in the snow are well lubricated. When snow DOES crunch, then lubrication is poor. The lubricant is of course water in all cases, coming from two sources, both of which are temperature-dependent:

3) Over the weekend, I documented several poignant remembrances of Deborah Howell, the former Pioneer Press editor who was killed in New Zealand. The Washington Post, where she worked before her retirement a year ago, has a blog written by its obituary writers. Matt Schudel captured in one sentence, a most poignant moment:


Deborah’s husband, C. Peter Magrath (pronounced McGraw), a three-time university president, courageously took my call because, as he said, Deborah told him he should never duck a reporter’s questions.

4) Pat downs, body screenings, and ABBA music played loud (to weed out the weak) are all part of new airport security rules for international flights to the U.S. Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com says it took him three hours to get from the airport door to his gate in Montreal over the weekend. That gave him plenty of time to do what he does best: Crunch the numbers on Violent Passenger Incidents (VPI):


I don’t mean to be glib about the risk to the passengers on the jets themselves, but 12 out of every 13 innocent deaths on 9/11 were to people on the ground. And even if the deaths at the WTC and the Pentagon are included, the rate of deaths from Violent Passenger Incidents during the 2000s qualifies as relatively “normal”, comparable to or slightly lower than the death rates in the 1940s through the 1980s. In fact, with the exception of the 1930s, when there wasn’t really enough commercial air travel to provide for a sufficient sample size, and the 1990s, a decade which was a positive outlier in so many ways, the death rate from VPIs has been remarkably constant from decade to decade.

Silver does not expect anything to change as a result of his research. “But let’s at least analyze these trade-offs rationally, and not let the terrorists terrorize us any more than we must,” he said. Good one.

If you wanted to inflict as much damage as possible at an airport, wouldn’t the line on this side of security be the place to do it?

5) In Rochester, a family’s dog disappeared on November 29. They tried the usual things — newspaper ads, hundreds of fliers — and nothing worked, the Post Bulletin reports. On Christmas night, the neighbors heard her whimpering and now people are raising money to pay for vet bills.

Now, let’s look in — again — on “Sully,” the abused boxer rescued by a local pilot and a foster family in Minnesota.

Bonus: The Baseball Hall of Fame voting for this year’s entrants will be revealed on Wednesday. The Hardball Times examines the scenarios and says Bert Blyleven will probably get in… next year.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Would you go deeply in debt for a college education?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Midmorning asks USA Today’s personal finance columnist, Sandy Block, how the changes will affect your household, and how to take advantage of them.

Second hour: This year marks the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ tragic historical fiction “Tale of Two Cities.” One of his later and least “Dickensian” of all his novels, it was first released in serial form in a self-published commercial literary magazine.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller will be in the studio to discuss the state budget situation, the court ruling on unallotment, and other key issues facing the Legislature this year.

Second hour: Is mainstream media dead?

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political trivia quiz with Ken Rudin.

Second hour: Author Dan Pink on what motivates us to do a better job at work.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Cubicle mate Chris Roberts visits a St. Paul organization that receives donated pianos and resells them to raise money for children’s art programs.

NPR’s Jeff Brady wades into sacred territory: The possibility that some weather observers “enhanced” their observations.

YOU TELL ME

The chances are you know someone who should be in News Cut. Make it so.

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