Monthly Archives: July 2010

Poor leadership by Obama on NASA

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit today said the following (in recognizing Jeff Foust’s op-ed for Technology Review):

CONGRESS BLOWS IT: Commercial Spaceflight, We Have A Problem. Congress will always choose short-term pork over long-term development unless there’s strong Presidential leadership. But while the Obama space policy is good, the White House hasn’t provided the kind of legislative push it takes to make it work. Without strong leadership, a good policy will always lose out to pork.

Didn’t someone say this already? In fact, didn’t that someone say this more than once?

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Your Show of Shows: the clock skit

An evening pause: Yesterday we had a modern animation of a machine that made music. Tonight let’s watch a very different take on a vaguely similar idea, this time to produce comedy. This is a classic skit from Your Show of Shows, Sid Caesar’s variety show from early television. The four performers are, left to right, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coco, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris.

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Solar sail conference

Solar sail engineers from around the world gathered in Brooklyn last week for the Second International Symposium on Solar Sailing. Ben Diedrich, fellow caver, solar sail expert, and the man behind wiki.solarsails.info, gave two papers. He also emailed me to say that “Japan’s contingent gave several talks – many of which compared analysis of deployment, flight, or steering with actual flight data” of Ikaros. A review of the program [pdf] revealed some fascinating uses for solar sails. I like this paper title the best: “Deflecting Apophis with a flotilla of solar sails.” [ed. Apophis is an asteroid with the potential of hitting the Earth.]

Update: Japanese scientists have now announced that they have been able to adjust Ikaros’s attitude using sunlight.

Another update: Ben Diedrich emailed me the link to read the actual proceedings from the conference. See pg 103 to read the paper on using solar sails to deflect Apophis.

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Single Rope Techinque — on the Moon

James Fincannon of NASA took the two images of the Marius Hills lunar pit taken at different times by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (which I posted here) and did an overlay so that the shadow produced by pit’s rim could be easily compared with the rim itself (see below). He then did some calculations based on the sun’s angle of light shining into the cave and came up with the following calculations:

I estimate it is 60 meters from rim to bottom. The floor is flat below the surface. The rocks on the flat surface below ground are in stark relief (hard shadows) compared to above ground due to the sun coming only at one angle while above ground the albedo/reflections makes for soft shadows at this high sun angle (65 deg elevation). I cannot tell if the black portion of the combo image is a slope or more flat floor. Need a different high sun angle or azimuth to fill that in. Still I like the general pattern of the rim matching the shadow on the floor, although the image I found originally has that edge of the cave rim in shadow for a large extent.

overlay of Marius Hill cave

A 60 meter drop is about 200 feet deep. This result is reasonably close to the depth estimated by Japanese scientists, 88 meters or 288 feet, based on images of the same lunar pit taken by their Kaguya probe.

Knowing the approximate depth of the entrance pit raises the much more important question: How will future lunar explorers to get to the bottom of this pit? It is ironic » Read more

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Kepler finds more than 100 Earthlike planets

In its first six weeks of observation, the Kepler mission apparently found almost 150 planets similar in size to the Earth. The results, learned by accident because a talk given by one of the co-investigators was posted on the web, have not yet been officially announced because the project scientists feel a need for additional time to confirm them. Many of these so-called planets might turn out to be false positives, so some caution is in order.

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Deniers of science

On Saturday (July 24) the American Geophysical Union published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters, entitled “Northern Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10.” This paper attempted to explain the unusually cold 2009-2010 winter, with its record snow falls.

The conclusions of the paper were reasonable, noting that this past winter experienced both an El Nino event in the Pacific as well as a very negative (cold) North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). To quote the paper’s conclusions: “In winters when an El Nino event and a negative NAO combine, analysis reveal that there are positive snow anomalies across the southern U.S. and northern Europe.”

The authors of the paper made no attempt to explain why these two climate events “combined” this past winter, which in the field of climate change is actually the essential question. What caused it? Moreover, did the deep and extended negative (cold) phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) contribute as well, and if so, why did the AO also go negative this winter? And finally, were all these climate events somehow related to the Sun’s unusally long and deep solar minimum?

That they didn’t answer these fundamental questions is not surprising. Climotogists have been struggling with them for decades, and to expect this quickly written paper focused on this one climate event — the cold winter of 2009-2010 — to answer them would be unreasonable. In fact, considering the state of our knowledge, it probably is impossible for any paper to answer these questions at this time.

What makes this particular paper really noteworthy, however, is a quote in its introductory paragraphs:

The wintry winter has encouraged deniers of global warming » Read more

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